All photos courtesy of Liz Stiglets
When Liz Stiglets, owner of cozyblue, first launched her Etsy shop in 2007, she made every product by hand, whether it was knitting a hat, sewing a soft animal, or hand-stitching a wool felt crown. But she soon realized this type of work wasn’t sustainable creatively or financially.
“While I enjoyed the process and I loved the things I was making, I got bored making the same things over and over, and I found that I did not have the time to pursue new craft interests because I was spending so much time making products to sell,” she says.
Another issue was that Stiglets wasn’t making much money. “There is so much value and beauty that goes into making unique handmade items,” she says, “but for me it was not sustainable, and the profit margin would never be large enough to make a decent income.”
Her creative interests changed, too. The toys and crowns were inspired by her children, but like Stiglets, they were outgrowing these products.
Stiglets, 39, had learned to embroider as a teenager, and around the time of her Etsy launch she was revisiting the craft. She saw that embroidery might be a way to satisfy both her creativity and her income.
“When I started designing embroidery patterns, I realized how easily they could be mass-produced and I started researching how to break into the wholesale realm,” she says.
With the new embroidery focus, Stiglets’ main product was an embroidery kit that included one of her designs printed on fabric, as well as floss, a needle, and a hoop to complete the project. She wasn’t handmaking each item in her shop, which allowed her more time to explore projects outside the business.
Liz Stiglets, owner of cozyblue.
Alongside her retail products, Stiglets also started selling wholesale on Etsy. Her product attracted not just embroidery-focused businesses but also fabric shops, craft shops, and even some yarn stores.
But the real growth spurt started when Stiglets launched the cozyblue stitch club in 2015. The stitch club – still going today – is a monthly subscription service that sends subscribers one new embroidery pattern each month along with the floss to stitch it. The pattern is always a surprise, and subscribers are the first to stitch it.
This was not only a great way to grow the cozyblue customer base, but also a way to inspire Stiglets to keep creating. “On a purely business level, it helps keep me actively turning out new work and feeds my lines of embroidery kits and patterns,” she says.
Be Still embroidery kit.
Once the design has gone to her stitch club members, Stiglets decides whether she wants to add that new design to her permanent collection as a PDF, a complete kit, or both.
The stitch club also launched something else that was totally organic: a stitching community. Stiglets added a #cozybluestitchclub hashtag to the bottom corner of her design, and stitchers responded enthusiastically.
“It provides me with a really fun way to connect directly to my customers and fosters creativity and community among stitchers,” says Stiglets.
“Embroidery is a solo type of craft, but in stitch club everyone is usually working on the same project at the same time. So this is a way to bring individual stitchers together, to invite them to join something larger than themselves.”
Stitch club membership started with just a handful of stitchers and three years later has increased to 600 strong and still growing.
Adding Space and Team Members
At the same time that stitch club was growing, so were Stiglets’ retail and wholesale sales. Not long after stitch club began, she hired a production assistant to help assemble kits and ship orders.
“I realized I was spending so much time on the production and shipping and the day-to-day side of my business that I didn’t have the time I needed to intentionally and thoughtfully grow my business,” she says. “I was feeling stressed, and the creative part of my business felt forced and strained. That frame of mind was not where I wanted to spend my days.”
Earlier this year, Stiglets was approached by Moda Fabrics who wanted to distribute her products. She hired a second employee to work solely on packaging those products.
With the new team in place, Stiglets’ role changed. “This freed me up to do the important creative work that fuels my business,” Stiglets says. “I also spend a big part of my time working on marketing and planning, and responding to customer service emails and comments.”
As the team grew, cozyblue also started to outgrow its workspace. “After years of working from my kitchen table, my bedroom, and my basement studio, we are in the process now of building a large detached studio in the backyard,” says Stiglets.
Stiglets sees the new studio as a chance to better balance work and life. “My cozyblue workspace has always been in my home, and 99% of the time this works well for me,” she explains. “While I don’t think there is any one true and constant state of balance, I find that managing the work and play parts of my life well requires me to really stay present and mindful with whatever I’m doing.”
Example of embroidery kit packaging, a selection of embroidery supplies and a sweet mini hoop.
The Launch of cozybluehandmade.com
Another element of cozyblue’s growth was a retail website separate from Etsy. While Stiglets still sells her products on her cozyblue Etsy shop, today the majority of sales come from the cozyblue website. With the closing of Etsy Wholesale, the website also provides a place for Stiglets to continue to offer wholesale.
Another advantage of having a web site is that Stiglets can offer a lot of information in one place. Her site includes a wholesale shop and a retail shop with supplies that customers can’t buy in her Etsy shop, such as scissors, needles, and needle minders. There is also instructional information and resources for stitchers, plus free pattern and how-to downloads.
Maintaining a web presence is important for any business, but it’s important for cozyblue because Stiglets doesn’t participate in trade shows or craft shows. “In the very early days of selling, I did a few craft shows a year because that seemed to be what everyone was doing then,” she says. “But the truth is, while they did bring in some sales and it was fun to be around other like-minded people, I found that I just did not enjoy the shows. I’m such an introvert, and I found big shows to be incredibly draining and overwhelming. I decided they were not worth the stress for me.”
Lunar Blossom and Evening Walk embroidery kits.
Connecting with Customers
Managing cozyblue’s growth has helped Stiglets focus on what matters most to her: customers. “My ultimate goal is to inspire, teach, and empower people to get in touch with their creativity. My business motto is ‘slow down, get cozy, get crafty,’ and that really is what it’s all about,” she says. “Life moves so fast these days, so I encourage folks to slow down. Look around and notice the world around you. Look within and help your mind quiet and calm so that you can come from a place of peace rather than hustle.”
Interacting with her customers also keeps Stiglets centered. “I’ve always been a creative thinker and a maker, and my craft is really such an extension of myself,” she says. “I find it very fulfilling to connect with the world through my creativity, and it makes me happy to share it with other people and encourage them to make room for more creativity in their lives.”
Ashley Little is a craft writer and editor by day, serial crafter by night. Her blog, TheFeistyRedhead.com, explores knitting, crocheting, sewing, and crafting at large, and includes Ashley’s own original patterns and reviews. She’s also a regular contributing writer for Craftsy.com and the author of Chunky Knits.