Blacker Yarn’s Sue Blacker on how celebrating your values and product enables sold out limited editions (episode 014)

Sue Blacker runs the Online Only eCommerce business Blacker Yarns, which is the retail side of her yarn spinning mill The Natural Fibre Company. Sue balances production, wholesale and retail to grow her business to over £500,000 Turnover. This is a business which embraces its niche customer base by understanding their needs, holding true to it’s own values, and celebrating the provenance of every product they create.

Click to tweet: Hear how Blacker Yarn’s puts product and customer at the heart of their business @eComMasterPlan podcast

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About the business

  • eCommerce Business Structure – Online Only (with a Wholesale side)
  • Product Range Scale – VERY niche – just yarn and knitting / crochet patterns
  • On a Magento site
  • 15 people across both the businesses – 3-4 working on Blacker Yarns the eCommerce site
  • Based in the UK, sell globally
  • Key widgets in the website for:
    • Drupal for the wordy areas of the website
    • Extra analysis
    • Postage calculations
    • Giftwrapping – purchased, but not yet live

Listen to hear Sue discuss the power of the provenence of the products, the importance of customer surveys, and why getting the photography right is a challenge in itself.

Sue’s tips for keeping what the business stands for at the heart of everything:

  • Own it as the Managing Director – be a bit of a control freak and make sure the team remember to pay attention to the provenance, values and ethics of the business
  • Recruit people who get it
  • Give them the right induction program
  • Have a very clear design bible, that everyone follows
  • Within the business system have checks and measures in place to keep everything on track

Most Awesome Thing Right Now

This year is the 10 year anniversary of the business. So created a limited edition yarn “Cornish Tin” which is a blend of 10 different yarns.

It launches on the 18th September, and it’s looking like it will sell out before then.

Listen to hear how Sue and the team have combined the provenance of the product, the photography, the copy, and leveraged the knitting/crochet community to create such a powerful launch.

On the Radar for the Coming Months

  • For Blacker Yarns:
    • Blog posts to support the Cornish Tin launch, and a book review of the Herdy Shepherd
    • Big photoshoot just happened – so need to start using the images
    • Process the results of the recent customer survey (over 600 responses!)
  • For The Natural Fibre Company
    • Time to reorganise the website
    • Product costing modelling needs a refresh to improve margins and product schedules

eCommerce Book Top Tip

eCommerce Traffic Top Tip

  • Email marketing, using MailChimp – which then creates word of mouth

Tool Top Tip

  • Outlook for Small Business shared calendar, and email

Start Up Top Tip

  • Research your market

Listen to hear Sue’s wider advice on this

If your business didn’t exist, which eCommerce Business Would you like to be Running?

Interview Links