Friday, October 21, 2011

An Interview with...Jocelyn Grayson

Jocelyn is a different kind of knitting professional. She is an independent industry consultant. She does marketing and event planning for all segments of the needle arts industry. Her professional goal is to help local yarn stores stay in business, and she helps them do that in many different ways. She works with yarn stores, designers and yarn companies on Ravelry and Facebook advertising.  The majority of her focus is on Ravelry - both the local yarn store ads and banner ads, but she has also done print ads for yarn companies that have appeared in magazines.  She has as well arranged  in-store events such as book signings and yarn tastings. Her tag line is: The LYS - Part of your community.  Part of your life.

Jocelyn is wearing Hallett's Ledge from the Fall 201 Twist Collective. The yarn is Harrisville Designs New England Highland.

You can find Jocelyn here on Ravelry. Her Twitter id is: knitventures

Tell me how you got into the business of being a marketing and event planner.
Well, I had been a knitter in the early 90s and then took a long hiatus. I had always worked in a corporate environment (I have an MBA) until the dot com bust, and then had a few years of my own entrepreneurial boom and bust, shall we say. When I got back into knitting in the fall of 2005, I quickly learned that the Internet had changed everything about knitting. An LYS opened nearby in January, 2006, and I went to work there in July.  Since the shop had opened so recently, there was a lot of opportunity to try new things – we brought in many of the top names in the industry (Nancy Bush, Annie Modesitt, Lily Chin, Melissa Leapman, among others) and established the shop as a great place for classes year round.  It was a good fit to apply my business acumen with a shop that needed to make its presence known in what was then a very competitive local marketplace.

How long have you been in business?
I went out on my own in October, 2008, so it’s just about three years now.

Banner ad for Cast Away, you can find the store web site here.

How do you find your clients?
Mostly word of mouth, referrals, Ravelry (where I have both a business account and a personal one), Facebook, Twitter and networking at industry events like TNNA.  Ironically, I don’t have a website.  One thing has lead to another, and I’ve worked with yarn stores, designers and yarn companies.  

What steps do you take in developing a plan for a client?
I mostly work with clients on getting their presence established on Ravelry and Facebook. So, a lot of it is explaining to them what the advertising options are, why they should do it, and how I make it easier for them to keep it going.  I find that most LYSOs are grateful to learn about Ravelry and Facebook, but are even more excited to learn that someone else can handle it for them!

How do you help a yarn shop develop a sense of community with their customers?
I’ve always got suggestions for ways that clients (and even non-clients – I can’t help myself) can communicate better and more frequently with their customers. I really encourage in-store events – book signings, trunk shows, classes for all levels. The online component is important, too.  Shops need to go beyond the newsletter and blog.   With social networking as pervasive as it is, it’s much easier to do this.  The bottom line is that shops have to remind customers why they love to shop there.  It has to be the first place they think of when they want to buy yarn, get help, sit with friends, etc.

What is the biggest lesson your business has taught you?
That a great store with a clear vision can succeed in any economy.  How they do that evolves, but it can be done.

What is your favorite part of what you do as a consultant?
Definitely working with the shop owners and opening their eyes to ways they can improve their business.  I firmly believe that a local yarn store is an integral part of the community, and whatever I can do to help a shop be successful is the reward for me.

Banner ad for A Good Yarn, you can find their web site here.

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 always tell shops that external factors like their competition (online and brick and mortar) and the economy are just that: external.  That can’t drive what a shop is doing and how successful they are. There’s no question that the last few years have been very challenging for shops.  My own area (SF Bay Area) has seen a tremendous number of shop closures. That said, the shops that have stayed open have done well at carving out their niche and communicating that.  Portland, OR is the perfect example of that.  They probably have the most competitive market in the country, and a few shops have closed. However, a number of shops have opened and been successful because they saw an opportunity in the marketplace (even when they were already 20 or so shops open!), and they set about fulfilling that need.

You are very focused on Ravelry and Facebook, do you have marketing methods that target the customers who have no online presence.
Honestly, I don’t.  I was in a shop a few months back and started chatting with the owner. She was absolutely resolute in her disinterest in even having a website!  I can understand a shop owner who doesn’t have an online presence but wants one (I’m here for them!), but to be completely closed off from the idea is puzzling to me.  As the saying goes, they don’t know what they don’t know.  As a business person, the most frustrating thing is the missed opportunity.  Clearly, a small business owner can’t afford too many of those.

Did you take any courses in how to run a business before you started freelancing?
I’ve taken classes on social networking and search engine optimization at TNNA. I learned a lot from my years of working in the corporate world.  These days, I read hundreds of blogs every week.  I apply what I read about other industries and small businesses and apply them to the needle arts.  And I spend a lot of time in yarn stores, listening to shop owners and talking to them.

What impact has the Internet had on your business?
If the Internet didn’t exist, I’d probably be a caterer.

How do you maintain your life/work balance?
Well, my kids would probably say that I don’t.  I’m definitely an idea person. My husband says that the scariest thing for him is when I say “I was thinking…”  

How long did it take for you to be able to support yourself?
Unfortunately, I don’t.  I still have one child at home (a high school freshman), so I mostly work part-time.  If I had time to go to more shows and industry events, I’m sure my workload would be closer to full-time.

What advice would you give someone who wants to pursue a career in marketing, specifically for the needle arts industry?
Work in a shop.  Having that “boots on the ground” experience is invaluable. Spend a lot of time in shops looking at what is working and what isn’t.  I can’t remember what I had for dinner yesterday, but I’ll remember something I saw in store two years ago and can suggest that to a client.  Make your presence known on Ravelry in the various industry forums (e.g., LYSOs, Nubee Shopowners), Facebook and Twitter.  All those subscribers are all your potential clients. They may not always agree with what you have to say, but they’ll notice you and hopefully appreciate your input.  

This ad done by Jocelyn appeared in Fall 2011 Love of Knitting
Jocelyn had some feedback for me as well. She feels the size of type and font I normally use is too overwhelming.  I had made it larger as a results of comments from readers, so what do you think, is this better for reading than my usual font? I'm open to suggestions. LMK


  1. So the last paragraph is her suggested font size and style? I do like it.

  2. Please don't use the size of the letters in the last paragraph. It is so much more comfortable to read the larger size. For the rest: very interesting blog. Viève

  3. i think i do like the regular size font. And i do think it's the size, and not the type of font. even if it was just big times new roman i think it would be a little more overwhelming to me.

  4. Jocelyn is the best!

    Cast Away Yarn Shop

  5. I don't see a much of a difference in font within the article (the end being slightly bigger). However, great interview! All LYS should be using Jocelyn's services!

  6. Great interview!

    FYI, most browsers will let you zoom in using alt+ (zoom out with alt-), so a larger font size has become unnecessary. However, I prefer a fancier font than Times New Roman.