Sometimes we come across an entrepreneur doing something so cool, we just have to share.  Stacey Trock started Fresh Stitches to help others create amazing little crocheted creations.  Now she’s selling patterns left and right and is working on her third, nationally published book.  We are happy to share her story and advice today.

In case some people don’t know about you and your amazing business, would you mind sharing what you do?

I wear a couple of hats. I design crochet stuffed animal patterns, which means that I design animals and then write up the instructions so that crafters can crochet the animals themselves. I’m also a crochet instructor (of course, specializing in teaching the techniques that I use in my designs) and a knitting/crochet blogger.

You’ve written two books already: Crocheted Softies and Cuddly Crochet. Did you approach the publishers or did they approach you?

I approached them! My publisher (Martingale) posts a proposal package online. When I came up with the idea to write my first book (Cuddly Crochet), I filled out the proposal package and mailed it in. Martingale called me and we discussed some modifications to my original idea… and then I had a contract! I actually got really lucky that I was accepted by my first choice, and the process is different for lots of different people.

Many of my (author) friends use an agent, which is a person who helps you develop your proposal and pitch it to publishing companies. Agents are skilled in the publishing industry, and help get your work in front of the right people as well as help you negotiate a beneficial contract.

There’s no one right way to go about it. You’ve got to do what works for you and keep at it!

You’re also a teacher for Craftsy! How is teaching a crocheting course online different than teaching it in person? Would you recommend others to consider creating an online course for teaching their craft?

Teaching online is certainly different from teaching in person! It’s a little bit like being an actress: you have to pretend the camera is a person! Aside from the absence of a live audience, the preparations and teaching are quite similar to what you would do for a ‘live’ class. Whether your students are in front of you or watching you on video later on, it’s important to anticipate the types of questions they might have, and present your material in a clear, step-by-step fashion.

I certainly recommend adding an online course to your repertoire, not only for crafts, but for a wide range of businesses. Many people feel more comfortable watching a video than they do reading written instructions, so by having an online class, I’ve been able to reach a wider demographic than I can with my written instructions. Aside from the ease of learning, students find watching a video to be a much more personal interaction than reading text, so videos can be a plus to many types of businesses. For example, if you run a dog-walking business, posting a 5 minute video of you explaining why you love dogs & your walking philosophy on your website would convey your passion much more strongly than text alone.

You recently wrote an amazing post about allowing your customers to sell their finished pieces, which are made from your patterns. Do you have any advice for people worried about others stealing their ideas or techniques?

As an artist, you’re always going to have a little nagging voice in your head saying that your work is going to be stolen. Copyright law isn’t intended to protect artistic styles/ideas, so stolen techniques happen.

However, my business is more than just the artwork I produce. My business is a brand built around a quality product, fabulous customer service and an exchange of information about crochet. If someone steals one idea… my business won’t be crushed because it’s *more* than just that one idea. The person stealing my idea can’t offer all that I offer.

For example, it actually happens to me on occasion that someone purchases a pattern from me, and then sells copies of the pattern online. Of course this is stealing, and it hurts a little. But, a person who purchases a pattern from me gets access to videos that I post, email help from me and they’re also participating in a community revolving around my brand (on Facebook and on my blog) where they can share finished photos. Someone buying from the thief doesn’t get any of that.

I think focusing on what your business offers, in addition to the actual product, can help to shield you from damage done by the icky folks in the world… because there’s not much you can do to stop them!

What are you looking forward to most in 2013?

Oh… so much! Every day, my customers bring a smile to my face when they post photos or share fun stories with me… and with my Facebook group about to hit 5,000 fans, I can’t wait to see what they get up to in 2013!

I’ll continue to create more designs, and I’m experimenting with a few new shapes and animal ideas!

I’m also in the process of writing a third book, which will be released December 2013. It’s all the way at the end of the year… but it might be the most exciting part!

Want to see more of Stacey’s work and learn about starting a business with your craft?  Be sure to check out Fresh Stitches.