Indie Business Interview: Tanis Fiber Arts

Come and Meet Tanis Lavallee, of Tanis Fiber Arts, as she chats about how she started her company, and what advice has helped her most along the way.

Indie Business Interview: Tanis Fiber Arts | knittedbliss.com

Q: Why did you decide to start your own shop? 

I started dyeing yarns for my own personal use simply because I loved to knit! I had a degree in fine arts and knew a bit about fiber dyeing, so dyeing yarn was a natural step to take. One thing led to another and I set up an Etsy shop and then got a couple LYS customers. It all happened very organically.
Q: Is this business your full time gig, or do you have another job as well?
TFA is my full time gig, as well as my husband’s. I started off doing it part time on my own. As the business grew I took a leap and quit my job to commit myself to it full time. I eventually got to the point where I needed to hire outside help but instead managed to convince my husband (then boyfriend) to join me in the business! It all happened when we were at a point in our lives where we were young, we didn’t have any major responsibilities (like kids or a mortgage) to worry about, so the timing was right for us to take a chance on ourselves and really give it a go. Luckily it worked out!
  Indie Business Interview: Tanis Fiber Arts | knittedbliss.com
Q: What is the most difficult part of running your own business?
In general I love almost everything about running my own business. I love that I get to wear 12 different hats in the run of a day, from designer to photographer to dyer to product developer and blogger. I love that my job demands that I do a little bit of all kinds of things. However, on a daily basis I would say that for me the hardest part is juggling all of the behind the scenes / no fun aspects of running a business. The things that have nothing to do with yarn or dyeing or colour, but that every business has to deal with. Things like bookkeeping, accounting, inventory, taxes! Dealing with all the very important, but very lame parts of running a creative business is challenging, but without that side, there would be no “business” at all.
Q: What is the piece of advice you wish you could give yourself when you were just starting out?
This is a tough question for me because I’m actually very happy with the way that I started out and there is not much that I would change. My dad gave me a great piece of advice in the early days that I’m glad I took. That advice was simply to manage our growth. We never bit more off than we could chew, so though we certainly challenged ourselves we never put ourselves in a situation that we couldn’t recover from. I think that steady and manageable growth was key for us. Every year we try and do a bit more and have been able to build something out of nothing without too many growing pains.
  Indie Business Interview: Tanis Fiber Arts | knittedbliss.com
Q. What advice would you give to someone who is thinking of turning their hobby into a part time (or full time) business?
I don’t feel super qualified to give a ton of business advice, but I do feel very strongly that in creative businesses, it’s all about the individual. In yarn dyeing specifically (but I’m sure the same is true for many different artistic milieus) there are lots of wonderful hand dyed yarn companies out there dyeing beautiful colourways and producing a great product. Comparing yourself to others is a total waste of time because what really sets your product apart is the fact that you made it. I believe that the artists hand is present in their work and that people can see that. Staying true to your vision is the best way to set yourself apart and ultimately be successful.
Q: What is the most satisfying part of Tanis Fiber Arts?
Running such a small company (it’s just me and Chris!) is extremely rewarding every single day. While there may be no one to blame if things don’t work out quite as planned, there is also no one else to take the credit when things go well! All of the good days that we have are a direct product of how hard we work and that is incredibly satisfying as well as motivating. Another thing that I really love about being my own boss is the fact that I never have to jump through hoops or wait for approval from someone else to run with an idea. If I come up with a design idea or a kit idea that I’m really excited about I can drop everything and make it happen. Having that type of creative freedom is awesome.
Thanks for participating, Tanis!
(Curious about where that dyeing happens? It’s all in their backyard dying studio, which they had built about 4 years ago:)

16 comments

  1. Yaroslava   •  

    Hi, Julie!
    I am very happy that I have found your blog!
    It is so nice to get news about knitting projects and people who are interested in knitting and yarns!
    thank you !

  2. Bekah   •  

    I love reading about small businesses – there is always so much more personality and care put into them 🙂
    I love Tanis Fiber Arts – the yarn is stunning! I’ve not yet had a chance to own any – I shall have to put some on my wishlist 🙂

  3. steph   •  

    thanks for this wonderful interview!!!

  4. Oh my, how awesome is that studio – I love the birdhouse, flowers, etc. I have a couple of her skeins that will be a cowl someday. However, I am drooling over the colors in the cowl Tanis is wearing.

  5. Loulou   •  

    Great interview! And now I want a cute little studio like theirs in my backyard.

  6. Shanna   •  

    Seriously quite amazed about all that dyeing of all that yarn in that tiny studio! I’d love to know more, about the yarn for instance (how do you select what yarns you want to offer) or how to keep the colours consistent, what do you do with a batch gone horribly wrong, or how to make your own agenda and not just do all the fun stuff first and then be bog-tired when you need to do the administration, for instance… It’s amazing that such a worlwide offering shop is being made possible by just two people and their studio.
    Or perhaps I should just post this on Tanis’ blog 😉

  7. Kelly J. R.   •  

    I loved reading about the TFA business. I hope you’ll do more interviews like this in the future. And that cottage – love! We have a milk house on our barn that isn’t being used for anything and I keep trying to convince my husband that it would make a great knitting studio. 🙂 He hasn’t warmed up to the idea yet.

  8. Jessica   •  

    Can you imagine having that cute little building in your backyard? I’d sit in that chair and knit all day!

  9. Michelle   •  

    This was a great interview! My husband and I hope to own our own fiber farm one day and this was very encouraging to hear how a business can grow organically! Thanks for the encouragement.

  10. Deanna   •  

    Great interview! I enjoyed reading about Tanis Fiber Arts; they have beautiful yarn!

  11. miss agnes   •  

    The TFA Color Club was the first yarn subscription I ever tried, and I learned to love hand dyed yarn thanks to Tanis’ beautiful products. This studio is a dream, well, maybe a bit more difficult when it is -35 as it felt this morning in Montreal. I think they are both very brave and very talented, thanks for starting this series with Tanis.

  12. Marcy   •  

    I love TFA products and only wish I could purchase more.

  13. Alina   •  

    Thank you for the interview, Julie! I love behind the scenes interviews. They really show the business in more personal way. The yarn is beautiful.

  14. Karen   •  

    Wonderful series, Julie! I love learning more about the small businesses that I support. I love buying from artisans and makers in general, but feel even better about it when I know the back story. And that studio…. swoon!

  15. Laura   •  

    Hello Julie, Thanks for sharing your pains and joys of running your Yarn Dyeing Business! One of my girl friends sent me your interview information with the hopes that I could learn something. I have been running my crochet business for over six years and I am closing the custom design department because I am unable to keep up with the many orders. My friends are sad and my clients are upset. I owe 12 more orders and I will have a piece of my life back. I will have to reshape my business because I know I am most happy when I have yarn and a hook in my hand! l must figure out another way! Again Thank You for sharing! Sincerely!

  16. Barb Hill   •  

    Loved reading the article telling all about your business and how it got started. I am very proud of you both and the beautiful life you are building together, especially that little darling you ‘knit’ so perfectly! Can’t wait to see another one of your fantastic creations!!!

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