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Check Out Johanna Miller’s Story

Today we’d like to introduce you to Johanna Miller. 

Hi Johanna, so excited to have you with us today. What can you tell us about your story?
After a decade as a hairstylist, I had begun to feel a little burned out. I had enjoyed knitting as a hobby for years and my husband asked me to make him a specific project with very specific colors. When I couldn’t find a yarn that looked like what we envisioned, he suggested I try dyeing my own. I did a little research online, bought the supplies, and gave it a try… Only to fall madly in love with process! I started learning everything I could about dyeing and spent all my free time practicing. After just a few months, I opened my online business, selling via my website and going to yarn shows whenever I could. I juggled two jobs for a few years, dyeing yarn out of my tiny kitchen in our home in Kansas City. We were ready to start a family and had been talking about what that would mean for my career. Potion Yarns had grown more rapidly than we anticipated and I felt confident that I could find a way to still work out of our home dyeing yarn while staying home with our children so when I became pregnant with our first son, I quit my career as a hairstylist. Right after giving birth to our son, the world was plunged into a pandemic; but despite the uncertainty, I found my business thriving online. I no longer was going to shows because of the shutdowns, but I found I had built enough of a clientele online and through social media that I not only survived but thrived and grew, even while scaling back a little due to the demands of motherhood. I started my business with very little know how of running an online business, working from home, or dyeing yarn; but I found that with passion and determination, I was able to learn everything I needed through online classes, free videos on YouTube, business podcasts, and learning by doing. I took some classes early on through KC Sourcelink and other entrepreneurial mentors online that really helped me so I’m passionate about giving back and inspiring other entrepreneurs. I’ve had the privilege of being asked to speak on a couple of different occasions about e-commerce and how to build a successful micro business and I’m always happy to do it and share my joy and passion in building a business you love. 

Can you talk to us a bit about the challenges and lessons you’ve learned along the way? Looking back would you say it’s been easy or smooth in retrospect?
No, it hasn’t, but I have been blessed with incredible growth. In the beginning, my struggles largely centered around just a lack of experience and confidence in myself, as well as the struggle of trying to work out of a very tiny space inside my home. The dyes I work with can’t come into contact with kitchen items used to prepare food, so I would have to pack away anything out in my kitchen and bring all my dye supplies out of my basement in order to work each day; then put everything back and bleach all surfaces in my kitchen before I could use it to prepare food. When I started, I was awful at product photography which is essential for selling online. I had someone tell me quite rudely that my photos basically sucked and that was tough to hear… But it lit a fire under me to go online and sign up for a product photography class that dramatically improved my skills! Now that I’ve been in business for five years, things are going more smoothly. But now the challenges center around how to juggle taking care of my kids and family with finding time to work on my business, keep up with a rapidly changing online world, and take care of my body doing a very physically demanding job as I get older. 

Thanks for sharing that. So, maybe next you can tell us a bit more about your work?
I hand dye yarn using rich layers of saturated color to create complex fibers that inspire my customers to create with their hands. Hand-dyed yarn is very different from machine-dyed fibers widely available from large companies: independent dyers like me all do things a little differently and we can create effects that are impossible to recreate by machines because all of our colors are placed by human hands and allow for a slight variance. Each skein of yarn from an indie dyer is a unique work of art. I love selling my yarn to my customers, who use it to create their own unique pieces of art through knitting, crochet, weaving, mixed media, etc. It’s like getting to collaborate with artists from all over the world! I dye animal fibers like wool, cashmere, and silk. I use high-quality, luxury yarns that are meant to provide an indulgent experience while you craft. Using the best ingredients gives you the best results and I work hard to ensure my yarns meet exacting standards. I am most known for my rich, saturated colors, vintage, old-world feel, and complex color combinations. I love creating colors that have a story, that call to you to make something with them. 

While each indie dyer has a unique artistic voice, I think what sets me apart is both my techniques and my fearless use of deep color. I break the rules quite a bit when I’m dyeing and I’m not afraid to try something unusual: I like to call myself a rebel dyer because I learn the way things are usually done, then try to see what happens if I do it differently. Some dyers shy away from dark, saturated colors because they can be hard to achieve and take forever to rinse to ensure all the dyes are absorbed by the yarn; but I love rich, deep, and bright colors so that’s what I’ve always tried to create. Even in my light colors and pastels, I use layers of colors so that the yarn has dimension and the colors shift in the light. For most of my customers, their yarn crafting is a hobby they use to relax and to tell the world a little about who they are: I want that special time to feel indulgent and rewarding for them 

Where do you see things going in the next 5-10 years?
Hand-dyed yarn had been around a long time but has only became wildly popular in the last 15 years or so. I think the growth of the internet as well as an interest in DIY and reconnecting to our roots and to handmade goods has made yarn crafting and using unique supplies from small businesses much more popular. I don’t see this industry suffering from a lack of interest and thanks to the internet, it’s easier than ever to learn how to do these crafts and find supplies no matter where you live. I think the pandemic has exposed how big businesses with express shipping and huge inventories are really lacking in quality goods and unique services and people really do care where their products come from and how employees are treated. When we see the incompetence that naturally happens in larger corporations, it makes us long to do business with real people: our neighbors, friends, and family, the family across town, the mom-and-pop shop, the parent working hard to provide while spending as much time as they can with their kids. I think our big busy high-tech world is getting tired of being disconnected, tired of faceless corporations, and ready to reconnect with our humanity and our communities. More and more people are willing to spend a little more to support someone honest and hardworking who has great customer service and is a part of their community, and I think that’s a really good thing. I’m excited to see more valuing of tiny businesses, artisan companies, and small-scale products and services that really serve the communities they are a part of. 

Pricing:

  • Yarns range from $28-$40

Contact Info:

Image Credits
Potion Yarns

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