In this episode, I’m chatting with Saskia de Feijter who is the founder of Ja Wol and the host of the podcast, A Smaller Life. Saskia guides crafters to a value-based handmade wardrobe and coaches small sustainable business owners.
We’ll be starting off the conversation chatting about conscious crafting and then shifting into conscious entrepreneurship, and the challenges and considerations of growing a small, mindful values-based business.
And this is actually just part one of our conversation. Part two will be published next Tuesday. So make sure you are subscribed or are following this show on your favorite listening app, so that you do not miss part 2 of our chat!
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Read the Transcript From This Interview:
Hey everyone and welcome or welcome back to the show! I’m going to keep this episode’s introduction short since it is a bit on the longer side.
But essentially in this upcoming episode, I’m gonna be chatting with Saskia de Feijter who is the founder of Ja Wol and the host of the podcast, A Smaller Life. Saskia guides crafters to a values-based handmade wardrobe and coaches small sustainable business owners.
We’ll be starting off our conversation chatting about conscious crafting and then we’ll shift into conscious entrepreneurship, and the challenges and considerations and just evolutions of growing a small, mindful values-based business. We’ll share some of our tips for managing our time efficiently and staying creative in our business as well.
And this is actually just part one of my conversation with Saskia. Part two will be published next Tuesday. So make sure that you’re subscribed or you’re following the Conscious Style Podcast on your favorite listening app, so that you do not miss part 2 of our chat.
Also, a couple quick reminders, one, the transcript for this episode as well as the relevant links are gonna be in the show notes on consciouslifeandstyle.com, as always.
And secondly, a quick ask, a quick favor, that if you are enjoying the show so far, it would mean so much if you took a moment to rate and review the show on Apple Podcasts or Spotify. I know it doesn’t seem like these reviews really matter but they really do support the podcast. They help more people find us and convince people to press play so that they can hear these important conversations on sustainability in fashion. And they also help me secure more guests to agree to come onto the show so that they can share their amazing insights and perspectives with all of you.
Okay, without further ado, let’s get on to this week’s episode. Saskia is gonna start us off here sharing how she got into knitting and why she decided to build her own small business.
I started to go back into crafting because I love my job. And I worked with creatives, but I wasn’t being creative myself.
So when a friend started knitting, I started knitting and fell head over heels back in love with it and started to teach myself all the techniques that I didn’t know yet. And then within my pregnancy leave within three months, I started my own business in pattern design for knitters.
I was completely enamored with the process and everything about it. So it started with learning the different techniques and then designing and then there was a sewing cafe that was going to be open soon. So I rang the bell or I called the owner. And I ended up renting a table there for a couple of hours each week and started teaching people how to knit and that is basically the beginning point of my new career in knitting.
And then I started to teach and I would get two people and then three and then one and then five and then none and then so gradually I would grow and it did some designing still, because I was building a beginner course so I designed all of the project for the beginner course. I don’t know what I was thinking I should have just gotten them from a book but I kind of wanted to do that.
And then I first did a beginner course for knitting and then for crochet. And then I was teaching in three different locations. And I didn’t even take the yarn and the books out of my car anymore, because it was too inconvenient.
And then somebody told me about this old fire department that they turn into a set of studios where designers could design and sell their products. So that was a good idea. And then I started to, so my initial plan was to design there and then teach as well.
But I had the yarns laid out for teaching. And people started asking about them, they’re like, I can’t find any good yarns anywhere, can I can I buy this. And quickly this was my first like, in a series of many pivots in my business, is where I decided, okay, so becoming a knitting pattern designer is not quickly turning into money. So maybe I should just sell yarns and teach.
And that’s what I did. And then from that studio, I moved into a small shop and then a bigger shop.
And then in the shop, I started to work with other crafters to design, sustainable and locally made accessories for needle crafters, like bags and tools and things like that. And I worked with yarn brands to design my own yarns.
And later, I started to dye my own Yars doing really kind of everything, because it was fun, but also because I’m, it’s so hard to make a living with a business like that. So it’s really trying everything.
And I think what’s also important to say is, in the beginning, my aim was to offer natural materials to all kinds of budgets. And that was where I started, but it turned out that, that was not sustainable for me as a small business. Because in the end, I think you know that somebody is paying that price if it’s not the customer somebody else is.
And I kind of another pivot focus more on fair pricing, good quality materials, and, and a really transparent way of selling so not overselling products and steady customers that I could just say, do you really need that? Didn’t you just buy this? Or I would be really, I don’t know, honest with them.
Yeah, yeah, absolutely. Because making your own clothes is in general considered like a conscious fashion choice, a slow thoughtful practice. But when we were speaking before you were talking about how there are certain elements that you can sort of take deeper, like the types of yarns that you source, for example.
So can you share some of those considerations that crafters, whether we’re beginners or more advanced, what can we keep in mind, even if we’re, you know, sewing our own clothes, crocheting, knitting, how can we do that and a thoughtful way?
Well, I think going through this whole period and learning from all of the things that I did. It’s so clear to me now, but it wasn’t at that time. So I think it’s a process in a way, to teach yourself certain habits.
But let’s say you are a beginner knitter or sewer, now, I think what’s really important is in the muchness of everything, to be able to focus on your values to know what your values are, and the kind of things you do want to support, and you don’t want to support takes away a lot of the overwhelming choice in knitting and sewing and everything.
So this has become a lifestyle for me, where I get overwhelmed by too many things, because of my enthusiasm, but also because I’m easily distracted. It’s the way my brain works. And I really started to practice my choosing muscle, and to really start to know myself and, and my industry.
So I would say, focus on time not only on the practice itself, but everything that goes around it by listening to podcasts like this one, and joining newsletters where you can get actual information about making conscious decisions that are not based on marketing talk from the brands.
And really pulling that back to who you are as a person and how you want to take part in this industry. So there’s that.
If you learn to know yourself a little bit better, then you have kind of a roadmap, how you can choose things.
So for me, that might be I love to support local, cause with COVID, we’ve all noticed that sometimes the world closes down and you got order from across the world. And then it’s so valuable if you have a local shop that offers the products that you want. So support local, support small business, and depending on where you live if in a bigger city, that’s usually easier.
But try to see if the shop owner needs a little bit of extra help if they are in a marginalized position. Like I have this checklist. And at some points, I cannot take the box, right? Because it’s simply not available in my city. And then I move across to the next city. And I might even go online.
But if I go online, is it a small business? Where does the fiber come from? And this might sound like people might sigh and go like, ‘Oh my gosh, I haven’t even knitted yet. I haven’t even learned how to cast on my first stitch and you’re going on about this.’ But in the end, all of this knowledge will help you to have a more focused and more calm practice that feels closer to who you are.
Mhm. Yeah, right. And there’s a lot of similarities with just in general, like conscious fashion. Like if you have been trying to find a more sustainable way of accessing, say, a dress and I don’t know how many like secondhand options there are for yarn, but in terms of like prioritizing natural fibers and local and marginalized businesses and all that kind of stuff, I think kind of carries across spaces.
Exactly, exactly. There are some typical things for yarns, I would say. When it comes to wool, which is in my opinion, the best material there is. And as long as the animals are treated well, it’s a good thing to look for non-mulesing wool. And without going into too much detail there is a little issue sheep can have and it’s called fly strike.
And what they do is they cut away the flies go into the, into the exit of the sheep. And what they do to kind of keep that part of the sheet clean is they cut away some of the skin and they don’t often they don’t necessarily do that with pain management.
Yeah, so they just do that. So that’s horrific for the sheep. So, in big big farms with a lot of sheep, this is something that might happen. So if you buy yarns try to look for non-mulesing yarns, which is better for the sheep. And this is typically something that will happen with Merino yarn, because there’s a lot of big Merino farms, especially in Australia, New Zealand.
But that doesn’t mean that all yarn from that area is bad. And that’s something that’s so hard like I feel on the internet people like pop these things into the air and everybody goes like ‘Oh, stay away from Australian yarn.’
Yeah, these generalizations about a whole country like everything for that country is bad or something. Yeah.
The biggest country ever so don’t do that because they’re really good farmers there, they’re really good businesses there. And especially when you live in Australia, if you live in Europe, you might not want to shop in Australia, that’s another thing. But make sure you know where the yarn is coming from and that makes it easier in the end.
So I have a few brands that I really liked because I know where they get their fibers, I know where they spin and dye their fibers and they’re transparent about it. They usually small businesses because the bigger brands don’t give that give away that much information and also…
They might not even know like and the case where it’s like 20 layers in between they might not even know because of outsourced it and people they outsourced to outsource some of their processes which outsourced and it just goes on and on.
And then they might not even know which is why, I’m totally with you. I mean for everything I always try to prioritize small businesses. Obviously, certain things that’s not possible like electronics so I try to source that used as much as possible but in terms of like yarn and clothes, I think it definitely is feasible to source locally in most parts of the world.
Most parts, yeah, most.
And you can also find just yarn in thrift stores and then you might not know what it is if it’s not on the label, but there’s tests for that if you light the yarn with a lighter or a match, and then you blow it out. And then you crumble it between your fingers.
If it draws long threads then it’s plastic right? If it’s wool or even cotton if it’s a natural yarn it will be like dust in your fingers so then you can decide what it is.
It might be a little weird to do that while you’re in the thrift store…
Yeah maybe wait till you’re home for that one!
But you can ask: can I go outside with a little bit of yarn and I’ll return in a second?
So there’s that and just swap swapping with your friends and go on in communities in my own community we do that. We have a marketplace for people that want to swap things they don’t need anymore don’t want anymore.
Yeah, I imagine like a Buy Nothing group too might occasionally have that. But yeah, I’m thinking about my local thrift store if I’ve ever seen yarn. I’ve definitely seen gift wrap. There’s a lot of like wrapping paper and ribbons. So you know I’m sure at some point they get, they get yarn.
You know, even people starting a project and they have leftover yarn or maybe they bought all these crafting supplies perhaps during COVID thought they were going do this project and then they never did.
Or granny dies. It happens…
Yeah or not even and just granny. Because I think knitting just gets attached to granny still a lot. We owe them so much, so we have to have respect for the knitting grannies, but it’s much more than a granny hobby. Let me just put that out there.
ELIZABETH[Laughs] Yes. So you were talking about wool. And I know one problem with wool that a lot of people experience or are concerned about is moths.
And I noticed on your site, you have a like Moth Buster, download. So can you just really quick share your tips on how we can maybe avoid getting moth holes?
Absoltely, yeah, I spent a lot of time researching it. Because with that, there’s also a lot of like urban myths around how to deal with moths. There’s actually one kind of moth that actually gnaws at your natural fibers, not necessarily just wool, they can like eat cotton as well.
But it’s not the moth — it’s the grub that eats it. So if you see a moth flying that doesn’t mean that your yarn is in immediate danger. It becomes dangerous when there’s another one from the opposite sex.
Yeah, the larvae.
Yeah, the larvae. I say grubs. But that’s not the right word. Yeah, the larvae. But we’re talking about the little wormy thing. They’re kind of, I think personally, that they’re kind of gross, because there might enemy.
I’m a vegetarian, almost vegan. But moths really cannot stay in my house. And they’re notoriously hard to catch. So they will perish if they come near me. Like I will catch a spider and a fly and a bee and I will release them back into the wild, but moths not so much.
So what you can do is they do not like lights and air. So my sweaters and everything I have wool is actually hanging out. My wardrobe doesn’t have any doors. So whenever I grab a piece of clothing, everything moves that round. And they don’t like that there’s not direct sunlight, because that would hurt the colors, but there’s light there.
But as soon as you tuck away things, in drawers in the back of your closet in dark spaces, and you don’t touch it until the next season, you’re basically forked.
So leaving them out and airing them a lot works. If you cannott or won’t do that, that’s a hard thing always for me, because the best thing are those plastic containers where you just click the lid on, so that nothing goes in them.
I was gonna ask about vacuum-sealed bags?
You can do that. You can do that.
I live in kind of a small space and I’ve already taken up too much of the closet my husband doesn’t have space left.
You’re a fashion podcaster — you have an excuse.
So I do put away like my bulky sweaters and stuff like that because I have quite a lot because it gets very cold in winters but very warm in summers here in the Chicago area. So I do put them in vacuum-sealed bags under our bed.
Yes, that works, that’s great.
And the best thing you can do is before you tuck them away, give them a rinse or a wash. Because wool doesn’t need as much washing as people might think. Even woolen socks don’t. Like I know I’m going this is crazy for some people…
No, I’m with you. I wear these socks like three times and they like don’t smell what is this? All my other socks would smell!
It’s the magic of wool. That’s why I love it so much. If cotton had those kinds of properties and it wouldn’t use up so much water. I would stick to cotton. Sure. I would love to be able to do everything with plants.
But in my opinion, wool is so much better in so many ways because of the warmth and it takes up 30% of its own weight in, in water, in liquids. So you can actually walk into the rain and not feel cold or wet for a long time.
This is why it’s great for socks for walking socks, and it doesn’t need washing that much, which is great, because we don’t want to wash that much doing so that’s good.
But when you tuck away your wool for the winter, do one wash. And just there’s washing detergent out there that have lanolin within it, so you don’t have to rinse it out. The idea is actually to bring the lanolin, which is the wool fatty substance back to the wool to keep it flexible and moisture-wicking, I would say.
Do that, and then tuck them away. And then when you take them out for the winter season, just air them and you’re good.
So unless you have stains, don’t wash it just air it. And if you’re in an area where you get snow, a snow bath is awesome for sweaters. If it’s snowing outside, just put your sweaters in the snow, turn them around, and then dry them in your house. Yeah, that’s really cool. That really works. Or a drizzle. That works too.
So yeah, that’s the best thing you can do with moths, and I can add something to that. They don’t like smells. So cedar, lavender, is most used smells for scaring moths. But you can also just use a piece of soap that has a distinct smell. And that works as well.
Yeah, no, those are really, really great tips. Thank you for that.
And so shifting gears a little bit into like the business portion of this conversation, because I also wanted to dive a bit more into your various business shifts and what you’re doing now.
So you mentioned that you owned a yarn shop but you’ve closed that down since.
I know, like right now you have a community of makers and sellers. So can you speak to like, more about why you made that transition and what you’re up to right now?
Yeah, definitely. So a couple of years ago, I had a couple of scary moments when my heart rate out of nowhere got extremely high. And so after testing, I was diagnosed with a congenital heart issue disease, where I didn’t know I had, and I had a heart operation. And after some months, it took me to realize what happened and how I felt about it. I did some deep diving in my heart. And I know that I needed to work less.
And although it wasn’t connected to stress, it did feel like it wasn’t going to help me. So I lowered the amount of hours that I spent in the shop. And although I had, I could afford only one person to help me for one day, I had to close the shop down an extra day. And that was going on and then COVID hits and I have asthma as well. And being overweight. I had three really major issues that put me at risk for COVID.
So I was one of the first shops in my area. I think I was the first one to actually close my doors before we even went into lockdown. And I kind of never reopened. That wasn’t the plan initially. I just really did some soul searching and reflecting and I thought okay, what’s my business like? What is it doing? How is it succeeding? And how does it fit into my life and my health?
And I ended up deciding that it would be better to let go of the shop because it wasn’t… it was successful, depending on what you would say is success. I made a profit. I made a profit quite quickly within three years. But it was steady and not very high, whatever I did. It was just a lot of hard work for a very low pay.
With the added heart issue, it took a little bit of the fun and the challenge of that in a way. Because I ran on this as a challenge for a long time because I love the industry so much. I love the craft so much. I love the product so much. It just really forced me to be realistic, for my situation.
And then because we were in lockdown, I opened up a digital community. I already had it but I wasn’t making a lot of use out of it at that point. And I knew that people wanted to talk to each other about their projects and so I opened that up for my members and my followers on social media. And that’s where I started my community and it has — even the community within what is it now I think three years is always evolving. I’m always workshopping things: what’s working, what’s not working?
It was a couple of dollars to get in the beginning, then I opened it up for free because I wanted to be as inclusive as I could during the lockdown. And then I decided no, this is my new job, I need to get paid for my work. And in order to make that work, I want to offer more.
So I thought of this whole idea that I could make this journey for the members of the community. And I upped the price a lot because I had this plan.
But the community didn’t really understand at that point what I was going to do, because I was kind of early. You hear about it a lot these days about going into a community and going through a journey to accomplish something. But that was kind of really new at the moment, especially in my industry and all the people that came in for free most of them left. So I had to really deal with that.
And now I have found a way that is really working. But my business has started over completely. It’s a whole new business. So that’s a little bit of a, there was a little bit of a hit to, to know that I’m starting from the beginning. Of course with my experiences, but like having that in mind and not I have to be patient with growing this from the beginning.
So now, the community is aimed at the crafters and the sellers.
So crafters being I would say hobbyists, people that love knitting, crocheting, sewing, spinning, all kinds of needle crafts, or even if you’re just a creative, you’re welcome. And together, step by step, I give you monthly topics and small challenges that are doable, just for fun. And then gradually you get closer to building your conscious wardrobe.
So it’s not a course, it’s very low profile. It’s very friendly. It’s a low price, but you have to pay and that’s how I make it safe for everybody. So no one is kind of watching and lurking, and it’s a very safe environment.
The other parts are the sellers. So I have a different group. It’s called the Building Better Businesses circle. And I am almost together with them but a little bit ahead. And the last three years I focused on all the things that I needed as a small business to really develop a step-by-step easy program so that they can build their small businesses and make it grow, make them grow, and go a little bit beyond the day-to-day.
I’ve invested three years of my time taking courses, reading books, and all the experience that I already have, I can offer them what they need in a moment. So I asked the small business says what do you want to work on, and then I go on, make the content, we talk about it, we have assignments, challenges, and this is what we do.
Then in the end, the makers and the sellers, like a fairy tale come together in community. And this is my big dream that like-minded people that want to do better, that want to have a conscious lifestyle in fashion, in making, in crafting, that they can see that they don’t need that many people, as long as they have the right people around them.
Yeah definitely. And I mean, I think like conscious entrepreneurship, you know, in slow fashion space and other similar spaces can be such a challenge, because there’s this sort of, like I don’t know, I guess, mainstream entrepreneurial advice of like, grow big, grow fast, and like, kind of do whatever it takes to get there.
Even if you damage, your health hustling, pulling all-nighters, I mean, you hear all these wild things. And you know, advertising in whatever way possible. Lowering your costs as low as they can go, while also having your prices as high as the market will bear, so you can have the biggest profit margins.
I mean, going to business school, and being in that business world for many years, both, like in my job, and also like, curious about entrepreneurship, just a lot of things about that did not sit well with me, like at all. It just felt very, against my values. And I was like, if I’m going to start a business, I don’t want it to be something that feels so icky.
You know, it was like, I want to grow this sustainable fashion platform, but I don’t want to do it in unsustainable ways, for myself, or also, in ways that didn’t feel good to me. That didn’t feel right.
And so I’m curious what that’s been like trying to build a business that’s aligned with your values, like, do you have tips for people who are struggling with that?
Oh, my gosh, it’s so it’s basically the most complicated thing to have a sustainable business that’s also sustainable for yourself. Because burnout is a thing, it’s not helping anyone if we all burn out.
So I just want to share this. That one of the business owners in my business circle has made a video about her business. And it totally made me cry. It was so beautiful. It was like the epiphany of the small craft business, and you basically wanted to buy everything she has, and live in her world of naturally dyed beauty. You know what I mean? It was just so beautiful.
And it made me cry, because I know how hard it is to keep businesses like that going, and we need the business. We need it to be commercial. It’s not a hobby. So there’s that part where you do have to be business savvy about it and say that we need to ask the price that it’s actually worth.
And a lot of people in crafts, in small businesses in crafts start they from a passion. They don’t have a business education. So they compare, or they set their prices, talking to their, on one hand, their peers — so the people that they used to craft with are now their customers and they’d say, this is too expensive; I can’t afford this. And then they keep their prices low, and it’s killing them.
And so on one hand, I really want to say that if you start a business in this, this kind of business like a yarn dyer, if you’re a yarn dyer, or if you knit sweaters for people, you really need to think about it’s quite easy to do the math beforehand, like how much do you have to sell in order to get to the income that you need? And a lot of the time, it won’t look like a feasible business. And then you have to really decide what to do.
So people just go into it. And I was one of those people. They go into it from their passion, and that makes it really hard to have a business that really works.
And then there’s the bit of your values, that ethical marketing. I’ve been focused on that a lot. I’ve been taught different ways of marketing that I don’t subscribe to now that I don’t want to use anymore. It’s a journey to find ways that work.
So social media, I don’t believe in social media anymore, from a business perspective. Because over the years, I’ve looked at it, and I’ve seen that, however much people think what I bring is inspiring. It didn’t bring me — I wouldn’t say any — but enough customers. So I wouldn’t put in so much time and effort to entertain people that should be my customers. Right? So I’m trying to look at it from a value-based…
I mean the ROI, like the return on investment isn’t there. It’s not maybe that social media brings you zero, but is it worth the amount of time that you’re investing in it?
Exactly, yeah. And how can you do it differently? So that’s something I’m also working on within the business circle is how can we offer different ways of marketing? And how can we work together to figure out what will work?
And then looking at ethical marketing and just being really open and transparent to people and then kind of hoping in a way that they understand that that is the way to go. And if they are able to choose between the moguls and value-based small businesses, if they can actually step away from the want, want want and the more, more and more that which we have all been like, forced fed almost.
Yeah, more is better in all senses…
More and cheaper, that’s what… and they still kind of sometimes go back default to that sometimes. And I go like whoa, what am I doing? And I’ll be like oh, this is cheap, no Saskia, do you actually need it?
And this is also something I try to focus on. Do you work from what you need? And then you can still make it fun. You can still choose materials and patterns that you love, but just not get distracted by everything that is on your feed right off of Instagram or Pinterest. I’m like, I want this I need this. I want this I need this. Do you?
Yeah, like shiny object syndrome is totally a thing in like entrepreneurship too. Oh, this person is doing this cool thing I need to do that or they launch this cool product, I need to launch this too. They have a course, I need a course. They have a membership, I need a membership. They have a TikTok I need a TikTok — and all the things.
And it’s just like consumption, like products. We’re constantly tempted to shop on social media.
But I feel like, in terms of entrepreneurship, I often feel that like, Oh, they’re doing this cool thing and this cool thing. And it’s hard to figure out, okay, what feels core to me? What feels core to my audience? What feels core to my business?
And although there’s moments where I feel very inspired by what other people are doing on Instagram, I have to take breaks. I need to take breaks so I can reflect. And this is something that our previous guest, Kestrel Jenkins talked about in an episode on slowing down media, which was like sometimes you don’t even know what you want.
Like you might not even know where you want your business to go. Because you’re so confused by what everybody else is doing. That’s so important to just get more clear on what you want and what — as you were saying before, like what even is success to you?
Exactly, exactly. So there’s a couple of things that come up when you say all of this. Like, if you kind of feel uncomfortable with social media and you’re afraid to leave, what I used to do was I would do December turnarounds. I would actually show a picture of the back of my head, like, I’m not here at the moment, and then December, I would leave social media altogether. So that was the first step I took.
And then there’s a couple of more steps that I talk about in one of my podcast episodes. So taking that break. But also when you’re eager to buy something, just don’t buy it the second you feel like you want it. Just give yourself a day or a week and if you still want it, you have processed that thought and you really need it and all of that.
And one of another person in my business circle, her name is Saskia as well, she had an amazing idea.
So she started this Pinterest board and she calls it make-believe shopping. And she puts on everything that she kind of wants. And then she comes back to it and see if she still wants it. And if it still matches her values.
And coming back to your question, what is my tip for starting small businesses? It’s the same thing as my tip for makers. First, find out who you are as a maker. What are your values? What is important to you? The future, your family?
And if you have written it down,because everyone is so ‘Yeah, I want everybody to be happy and peace in the world.’ That’s easy, but really actually doing and finding out what, what’s your top three, right? And you’re not a bad person if number 10 on the list doesn’t come into your shopping actions.
But make it a little bit easier for yourself to, to look at who you are as a business owner in this case, and then start building your business from there.
How do you communicate through your audience? How do you organize your workday so that you can show up as your best self and sharing from your heart and offering products that are really led by your soul.
It sounds a little bit like that’s not practical, but it really is. You just need a pen and a paper and start doing the work. And it will really help you to limit the amount of choices you have. If you have that limit, then you have more focus. And if you have more focus, you will go a little faster because you’re not distracted. And if you go a little faster, you can grow your business faster.
I’m not saying that — I’m all about the slow living — but a lot of small businesses just get stuck in the day-to-day and like they come into the shop, they open the door, they see a little bit of a mess, they start cleaning the mess, they go like ‘Oh, I need some coffee’, they put on coffee, then the first customer comes in, then I have a conversation.
And before you know it, it’s the end of the day, and they have just worked in their business instead of on their business.
Yes. And it happens online, too. Like with email like I have not perfect at this by any means, but a goal of mine has been like for this year (and this is August and I’m still very much working on it) closing my email app and trying for as many hours not to look at my email. I’m trying to just do look at it in the morning and at the end of the day.
I have not accomplished that yet, but I’m looking at it less because email is, I feel like the biggest for online businesses, like you get stuck, as you said, in the business. And you’re just constantly just responding to requests whatever’s incoming to you and like you’re not having this time to like create or just like think a bit more about what you want to bring out into the world.
Strategies or goals, right. And that day to day, it will never end, it will never end. It’s like the laundry, it will never end. So you better come to terms with that, and rise above that and just let go. Like, I hate it when people say let go, I’m always like, if I could, I would, wouldn’t I? I’m not stupid.
But yeah, just rise above the day today and just give yourself the opportunity to really focus on what your wishes are, and what your goals are, and do that work. And there’s a lot of opportunities to get help with that. And a business coach is one of them. But a business coach can be very expensive. So yeah, just listen to podcasts and join the community.
Yeah, and having a virtual assistant, or if you’re, you know, have an in-person shop, an assistant that comes in, is so, so useful. I think that, I was on another podcast about business stuff and talking about I hired before I was even full-time in my business myself. And it actually enabled me to go full-time in my business.
Like I started working with a partnerships manager who handled all the emails with brands that I’m working with. And not only did it free up my time and stress.
Secondly, she was able to bring in like more revenue, because she has connections and is able to sort of advocate for Conscious Life & Style more than I was. Going back to your pricing point, when I was pricing myself, it was probably like below market value, like not valuing myself.
You really genuinely care about the small businesses that you’re working with or your customers like if you’re yarn shop. You want to help people and you want to be accessible, but you also have to, like value yourself and your work. And she was able to, from like a more objective view, like, do that.
Yeah and respect the whole industry. Because if your prices are too low, then the whole industry kind of well “suffers”.
I think the biggest thing that I’ve learned, what you just mentioned, is hiring as soon as possible. And the idea that I have when I had a shop was I’m not doing this work, not to earn a living. So I need to earn a living myself first before I can hire.
And because I didn’t have that business education, I come from a marketing and communication background. I didn’t really click with the idea of when you bring somebody in, you grow exponentially.
So one of the things I did in my new business now is I worked for another company, and I put away a part of the money I earned to put into this business. And then I invested in getting some coaching myself, which is super valuable. Like within the first 30 minutes of talking to this coach, I already had like six epiphanies. It was great. That’s money well spent.
Then the next thing is actually getting a VA also. Because we are all good at some things and terrible at other things.
One of the first things I did was hire somebody to do my numbers because I really utterly hate them and they take away so much of my energy that is totally worth the money.
Then the next thing is an editor for my podcast. Great, great, great idea that was. Although I love editing, like the latent perfectionist that’s still within me, even though I’m battling it on a day-to-day basis will make me work on something for thrice the time that I should.
Yes, yes. I would literally spend the entire day editing a podcast episode
Absolutely and I would re-record it.
Yeah, totally. It’s so easy to get caught up in the perfectionism when you’re like, editing.
We don’t have to do everything, right? It’s not possible, you cannot stay healthy if you’re doing everything.
Having a business is a serious thing. Like it’s not a hobby, right? There’s a lot of energy that goes into it, and especially the kind of businesses that we’re talking about.
Like another tip is start making a list of all the things that you do, and then highlighting the things that you hate in reds, and the things that you love in green, and everything that’s meh, do use, I don’t know, I would say, yellow. You can choose your own colors. But you get the idea.
Yeah, absolutely. I’m totally with you. One great tip I learned from listening to entrepreneurship podcasts was like, even if you’re a solopreneur, start developing processes. Like it can be easy to just do it however you’re feeling, which like I’m all for, like finding your flow, but write down the steps that you are doing for something.
Use a project management software, like Asana, which is the basic version is free. And like just start organizing things, and it makes it so much easier to bring on help when you already have like processes in place, when things are organized.
And like a place like Dropbox or Google Drive and folders and like just try to be organized and develop some processes. So when you onboard people, it’s not totally overwhelming.
Exactly. It takes away so much time pressure, because it’s such a smooth way to do things. The thing though, is with creative businesses, I think I was like that before that people are like, ‘Oh no! I need to be able to do whatever I feel like doing because I’m a creative person.’ And okay, I can see that when you talk about no, actually, I don’t know, no…
I think as a creative person, you will benefit from making sure you have processes in place. And I think for me, doing this with a podcast has made it possible for me when something goes wrong, I can communicate and market a new episode and do everything that is around the podcast except for the recording and the editing. I can do that in two hours, or even less.
And before that, it would take me more than double like making the artwork… Like it’s if you don’t know what that entails, then it’s kind of hard to… but it’s a lot of work. Like you have to write texts, and put it on different websites, and write the show notes and get the… Because it might even be hard for you to remember a time where you didn’t like ask people before to send you a picture or simple things like that. If you have to do that, just a day before you go live and the person is not reacting then you don’t have a picture, right?
It’s a silly example. But yeah, having processes in place is so, so valuable.
Yeah, I mean, it frees up your time and space to be creative when you have sort of processes in place. Because you don’t have to be like wait, am I forgetting this? Am I forgetting that? And you’re not like up at night being like, oh my gosh, I forgot this. I mean, I’m not saying that never happens to me. Obviously, it still does.
But the more processes that are in place, the more I can sort of like rest easy and just like yeah, focus on like our conversation focused on researching for the interview, for instance. And actually just enjoying our conversation because everything else was like sort of in place.
Having structures and processes doesn’t mean that you can’t be creative. It’s just like having some sort of, I guess, like boundaries around things so that like you do have, you have just that space to be creative.
I booked the interviews now through Calendly for instance and I have like set questions in advance. So for anyone unfamiliar Calendly is like a scheduling software. So I send the link to Saskia. She goes in and I have like certain times that I’m available, so I record on Mondays and Wednesdays.
That’s like a boundary that’s like a structure that I’ve set in place and allows me to not be overwhelmed. Like I was doing just interviews, any which day and time and it was just like, I was like, all over the place.
Like there’s a book called Deep Work, which talks a lot about this just having extended periods of time that you can think and get creative, or, you know, research something or whatever. I didn’t have these long stretches of time, because I was just like getting on calls any which time.
So anyway, Calendly send you the link, and you know, you book your time, answer the questions, put in your bio, your headshot, all that stuff. And like, that’s just already there for me. And it’s a process, but it enables you to be more creative, like and you just have more time. And like, you need so much more time than you think to be creative.
Hmmm…Exactly. And it’s really funny because before that, I got on this conversation. I had a quick online coffee with Hannah Lisa Haverkamp, who is the editor of Making Stories, it’s a knitting magazine. And we had a similar conversation. Like she said, I’m not typically a creative person, but opening up time for myself to really process all the things that I’ve been doing, that opens up the possibilities for new ideas to emerge, right?
So I think having processes and having step-by-step ways of doing things… I even have days that have a topic like on Monday, I typically do planning and strategy. And on Tuesday is the Ja Wol community, on Wednesday, it’s the podcast.
So I have focus points. And within those focus points, I’m, I’m a very enthusiastic bullet journalist, but the minimal kind. But the process of bullet journaling that really opens up possibilities for well, insights in things that you keep doing that are not helping you towards your goals. Things you can let go of — it makes that so insightful.
For me, it really helps to have boundaries that you talk about. I mean, we could talk a whole episode about boundaries. With the type of brain that I have, I need to set boundaries, right? Bullet journaling is like medication to me.
I’ve only quite recently in the last two years realized that how do I work and what works for me and even within the last week, I realized with the help of a coach that I’m at my best when I’m active and I’m making things.
And when I get into rumination mode is when it’s a fine line to overthinking and thinking negatively and like chipping away at my self worth. So I really have to just make things, whether that is a sweater, or a product or a service, and just going through that process of getting to know yourself as a person, as a business owner, really is amazing.
And I love the process, but it hasn’t been easy. My gosh, no, it’s been really, really hard. I’ve, I’m by far perfect. So this whole product or process and things that I’m offering, I’m offering from the position of a guide. This is where I’ve been, this is what I’ve done, this is what helped me, these are alternatives that might help you. Let’s talk about it. What do you need? And what can you offer?
And conversations like this — so valuable. Obviously, the obvious part is that your community is now listening to me. But at this moment, I’m listening to you. And I’m getting a lot from what you’re saying. And when I interview people for my podcast, and you’ve been mine, as well, I’m getting a lot from you. So even though my business has been almost forced to start over, it’s been such a great journey I’ve learned so much in only the last three years. It’s been amazing.
And that’s a wrap for part 1 of this conversation with Saskia. Stay tuned for part 2 next Tuesday. Again, don’t forget to hit subscribe or follow on your listening app of choice so you do not miss it!
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