Friday, 27 July 2012

12 Women in 12: Juliet Bernard

This month's 12 Women in 12 introduces a woman who has developed an expertise in the knitting industry that quite frankly, inspires the heck out of me. My work as a freelancer involves supporting independent yarn producers, dyers, designers (and cooks!) to grow their business through editing patterns, preparing press releases, developing blog support.... you get the idea. When I was first embarking on this journey I was advised to speak to Juliet Bernard who is something of a knitting PR guru. I am so very grateful for that introduction as she has taught me so much. Juliet has an impressive background and future, so I asked her to talk about the role she has developed for herself in the knitting industry. 

(c) The Making Spot
Many of you may already know Juliet Bernard as the Editor of  the UK based magazine 'The Knitter' but she is also known by many in the industry as she runs a PR company working in the design industry as well as for clients such as Artwork and Rowan. These two roles make Juliet a fabulous person to talk to for any knitter, designer and company as she has her finger firmly on the pulse of new trends and projects developing in the knitting and textiles world.
 
Juliet developed her knowledge when she studied Textiles at UMIST (University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology) and worked for a number of years for Courtaulds in the 80s.  More recently, she has founded Planet Handmade, a soon to be launched website dedicated to supporting crafty businesses develop and flourish. It is evident from both her background and in talking to Juliet that she has a real passion for the craft industry that makes her want to continually want to learn, improve and develop. She states:
 
Ours is such an exciting industry which is so digitally engaged that there is always something new and exciting to become part of. Whenever I meet people I always go away with a little gem of inspiration. I don't believe I will ever stop learning, or at least I hope not.

With this expertise in mind, I asked Juliet what advice she would give those wishing to take their craft from a hobby to a viable business. Juliet's advice was, as always, straight to point, insightful and thought provoking:

"Be commercial and be true to yourself.  Achieving both of these things is not easy, but your integrity and your reputation are valuable assets to anyone thinking of starting a business in our industry.  The wonderful thing about knitters is how generous they are with help and advice.  It may not always be right for you or even what you want to hear but do take it on board. If you have a product or service that you are trying to sell to others, timing is very important.  It may seem obvious but don't send out a mass email when everyone is talking about or at Woolfest.  Your message will be drowned out.  Think about how you want your audience to respond.  What if it was you getting the email, what reaction do you want? An 'unsubscribe' or a sale. And finally whatever you do good  luck.  It's not easy developing a new business (I am in the middle of doing it myself at the moment) but it is huge fun. If any of you are setting off on this interesting path, feel free to get in touch if you want any feedback: juliet@planethandmade.net "
 
As you can see Juliet's dedication to taking yourself seriously as a business is something very close to the theme of 12 Women in 12. There are many people out there, thanks to sites such as Ravelry, Etsy and the blogging phenomenon now starting to make that change from hobby to business. To be able to enjoy your work is an incredible thing but to make it successful, to make money from it to support yourself and possibly a family, takes that little bit extra and it is for this reason people like Juliet are now working within the crafting industry as it grows in size and commercial potential. Yes, knitting is a hobby that we all love and cherish but our supplies, patterns and those lovely blogs cost time and money on the creators part. Once money enters the equation, it needs to be a business transaction, as much as we do it for love.  This less than creative side can be time consuming or unfamiliar to a dedicated creative type and its importance makes that pressure all the more greater.
 
(c) The Making Spot
I also asked Juliet about a cause very close to my heart that she has been quite the champion of in her time as editor. In this week's podcast, I will feature the most recent campaign that Juliet is helping to spearhead to support Refuge, The Knitter/Simply Knitting's charity of the year for the second year running. Juliet says she finds it profoundly disturbing that in this day and age that there are still women and children who have to flee their homes and seek a place of safety.  Juliet's team really wanted to try and show them that there are people that care even if they feel very alone.  Last year the magazine did an e-booklet of patterns for readers and raised over £2000 as well as delivering 1,000 blankets to Refuge. This year they are trying to do something for the kids as well with a bear pattern. For more information, please visit the campaign page and tune in on Sunday to find out how you can help this amazing cause.
 
Finally, I couldn't resist asking Juliet which trends do she predicts for this coming season. She found it hard to pin down just one but declared that her favourites are a Dickensian theme with lots of lace and tweed, together with a winter white story with frosty glimmer and snowflake cosiness.

A huge thank you to Juliet for taking time out from her busy life to answer questions to share with the playful readers. If you would like to keep up to date with all of Juliet's projects, you can follow them on her website.

Stay tuned for more 12 women in 12 and please do join in to show your appreciation for great business stories by either tweeting along on twitter (#12womenin12) or sharing your feelings on your own blog. Be sure to let me know/ link us in, I'd love to know what you think!

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