Hobby & Heart. How to successfully monetise your craft, from someone who has.

May 02, 2022 0 Comments

Hobby & Heart. How to successfully monetise your craft, from someone who has.

Love, Passion and Growth. 
by Katrina Pennisi of Handmade by Katrina

Being creative is apart of who I am, and if you're reading this... its who you are. It’s how I self-express and share my journey.  It was only 3 years ago when I 'found'  macrame as someone in my life sharply told me to ‘get a hobby’. Before this, I didn’t really know what macramé was or how to even pronounce it, but it looked like a craft that I might be able to make with a little guidance… and as they say, the rest is history. Starting out I purchased some cheap (and what turned out to be nasty cord) from eBay and began to experiment with the basic knots that I remembered from my days spent making friendship bracelets at school. Once I got the hang of a few basic knots, different patterns and more of an understanding to what macramé was, I couldn’t put the cord away. I’d always research fibre artists as inspiration from around the world and seeing how their culture influences their designs and style and colour pallets. I find it incredible admiring other artists, and also inspiring to know that your mind has no limits when it comes to creativity. I remember just thinking OH MY GOD how beautiful! How on earth will I ever be able to recreate something so stunning with my own hands?! I laugh that the not so supportive comment from a friend ‘you should get a hobby’ really has changed my life.

When first starting out, I found it can be hard to find your style. I spent my days watching tutorials on YouTube religiously, they were extremely helpful in helping me transition through the beginner stages of a design, learning about detailed pattern work and layering was where I found my happy place. There was a lot of trial and plenty of errors made… but hey, that’s perfectly fine and ultimately how I developed my skills! You can always untie those knots (and no one will ever know!) I didn’t think much of my work when starting out. I saw it as a bit of fun, and something to do with my spare time, and something to keep my mind busy. Little did I know that with a bit of time, perseverance and drive this little hobby would become oh so much more.

I made Macrame daily, it became ‘my thing’ hard and fast and before too long I realised that I would like (and need) to get a financial return on the supplies (let’s call them investments) I had purchased. I genuinely had over 50 pieces accumulating in the house and whilst I loved them, I thought maybe others would too. Daunting I know... launching a small business that is often so unrelated to your day to day can be terrifying. Telling people that "I made this, and i wanted their money for it, and no they are not getting it for free” honestly petrified me. I made a deal with myself that I would not make any more pieces until I had sold them all! Let’s be honest, I needed cash to compensate for my love of buying supplies in every colour. As a small business, I found out that it’s very hard to break into the market. The fear of failing was weighing on my shoulders heavily, but I wasn’t going to let that stop me.  As a consumer I found that attending handmade markets a great way to meet the faces behind the business, so I thought that this might also be a great stepping-stone for my new little venture. So, I plucked up the courage and yes, I booked my first market stall. 

I can’t even put into words how excited yet terrified I was, during my early morning set up, I burst out in tears. I did not believe that I was talented enough to be surrounded by other already established small businesses, I found myself comparing my stall to others, my designs to others and suddenly realised all the things I needed – bags, business cards and snacks! I started my day with a negative mind set, thinking that I wouldn’t sell a single thing, that I had no business being there and that I’ve wasted a whole day just standing around. Well how wrong I was!!! No turning back now though, I had skin in the game. As the day went on my confidence grew. My neighbouring stallholders were incredibly welcoming and encouraging which helped tremendously. It was amazing to be surrounded and accepted by other small business and I felt welcomed into the community. Realising that we were all in the same boat, that we all experience imposter syndrome, the fear of rejection and overwhelm was quite liberating. They looked like they had it all sorted, so I decided I would look that way too, fake it till you make it sure worked in my case. It was such a great experience, despite all the nerves. 

After this point I was hooked! My goals (and fibre supplies) grew at an exponential speed. I had more drive, determination, and passion than ever.   I knew this was something I needed to continue to pursue! Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would be doing something in my ‘spare time’ that I LOVED and people were paying me for it! World, here I come! I needed to set up my game, I needed to differentiate my designs from others on the market and work on my brand which from early on I wanted to exude with connection, beauty, and luxury. Thankfully I stumbled upon a local supplier Mary Maker Studio from word of mouth in a Facebook group. The quality of this cord was out of this world, not to mention the colour range! Now I was more confident in the quality of my products.  Although I was still learning at this point, in finding my ‘style’ something was still missing. How could I stand out from other Makers? Using plain old dowel wasn’t helping and it was often a long trip to Bunnings after I realising I’d run out. I began experimenting with fallen branches and driftwood to use as my structure. I still to this day love how each piece is uniquely different, some pieces purely designed around the organic form and history of the wood, it added great dimension to the personalised element of my designs, and I could tell stories of the time and place where the wood was found to its new owner at my markets… you can’t get this at Target!

 Being creative is apart of who I am, and if you're reading this... its who you are. It’s how I self-express and share my journey. It was only 3 years ago when I 'found' macrame as someone in my life sharply told me to 'get a hobby'. Before this, I didn’t know what macramé was or or how to even pronounce it...
I had creative confidence, beautiful new cotton colours and delicate driftwood pieces to adorn my designs. My next challenge was how to sell them and engage new customers. I mean, I loved setting up market stalls every weekend, but it had become very exhausting, and I think everyone in my hometown now owned one! Getting noticed on social media can be very difficult however, it’s also a great way to reach new audience and sell. Your presence on it can really influence your sales. I found using hashtags has a huge help to grab more “views and likes.” Having flash sales, interacting with other businesses, and supporting them by sharing their content, whilst they return the favour. This helps create a greater online status and an online community. Social media has been such a positive impact on my business however finding the time to stay active can be very time consuming. This was slowing becoming a full-time gig, outside of my full-time job and it was hard finding the time to focus on all the behind the scenes work that had to be done. I do it all, there is no team. There is me and lots of hats. Learning the elements of photography was imperative as product photos are literally everything when selling online. At markets people can see and feel the difference, convincing people via visuals alone was totally new to me. I was essentially learning as I went throughout this whole small biz experience. It became a true passion of mine. But I did have thoughts surrounding “How can I really expand and begin to turn this into a true business?” like a real one. A business that I could eventually replace my full- income with and one that people would know me by.
Not a hobby. A business.

When working a full-time job and beginning to set up your business, you find that there really aren’t enough hours in the day. You find yourself overworked, drained and at times unmotivated because you are not moving/expanding as fast as you hoped. The balancing act started out well but soon I was drowning (relatable yeah?) Then… just like magic, a friend of mine was approached to sell her items in a local shop (lucky duck I thought) This was something I had never even considered for myself, i had no idea how to approach shop owners, how to go about pricing or wholesaling. I knew absolutely nothing! But that fake it to you make it gusto hit me. What’s the worst that could happen? They say no. That’s okay, there’s plenty more plenty more places to ask around right! I trialled a few places around the coastal areas, to see how my products would go. They sold but I didn’t have the joy I expected. Wholesaling is h-a-r-d, I wasn’t happy with the mark-up they had put on my designs, and I felt ripped off! At the end of the day, they were my designs, my time and I was barely covering the cost of materials. It's important to recognise that everyone has their own business front of mind not necessarily yours. I had some stockists discount my work without approval and others removed all branding, selling my designs as generic décor so customers could not contact me directly for future pieces. I was heartbroken (and livid). So, I cut ties. I learnt quickly how important it is to acknowledge the value of your work and not to sell yourself short. Finding a boutique or likeminded retail store that’ll suit not only your products (but ethos, morals) can be very challenging but once this true connection is made it can provide a nourishing reoccurring revenue for your Art.  I am now so very fortunate to have found a few supportive local businesses who have welcomed my art, my prices, and me. Quite possibly the initial self-awareness, pride and belief in my art that led me away from some, guided me to others. Like in most things in life, we will find our people if we know who we are and what we stand for.

But was there room for more?
I was running successful markets, had my work in reputable boutiques and was selling online. The only way to grow from this point (which meant me stepping waaaaay out of my comfort zone which terrified me) was teaching others to do what I loved oh so much. I didn’t think that I would ever be capable of teaching a macramé workshop whatsoever. Being self- taught myself, to teaching others… it never really crossed my mind.  I didn’t think I’d have one person book in, yet the entire class booked out in a day! I wanted my students and myself to have a fun experience, and to have an opened creative mindset. Before the class started, I told them all “To not compare yourself or your work to others, there are no limits of creativeness, and all our work is unique” That was a reminder to myself too!  I was so inspired by my students that day and so damn proud. Many have returned for supplementary classes, and many have become life time fibre friends (the only people who truly understand why we will never have enough supplies!)
I wanted to keep challenging myself creatively.
How can we stand out from other artists?
What makes our work so uniquely different? 
For myself, my work reflects on who I am as a person and my work shows the journey that I am on. It’s my self-expression. Whilst initially it can be daunting to get out of your comfort zone, this is where true creativity lives. It's about supporting one another and surrounding yourself with other likeminded people who will support you and drive you to be more successful. Without this support network I would not be on the fibre journey that I am on today.  
If you are on your creative journey know this…
It’s a must that you create opportunities for yourself. Stepping out of your comfort zone truly is the first step. If you have itchy feet where you are, the only way is forward. Push your products. Get out there on social media (any media) It’ll help you endlessly. Put in the leg work. Contact that shop, today. Walk and kindly offer them a work to be displayed. They’ll love the décor refresh, which may result in a sale, but most importantly beautiful friendship and connection.
Don’t look at other artists as competition. They’re your friends and inspiration.
Trust yourself, remember why you started, and enjoy the fun my friends.
 Katrina Pennisi
 Handmade by Katrina

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