August 14, 2022

Sometimes it takes a major life event to point you in the right direction.

Last April, I spent my 29th birthday fighting Covid-19 in my bedroom. I had to quarantine my full-time job as a speech therapist at a Providence, Rhode Island hospital. This experience forced me to think about my future and what made me really happy in life.

Although I liked my job, I found it even more fun to work in my Kenyan side business selling hand-dyed yarn.

As the pandemic led more people to craft like knitting and crocheting (to relieve stress), sales on Shopify skyrocketed. Gross sales jumped from $ 20,000 in 2019 when I started the sideline to $ 125,000 in 2020.

I loved working with clients and the community of knitting enthusiasts who also hand-dyed their own yarn. So I pondered my priorities long after my recovery from Covid.

Finally, in January 2021, after saving three months on the cost of living, I decided to quit my job and work full-time in Kenya.

That turned out to be a smart move. I’m well on my way to grossing $ 200,000 by the end of this year. My product prices are mostly between $ 28 and $ 35 – and I get between 200 and 500 orders in varying quantities per month.

As with most successful side businesses, it wasn’t a breeze. Here’s what I learned from turning my passion into a profitable full-time business:

1. Never say “I don’t have time”

If you’re not ready to put the hours in, don’t expect to make a lot of money off your sideline.

When I started Kenyarn, I dyed yarn in my kitchen every Tuesday and Saturday – the days I wasn’t in the hospital. At some point I did it when I got home from work. During work lunch, I sat in my car and updated the website with new photos and product lists from my phone.

Zoom In Icon Arrows pointing outwards

“Summer Sherbet”, Kenya’s unique color scheme, consists of 75% superwash merino wool and 25% nylon.

Photo credit: Kenya

I post on social media at least three to four times a week and have spent every day networking and making friends in the knitting community on Instagram. I also send weekly emails to subscribers announcing new articles and upcoming events.

Some people make side hustling look this easy, but your company gives you what you put in it. And when you start to see growth, you’ll work harder and smarter. Also be ready to make sacrifices; late nights and missed social outings were common in Kenya’s early stages.

2. Be willing to experiment and do not defend yourself against changes

First, I had a clear picture of my product – a consistent batch of standard spot colors available to customers at all times.

But that didn’t take long. I found that people had their favorite dyers because the DIY yarn dyeing business was so busy. So I experimented with making things that would stand out, like a “jumbo speckle,” a large paint splatter pattern over the yarn.

Zoom In Icon Arrows pointing outwards

Kenyon’s yarns have what he calls “jumbo speckle” – a large paint splatter pattern over the yarn.

Photo credit: Kenya

As I played around with various creations, I found that there were higher sales for limited edition patterns, especially those that revolve around exciting fantasy and pop culture genres. For Halloween this year I’ll be releasing a line called “Bad Girls Club”, which contains yarns inspired by female villains like Ursula from Disney’s “The Little Mermaid”.

3. Find your crowd and network with them

I’m in constant contact with other creatives selling similar products and creating similar content on social media.

Whenever I meet another yarn dyer, be it in person or online, I compare their business structure to my own and build a relationship. It helps to know the competition, but having a community of people with the same interests is just as valuable because it can lead to wonderful opportunity and lifelong friendships.

Zoom In Icon Arrows pointing outwards

Kenyon says its yarn business is well on its way to grossing $ 200,000 in sales by the end of 2021.

Photo credit: Kenya

When Kenyan was still a side business, I had set up stalls at several farmers’ markets and held suitcase exhibitions. The presence in the local craft scene and personal contact with people contributed to increasing brand awareness. I also got to know local yarn dealers who now have my products in their stores.

4. Be authentic

In just two years, Kenya’s Instagram followers have grown to almost 17,000 followers. This contributed significantly to the increase in sales.

How did i do it First I made close contacts with popular yarn bloggers who introduced me on their websites and tagged me on Instagram.

I often share Instagram stories and posts that give people a behind-the-scenes look at my dyeing process. I’m very transparent about what it’s like to run my own company – the successes and challenges and even my weaknesses.

Your voice should always be authentic. Customers want to know where their money is going and what the people behind the brand stand for. For example, every year I run a fundraiser for charities that focus on the queer community.

I am incredibly happy that I can do what I love and at the same time give back something that is close to my heart.

Jake Kenyon is the founder of Kenyarn, a hand-dyed yarn company. Follow him on Instagram @isthatkenyarn and visit his website at Kenyarn.com.

Do not miss: