Friday, October 11, 2013

An Interview with...Beckie Paul of Unraveled

Beckie is on the left and her staffer Stacey is on the right.  They are both wearing a Gradient  by Shibui knit with Silkcloud.

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

You can find the shop here  and their Ravelry group is here

How long have you been in business?

We've been open since April 2012

Do you run the store by yourself or do you have employees, if you do how many people work at your shop?

It's mostly just me, but I have a very supportive Mother who works for me when I need her to, or when she kicks me out for a rest, and Stacey, my student who also kicks me out on Sundays when I need a rest!  I am really lucky to have them with me in this.  My Fiancée Josh is brave enough to accompany me to knitting fairs and shows :-)

How did you choose the yarns that you carry in your shop?

Oh, that's the fun part!  I started choosing yarns based on what I wanted to knit with, what I could not find anywhere else, and anything that got my heart racing.  I still shop for the store in the same way.  I have to love something if it's coming through the doors and is going to take up precious space on the shelves.  We don't have a lot of room, so I need to make every square inch count.  If I don't love it, I won't be able to sell it.  The products I have are the products I love.  I choose colours in every range, and definitely take customer feedback on colours and bases into account. I can't carry everything but I try to cover a lot of bases in every weight.

What is the biggest lesson running a yarn shop has taught you? 

Running the shop has taught me to pick my personal battles. I have learned that everything that needs to be done cannot possibly be done all at once, or all in one day, a week, a month, sometimes a year.  I am still struggling with this, but picking my battles is my biggest lesson.  What is immediate, what is for tomorrow, what can wait a week, what is a nice to have, what is a luxury?  Those are the filing boxes on my list.  

What is your favorite part of what you do running the shop?

Oh, so many!  My favourite part though is my customers, and their support of not only the business but me personally too.  I could never have imagined before opening the store how close I would grow with my customers - who are now friends.  They can pick me up on the rough days, and make the good ones even better.  They come with great stories, beautiful project ideas, and finished projects to show off and share with the other customers in the store.  I could not have gotten where I am without the wonderful knitters who frequent the shop - I genuinely look forward to the days I know someone is coming in for a visit. I'm extremely lucky to have the customers I do; my favourite part by far!

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 think sites like are helping to keep the fibre industry relevant and are causing continuous growth.  Many of my newer knitters have learned online, or saw something on Pinterest and decided they needed to knit and take it up. The more access people outside of the community have to knitting information the better, and the growth of knitting communities online helps keep existing knitters interested to keep learning and making, sharing and commenting.

Did you do a formal business plan? 

ummm... no? :-D  I did figure out expenses and project ahead as to what numbers I needed to meet monthly just to pay the bills.  I knew that every cent that comes into the business over the next few years will go back into it and I think my customers have noticed this as the stock grows and diversifies over time.  I can't even believe how much the store has changed in a year :-) Best business plan ever if you ask me! just kidding...

Do you have a mentor? 

My Mom.  Sounds cliché perhaps, but she's the best business person I know.  I grew up with my parents running a business and like to think they imparted some know how on me during those years.  Since that time my Mom is my adviser, shrink, and best friend.  I bounce almost every idea off of her to see what she thinks; she's the best sounding board I could ask for.  I wouldn't have been able to even think about starting and running my own business without her.

Do you have a business model that you have emulated? 

No - just trying to run things my way.  I wanted to create the shop I wanted to shop in that I couldn't quite find, I've succeeded in my vision and just keep hoping I find like minded individuals who enjoy what I'm doing and what I'm selling.  It's never a good business strategy to go out and copy the competition - if we all do our own thing it makes the entire field better for the customers to shop in.

Did you take any courses in how to run a business before you opened? 

No, none. 

What impact has the Internet had on your business?

Facebook is fantastic for business.  I use it to get any and all information about the shop out there quickly.  I love it - I can post new items as soon as they come in, share pretty fibre pictures, and pass along information about events and upcoming classes.  I think it's invaluable, I'd love to find the time to be more involved in more aspects and forums of social media, but right now I have time for just FB mostly.

How do you maintain your life/work balance?

This is probably my biggest challenge.  I am constantly on duty right now and am finding spare time without the store being involved tricky.  It's hard to step away even for a second when its just me.  Late night email replies, packing online orders before and after work, store orders for re-stocking, sourcing new items - it doesn't all go away when the doors close at night.  I'm getting a bit better at taking a day off on Sundays to spend with my family, but it still involves work in some capacity.  My pup has adapted to sleeping around my computer - they share my lap, he's doing better at maintaining his work/life balance than I am at this point!

What advice would you give someone who wants to pursue a career in running a yarn store? 

Know what you're getting into - it's more about running a business than knitting all day everyday.  Don't get me wrong, it's fantastic, but I've had to come to terms with talking and thinking more about knitting and spinning than actually knitting and spinning.  There is only so much time in a day, and unfortunately when your income depends on how much work you get done and how hard you work, something has to give.  My sacrifice is less hours spent actually putting needles and yarn together.  

1 comment:

  1. Lovely to read about you Beckie. Wishing you much happiness and success with your shop. We will have to stop in a say hello sometime. James & Sandra Nethercott