Laura Chido Rodi, has built a business creating luxury crochet bags. Laura shares her journey, successes, and challenges in small business ownership, as well as discussing how she stays motivated and inspired.
Crochet artist Laura Chido Rodi, owner of LauCrochet and Crafts, has built a business that specialises in crafting luxury crochet bags, offering customers unique pieces that stand out from other bags in the market. We sat down with Laura to discuss her business journey, her successes and challenges, and how she navigates the world of small business ownership.
Starting her business in 2017, Laura was inspired by her love for crochet and a growing passion for creating her products. “What inspired me to start was the passion to crochet and I just couldn’t stop. I kept on going on and on,” says Laura. “My family already had some of my products and it was time I started selling the other ones I had.”
She used the money she earned by helping her sister with her baking business to start her own crochet business, which introduced her to the world of markets.
Although she started her business in 2017, it wasn’t until 2020 that Laura decided to take it seriously.
In the beginning, she made crochet beanies for her college friends, but she eventually branched out to making bags and anything her customers requested.
Starting a business comes with challenges, and Laura faced her own set of obstacles. The biggest challenge she has had to face and still faces is the inconsistency in sales. Some markets are highly profitable, while others only use up the profit she gained from the previous market. Despite this challenge, Laura remains undaunted and continues to persevere.
What sets LauCrochet and crafts apart from other crochet businesses is Laura’s focus on producing luxury crochet bags with mixed pattern designs and colour combinations. She wants her customers to feel special and unique when they carry her bags.
Staying motivated and focused on one’s goals as a small business owner can be a difficult task, but Laura has found ways to stay inspired. “The fact that I get to crochet every day and just stay in love with it, and the need to create an income,” she said. This is what drives her to continue creating new and exciting pieces.
The COVID-19 pandemic had a significant impact on many small businesses, and LauCrochet and crafts was no exception. “I did not get to sell much during COVID, but a few family and church members tried to support me,” Laura said.
Laura shared with us three skills that have been crucial to running her business successfully: basic business finance, organisational skills, and communication skills. “I need to be able to monitor the inflow and outflow of money,” Laura explained. “I also need to be able to arrange my products on my market table, or the pictures on my Instagram page so that customers can really get a better look at the product. Communication skills are also important. I was mostly an introvert, but the market world helped me to get out of my shell and speak to people and the people who purchase from me are usually the ones with whom I have conversations.”
Like any industry, changes in the market can present challenges for small business owners. Laura shared that she has tried using the Instagram online advertising platform, but has found that it can be costly with uncertain returns. “It’s good to a certain extent but I noticed that you usually get buying customers after spending R300 or more and some customers will then only buy a product for R150, which can leave you with a loss,” she said. However, Laura sees potential in the platform and is continuing to research how to maximise her sales through Instagram.
Balancing personal and professional life can be difficult, especially for small business owners. Laura faced this challenge in the beginning, as her family had assumptions that she would be “sitting at home doing nothing.” To address this, Laura set boundaries and a schedule for when she would crochet, take lunch, and end her business day. This helped her manage her time better and interact with her family outside of her business hours.
Despite the challenges, Laura has had many successes and proud moments as a business owner. “It’s the small things that matter on my part,” Laura shared. ” My proudest moment was when I realised my true passion for bag making and the fact that I could fully focus on it.”
Building and maintaining relationships with customers and clients is critical to any business’s success. For Laura, this has mostly happened through meeting people at markets and then connecting with them on her Instagram account. “On that space they get to see me at work, they get to know me a bit more and also see my latest designs,” she said.
Laura has found that selling at markets has been an effective strategy for marketing and promoting her business, and she is currently working on developing her marketing skills. In addition, she uses WhatsApp to advertise to friends, family, and members of her church, and Instagram also helps to showcase her products and connect with potential customers.
Dealing with setbacks and failures is a common experience for many entrepreneurs, and Laura is no exception. However, she has learned to take breaks when needed, be it a week off from crochet or a month away from markets when she loses a lot of money. This helps her regroup and come up with another plan to rise again. As she puts it, “from experience I’ve learned that it’s best to steer clear of certain markets or people and just move on.”
When asked about the impact she hopes her business will have on the community or the world at large, Laura’s response was passionate and inspiring. She wants to create jobs, especially when she goes international. As she explains, crochet work is often taken for granted, and workers are usually paid very little, especially when one looks at some of the cheaper imports. She wants to change that by making crochet work of high-quality value. “Anyone with a crochet gift will know that if they work for me, they can have a steady job,” she says.
To stay current with industry trends and continue to learn and grow as a business owner, Laura is always looking for new opportunities to connect with other crochet artists and entrepreneurs. She finds Instagram to be particularly helpful in this regard. “I connect with other crochet artists, and Instagram has been a big help because I get to connect with people from all over the world and see how they operate,” she says.
Laura also attends business conferences and workshops to learn about new materials and techniques. “I go for bag making workshops that introduce me to different materials on the market that I can use to make my bags luxurious,” she explains.
For other entrepreneurs who are just starting out, Laura has some valuable advice. “Discipline is key,” she says. “Most entrepreneurs work from home, and you have to give yourself boundaries and deadlines to stay up to date and focused.” She also emphasises the importance of consistency in both advertising and production. “People should know you for your efficiency and excellent work,” she says.
Having a solid financial plan is also crucial. “I suggest that as you start, you should have another source of income to keep you sustained,” she advises. “Stay true to yourself and never ever give up!”
This article was featured in Pivotl Magazine, Issue 2 of 2023. Read the full issue here.
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