Friday, November 4, 2011

Interview with Wildly Woolly

Felted Bead Bracelets

I've had the honor to interview Kim Buchheit, the lovely woman behind Wildy Woolly. This creative entrepreneur is truly talented and has lots of tips to share with us today!

1. Name: Kim Buchheit
Where are you from? 
I grew up in the Midwest but have lived in Arizona for the past 22 years. I actually live and work in Grand Canyon National Park.

2. Tell us a bit about yourself and your shop/ business. 

My Wildly Woolly Etsy shop is a place where one can buy my hand-felted and woven items for home and body. I also sell a few fine art pieces there as well, but they seem to do better in a gallery setting since the prices are relatively high.

3. When did you open your shop?

In July, 2008 

Hand-Woven Boho-Chic Bowls

4. Why did you decide to start your shop?

While working on my fine art I often need to experiment on a smaller scale. Creating gift items allows me to experiment with new production methods and materials without waste. Also, I love making gifts for family and friends... and thought there might be a broader audience for these handmade goodies.

5. How do you promote/ market your business? What works best?

I've just recently tried Etsy and Facebook ads without much success. But, frankly I just put my big toe in, so I haven't given up on placing paid ads in the future. Word-of-mouth works best; many people visit my home studio and buy things before I can even post them on Etsy. Also, I do think Etsy's online tools (ie. forums, circles, teams, etc.) are great. I have a Wildly Woolly Facebook page set up. And, of course, doing interviews like this one are invaluable in terms of promotion :) Finally, every product that I ship has a hangtag or sew-on cloth tag on it which includes my company name (Wildly Woolly) and URL — and I often include an artist's bio postcard in the package too (along with a thank-you note).

Mini Black Luxe Purse (with Silver-Grey and Black Feather Trim)

6. What’s your favourite item from your shop and why?

Right now it's got to be my sweet Kinda-Luxe feather-trimmed purses. They are so soft and kinda glammy, too.

7. Do you also do business offline? If yes, what do you prefer and what works best? 

As I mentioned earlier, people who drop by for a visit usually buy things from me... it's a great way to clean up my studio fast. I have also sold a few fine art items in galleries in Tucson and all over Australia, amazingly (Australians really appreciate fiber arts!)

8. Where do you get inspiration?
The Grand Canyon is literally my back yard (well, my front yard, to be exact). This place is magical and I am crazy grateful to be fortunate enough to call the park my home. The canyon, and the natural world in general, are definitely sources of unlimited inspiration for me.

Felted Pocket Mirror - Heather-Brown Owl Charm

9. Who is your target audience? Who would typically buy an item from you?

Oh, I've had women and girls of all ages buy from my shop... and some men, too. My favorite male-buyer story is a gentleman who was buying a gift for his artist wife's birthday, and he bought her two of my favorite felted bowls. He was so excited to give them to her and wrote back that she adored them — it was obvious that he adored her, too! Very cute.

10. Do you ship internationally? 

Yes, but on a case-by-case basis. When shipping high-ticket-price items and things I cannot reproduce I want to ensure that the items can be insured and the like. But, I've had no problems shipping overseas... knock on wood :)

11. What has been the most challenging part of starting and running your own business?

Well, I have been running my own graphic and surface design business since 2000, so the day-to-day details of my Etsy operation were not hard for me to assume. The challenge that I, like many, have is finding enough time to do things right. I would love to have more hours in the day to devote to felting, designing new products, and marketing my store... but my graphic and surface design business takes precedent because that work is what keeps the proverbial lights on. I do think that operating this way (spreading oneself too thin) is not a good sustainable business model geared for growth... and I plan on examining my priorities and scaling back on something in the new year in order to move my Etsy shop up in the priority hierarchy. I just have to schedule that task.. ha ha!

Felted Amigurumi Owl and Bear

12. What has been the best part of starting and running your own business? 

With respect to my Etsy shop, the best part is the community aspect, hands down. 

13. Do you have any business tips you’d like to share with us? 

Sure. I do think basic branding is important — that is, to have a strong company name and logo, a complementary blog/website to create some buzz, and product hangtags/packaging (with URL on it) for starters. If you're selling exclusively online, it's important to stay up with new technology (you don't have to know everything, but just learn a bit about the new marketing tools as they become available and choose what's best for you.) Here's a money-saving tip: Get a self-inking stamp made with your logo, shop name, and URL on it. Custom stamps are very inexpensive (less than $10) and allow you to stamp thank-you notes, shipping boxes, etc. with your company identity. They're wonderfully retro too!

A few years back I created and posted to YouTube a video tutorial showing how to make felted acorn ornaments. It was fun to do and I still get a LOT of web traffic from it (over 16,000 views). If you have the ability to create online tutorials, I urge you to do it. You'll get a lot of mileage out of the time invested and it can raise your indexing with search engines substantially. (Note to self: Make more video tutorials.)

Click here to watch the tutorial. 

14. If there were anything you could change about your business, right now, what would it be? 
I'd like to devote more time to it... or, team up with a creative business partner and grow the biz. That would be wonderful!

15. What are your goals and dreams for your business for the future?

I love making prototypes — that's where the thrill is! It's where creatives get to execute their ideas — turn them into reality — bring the puppet to life, so to speak. I love the design problem-solving stages and could easily give up the rest. Making lots of one thing is not exciting for me. So I think, given my personality, I'd like to create prototypes for other people to make multiples of... and, until that opportunity presents itself, I'll continue making limited-edition items for my store.

3-Season Scarf (Butter)

16. What’s next now? Could we get a sneak peak of what you’ll be doing and sharing next? 

Sure. I am currently trying (!) to design some bird ornaments using my custom fabric for "leave-behinds" when meeting with prospective buyers (mostly interior designers). If these ornaments turn out, I might put a few in my Etsy shop and introduce my Etsy circles and friends to this other area of my life — that is, my custom surface design products (ie. fabric). Can I get back to you on these bird ornaments... or do you want to see the ugly stage of product development that I'm mucking around in right now? Heh heh... Currently, I have a lot of birds that look like science-experiments-gone-bad scattered around my studio floor — amongst them, there's one that looks like a sick chicken and one who's a dead-ringer for an old teapot.)

17. Is there anything else you would like to share with us? 

Well, I'd just like to welcome any questions from your readers. As a {ahem} seasoned designer I might be able to help others with that particular aspect of their businesses. And, last but not least, I want to extend my gratitude for this kind invitation into your world — for sharing with me your beautiful self, your lovely creative work, and your generous readers. Thank you.

Wool Votive Lights (Felted Polka-Dot Lights)

Thanks so much to Kim for sharing your experiences as a talented, creative entrepreneur and for taking the time to do this interview! 
It was great to get a glimpse of your business, your life and your creative process!

Please show Kim some love by visiting her sites below AND by following/ hearting them.

Be sure to ask her questions and show some love in the comments below!


Jill Toole said...

Great interview! I love Kim's work - her creativity and variety make is so fun to shop... and her talent is outstanding. Thanks for sharing!

Denise Traver said...

Great interview. I adore Kim's work, plus her tips for artists are right on! Thank you for putting the spotlight on this wonderful artist!

Rebecca Markstein said...

WOW! I love felted wool. I've never seen such imaginative creations with such exquisite craftsmanship! I am truly inspired. The Wildly Woolly site was well worth the visit, I know where I'm doing MY holiday shopping!

Tery Spataro said...

Thank you for the wonderful and insightful interview of Kim Buchheit! Her felt art is as lovely as she is!

sweetybird09 said...

I love Kims work I won some felted hair clips and get a lot of compliments on them.

Great interview

Anonymous said...

Great interview with Kim. She does such wonderful work and has provided some great tips here for on-line business. Thanks! :)

Rene Westbrook said...

K'mie, No matter how tired, no matter how cranky I might be, your work always cheers me up! It's smart and witty, and the colors and materials are always both sophisticated and playful. Thanks for the wonderful interview! Great website!

Rafi Arbel's Blogs said...

I have some of Kim Buchheit's work hanging my my walls. She is talented in so many mediums, I really love her work. Great interview.

Rafi Arbel's Blogs said...

We have some of Kim Buchheit's art work hanging on our walls; some of our favorite pieces. She is talented and creative in so many mediums.

Great information, thanks for sharing.

Anonymous said...

I think everyone needs that little black purse for the holiday party scene!

kim said...

thanks, everyone, for all the lovely and supportive comments! they just made my day :)

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