In research released earlier this year by GoDaddy Inc, only half of Australians surveyed were happy with their current job. Also reported was 45% would consider quitting a well-paid position to start a business they are passionate about in 2021. Does this sound like you? Perhaps crowdfunding your dream can help get your business passion started.
Clare Thornley is a classically trained musician and has a Ph.D. in music. Despite many years as an academic in her field – music was not always Clare’s passion. Taught to crochet and knit by her grandmother and mother, she has had a love of yarn from an early age.
In 2016, feeling the need for a change, Clare and her husband Paul bought a small business. This marked the start of their journey to pursue their business passion.
The Fibre Arts Shed
The Fibre Art Shed is a small, family-owned business. It is run by Clare and Paul Thornley on the NSW Central Coast Hinterland. The business specialises in selling raw materials and tools to fibre artists. It also operates a small wool and alpaca fibre carding service. Besides knitting and crocheting, Clare now enjoys dyeing and spinning fibres. Paul has taught himself to weave and loves to work with natural, locally sourced fibres.
From Passion to Profit…
Clare realised early on – the importance of community and basing the business on a strong customer service philosophy. This has attributed to the success of the Fibre Arts Shed over the years. Sometimes, it can be in the little things, like Clare’s hand-written thank you notes with each order dispatched. What she has found is that the note reminds customers that there is a real person behind the order. The result is that people are more likely to come back and get in touch.
“We have been so fortunate, people come to crafting for so many reasons, and they are all kind and creative. The works they make with our products are beautiful, and we feel humbled. We have such an appreciation for what they create. Thanks to our wonderful customer base, Fibre Art Shed has gone from strength to strength. We built a community around us along the way”. – Clare.
Being social media savvy helped build and grow their online business. In 2020, they bravely rebranded the business and created a beautiful, and easy-to-navigate website. Despite the Covid pandemic, the business has continued to grow. Thankfully, people stuck at home wanted to do more than just ‘perfect their sourdough recipes’.
“What we have found is that especially during lockdown, people came to crafting as a way of filling their time. It is enjoyable, creative, and they are left with a creation to show for all their effort and be proud of”. – Clare
One downside of the pandemic was the cancellation of markets and events throughout the year. These events gave Clare and Paul the opportunity to meet with ‘the makers’. Clare and Paul participated in online events, and increased their social media activity, which in turn generated more traffic to their online store.
You can learn more about the Fibre Art Shed by watching this short video on their YouTube channel.
Australian Consumer Attitudes Shifting Towards Buying Local, Buying Australian, Sustainable and Ethical Practices
Even in the crafting industry consumers are more aware of how and where products are made and sourced. “Now more than ever, people are thinking about the impact of their actions. They want to positively affect change through their purchases.”
More and more, Fibre Art Shed customers are looking to buy 100 % Australian-made and sourced products. Presently, in Australia, there is only a small number of large wool mills. This means that Australian-produced wool is sent overseas for processing. It is then brought back into the country for Australian consumers to buy.
For Clare and Paul, it was always the plan to eventually sell yarn that was sourced and processed in Australia. The opportunity to purchase the equipment to set up a mini processing mill presented itself. The Thornley’s were able to secure finance to bring their plan to life.
“The equipment will enable us to process Aussie-grown wool and alpaca fibre straight from the farm. We will manufacture beautiful yarn for knitting, crocheting, weaving, and other craft projects. This means that we will be able to keep more wool and alpaca in Australia. It won’t need to be shipped overseas for processing. It also means that we will be able to work with local wool growers and alpaca breeders. We will create a product that is 100% traceable and 100% Australian.” – Clare
Photographer: Marco dos Santos @marcomavx
Why Launch a Crowdfunding Campaign?
With the equipment bought, the Thornley’s still need to pay for other set up costs for the mini mill. This includes freight, expanding the shed and new electrical work.
Paul has experience in the fundraising sector and suggested crowdfunding as an alternative to raise the funds they needed. Clare admits she did not need much convincing…
“I thought briefly about trying to raise the funds through advertising, on our website. However, I didn’t think it would be as effective, as crowdfunding itself is a really powerful marketing tool. Most people now understand crowdfunding, and how it works. It’s great because it makes a backer part of the journey. They can feel like they are making a difference to a project”.
Clare only had one condition when choosing the right crowdfunding platform – it needed to be an Australian company. When considering the options, The Thornley’s decided that ReadyFundGo was the platform to launch with. Mainly, because of the flexible funding available to campaign creators.
“We knew that the project would go ahead regardless, as we have purchased the equipment we need. With ReadyFundGo, you can choose a flexible funding option. It allows you to receive the funds as soon as people start pledging. You don’t have to wait until you reach your target goal – it means you can get to work fast.” – Clare
Building Interest and Getting Pledges Early On
With 11 days still to go on their campaign, Clare and Paul have received 131 pledges. They have raised 70% of their target goal. When asked what their secret was to getting pledges as soon as they launched, the Thornley’s had the following advice:
“Only launch when you have your community ready to back you, and you have an effective means to contact them. Get them interested and get them pledging early. We knew we could count on our wonderful customers and our local community. They value what we are trying to achieve.”
Clare and Paul promoted the launch of the campaign on social media, their website, and in a customer newsletter. They also talk about the campaign at markets they are now attending.
“We were so humbled and excited to see people pledging within an hour of receiving our newsletter”.
Offering a wide range of rewards is also important. Consider everyone who wants to contribute. Make them feel they can do so and receive a meaningful reward in return. Clare knew that there were people in their community that wanted to support the campaign but were not themselves crafters. By offering a charitable reward with Aussies Knitting for War-Affected Kids, people can support the campaign and a great cause.
The Highs and Challenges of Launching a Crowdfunding Campaign
In Clare’s opinion starting a campaign is easy, and it took her about 5 days, in between working. The only challenge being to think about rewards that were inviting and enticing.
“Creating a campaign page with ReadyFundGo was really easy. I would recommend it to anyone considering crowdfunding. The highs through the campaign have really been around seeing other people excited about the project. It offers a great way to get feedback and validation. I now know it’s not just me that thinks this is a great idea!”. – Clare.
Start a campaign page today with ReadyFundGo
Need some help to get started…
Check out our online course: ReadyFundGo has a 1-hour short course on everything you need to know about starting a crowdfunding campaign and hitting your target goal. The course covers:
- Crowdfunding Basics
- Creating a Pitch Video
- Story Development
- Pre-Campaign Activities & Tasks
- Offering Enticing Rewards
- Promotional Ideas, and more…
Looking for tailored advice for your project or campaign idea…
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