While browsing the 2017 Marketplace at the Chain Link Crochet Conference in Chicago, I approached an interesting booth, but told myself that I didn’t need any more crochet hooks or a hook holder! The name of the business, CHETnanigans, caught my eye and I had to step into the booth to know more about the name. I must admit that I didn’t get it at first; and as I was about to ask, it clicked! I realized these vendors had come up with a fantastic play on words.
(Cro)-Chetnanigans! The name was the reason I fell in love with the business; and I wanted to make a purchase whether I needed anything or not, in order to support their clever approach to marketing! Sean and Holly are also lovely, friendly people and I really like people with a sense of humor. I wanted to learn more and I hope you'll enjoy my interview with them!
|Holly & Sean|
GBK: I’m curious as to how you conceived the name? Did it come to you in the shower? LOL! I have a feeling you both have good senses of humor!
Holly: We had been selling-test-marketing-our hairpin lace looms and the original hook organizers on eBay and when we decided to open an Etsy shop. Sean and I brainstormed a lot of crochet-related “play-on-words.” After searching every iteration of a new one, we finally arrived at Chetnanigans; it was related to Sean’s Irish heritage – sounding like shenanigans – and we both agreed that this unique name would be memorable and a little whimsical!
GBK: How long have you been in business as Chetnanigans?
Holly: Right after Christmas in 2014, I was interested in making a hairpin lace infinity scarf, but I was dissatisfied with the ones I could find online and in big box craft shops. Sean had been doing some woodworking over the holidays; after seeing how talented he was, I described a hairpin lace loom and asked him to make me one. I took it to my local crochet group and the other ladies were “oohing and aahing” over it. Some of the ladies bought them; and we started thinking of selling online. When Sean made our first crochet hook organizer in March 2015, I couldn’t wait to post it on a Facebook crochet group. My phone blew up with “likes” and requests for them; we knew we had a hit on our hands and opened the shop in May 2015.
GBK: Do you manufacture other needlecraft products?
Holly: After opening the shop, the next two years were a crazy ride of brainstorming new crochet solutions. Customers requested items they imagined, and we now have over 70 different products – mostly for crochet, but some adaptable to other fiber arts as well.
GBK: What inspired you to exhibit at the 2017 Chain Link Crochet Conference? How did you like your experience last summer?
Sean: I started working Chetnanigans full time in March of 2016. Prior to that, we had done a local Yarn Show with some good success. I had decided that the CGOA Event would allow us exposure to a brand-new base of potential clients who weren’t aware of our offerings. Additionally, I thought that it would be a good opportunity to meet some of the industries’ influencers and learn how we might improve some of our offerings.
GBK: Have you had experience with developing exhibits in the past?
Sean: I had a twenty plus year career with Sony and during that time, I traveled to and helped set up dozens of trade shows. To set the Chetnanigans Booth, I relied on some of that experience and some common sense as to how fiber artists might want to see our products. We had a very successful show and met some amazing industry influencers in person, enhancing our existing relationships with these bloggers.
Holly: I loved the CGOA and the opportunity to meet bloggers I had been following for years. It was so very exciting. I was a little star-struck, to say the least! My only regret is that I didn’t sign up for any classes. That would have been the icing on the cake!!!!
GBK: Will you share some of your latest products? Are there plans for new products soon?
Sean: We are constantly thinking of and discussing new products with our customer base. In fact, some of our best product ideas come directly from our customers who are frustrated with their work-flow issue around their project. Sometimes, they would call or write and explain the challenge, and we would devise a proposed solution. Some of our most creative products were designed and created through this process! As for new products, in February 2018, we introduced 3 new ideas / products...
First is the Premier BlocksAll 812. This is a 12” board with the upper left corner (8”) all in ½” spacing holes while the remainder of the board has holes spaced at 1”. The 812 is like the BlocksAll Plus, but it offers a slightly larger spacing with up to an 8” area offering ½” spacing. I designed this board because our 8” blocking boards are very popular, and I thought it would be a clever idea to offer a combination flexible 8” and 12” board all in one product.
Next, we are introduced the Chetnanigans’ Granny Square “Perfector Strips”. These are a unique solution for fiber artists who like to block many squares at once. We’ve invented a solution that allows our customers to stack their granny squares; using our Perfector Strips on all 4 sides of their stack, the stacks at the top will now match exactly the spacing at the bottom of the stack, eliminating the variation in blocked squares. We are very excited to offer a solution to the professional fiber artist that is unique and solves this issue in a cost-effective way!
Finally, I offered a solution I’d thought of for months for blocking squares over over 12 inches: Magnetic Blocking Boards! Shipping for such a large blocker is impractical, so we offer our customers any of our 12” BlocksAll Products with magnets embedded in the bottom and right side of the board for a $25.00 premium. Over a period of time, up to 4 our boards can be collected and then laid flat with the magnets aligned. This results in a blocking platform of up to 24 x 24 inches. We are showing all of our new ideas on our Facebook Page.
GBK: Do either of you crochet?
Holly: I am the crocheter behind Chetnanigans. Thinking of new ideas, co-designing with Sean on many of our items – and most importantly the product tester and quality controller.
Sean: I do not... Much like a customer who found our site and ordered $600 in goods that day said, ‘I contemplated buying a drill press, but ultimately decided that my skills were in fiber arts and creating.’ I agree, but my skills are in wood crafting!
GBK: What have you discovered about crochet that is unique to you or your life?
Holly: Crochet is my passion! I learned from my grandmother starting at about five years old. It has always been a part of my life. It is a soothing, yet sometimes challenging pursuit! I have a ton of yarn, binders of patterns, and a never-ending desire to create.
Sean: I must say that it is the population of crafters: They are some of the most grateful and patience customers that I have ever dealt with; I am grateful for the opportunity to serve this community! How many other groups of folks do you know that purchase the material, craft these materials into beautiful items, and then simply give them away? It’s amazing to me.
GBK: How did you learn the woodworking skills?
Sean: Although I don’t have a deep or complex relationship in wood working, my real passion is finding solutions to people’s problems! And I have selected crochet wood working as the vehicle to exercise these skills. I get very excited when a customer contacts me and explains their challenges. It gets my creative juices flowing, and it makes me want to stop everything that I’m doing to come up with a unique and creative solution to their problem. It is partially due to this passion that Chetnanigans was born! The hook organizer was created so that fiber artists could quickly and easily change their hook selection in a WIP without taking but a moment to do so.
GBK: What is your education or background experience that brought you to where you are today with this niche business?
Holly: I’m a life-long crocheter, but Sean is the business brain behind Chetnanigans. I have a master’s degree in education with a fine arts background.
Sean: I have a two-year degree, but my skills really came from my 20-plus years at Sony. I started as a “Sales Trainee” and retired as Vice President National Accounts. I was perceived as a “problem fixer;” and once I used my skills and talent to better a situation, they would ask me to move to the next spot that needed “fixing.”. It was a wonderful career with that great company!
GBK: Is Chetnanigans a full-time endeavor for you?
Holly: I am hoping someday Chetnanigans will be my full-time endeavor, but I am still employed as a teacher. I am thrilled at the prospect of blogging and designing when I retire from the school system.
Sean: Chetnanigans is absolutely a full-time endeavor for me. For the last 2 years, it is a nearly 7 days week, 10 hours a day project. My daughter asked me once, “Dad, why do you work 7 days a week?” I explained that successful people do what others can’t or won’t. I have dreams of Chetnanigans products one day being available at retail stores and have an absolute intention of growing our little company from a garage shop to a respected mid-sized US-based company.
GBK: I purchased this Chetnanigans hook holder and I use it to display my CGOA Commemorative Hook collection. If you have purchased crochet accessories from Chetnanigans, be sure to post a photo of how you are using it on your social media with the hashtag #chetnanigans. You’ll be helping another maker on the pathway to success! I use my hook holder to display my CGOA Commemorative Hook Collection.
Dear readers, if you have a unique yarn store or crochet-related business like Chetnanigans in your community, please let me know. I would love to write about them. I urge you to also encourage your favorite vendors to exhibit next year at the Chain Link Marketplace!