What were you doing when you decided to create your own
I was in early retirement from working in education, but still
teaching literature and computer skills programs to kids as a part
of library educational programs.
When did you start your business?
Before I retired, I began designing sweaters that were stylish but
incorporated realistic portraits of dogs on them. They were very
popular, but kitting hundreds of sweaters was not something my
hands would always be capable of doing. I knew I had to change the
direction of my business. I’d been approached many times by
knitters wanting my patterns, so I knew that there was a market for
I researched the market and realized that dog owners are very
focused on their specific breed. They don’t want a book with
various dogs in it; they want a book with their dog in it. So I
decided that my knitting books would discuss each unique breed.
When did you know that you could really make a go of
When I started getting international orders. I realized that I
could build a following which would, thanks to the Internet, go
beyond my initial marketing ideas.
How did you turn your idea into a business plan?
The dream that I had of writing knitting books became one of
building my own publishing company when I discovered that my niche
was not something a mainstream publisher would be able to handle
because the niche was too narrow.
I did a great deal of research and taught myself how to lay out a
book professionally. I wrote the text, got donations of photos from
fanciers who supported the idea and wanted to see their dog
illustrating its breed, created the charted designs and schematics,
wrote the patterns, and then put the whole thing together. In the
meantime, I’d found a book printer I could work with; with only the
printing costs to deal with (editing for the first book was
donated), I was able to turn out a marketable book. I earned back
my printing costs right away and was able to use the profit to
create the next book.
What inspired you to do this?
What inspired me to do this
was a love for dogs!
What were your start-up costs?
Several thousand dollars spread over a period of time. I bought
yarn, computers, software, e-commerce, etc. I didn’t get everything
at once. I have been a single parent most of my son’s life and
didn’t have access to a lot of cash, so the start-up costs came out
of my teacher salary over time.
What was your biggest obstacle?
My biggest obstacle was the huge amount of work it took to build a
business without help. Though doing everything myself was possible
and achievable, it definitely wasn’t the best way for me to grow
the business. It meant that I had to take time from the creative
end to handle the marketing end. Not having a chunk of money to
begin the business has kept it from growing as fast as I would have
How did you maintain your confidence when doors were closed in
your face, when people didn’t get it or said “no”?
I’ll say one thing about being a single parent, it teaches you that
life is not easy and things will very often not go the way you
want. With that for training, dealing with the hard knocks and
negatives of the business was if not easier, then familiar. I am a
very positive, cup-half-full kind of person.
How long did it take for your business to become
Because of the way I set up the business, expenditures that came
out of my pocket were eventually earned back by book and pattern
sales. With the books, even now, my expenses are for editing and
printing since I do everything else myself. When I get really
tired, I tell myself that it takes at least 30 people at a major
publisher to do what I do.
What’s the hardest part of what you do?
I would say the hardest part of what I do is finding time to do all
the different aspects of the business without feeling guilty about
not being able to get more of the creative work done. You have to
work very hard to make a big noise when you are a one-man band.
What is the most fun part of what you do?
I enjoy the feedback I get from talking either online with clients
or with people submitting photos for the books. I also really enjoy
sharing with others what I’ve learned through this business. The
creative part of writing and designing gives me a satisfaction --
there’s nothing like the feeling of working on a design for days
and then finally getting it right.
Where do you work from?
I converted my garage into a studio, so I switch between there and
a small desk in the corner of the living room. After having a
two-hour commute when I was teaching, I love the fact that all I
have to do is walk out my back door to get to work.
Do you have any employees?
No, I don’t have any employees. I hire out the editing and
printing. I am exploring ways that I can hire out some of the
marketing as well.
How have you been using social media to grow your
I have been using social media from the very beginning. I used
early Yahoo groups to get contributors for my books and to market
them. Today I use Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter. Beyond that, I
am a member of several niche communities, like dog breed, writing,
publishing, and marketing networks. They inspire me -- and remind
me that I am a human being and not just a business. The friends
I’ve made in communities like Dreamers into Doers often feel closer
to me than people I’ve known on a personal basis for years, because
they truly understand and care about what I’m doing.
Do you have entrepreneurial role models?
Martha Stewart is the person I most associate with as a role model.
She has transformed crafts from a restful activity for women into a
big business. She, more than anyone, understands women need to be
creative and to receive respect for that creative ability.
How did you learn and acquire the skills you use to make your
business successful? How do you continue to grow and learn?
The skills to create my books I learned through studying and taking
courses online. Some of the hints I got from technicians at print
houses. The creative skills I’ve had most of my life; being an art
minor in college trained me see design, and I spent many years
doing dog photography for myself and other fanciers. As for
marketing skills, I have probably taken a hundred online marketing
courses, and I’ve learned from lectures given to authors at CAPA
[Connecticut Authors and Publishers Association].
What’s the best piece of business advice you ever
“Never give up.” There will be times when you wonder if all the
hard work is getting you anywhere, but that is the time to dig in
and work hardest.
If you had it all to do over again, would you do
I would have sought out more seed money when I started. It would
have made a difference in how the business developed by allowing me
to attend more conferences and events where I could have showcased
What advice would you give to Dreamers who haven’t become Doers
Go ahead and try! The worst you can do is fail (we all do that from
time to time), but there’s also the possibility that you will
succeed beyond your wildest dreams!
Keep Up with Peggy and Kanine Knits
Facebook: Kanine Knits Books & Patterns
Blogs: kanineknits.blogspot.com, craftycatknits.com
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