Tuesday July 8 , 2014
Amy Solovay: Boat Woman/Entrepreneur ~ Part 1, The Business
Amy Solovay: Boat Woman/Entrepreneur ~ Part 1, The Business
I met Amy when she joined my fan group, Cro-Kween Designs on Ravelry. She was humble, enthusiastic and a delight to have as a group Courtesan. Being familiar with the amount of crochet content she was responsible for providing on Crochet.About.com, I was amazed to find that she lives on a boat!
As the Crochet Guide/Expert, her primary responsibilities included writing content and maintaining the site, integrating the content into the site's structure, maintaining the crochet blog, and maintaining a forum. Amy recalls, “There was also a period of time when I was overseeing the work of other writers for the crochet site in addition to my primary responsibilities.”Readers can still see much of the work Amy published by going to the site.
Very impressed by her crochet knowledge and all she has to offer to crocheters, I wanted to get to know Amy better and learn about the secrets to her success during this time of transition and renewal for her and her husband, Mike. I hope you will enjoy getting to know her too!
Amy grew up on the east coast of the U.S. and during her childhood neither she nor her family were into sailing. In fact, her first boating experience friend’s family boat was a disaster because it overturned in the Potomac River! Amy was terrified until she realized they were in shallow water! Amy believes everything happens for a reason.
How did you learn to be a boat person?
“I learned to be a sailor by buying a sailboat with my husband, moving aboard it and taking off,” she explains! “He already had some sailing experience, but not I. This method is not for the feint-of-heart and I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone else; but it has worked out well for us!
Later, sailing down the Potomac as we began a trip across the Atlantic Ocean, the memory of that shallow water years ago haunted me. I was compelled to keep a vigilant eye on our charts as we navigated.”
Amy is a full-time, live-aboard cruising sailor and has been at it since the Spring of 2010.
How do you manage to run a business like yours on the water?
“In some ways it isn't as challenging as you might think.” She explains. “I make a habit of scheduling work up to a month ahead of time with plenty of newsletters, patterns, tutorials and blog posts ready to post at any given time. This way, I don't have to panic when the local Internet tower goes down for a few days, or a storm pops up and we have to drop everything and move to a safer location. We use the sun and wind to make energy for powering our computers, but truthfully, most of our plugging-in is done from marinas, where we usually have power accessible. So far, I haven't yet visited a marina that has 100% reliable Internet access; some don't have any. My ability to schedule work ahead of time is key and has really been important to me.
There are exceptions, but in my experience I’ve found crochet to be mostly a seasonal pastime that is done by the majority of ‘casual crocheters’ in fall and winter. I define casual as people who enjoy the pastime as only one thing they do in otherwise busy and fulfilling lives. Diehard crocheters, like me, aren't going to let little things like heat and humidity keep us from our crochet, but we're not the majority.
With so many crocheters being interested in projects like scarves, fingerless gloves, hats, blankets and it's natural that people would gravitate towards this as a fall and winter pastime. Of course, these seasons being what they are offer plenty of motivation for getting out their hooks and yarn.
Sailing is also a seasonal pastime with typically best results in the summer. We sail the most in the summer and winter is a great time for us to be tucked in a marina. There I can plug into the Internet and post crochet patterns while the captain (hubby) is planning our next adventure with his charts spread out on the chart table.”
How much time do you dedicate per day to your business?
“While working with About.com for 5 years, I learned to balance the huge amount of time that goes into maintaining an online crochet community with my sailing lifestyle. “At first, I worked 10-15 hours daily for 6 days a week. Mike helped also with photography and editing photos along with an occasional modeling job. In those days we were cruising central and southern California, and we would take a ‘sail-break’ about every two weeks. I can’t say I relaxed completely all the time, especially if I needed to meet deadlines and maintain my work schedule.
When we decided to launch an Atlantic crossing in 2012 so we could sail the Mediterranean Sea, I focused on preparation. I spent every waking minute preparing In order to create several months’ worth of newsletters, patterns and blog entries scheduled for posting during the planned offline times.
I wouldn't want to sustain that kind of pace forever, but I am grateful that working hard for a few months, then uplugging and taking the next few months off is an option for me. I don't take it for granted. Since arriving in the Mediterranean, I've relaxed my work schedule, although on average I still work more than full time. In this time of transition for us, it is hard to say what the new normal will look like going forward.”
For Amy, the challenge is getting the design from her brain to an acceptable format that other people can follow and duplicate for themselves. “The hard part lies in the pattern writing, editing and testing,” she explains. “Those are the spots where my work enters the ‘bottleneck.’
I must take care to not get sidetracked and end up with 3 or 4 partial projects and nothing finished for my newsletter. On average, I estimate that I spend from 4-24 hours of work after conceiving a design to bring it to completion: test, photograph, edit photos, integrating the project into one of my websites, blogging and spreading the word via my newsletter and social media. It is hard to break down the exact amount of time required, though, because there isn’t an ‘off button’ that I can use to quiet the designer part of my brain. While I’m working on one project, my imagination is often wandering off to the next project. This business requires a lot of discipline!”
You have a lot of experience writing about crochet. Where else can we find you?
Prior to working for About.com, Amy had been writing about crochet at antique-crochet.com a site that is currently offline undergoing renovation, but should be available again shortly. She says, “The antique crochet site reaches a small but dedicated audience of experienced crocheters (many who are even more experienced than I am.) Getting involved with About.com seemed like a great way to write for a wider audience, and to share my knowledge with an enormous group of crochet enthusiasts -- many of them new crocheters or returning to the craft after a long period of inactivity. I also write for freecrafts.info and others.
Currently Amy is very excited to be focusing her efforts with her husband on making knittingandcrochet.net a comprehensive resource that covers both the topics of crochet and knitting, as well as other topics of interest to crocheters and knitters.
What is your vision for this site?
“Our plan is to work with other writers and designers who will share their expertise, talents and insights, giving our readers exposure to a variety of different perspectives, ideas and inspiration. We're scrambling to launch everything more quickly than we had originally planned and we’ll have its official grand opening on September 1, 2014.
It is shaping up well; the blog is active and we have posted some patterns. Be sure to stay current and receive our updates, please sign up for our newsletter.
What do we have to look forward to as far as your expanded website goes?
Our site will be filled with a mix of free resources plus some premium resources that will be worth paying for. We will offer a better experience, specifically targeted to our audience of needlework enthusiasts.
Mike and I also formerly worked in the Hollywood film industry, and with our combined experience I am confident that we can deliver outstanding videos to our visitors. I do envision that advertising will be part of the mix on our website as we create an environment that will be win-win for us, the designers, our visitors, and the advertisers.
I look forward to getting to know our visitors so well that I have a clear understanding of what sort of ads they find useful and valuable. In turn, I will seek out and work with the advertisers who provide the products our readers want to know about. I would also love to work with designers who are at the cutting edge of using these products and implementing them into their own design work, thus giving readers the inspiration they crave.
In the early stages, I want to implement a barter system, where, for example, we might trade blog posts or ad space with carefully-vetted needlework pattern designers, book authors, spinners, dyers, and/or other craft sites -- in hopes of mutual cross-promotion. I invite any like-minded professionals to contact me.
What is your involvement with the Crochet Guild of America (CGOA) and has it influenced your work?
“Being outside the USA, I am not well-situated for taking best advantage of the benefits that group membership offers. However, as a non-member, I can say with certainty that the CGOA is an amazing group. I have boundless admiration for the group as a whole, and for everything the organization has accomplished. CGOA has definitely furthered goals that I currently hold nearest and dearest and that I share with the guild: educating people about crochet and its many benefits.
The CGOA has also provided me with inspiration and some interesting blog post material, particularly during the design competitions. I've also enjoyed reading, reviewing and sharing books written by CGOA group members, who are a talented and inspiring bunch. I've often linked to CGOA resources and recommended the group to my readers. The group has indirectly contributed to my writing career -- by being newsworthy, being worth writing about, and by providing helpful materials that I think crocheters should know about!
I like to think that I've also given some value back to the group as well, by raising to my readers had never heard of the CGOA before I pointed them in the direction of the group.
I'd say the Guild has furthered my design career largely because members are often at the forefront of providing innovative crochet and needlework that inspires me through a variety of noteworthy materials such as blogs, videos and books. I look forward to continuing to promote these valuable resources.”