In Canada, Valery Klassen was as a manager at Jarrod Oils Ltd when she started making baby blankets for friends and colleagues. According to the Globe and Mail, Klassen was so good at the craft that strangers started asking her to make blankets and soon she found herself working late on those projects while keeping her day job at the oil company.
Eventually, she realized she had too much on her plate and decided to let something go. She explained, “It was a very busy job … and I thought ‘I can’t sew as well, so something’s got to give. I was getting e-mails and phone calls constantly, so I thought I’ve got to do something.”
Klassen made a tough decision and decided to quit her day job to knit baby blankets. Now Klassen makes three to four blankets a day, which adds up to about 500 a year; and in 2014, she brought in $20,000 in revenue. She said, “To some people that doesn’t sound like a lot, but to me I’m pretty proud of that.
She named her business Sun 7 and on her website she shares testimonials from people who’ve recommending her work. For example, one mother known as Jennifer B said, “I recommend these blankets to all babies and toddlers. They are so comfy and the kids love to be cozy with their special minky blankets. Made with love! My niece loved the blanket and owl you made for her daughter, Isabella. I am sure she will be ordering for some of her friends who are pregnant right now. Her baby Isabella loves loves her minky blanket. It’s her favorite and I an sooo proud that I found YOU and had one made for my sweet Bella. Again, thank you Val!”
Additionally, Klassen has started making blankets for the elderly, those confined to wheelchairs and terminally ill patients.
Indeed, Ms. Klassen took some necessary steps before she launched Sun 7: She got her small business license, registered for a GST number and took business classes downtown.“I went through all the proper channels … to make sure I was doing it all right business-wise,” she said.
For Ms. Fischer, this kind of preparation is what makes a business successful.
“There’s more to it than just having the passion,” she says. “The people who just quit their job without really knowing whether this can take off or not, it could be devastating for them.”
This runs especially true for those thinking of making the switch in their 40s and 50s, Ms. Fischer warns. “You’ve got to worry about retirement and you’ve got kids and people in university – you need to do a soft landing.”
That means spending the money on hiring the necessary accountants and lawyers to help you get off your feet, or speaking to friends who have businesses for guidance.
For advice, Ms. Klassen goes to her husband, a long-time businessman who is the first to tell her she needs to raise her prices. “When I first started out I was pretty much giving them away and my husband and everybody still thinks I’m giving them away,” she said.
By her own admission, Ms. Klassen says she’s not charging for her labour: the $65 she makes for a blanket covers the cost of materials, but not her time: She sews daily from about 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., producing three to four blankets a day – “which is really busy” – and then spends the evening maintaining her website and social media accounts.
“That’s a weekly struggle with me, thinking, ‘Am I not charging enough?’ ” she said. “If I raise prices what’s going to happen? Am I going to lose a bunch of customers?”