Work­ing in a win­ter won­der­land

’Tis the sea­son for tak­ing inspiration from the big chill out­side. Meet four read­ers who have made cool busi­nesses out of win­ter

Prima (UK) - - Welcome -

We dis­cover some suc­cess­ful start-ups with a sea­sonal slant

‘I love mak­ing peo­ple feel warm and cosy’

Kate Sayer, 40, from Al­trin­cham, Cheshire, lives with her hus­band Steve, 42, and two daugh­ters, aged nine and six.

‘When the win­ter chill sets in, there’s noth­ing cosier than wear­ing a lamb­swool scarf or snug­gling up to soft, comfy cush­ions. Ever since my mum taught me how to cro­chet aged 13, I’ve loved every­thing to do with knit­ting, but

I never imag­ined I would be run­ning my own woollen busi­ness.

For 14 years, I worked at the Univer­sity of Manch­ester, lec­tur­ing in knit­ted tex­tiles. But when I had my two young daugh­ters, life was hec­tic and I longed to find more time for my own knit­ted cre­ations. My head was full of ideas, so, in 2013, I de­cided to make the break from lec­tur­ing and go for it, set­ting up my busi­ness, Lit­tle Knit­ted Stars.

Start­ing by list­ing some hair­clips and hair­bands I’d cro­cheted on the on­line site Etsy, I was de­lighted when they sold for a cou­ple of pounds each. Then my mum saw a vin­tage 1980s knit­ting ma­chine ad­ver­tised for £50 and bought it for me. It meant I could make the cush­ions I wanted, with de­tailed dog, flamingo and cac­tus mo­tifs. I in­stalled the ma­chine in our spare at­tic bed­room, which quickly be­came my stu­dio. I loved us­ing the ma­chine, which fit­ted neatly on my desk and made a com­fort­ing whirring noise. These days, most knitwear is made us­ing com­puter-gen­er­ated pat­terns, but my aim was to hand-punch my de­signs and fin­ish them my­self. I wanted my pieces to be hand-crafted.

My only out­lay, apart from time, was yarn. I de­cided to use 100% lamb­swool, which comes in vi­brant colours and is soft, warm and light, and washes well. In ad­di­tion to pro­duc­ing my mo­tif cush­ions, I soon added a snood to my list­ings after friends loved a pic­ture of me wear­ing one on my Face­book page. Next came hats and match­ing mit­tens, all made us­ing my trade­mark geo­met­ric pat­terns.

Sales slowly started to trickle in un­til in Septem­ber last year my busi­ness got the boost it needed to grow. There was a ‘pitch-up’ to be a seller on the web­site No­ton­the­high­street.com. I had a face-to-face meet­ing – a bit like a mini Dragons’ Den – in which I had 10 min­utes to show my prod­ucts. I was ter­ri­fied, but thrilled when I got a yes!

After get­ting the go-ahead, I listed 35 prod­ucts (adding scarves, bean­ies and wrist warm­ers) and the or­ders picked up so quickly that I got two more ma­chines. See­ing them work­ing to­gether, whirring in mo­tion as my de­signs slowly emerged, felt amaz­ing. Most of my work was done when my girls were at school or after they went to bed. Do­ing all the pack­ag­ing and post­ing my­self meant that soon boxes of stock were spilling out on to the land­ing.

Since start­ing out, I’ve learned so much. Now I work through my quiet sea­sons get­ting stock ready, know­ing Christ­mas is my busiest time. I charge from £25 for a pair of mit­tens to £45 for a thick scarf, with cush­ions start­ing from £28. My turnover is now £10,000 a year.

Work­ing in my at­tic stu­dio suits me per­fectly – I’d never want to go back to com­mut­ing. I love my new life­style.’

• lit­tleknit­ted­stars.etsy.com

‘See­ing my de­signs slowly emerge from the ma­chines felt amaz­ing’

Kate works on her beloved knit­ting ma­chine

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