Want to know why the blogging riches are in the niches? Today’s episode will explain it.
I’m interviewing HollyAnne Knight from String & Story, who not only teaches people how to quilt, she teaches free motion quilting, a modern form of quilting.
And she’s built a very successful business in a very niche lane.
HollyAnne shares how, as a way to deal with her postpartum depression after her first child was born, she got started quilting. This lead her to open an Etsy shop where she sold t-shirt quilts.
From there, she started blogging about quilting, while she discovered free motion quilting and began honing her skills.
She grew a community on social media, an email list, and created a successful course where she teaches quilters how to get over their fears and try free motion quilting.
I’ve split this interview into two parts because we spoke for close to an hour and half. In this first half, we talk about HollyAnne’s origin story.
In part 2 we get into how HollyAnne built her business.
So if you had any doubt about niching down, this episode will make the benefits very clear.
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Why the Blogging Riches are in the Niches
Welcome to The Blogger Genius Podcast brought to you by MiloTree. Here’s your host, Jillian Leslie.
Jillian Leslie 0:11
Hello friends. It is me, Jillian Leslie, founder of Catch My Party, founder of the MiloTree app, host of this podcast. And as I like to call myself a business translator.
Taking what’s working in online business, and breaking it down, so you can use these tips in your own business. Before I get started, I want to invite you to join my email list. If you head to bloggergenius.com you can sign up.
And then once a week, I send you my four biggest takeaways from each episode. It’s like a cheat sheet or Cliff Notes. This way you can stay up to date on what’s really happening now in blogging and online business.
So, please head to bloggergenius.com and sign up.
Okay, for today’s episode, I have HollyAnne Knight, who is the blogger, the teacher behind String & Story. HollyAnne is a quilting expert. And she does not just quilting, she does free motion quilting.
I always talk about being in a niche. She is the ultimate example of this. When we started recording, I usually tell people that we record for about 30 to 40 minutes, and Holly and I just went on and on.
So, I have taken this interview. And I’ve broken it up into two episodes. So this is part one. And you really get to hear HollyAnne story and she talks about her struggles with postpartum depression.
How she started quilting, and how she has now pivoted that business into teaching others how to quilt. She is absolutely delightful. I love her honesty, I love her energy. And I think you will too.
I also find her very inspiring, because she shares all of her struggles and all of her successes. So, without further delay, here is part one of my interview with HollyAnne Knight. HollyAnne, welcome to the show.
HollyAnne Knight 2:28
Thank you so much for having me. I’m excited to be here.
A Coping Startegy for Postpartum Depression
Jillian Leslie 2:32
We were talking just before we pressed record and you and I tend to be very like-minded online entrepreneurs. You’re a quilter. Would you share: (A) how you got started as a quilter, and then (B) how you were able to grow that into an online business?
HollyAnne Knight 2:54
Absolutely. So, my name is HollyAnne Knight of String & Story and it’s my job to guide you to quilt with confidence. And this has been very much an outgrowth of my own personal journey.
So, when I had my first son, almost six years ago, I was very blessed that he was a very good sleeper. But I was not very blessed, I had really horrifying postpartum depression.
So, in the midst of that I had a lot of time on my hands and was not in a very good headspace. And just began looking around for a new hobby. I’ve always been very creative. I have a background in dance.
I love painting and right up until I had my son I was in a very long stretch of oil painting. But spoiler, that doesn’t work great with kids, because those things are very toxic. And they stay wet for a long time.
So, you can’t just shove them in a drawer and walk away. So, I just began to look for something new. And I think it’s not uncommon when we have a child, especially a first child to begin to feel that, oh, I want to make things for my kid.
And especially sewing this is such a long tradition among women. And that began to awaken in me and right about the same time my mom had this big pile of T-shirts that she was like, I’ve been hearing about these things called T-shirt quilts.
And I was like, “Oh, sounds fascinating. Let me see if I can find a place to have that done.” Like whatever. And she just couldn’t find a place she really loved.
And was like, “HollyAnne you’re very creative. You’ve been saying you want a new hobby. Why don’t you make me a T-shirt quilt?” This is fabulous. Except if you consider that I had not touched a sewing machine and like 15 years.
Yeah, about 15 years and had no clue what I was doing. And these shirts were irreplaceable. So, my mom has this moment of great faith.
And places these T-shirts in my hand and it’s like, “I’m sure you can figure it out.” I’m like, dear Google, how do I make a T-shirt quilt?
Jillian Leslie 4:41
You did have experience sewing? You knew your way around sewing machine?
HollyAnne Knight 4:44
A long time ago as a child. I could sew a straight line. Well, fortunately, spoiler is really all you need for a T-shirt quilt. So, I literally phoned a friend who was into sewing and was like, “Sewing machine I got nothing.”
She’s like, “I got you.” She shows up with this old Kenmore, $97 off the shelf sewing machine. It’s like nothing fancy, nothing that should have been sewing through this many layers of fabric.
And I call another friend and is like, “How come my threads all in a knot?” And she’s like, “Well, it’s jersey, which means it stretches.” She’s like, “Are you using a ballpoint needle?” I was like, “What the heck is ballpoint needle?”
And just began this journey of like figuring out one problem after the other. And what I found was in the midst of my own journey of postpartum depression, my own struggle of the transition into motherhood.
And we got pregnant again very quickly with our second son. So, yeah, I have two boys, they’re 14 months apart.
Jillian Leslie 5:34
HollyAnne Knight 5:35
And I think we’re good, we are blessed, and we are done. But in the midst of this, when everything seemed like it was unraveling, and every time I changed a diaper, there was another one that needed to be changed.
And every time I did the dishes, somebody else needed to eat, and every time I managed to get us all cleaned up, like somebody spat up. Sewing was this thing that stayed done.
And I could put it together, and walk away and come back. And it was just as I left it, and it became this one constant thing. So, this whole business started very product based.
I was getting T-shirts from people like a big pile of T-shirts, I would go down to the big box craft store and get like flannel and batting. And I would be at our dining room table.
We are in this tiny little apartment, that we literally sacrifice the living room in order to make my first sewing room. So, we moved our room downstairs into the living room, the little bedroom upstairs that we had been in, became this little sewing room.
So, I can have a door so I can keep the kids away from the sharp things, because still dangerous, but can be put in a drawer at least. And began this journey.
We’ve always been a single income family, that I can begin to bring in a little bit of extra money. It’s something that’s helping my mental health journey. It’s something that keeps me kind of busy and gives me this kind of life satisfaction sense.
And what I didn’t realize initially but very quickly found out is it also began to fuel my brain in a unique way. And like one of the challenging things with early motherhood is like everything is the same all the time.
Like it’s the same repetitive tasks over and over. There’s not a lot of mental stimulation for mom happening in there. God bless Sesame Street for putting all kinds of funny jokes in there for the parents, but it doesn’t quite cut it ultimately.
Building a T-shirt Quilt Etsy Business
And beginning to build this little baby Etsy shop of a business. Where, when I first started, I had played around with Etsy even before the quilts, and had made like $2 an hour and knitting, which is like, sad to say the least.
But then moved into this where I was making a little bit more money, but I began to really realize like this could be a business.
Jillian Leslie 7:39
Okay. So, how many hours a day would you be able to quilt? How long would it take you to complete a quilt? And how much could you sell it for on Etsy?
HollyAnne Knight 7:54
So, if I was making say, like a 12 T-shirt, throw quilt that would run maybe around $200, my materials would be about $50. And I got down to where I could do that in maybe like five hours.
So, $150. So, yes 20 to $30 an hour, depending on how efficient I was.
Jillian Leslie 8:12
HollyAnne Knight 8:12
On a really good day, I could get something like that done in like, a day, day and a half. So, I was working anywhere from like, maybe naptime, which would be say two hours a day all the way to like naptime, bedtime and then like staying up too late.
So, anywhere from like two to six hours a day. I’m just trying to wiggle this in. And just I started listening to audiobooks again, started listening to business podcasts. And it was something that I was like, well, could I scale this?
And that was the question that very quickly emerged. And I’m listening to the business podcasts. I’m very professional at this point. And I heard the word scale and I must figure out how can I scale it?
Jillian Leslie 8:49
I love that. But okay, where are you in your journey of postpartum?
HollyAnne Knight 8:58
So, my postpartum journey. Postpartum depression began right after my first son. But then I got pregnant very quickly. And I thought it was kind of fixed. And at the time, I had chalked it up to having gone on birth control very quickly.
And I was like, the birth control, messed with me, because we’d gotten pregnant very easily the first time. And so, I was like, we’ll go right back on the pill.
But ended up still getting pregnant very quickly, because I went off the pill to try to manage my mental health.
And I was like, well, I’m still breastfeeding full time. It’ll take us a few months. No, no, no. Like, two weeks later, we were pregnant. We got pregnant so fast. We were super young.
Jillian Leslie 9:32
HollyAnne Knight 9:33
Jillian Leslie 9:34
And having just come off the pill?
HollyAnne Knight 9:36
Yes, yes. But I was 22. So like, all of my organs were like, yes! And it just was what it was. But after Ian, my second I had postpartum depression symptoms for three years.
Jillian Leslie 9:50
HollyAnne Knight 9:51
And no one talks about how long that can last. For point of reference, Ian is 4 1/2 years old. So, the majority of his life thus far, was a very hard place. I had a season of being on medication, there were side effects with that, that were their own set of problems.
But at this point where I’m trying to begin to scale this T-shirt quilt thing as it we so often called it around our house. And I developed the String & Story branding of realizing, what am I craving? I’m craving community. I’m craving creativity.
Can I begin to create a brand around that? And at the time, I thought it would be for young moms like me. Maybe I can show other moms how to do this and sell T-shirt quilts in their communities.
Looking for Community as a New Mom
To some extent that ended up happening with some of my friends. But that wasn’t where the brand long term went. Because what ended up happening is realizing that women as a whole, so often hunger, for creativity and for community.
And we don’t always have a good outlet for that in this fast paced world where maybe we’re in the workforce, and we’re just go, go go.
And when we get home, we just want those precious couple of moments with our kids or our spouse or our cat whoever’s waiting at home. But maybe we’re deep in motherhood and just finding a way to get away for a little bit of community.
Even just something as simple as dinner with friends can feel really, really hard, especially if the friends we had pre kids. Maybe you’re not in the same life season now. And like that’s a whole nother journey that we don’t talk about enough.
Jillian Leslie 11:24
I just have to say, I think that being a mother with young children can be so lonely.
HollyAnne Knight 11:34
So, lonely. It is so lonely.
Jillian Leslie 11:37
Again, I find that motherhood is so bizarre, strange, because on one hand, you could never imagine a world without your children. You love them. Like you’ve never loved anything before. You thought you loved your spouse, oh, go throw a child in there.
And it makes your heart open. And yet, it can also be this incredibly hard and disconnected and lonely and devastating experience. And those two things exist simultaneously.
HollyAnne Knight 12:19
Yes. And that’s it. And like, there’s so few places where we can say that out loud, and hold that tension. And like stones don’t get thrown. Because so often and this was so much of my journey.
It wasn’t that I didn’t have friends, it wasn’t that I didn’t have a community, in real life, shall we say, I absolutely did. We’re involved heavily in our church, my family was nearby, like, lots of people around me.
But that is such a hard thing to open up and discuss. And it’s particularly hardest to open up, I think with people who also love your kids. And you don’t want to cause too much worry or too much concern. But you also just kind of need to talk about it.
And so String & Story began to be this place where even if I didn’t necessarily talk about it directly, I could at least begin to live it. Live a life that allowed me to hold that tension of like, I’m able to be a mom and be very present and be with my kids.
But I’m also allowed to have this other thing, where I can choose how much I bring my motherhood into it. And some days, that’s a lot. Some days, I’m on live video, and there’s a kid in my lap.
And some days, I’m going to be five minutes late because I’m going to make sure this kid is asleep. Because we are not getting interrupted tonight.
Jillian Leslie 13:38
And like today this kids driving me nuts.
HollyAnne Knight 13:42
Yes. I love them. And also you should stay more than two arms legs away from me right now. I need a little space to not touch me.
Jillian Leslie 13:52
Absolutely. So, let’s talk about then how you started to build this community?
HollyAnne Knight 14:01
Absolutely. So, at first, it was just beginning to figure out how to talk about the fact that I had something else going on. And at this point, it’s still very product based. And it’s still very, like I’m making T-shirt quilts.
And trying to figure out how to make them better, faster, more efficiently. How can I make myself valuable enough that I can raise my prices, like that kind of thing. And I had a couple of Christmases in a row that felt very profitable.
Making 5-figures selling quilts on Etsy
We approached kind of five figures gross revenue with T-Shirt quilts. And I’m like, well, like single five figure not like lots of five figures. I’m like, Okay. So, this is very helpful.
Like, oh, look at paid rent. Oh look like it paid for this, whatever. But it’s still only scalable to hours in the day.
Jillian Leslie 14:46
Exactly. You’re only you. And it doesn’t make sense for you to be hiring somebody to make quilts because now you have to pay this person.
HollyAnne Knight 14:55
And I believe in paying that person like a viable wage. The profit margin isn’t that good. And then there’s this space of like, where do I put another person in my sewing room? Do I have to have that equipment? Or do they have that equipment?
If I choose to let them work in their space. How do I maintain quality control since this is my brand, and I’m the person talking to the customer? I’m not interested in becoming a factory. That is ultimately what that began to grow into.
And in parallel with this, T-shirt, quilts are kind of their own animal. But by nature of the word quilt being in there, I began to explore the rest of the world of quilting.
Exploring Other Types of Quilting Niches
And what I learned is that there’s this very vibrant, modern quilting movement. And very vibrant traditional quilting movement happening in the United States that started back in 1976, with the Bicentennial and has just carried on.
And I think we see this a lot with my generation, the generation younger. Maybe just women and people in general that as our world is becoming more digital, especially now in COVID.
We are craving tactical things, and hobbies that are tactical, whether that’s, an athletic tactical hobby or like a creative tactical hobby. Those things are maybe on the rise more than ever.
Jillian Leslie 16:05
Oh my god, like bread baking.
HollyAnne Knight 16:08
Like sourdough and COVID.
Jillian Leslie 16:11
The idea of how old is your sourdough starter?
HollyAnne Knight 16:14
Like how committed are you to this?
Jillian Leslie 16:18
It’s about kind of nerding out on something that feels comforting. Like, think about a quilt. I’m sure you thought this. I could wrap myself in a quilt. I could wrap my children in a quilt, I could create this feeling.
Like I’ve talked about this on the podcast. One thing that I did is I bought myself nice towels.
HollyAnne Knight 16:41
Oh, yeah. Oh yeah.
Jillian Leslie 16:43
It’s been a life changer for me.
HollyAnne Knight 16:44
That’s life changing like nice house and nice sheets, and socks and nice socks.
Jillian Leslie 16:50
And I just bought myself a nice blanket. And all of these things are thematically tied to the fact that the world feels really scary. But if I can make my home cozy, like I washed my towels, and they came out of the dryer.
And by the way, don’t don’t think I’m not researching, how to keep them soft. Because you know, they’re kind of crunchy. I’m washing them with like vinegar.
And they come out of the dryer and they smell so good. And they’re warm. And I made my husband hug them.
HollyAnne Knight 17:24
It’s like put your face in it.
Jillian Leslie 17:26
Hug the towel. Hug this.
He’s like, “What?” Trust me.
He’s like, “That feels good.” Like I am craving this feeling of warmth, comfort, bread.
HollyAnne Knight 17:42
Hugs are hard to come by these days. We’re having to create our own hugs.
Jillian Leslie 17:46
Totally. So, I want a quilt.
HollyAnne Knight 17:50
Mm hmm. And I think in the same way, it was the same thing as a new mom in many ways as it is now in COVID of like, it’s hard to get together with people. There’s lots of moving pieces and factors to consider.
And let’s just be honest, like when you’re breastfeeding as much as you want to hug your friend, you’re also always thinking, am I stinky or leaking?
There’s this weird cringe factor just like maybe now with COVID this contractor is like, “I want to hug you but what if, what if one of us has it and we don’t know it yet.”
And it’s just this risk and challenge overcoming depth. The exact thing of quilts became this, cozy, comforting thing. And I always joke but it’s like not a joke. So, it’s very real. My kids were toddlers and I knew I was on the right track when I was making a quilt top.
If the kids would come in and grab it off the design wall and shove their face in it. If they just couldn’t keep their hands and face off of it. I knew I was on the right track.
Discovering the World of Modern Quilting as a Niche
So, I began to basically discovered this whole world of modern quilting and beautiful quilting fabrics. And bright colors and different aesthetics that when we think of quilts we so often think of rustic cabins and it doesn’t have to be that way.
And that’s what I began to discover is there’s lots of quilts in the world. Yes.
Grow Your Social Media Followers and Your Email List on Autopilot!
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Again, milotree.com get your first 30 days free. And I think you’ll like it. And now back to the show.
Jillian Leslie 20:31
Explain modern quilting versus traditional quilting. How would you describe those?
HollyAnne Knight 20:36
So, traditional quilting is often going to be like what you think of when you think of like grandma’s quilts. So, like muted colors, maybe the 1930s pastels, there’s more like rustic like 80s Burgundy’s and like dark greens, brown, lots of brown, lots of cream.
All these kind of colors and usually smaller, busier prints. So, smaller pieces of fabric, busier kind of floral, little bitty polka dot kind of prints.
Modern quilting fabric tends to be very open, it tends to be very bright. You’re working with larger pieces of fabric, the aesthetic of the quilt as a whole is going to be more minimal.
Fits just much more with what you see, in modern decor and the modern aesthetic, like think Instagram, but like a quilt.
Jillian Leslie 21:19
HollyAnne Knight 21:20
And those things, and it like works, it works very well. I was like, Oh, so, I don’t necessarily have to have like a certain kind of aesthetic in order to become a quilter. And then I discovered free motion quilting. That’s what I teach.
What is Free Motion Quilting? And is This a Good Niche?
And free motion quilting is basically when you have the three layers of your quilt so you take little pieces of fabric and sew them together. And that becomes your quilt top. The batting is the fluffy part in the middle that makes it snugly.
And then you got the big piece of fabric on the back to hold that sandwich together. Well then you have to stitch those three layers together. And that’s actually the quilting of the thing is the stitching of those layers together.
Well free motion quilting is like doodling while you’re stitching those layers together. So, using your sewing machine to create these gorgeous freehanded doodles all over your quilt that adds this like whole other layer to what’s going on with the quilt.
So, I discovered this and I was like ballet, painting, and thread like all just came together in my world. And I got to figure out how to do that. So, I began experimenting with this kind of as a hobby, alongside the T-shirt quilts that I’m creating and producing.
But they reached a point where it was just a lot of hours in the day. And I had cracked the code on T-shirt quilts and I had cracked the code on selling enough of them to meet my own capacity. And the options to scale beyond that were not attractive to me.
So, as a business owner, I’ve got to level up I’ve got to figure out something else. And I had basically made this deal with myself. When I was in the sewing room, school was in session.
So, that meant I was on the podcast, I was on the audio books listening, learning watching everybody’s webinar, I was like, I’m going to just learn about business. It’s something that’s like scratching my itch.
I never knew in a 100 million years that I’d be interested in business, I went to school to become a middle school English teacher. I had no clue that I would completely freaking nerd out on online business.
But I can talk about it all day long. And I love that side of my business as much as I love the sewing and quilting side of my business, which is basically how this thing has grown from there.
So, I began to realize like, one day I was searching for basically how to get better at social media. But I had searched in the podcast app online marketing, and I discovered Amy Porterfield’s podcast, ‘Online Marketing Made Easy’. Hello, Amy love you Boo.
And discovered then from there, this idea of teaching online. And I was like teaching, I literally went to school to do this. I love teaching. I’m good at teaching. And that’s scalable.
Especially in a digital space and have gone down that rabbit hole hard began my online teaching journey in 2017 got really serious about it in 2018. And to this day, that’s where I make my money now in business.
I no longer make T-shirt quilts completely pivoted out of that space, I do still have some resources available for teaching how to make T-shirt quilts. But what I teach is free motion quilting.
And it’s this skill that the quilting world tends to put on a pedestal. They tend to act like you have to be some special creative professional in order to learn it. And I figured out how to communicate it to everyday quilters just like me.
So, that they can achieve it at home in their sewing rooms. And they don’t have to go to a shop, they don’t have to go to a show. They don’t have to go anywhere in particular to learn.
They can learn online with me and the comfort and safety of their own sewing rooms. So, they don’t have to be out where other people can see if it goes sideways. And we can develop this online community.
So, I’m able to reach quilters that maybe not only are in a season of life that’s more lonely. Whether it’s because of COVID or because they have a new baby or because they work and there’s not a nighttime quilt where they live or whatever.
But also for women, who are around the country and around the world in more remote and rural areas that maybe they can get online. But they’re just simply are not physically other quilters near them.
And they can join into this community and be a part of something that otherwise wouldn’t be. And being able to gather women from literally all over the world into my virtual living room in my virtual classroom.
And create this space together, where we can be creative, we can have community we can do life. And it was important before COVID, but it’s only become more important especially with the average age of a culture in the US is 65.
So, most of my students are in a very high risk population, and many of them live alone. And it would be a really, really hard season, except that we can connect online and do this together.
Jillian Leslie 25:46
I love that. Alright, so, you’re listening to Amy Porterfield, who I love as well.
HollyAnne Knight 25:50
Jillian Leslie 25:50
And you say, “I want to teach this.”
HollyAnne Knight 25:54
Jillian Leslie 25:54
So, you think to yourself, what, I need a blog, I need a community, I need a sales funnel. Let’s talk about it.
HollyAnne Knight 26:02
I had already been blogging a little bit, just generally about my own projects had not been super educational about them. They were not particularly evergreen. I had one series that was called ‘FriYAY Friends’.
And it literally was an excuse to like email famous people in the quilting industry and be like, “Can I interview you via email and put it on my blog?”
Because it was just a way to network and connect with people and begin to figure out like, who do I want to work with? Who’s doing cool stuff? What do I want to continue to grow this to be? So I’d already begun building content through this blog.
Why You Need Relevant Weekly Content to Grow an Audience
So, as I started listening to Amy. Amy’s big thing is you need new weekly content. I was like, cool. I’m already doing this. But then I began to learn about like, over that content needs to be like relevant to what you want to teach.
That content needs to be evergreen, so you can come back to it again and again. I was like, oh, okay, well, again, I was an English major. So like writing, I’m completely here for.
Jillian Leslie 26:56
Did you take her course?
HollyAnne Knight 26:59
I did. But like last year. That’s a very recent part of my journey. This was all before. I took every webinar, every time Amy had a webinar, I’d watch it, I would cry, because we were broke as a joke. And I could not buy her course.
But I wanted to so badly because I knew she was just the bomb. And that’s a bit of an interesting part of this journey too. We had a season in our marriage and having kids very quickly.
Getting Out of Debt
And we ended up having to move very quickly that we ended up about $15,000 in credit card debt, and began doing Dave Ramsey. And we want to be financially healthy, we want to pay this off.
And that was a huge part of the fire under my bum to figure out how to scale Sring & Story. String & Story is the secret to this. String & Story can be the thing that adds a second income to this household.
String & Story can scale faster than a traditional tech career. Even a tech career, but just on that kind of more traditional career path that my husband was on at the time. And I was like, “Alright, we got to figure this out. We got to figure it out, now.”
Because we’ve got debt we want to pay off. We want freedom. We want time, freedom, all of these things. So, listening to Amy and I had begun blogging already, but knew very little about the businessy part of it.
Other than I knew it was a place on the internet that I owned. I’d figured that much out.
Jillian Leslie 28:13
Your blog. Your blog is a place you own.
HollyAnne Knight 28:15
My blog is like my house.
Jillian Leslie 28:17
HollyAnne Knight 28:17
On the World Wide Web.
Jillian Leslie 28:18
HollyAnne Knight 28:20
This is my place.
Jillian Leslie 28:21
Yep. And then you can start to build things off of this.
HollyAnne Knight 28:24
Jillian Leslie 28:25
Like a play room, a better bathroom, remodeled kitchen.
HollyAnne Knight 28:31
Exactly. Also, of course, been doing social media, but I had gotten the concept of like, social doesn’t live forever. In the same way this blog lives forever. And so I began to hone this content.
Why You Want to Build Weekly Evergreen Blog Content
And for about a year and a half in my blog, I blogged like, two three times a week going I need a library of evergreen content. If String & Story is going to be a quilting brand, like worth shaking a stick at.
There’s a lot of quilting brands out there that have a quilt headstart on me, because blogging had existed for a long time, by the time we’re here 2017. There’s a lot of people that had began to learn about SEO.
And I’m like, “Ooh.” They got years of SEO behind them. I’m like, I need to just simply create a lot of content to begin to establish myself.
Jillian Leslie 29:18
You’re just creating blog posts, creating videos, what are you doing?
HollyAnne Knight 29:22
This time, it was just blog posts. So, I would create a blog post and then, promote it across social media, email it to my list, but it was all still pretty rudimentary at this point.
Mostly just focusing on figuring out like, what content will live on evergreen for my people? How can I create kind of a baseline of where I don’t always have to send them somewhere else to get the information they need?
How can I create enough blog posts that when they ask me a question, I probably already have a post on a close enough topic, if not that exact topic. Because I got tired of just linking to other people.
As wonderful as the other educators in the quilting world are. I’m trying to build loyalty with my people here. And so I’m also then discovering through Amy, I need an email list. I need something even more direct, because they can come to the blog and find me.
But I need to be able to go to their house too. I need to be able to go knock on their door and be like, “Hey, are you home?” Do you want to come out and play and quilt with me?
So, it began to become this two way street. And in the process of that year of just heavy content creation, that’s really where the free motion quilting honed in.
The Importance of Building Your List
Jillian Leslie 30:26
Now, how are you growing your email list at this time? What are you doing? Are you giving away an opt-in?
HollyAnne Knight 30:32
I’m doing it that way.
Jillian Leslie 30:34
HollyAnne Knight 30:36
I’m trying to remember if there even was an opt-in at this point. This was probably pre opt-in.
Jillian Leslie 30:43
Okay, so this is more or less your site, like join my list.
HollyAnne Knight 30:46
On my site, I would drop it at the end of blog posts, or when I was sharing on social once in a blue moon, I’d be like, by the way, I also had this email list. If you want me to be able to contact you.
I was so shy about it. But also, I know, I’m going to need this thing. And I was building content, I was building confidence. And I was building focus. Those were the three things that were happening in this year.
So, the confidence piece was still a work in progress around the email list. And the content was, creating a great baseline. But really, the value that began to come out of it is this focus on what do I want to be known for?
I can’t take on the whole world of quilting. There’s a lot of really big, really wonderful companies who are going to be these kind of broad melting pots of quilting topics. What can I specifically hone in on?
And I had discovered I was very good at free motion quilting, it came quite naturally to me. And I figured out how to communicate about it.
How You Can Build a Large Business by Finding Your Niche
So, this is about where I began to experiment with videos, and began to make, like one minute videos.
Jillian Leslie 31:52
What I was going to say is, we teach bloggers how to grow businesses, and you’re just like touching on all of the things that I say over and over again. Which is one, being a niche, but you’re not just in a quilting niche, you’re in this other niche within quilting,
HollyAnne Knight 32:13
It’s weight edge.
Jillian Leslie 32:15
But it’s amazing, because as I say, you can grow a big business on the internet, if you can tap into something that people are passionate about.
HollyAnne Knight 32:27
Yes. And that they have problems around. There’s lots and lots of quilters, about 14 million quilters in the US alone, they all have problems related to quilting. Like we all have problems related to everything.
But there’s a lot more resources for certain quilting problems. And what I found was I was very good at doing and very good at teaching something that there are not as many resources about.
And I didn’t have to be the best. I am not the best free motion quilting teacher in the world or the best free motion quilter. I might be the best free motion quilting teacher. That’s the ultimate goal anyway.
Jillian Leslie 33:05
HollyAnne Knight 33:05
That’s where we’re headed.
Jillian Leslie 33:06
You found though this niche. In the future, could you teach on other quilting topics probably if you are wanted to?
HollyAnne Knight 33:19
I did today. There are certainly times where I circle around this thing. But there’s the thing that I’m known for.
Jillian Leslie 33:26
Yes, you are the expert. And back in the day, 10 years ago, you could be a generalist, you could have been the post partum homemaking quilter from Georgia. You could be blogging about whatever.
And it didn’t matter because people would be like, “Oh, I like her.”
HollyAnne Knight 33:48
Jillian Leslie 33:48
Yeah. And now you have expertise. And Google rewards that and your audience rewards this because now you are known as the free motion quilter.
HollyAnne Knight 34:00
Yes. And what’s interesting about this, and I’m stealing this straight from Amy is like, as I said, I don’t have to be the best free motion quilter. I just have to be a few steps ahead of my people.
Jillian Leslie 34:12
HollyAnne Knight 34:12
And I have to be willing to help them catch up.
Jillian Leslie 34:14
HollyAnne Knight 34:18
I’m going to tell you straight up, I have students who are far better free motion quilters than I am now. Because while I’m spending time teaching. They’re continuing to practice and grow in a different kind of way than maybe I am.
But it’s that ability to stay as the expert in this teaching space. And to keep showing up. And this is the big thing is you have to keep showing up. I declared my intentions to be a free motion quilting expert 3 1/2 years ago.
But it’s just now this much further into the journey that like in the last couple of days. I’ve been tagged like a whole bunch of times on social. People would ask questions about free motion quilting.
And I’m getting tabulate, “Oh ask HollyAnne.” That’s the real, like, I have arrived moment. When other people are, “Oh, she’s who you need to go talk to.” But that takes time.
Becoming an Expert in Your Niche
And you have to believe in your ability to become that expert. You have to believe in your edge before other people are sure that you really truly have that edge.
Jillian Leslie 35:17
I love that. And the other thing I love that you said is in a weird way, the fact that you’re only let’s say that they’re better quilters than you in what you’re doing.
It actually probably benefits you that you aren’t so far advanced, that you can’t put yourself in the mindset of the beginning quilter. You know what that felt like and then you can empathize with them.
A lot of times what happens is we’re coaching somebody, and they have expertise. And they don’t recognize that they have expertise, and that they’re so far down the path that I have to say to them, “Oh, wait a second, you need to go back to stage one.”
And remember what that was, like? You’re already using the shorthand. And you’re almost too far removed from that person starting on that journey?
HollyAnne Knight 36:20
Yeah, absolutely. Because like us is, experts around things like online entrepreneurship, or me as an expert around free motion quilting for on a scale of one to 10. I can discuss things up here 7, 8, 9, 10.
But that is completely and utterly useless to my students. If I cannot remember how to discuss this at like a .5 to 2 kind of level, then we’re never going to connect.
This is why your average person is not going to jump into a 400 level college course and thrive, even if they’re a super smart human.
Jillian Leslie 36:53
It doesn’t matter.
What am I Good at That I Can Turn into a Business?
HollyAnne Knight 36:54
Because there’s too much of a gap. You’ve got to have that prereq. And so as a teacher, and as an online entrepreneur, especially seeking to build an entrepreneurial business in a teaching space, which I highly encourage everybody to do.
And this is on fire right now, especially with COVID, this is an excellent opportunity to figure out, what am I really good at that people ask me about? And how can I build that into my business? Because it’s scalable.
But you’ve got to be able to remember how to discuss this at those early beginner baby levels. And remember what the fears and anxieties were then not your fears and anxietie now.
Jillian Leslie 37:33
if you think about it from a business perspective, and everything is a funnel, there are many more people for you to introduce to free motion quilting, then there are people at the 7, 8, 9, 10 level.
HollyAnne Knight 37:48
Jillian Leslie 37:50
I always think about it, when you are a successful online entrepreneur, especially teaching something. You are a translator, you’re able to see the world, pre free motion, the anxieties, the fears, like the technical stuff you need.
And you’re able to say, this is what I say to a lot of the people that we coach, I want you to be somebody’s girlfriend, your best girlfriend, you’re my quilting girlfriend.
So, what you’re going to do is you’re not going to judge me, you’re going to encourage me. And not only that you’re going to take my hand.
HollyAnne Knight 38:28
I’m going to bring wine.
Jillian Leslie 38:28
I love it. And you’re going to take my hand and lead me on this pleasant journey.
Talk to Your Audience Like They Are Friends
HollyAnne Knight 38:37
Yes. And I love that you say that. That concept of like being the girlfriend, because that’s exactly how I talk to my people. Which surprises folks all the time when I’m talking about it in a business space.
Because remember the age of my average customer. I’m almost 29 years old, I turned 29 later in October, and like, my average customer is 65, 70, 75 years old. Like I’m talking to my grandma, but we talk like we’re girlfriends.
Jillian Leslie 39:03
HollyAnne Knight 39:03
And they’ll get anxious, they’ll be afraid. And I’m sitting there on camera like, “Babe, listen to me. You’ve got this, I promise. You’ve got this. I did this. Your fellow students have done this.”
And it’s this weird moment of like, I’m girlfriend but also like prophet. I’m like, “I have seen the future. And I know you’ll succeed.” Because not only did I make the exact journey that I’m taking them on, but I’ve done it with other students.
And it gets to the point as you practice with your teaching with this, that you know, when certain fears really begin to ramp up along that journey, and it’s like, Okay, so here’s the fear when we were at stage 0.
We’re approaching stage three here. I know what’s going on now. And I can be like, “Here’s what you’re about to start being afraid of. Let me tell you now how we’re going to deal with it.”
Jillian Leslie 39:51
And you’ve been there, you’ve made all those mistakes.
HollyAnne Knight 39:54
I made all the mistakes, because I didn’t have a teacher. I literally just messed around until I figured it out. I’ve made all the mistakes, I spent more money on Sewing Machine repair than I can tell you because I didn’t know what I was doing.
And I would break my machine. And my students were like, “I’m so scared, I’m going to break my machine.” I’m like, “You’re not because I already broke mine. And I know how to not do that. now.”
Jillian Leslie 40:14
This is the end of part one of my interview with HollyAnne. In part two, she talks about how she has grown her business to be a very large, successful business. So, please come back for part two.
My biggest takeaway from this episode is really how HollyAnne learned that she could start teaching quilting without having to be a quilting expert.
She just needed to be a few steps ahead of her audience, and have empathy to know what struggles they might be experiencing.
Please head to bloggergenius.com and sign up for my newsletter where every week you will get my four biggest takeaways from every single podcast episode. I would love you to be part of my community. And I will see you next week with part two.
Other Niche Blogger Genius Podcast Episodes You Might Like:
- #154: How to Easily Monetize a Niche Blog (Rebroadcast)
- #121: How To Explode Your Niche Blog with Suzy Karadsheh
- #102: How To Easily Profit From Your Niche with Tamara Bennett
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