This post was originally in our newsletter last week and since then several subscribers have reached out with incredible kindness to say that they'll miss the club but want to keep supporting us. We appreciate that so much, and, although we obviously need purchases to keep the business going there are lots of other ways that you can support us. I've added a few notes at the end on ways that you can support our business and my design work without spending money. All of them apply to other small yarn businesses, and many of them to small businesses of all kinds.
You might have noticed that a few weeks ago we ran a poll on Instagram and in the Ravelry group for our club, asking what kind of club people would like in 2020. In the end, although we got lots of great feedback, we decided that was the wrong question, and started talking about whether we should launch a 2020 club at all. The overwhelming feeling, no matter who I talk to, about next year seems to be deep uncertainty, a feeling I certainly understand. We’ve run a yarn and pattern club for the last five years, and it’s been pretty successful, club members generally seem to have enjoyed it, and it’s made up a fairly significant percentage of our annual turnover. At first it felt kind of absurd to talk about not doing it.
We kept coming back to this: committing to paying for something you’ll receive throughout the following year is the opposite of what anyone wants to do when they’re feeling uncertain. There’s so much trust involved, and I know that the more uncertain I feel the less I want to spend my money on something I might like when I get it, rather than something I know I like right now. The whole point of the club is that buying yourself (or someone else) surprises for the future is supposed to be fun. If it stops being fun, maybe there’s something else we could do that would be more enjoyable for everyone.
For our part, as a business, although the club has become a reliable part of our annual turnover, and we appreciate how much it’s an expression of support for our work, that reliability relies on risk. I’m immensely proud of the fact that we’ve never sent a shipment or pattern out late (when we started the club this was clearly the biggest thing that made clubs risky for both businesses and customers). Doing so, without causing ourselves a ton of stress, has meant that we’ve made our process more efficient, with a lot more padding room built in. That, and the fact that we want to feature special yarns from small producers with long lead times, means that we start ordering the yarn we’ll use months before anyone has signed up. That’s a huge risk if we aren’t reasonably sure we’ll fill our minimum number of spots.
The general feeling of uncertainty, for us, is about a lot of factors, some industry specific, some more about global politics, but Brexit is certainly a big element of it. Brexit did present a specific problem for the club that we weren’t able to solve despite seeking professional advice: if the UK leaves the EU with no deal at any point between when an EU member purchases the club and any of the packages are posted how do we prevent them paying VAT twice? In theory we’d charge and report the VAT when we sold the club, and the customer would have to pay VAT plus a handling fee to customs when they received each club package. We don’t feel comfortable saying “we’ll do our best to prevent that, no matter what happens.” and I don’t expect our EU customers to feel comfortable with that approach either.
So instead of launching our 2020 club in this email, we’re writing to tell you that there won’t be one. We’re hoping that we’ll still be here in a year, and that not doing the club will free us up for other creative projects that will be more fun, and less uncertain for everyone. Thank you for all of your support that allows us to continue.
Word of mouth is by far the most effective marketing we will ever have, an old cliche that's only become more true in this world of algorithms. Whether it's talking about your yarn and where you got it at knit night or sharing your latest project on instagram this is all super helpful. Tag your instagram posts #ysolda or with a pattern specific hashtag so we can see them and re-share. Of course, sharing what you've already bought and the projects you're making from it, relies on having purchased something in the past, but sharing what you'd be excited to buy, or mentioning that we stock a book you got from the library is also a great way to support us.
Review something you purchased or that we sell and you know well. Did you know we now have a product review feature? It's meaningless without user input so we'd really appreciate if you could take the time to leave reviews. It doesn't matter whether you purchased from us, your review could help someone else decide that a yarn will be right for the project they have in mind. I know too that when I'm shopping online reviews help me to feel like I can trust that I'll get what I'm expecting, or even get my order at all. Helping us to build that kind of trust for new customers is really valuable — thank you!
Algorithms and engagement:
We use Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest for marketing, and try to do so by sharing posts that we think you'll be interested in on each platform. You certainly don't have to follow us everywhere, and of course there's some overlap, but we do share different things on each platform. The more you engage with our content the more other people will see it.
Ravelry's a bit different than other social media platforms because it's based less on frustrating algorithms but there are ways in which you interacting will make it more likely that other people will see us.
- Make a project. Adding helpful photos and lots of notes will help other knitters see how a design will work on their body, or decide whether the techniques used are for them. Projects without photos don't show up by default so using one of ours or a photo of your yarn as a placeholder before you cast on is a good way to make sure people see that other knitters are working on a pattern.
- Link to our store when you add yarn to your stash. This is a feature I learned about embarrassingly recently but when you add yarn to your stash you can link to the store you bought it from. Just type in "Ysolda" and click on the link that pops up.
Then anyone looking on your stash will be able to click the store link to go to our store's Ravelry page — this is a great way for other people to see what we sell and, of course, also builds trust for new customers. You'll show up as a patron too so other people can see the cool projects you've made.
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Keep up to date by subscribing to both our weekly newsletter and this blog. I still miss google reader, and never really found an alternative that I loved as much, but Feedly is a pretty nice way to keep up to date with blogs. Subscribe to the RSS feed in the reader of your choice using this link.
There's also something really appealing as both a reader and blog writer to know that the people who asked to see your content will see it, rather than dealing with a platform controlled by some very sketchy interests. If you sign up to the newsletter you can also simply choose to receive an email when we've posted a new blog post. Subscribe to the newsletter here.
Thank you, so much, for all of your support over the years. It's never expected, but always appreciated, and genuinely makes the difference in whether we can continue. Look out for a little thank you gift here soon!
.... And it's a big one! Usually, the sale runs across a set number of days and things get pretty fast paced around here with shipping and customer service emails. With the need to continue to prioritise staff safety and a smaller team than usual, we decided to make this a whole birthday month.