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Stacey Trock
Photos courtesy of Stacey Trock
Stacey Trock was a grad student studying linguistics with a focus on child language acquisition when she made a bold move that raised eyebrows in her department. She decided to skip shopping for a tenure track university job and instead prepared to launch a crochet business after graduation.

“I had advisers telling me I was doing the stupidest thing they had ever heard anyone do,” Trock says, laughing. But she was undeterred, and the proof that she had the skills to run a crochet business came when her then-boyfriend, now-husband, went on a trip. When he returned, she showed him the stuffed lion, koala, and snail that she had stitched while he was away—tangible evidence that she could design and write patterns. Three months after launching FreshStitches in 2008, Trock landed her first book deal to publish Cuddly Crochet, a collection of large amigurumi patterns. Two more book deals would follow, along with opportunities to teach online courses and classes and speak at national trade shows and conventions.

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Always looking ahead to grow and tweak her business for optimal success and customer satisfaction, Trock, 34, of Los Angeles, has been ramping up to her newest project: the launch of her new forum site Ami Club, which offers her followers an opportunity to join an amigurumi community for $6 per month. Members get a free pattern every month, access to the FreshStitches forums and exclusive instructional videos and discounts on those hard-to-find plastic eyes that make crocheted stuffed animals come to life.

Before dedicating more than half a year to creating her new forum site, Trock ran a kit club with as many 600 members. Now she’s hoping those folks and many more will subscribe to her forum site that she’d like to grow into the “Ravelry of Amigurumi,” except without a Ravelry-scale pattern database. “My goal is 2,500 (subscribers) by the end of 2017,” she says.

Chances are good that Trock will achieve her goal; she’s driven and organized, and she gets work done.

“I’m a determined duck,” she says. “My jam has always been writing really clear tutorials…. so I’ve always built really great communities.”
Stacey Trock
Stacey Trock
Trock grew up in Maryland and discovered as a middle schooler that she could profit from her crochet projects by entering her work into the Montgomery County Agricultural Fair. She cleaned up each summer with an armload of ribbons and about $25 in prize money. Since 2010, Trock has been working full time for her handmade business and keeps herself on a weekly schedule that involves designing new patterns and taking time to engage her audience. She was motivated to develop a membership forum after Facebook and Instagram started restricting access to followers. On these platforms she has a large following but limited reach to the people who enjoy her work.

Trock says that her audience is dominated by young baby boomers who want to crochet for their grandchildren and women like herself who have young families. She decided to broaden her business plan to include more than kits and downloadable patterns because she realized that crocheters want more than patterns and supplies. They want to connect. “You don’t need 50,” Trock said, referring to the crocheted animals amigurumi enthusiasts love. The Ami Club is aimed at giving crocheted stuffed-animal enthusiasts a place to hang out virtually, exchange ideas, and sign up for actual swaps. Community members can also get inspiration for charity crochet projects and encouragement to take their stitching to the next level.

When she launched FreshStitches, Trock didn’t know exactly what would happen next. “When you start a business you don’t always know where it is going to go,” she explains. “I thought I was going to be making stuffed animals. And I didn’t really know how much I’d be taking beginners who had never crocheted before and turning them into crocheters.” Trock’s beginner crochet class on Craftsy has more than 10,000 people, and she found that following the natural trajectory of her business has led her to a great place. “This is the best job,” Trock says, noting that she feels like she was destined to be a small business owner. “It’s a complete accident that it’s crocheting.”

She knits, spins, dyes and sews, too. In another life, Trock says she would organize marathons or work in emergency disaster planning. Whether it’s marathoners, emergency responders, or charity crocheters, for Trock it’s all about mobilizing human effort—something she feels compelled to do.

As the mother of a toddler, Trock relies on her organizational skills to manage her handmade business and family life. To stay on top of it all, she keeps her schedule realistic and makes a point to schedule time off. She stops working at 3:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday, picks her daughter up from day care, and then heads to the park. Trock only schedules four days’ worth of work to keep her Fridays clear for brainstorming, new project planning, and any catch-up work that might need to get done.

“You just have to make your life what you want it to be like,” Trock says. “That’s what I hope…that [my daughter] sees that I have a really cool job.”
Expanding her business on her own terms and within boundaries that prevent it from disrupting her family life, Trock aims to set a great example as she raises her daughter. “The message that you get to do what you want to do in this life, I think it’s so super important,” she says.

Tune into the CraftSanity Podcast at CraftSanity.com with Jennifer Ackerman-Haywood to listen to Trock tell the story behind her business.

Visit Stacey Trock at FreshStitches, and follow her on Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram.

Two Fresh Business Tips from Stacey Trock

1-Be realistic about what you can accomplish during your work week. “Don’t overschedule,” says Trock, who schedules work for Monday through Thursday and leaves Friday open as a day to brainstorm and work on whatever she wants. This way she has down time scheduled and has the option to do a little extra catch up work on Friday if something unforeseen happens earlier in the week and a deadline is fast approaching. “Most Fridays are awesome sauce,” she says.

Stacey Trock
2-Go to conferences and join professional organizations and groups. While the travel costs, memberships, and subscription fees may seem daunting, these networking opportunities can lead to a boost for handmade businesses in the form of new business and teaching opportunities, book deals, added publicity, and opportunities to meet, collaborate, and befriend talented and likeminded peers. And don’t just show up. “Go with a purpose,” Trock says. “Put out there what you want to do and it does happen. I have yet to meet someone who has really put themselves out there and worked hard on openly communicating with other professionals and not found it to be worth it.”
Jennifer Ackerman-Haywood

Jennifer Ackerman-Haywood

contributor

Jennifer is a journalist, podcaster, printmaker, fiber artist, swimmer and community college media adviser. She is also the editor and publisher of CraftSanity Magazine and has produced a podcast about art and craft by the same name since 2006. She blogs at CraftSanity.com, sells her handprinted t-shirts and wooden CraftSanity weaving looms at craftsanity.etsy.com. Jennifer lives in suburban Grand Rapids, Mich., with her husband and two daughters. Follow her fitness and creative adventures on Twitter and Instagram under the name @CraftSanity. Watch her craft tutorials on the CraftSanity YouTube Channel. Contact her by writing jennifer@craftsanity.com.

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