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.
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!
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.
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:)