Ever since I entertained the idea of a crochet business, my friends and family often asked, "What happens when you 'hit it big?' How would you keep up with demand if it's only you?" This usually went in one ear and out the other because A) I never thought it would happen and B) If it did, it would be a great problem to have. I wouldn't say I've "hit it big" by any means, but I recently faced my first inventory crisis and I was stumped.
In January I started selling at weekend markets, which has been a huge success. My inventory started off with 40 animals, I would sell a handful at each market and had two weeks before my next market to make up for any inventory that sold. Not a problem. In April, I tried out a new market and had my best day yet; doubled my sales and had a couple custom orders. My next market wasn't until 3 weeks later so again, I had time to make more animals. Not a problem. Well the market that was 3 weeks later was an even better day; quadrupled my sales! But toward the end of the day, when I had an hour left, I was in a bit of a panic. My table was starting to look empty, I rearranged a few things to fill in space, and then had a few more sales. Great news of course! But it was quickly followed by a gut wrenching feeling..."wait a minute," I thought...I had another market to attend 6 days later, I had to drop off a few animals at a consignment shop a week after that, I had 3 custom orders due that month and then I had this same market in 4 weeks. How on earth am I going to make enough animals!?
Most people that come by my booth often comment, "You made ALL of these? Wow you must have a lot of time!" (Sigh) I don't, I really don't. I work full-time in a non-crochet related field and commute 2 hours round trip to get there each day. All of these animals are made during nights and weekends. It's all about time management. This business is my passion so I make it work the best I can. If the family sits down to watch a movie, I'm crocheting on the couch. If we're cooking dinner together, I'm crocheting at the table after something goes in the oven. Road trips and air travel...you know it (most productive!) Gotta find time where you can! Each animal takes between 2 and 8 hours, depending on its size so I have to be strategic with what I make. During the inventory crisis, for example, I made a lot of small animals for the sake of filling up space.
If I ever have the opportunity to pursue this full-time, I'll have the time to make it work without panic, but until then, this is how it's going to be. There are so many other avenues I want to include in the business like writing and selling patterns, creating a pattern book, build my homespun yarn inventory, learning how to sew clothes for animals as add-on options, making tutorial videos, and contacting a slew of baby stores and yarn shops to inquire about consignment. As much as I want to pursue all of these things, I only have enough time to focus on market inventory.
So back to the dilemma... During those 6 days before my next market, I had to A) Make as many animals as I could and B) Hope that it's a slow day (which I would NEVER hope for on a regular day, but I needed to savor as much inventory as I could). I could've cancelled, but I would've lost the fee I paid for the space and the entrepreneur in me just couldn't pass up an opportunity to sell. What a blessing that day became, I was able to start making two animals in between customers and it was, as I hoped, a slow day. I was at peace that I didn't cancel, it was well worth going. My next focus was animals for the consignment shop. Once I finished those and dropped them off, I completed the custom orders I received during the week, and THEN I was able to focus completely on preparing for next big market. With 3 days to go before the market, I finally feel ready.
My long-term dream is to build enough inventory that I can have a wall shelf of cubbies to organize the different animals; 10 elephants, 10 giraffes, 10 pigs, etc. And be able to pull from the wall before each market, knowing I'll always have inventory back home so I don't face another crisis; it's just going to take a lot of time to build it up. I could use the help, yes, but believe it or not, I have a hard time convincing my 20-something-year-old friends to learn how to crochet! ;) My mother says she's open to learning at our family vacation this summer, so who knows, maybe it'll be a family business one day. Until then, it's a one woman show and I'm loving every minute!