Friday, June 3, 2011

An Interview with...Laurie Goldiuk Of The Black Lamb

Once a week I post  interviews with interesting Knitting Professionals about their insights on their experience of working in the Knitting industry.  I’ve noticed that everyone makes their living in a slightly different manner bringing their own unique presence to the Knitting world. 

You can find Laurie here and here on Ravelry

Tell me how you got into the business of running a yarn store?                                                                                
I’ve been knitting for 35 years and up until I learned to spin and dye 11 years ago, I was content with what ever commercial yarns I could find.  I discovered that I could create wonderful yarns from just about anything and make them what ever colours I wanted at a fraction of the cost and they were my own.  There were very few “fibre resources” at the time and so I decided to dedicate a section of my then antique shop to fibre supplies for myself and fellow spinners.  Within a year I was 100% spinning, weaving and knitting supplies. 

How long have you been in business?
I opened the shop in 2001.

Do you run the store by yourself or do you have employees, if you do how many people work at your shop?                 
I run the shop by myself but have a wonderful group of friends that knit, dye and spin and I carry their creations on consignment.
How did you choose the yarns that you carry in your shop?
I started with the standard commercial yarns but soon discovered that “custom spun and hand dyed” yarns were the way to go.  I found a commercial yarn mill that was willing to spin yarns for hand knitting to my specifications and I began hand dyeing them in different colours and combinations that I could repeat.   Today I have several different custom yarn blends, merino, merino/nylon, merino/sea-cell, merino/silk, bamboo, soy silk, sea-cell/silk, merino/cashmere, cashmere/silk, merino/angora rabbit, and silk/linen in a variety of gauges from 2/20 for weaving and lace to a light worsted weight.  As well I carry hand spun yarns and custom spun yarns from several smaller cottage mills.  

What have you done to create a sense of community in your store?
I have an afternoon knit group free to anyone that wants to learn or needs a refresher.  I will coach beginners through a project from start to finish.  I offer “free on the spot” tutorials and advice in felting, knitting, weaving, and drop spindling as well as private paid workshops.

What is the biggest lesson running a yarn shop has taught you?
The biggest lesson is CUSTOMER SERVICE and sharing information.

What is your favorite part of what you do running the shop?
I love the teaching, the enthusiasm of beginner fibre artists and the joy they express when they have accomplished a craft.  

We've seen many cycles in the yarn industry of the market increasing and then falling again. What are your thoughts on where things might be headed now?
I am amazed at how quickly the fibre arts have grown over the last 10 years, how many new fibres have been created for knitting and spinning and the demographics of participants.  I think the trend will continue upwards for at least the next 10 years.  More and more people are concerned with environmental issues and well construction, affordable hand knit clothing seems to be a big part of that.  Knitting is the “new hobby” and as we know yarn is addictive.  
Did you do a formal business plan?
I have never done a formal business plan.  

Do you have a mentor?
I can’t say that I have a mentor, but there are several fibre artists that I greatly admire, the ones that come to mind immediately and have had a big influence on me are Jane McColl and Ted Carson and then there are all the knitting designers, hand dyers and art yarn spinners that I am totally in awe of.   

Do you have a business model that you have emulated?
Not really but after 35 years of being in retail businesses I think my business motto is best described as “Be good to your customers and they will be good to you”

Did you take any courses in how to run a business before you opened?
No but I did take business courses in high school and at community college many years ago.    

What impact has the Internet had on your business?
The Internet has been a great way to showcase some of my business; I just wish I was more computer literate to develop it to the next level.

How do you maintain your life/work balance?
It is sometimes hard to have a social life because owning your own business can be very much like a spoiled child wanting all your attention.  My husband Steven, my biggest supporter, has been involved in the business from the beginning so we spend a lot of time together and all of our friends are either into antiques or fibre so they are always around, even our new grandson Max stocks and un-stocks the shelves.   

How long did it take for you to be able to support yourself?
I was very fortunate and exceeded all my expectations within three years of opening the yarn store.     
What advice would you give someone who wants to pursue a career in running a yarn store?                                         
The best advice I could give someone starting a yarn store would be - sell a top quality product; research your product and buy from the source if you can - buy bulk – the price is usually better; charge less, you’ll sell more; not all information needs to have a price tag.             

No comments:

Post a Comment