On 1 July 2020, we launched the Yarn and Tools collection (now known as Memo's Art House).
The idea started when I saw people "destashing" yarns and openly selling them at prices way higher than the original. Furthermore, during the Covid-19 pandemic, I noticed that many started to pick up crochet and knitting as a hobby but had no idea where to get affordable materials and also useful information on the craft.
Coupled with the fact that many of us were trying to tighten our purse strings as we learned to cope with the economic impact of Covid-19 and the Circuit Breaker in Singapore at that time, it seemed like a good idea to bring in these yarns myself and play a small part in supporting the yarn community in Singapore.
Thus, with the small experience I had from helping my Crochet Buddies order yarns over the years, I started to purchase yarn with my savings and started my journey.
On 12 March 2022, we will be hitting a milestone with our new Studio and physical store space. After 1.5 years, we have come a long way and I wish to share our journey, and to look back and reflect on all that we have done.
The beginnings: Purchasing, Stock-taking and the Unexpected Chaos
When I first started purchasing all the yarns, it was an exhilarating experience. Never once have I ever placed an order for so many yarns at once!
It was an interesting experience, negotiating and bargaining with manufacturers to urge them to give more discounts. The excitement was definitely there because I truly believed that I was about to do something exciting and beneficial for the community.
I decided to borrow one of the spare rooms at my full-time job (Very thankful to my boss for agreeing too!) and everything seemed to be off to a great start.
3 weeks later, the very first batch of stocks arrived. That's when I first realized that this wasn't going to be as easy as I imagined it to be. In my imagination, I thought it would be a simple pack and send process. But no! Look at all these stocks, how can we keep track of everything and how many of each we have?!
Thus, my boyfriend and I started sorting all the yarns and then temporarily fitting all of them into the spare room, which was still half filled with boxes of office documents. It was really cramped, but that was how we started. We had no packing boxes, just lots of plastic wraps from the manufacturers, so we just stacked everything and tried to number them as best as we could. At this point, we could not recognize the yarn colors and stock taking took ages for us.
All the yarns stuffed into the office room still cluttered with boxes of office documents.
Eventually, we hit our first problem: Yarns were missing! We contacted the manufacturer, who denied leaving them out. After 2 weeks of persistently contacting with the shipping company, the manufacturers and all other means of contact every single day, we finally found the missing bag of yarn!
Phew, crisis adverted, right on time before we launched!
Self Collections and Learning How to Be "Not Nice"
We finally launched the collection on 1 July 2020. Before the launch, we did many calculations. To date, I still have a giant spreadsheet calculating all the costs per skein and shipping costs and prices to set all the yarns at.
Despite the challenges, the launch was pretty successful. There were actually people purchasing!
My boyfriend and I started to pack all the orders. That was when we realized that things were actually much harder than we thought. Even though it was technically a pack and send process, it was sometimes very difficult to locate the right colors in that cramped little space we had. Another problem was that for tools like safety eyes, we had to physically pack them into sets of 10 pairs, so much counting to do!
Packing took way longer than we thought, and I had to apply for leave from work just to pack during the first few days because we had nothing ready. Oops!
Nevertheless, it was a fun process because, as all fellow crocheters and knitters will agree with, being surrounded by so much yarn is a happy thing and a dream of many too.
However, more problems started to come in. We received requests to walk in to see the colors and requests to pick up orders at all sorts of timings and locations.
I turned into a 24/7 customer service office, fulfilling requests and queries all the time. I was also delivering yarn at all hours, even on weekends. Visitors were coming, even on Sundays, and I obliged.
It got so out of hand that eventually, my schedule was all over the place and resulted in many appointments being late or sometimes even forgotten about. My day to day work was also in chaos, because collections were happening at all sorts of hours in the day.
It was also this time where a lot of stocks started running out and being ill prepared, yarns were all delayed at customs, leading crafters to have to keep on waiting.
It was bad, for me and for the crafters who wanted to get their yarns. I did this to try and benefit others, but at this point, I felt like I wasn't doing well, personally and with the yarn fulfillments themselves.
Eventually, I had to put my foot down. I had to narrow the self-collection days and locations and ensure that everyone stuck closely to the schedule. I had to learn to be "not nice", to reject those who wanted to collect at other locations and timings. I still gave in at times, but thankfully, most people still adhered to the changes and I am very thankful things got a little easier after that.
Changes and Growth
As we went into our 5th month of operating, we slowly made many changes along the way. In order to ensure that I kept my promise of ready stocks, I brought in more yarns (my wallet cried, but my heart was happy!) and we started to change the way we kept all the yarns slowly as well.
We tried to keep all the yarns in plastic wraps at first. Looks good when they're stuffed so full like this... but...
Things start to slide off slowly as we removed the yarns from the packages.
Eventually, in order to make it easier for people to walk in and see the colors, we bought additional shelves (there were more outside the room!) and cleared the room so we could use it. There were yarns everywhere!
By December, we were replacing the yarns from plastic packages to small boxes with lids, then finding it too hard to open when they are all stacked together, so we found boxes which could open from the side instead.
Then, came the big question: should we actually continue this at all?
Since the launch, my boyfriend and I were spending all of our free time after work and even weekends on packing and sorting orders. We were constantly packing and re-packing the shelves and there were many days where we stayed in office until after midnight just to keep everything in order.
But I did not want to give up on what I have started. It was meaningful to me and we had already learnt so much and come so far. There were fellow crafters telling me how much they appreciated what I was trying to do for them and for all the time taken to explain to them about the different yarns. I was also thankful that I could contribute to benefit others in a small way. I didn't want to give up.
So, in a last attempt to streamline this process, I decided that we could no longer use my office space anymore. Yarns were inside and outside the office, in the corridor. Yarns were about to take over my office!
We started looking at storage options. Eventually, we found an affordable option that I could cover and we moved.
Moving into the storage in December 2020 - all the yarns are still kept in boxes on the right which are hard to open, especially when you want the ones at the bottom.
2021: New beginnings and New Challenges
Moving into a proper small storage facility meant that we could now have a better system to find the yarns we needed to send. It was much more convenient and my boyfriend could drive us down to pack orders whenever we needed.
Bought more storage boxes and slowly unpacked all the yarns. Each box is 1-2 colors of a yarn and this is our full collection at peak!
We seemed to now be set for a good 2021, where we can stop spending so much time arranging stocks. Now all we have to do is put them into the boxes when they arrive and we will never lose track of them!
However, new challenges soon emerged. With the yarns now kept in a different location from where I live and where I worked, taking photos of the colors when requested became difficult. Sometimes it took days, especially when it slips my mind or when we choose not to go down (at this point, my boyfriend and I were seeking work life balance so we tried to only go down 3 times a week).
There were also issues like having to bring courier parcels all the way back to office again because we couldn't be around in storage when the courier comes for their pick up. This was ok, when my boyfriend could drive us to and fro, but on days when he was away, I had to do it myself. Once, in May 2021, when he went for reservist, I had to lug back more than 8kg of yarn by myself back to my house and then to office!
There were new challenges that we faced, even after moving into storage and we had to take time to figure out and solve all the problems. Eventually, things got better, as they always do, and we managed to push through and continue.
1 year later: Emerging Stronger
In the process of working with this collection, there have really been so many ups and downs. Up until this point, we have had many challenges that we overcame and many more challenges that we were about to face. However, despite all of this, I wanted to beat the odds and prove that providing affordable options is not impossible. It's possible, feasible and I will do my best to make it happen.
After we moved into storage, eventually there were many requests to view yarn colors again, so I started to toy with the idea of getting a proper physical location this time. Not a small office room, but an actual proper shop space. If we could find one within our budget, it was going to be worth a try.
We viewed many different options, from old buildings to shophouses and even factory spaces, but they many were either out of our budget or really out of the way.
Initially, I gave up on the idea and decided to hold on for awhile longer, but by coincidence, we found the perfect spot to try out our physical storefront. In May 2021, my boyfriend and I went to the Army Market to prepare for his reservist. While we were there, I noticed many empty shop units and got curious, so I searched up on it and realized, we could rent it! It was within our budget and relatively close to town and our workplace. The opportunity had finally knocked on our door for our next change.
Finally, in September 2021, we finally opened our new physical shop space at Golden Mile Food Centre. (For more behind the scenes of the move, you can check out this Youtube Video)
New Physical Store: September 2021
I was very excited to be back to meeting everyone in person again. After almost a year operating from our storage, we were back to spending most of our free time at the shop packing and repacking again. But as we hit our 1 year milestone on this small venture, we have learnt to manage everything much better than before.
Initially, I wondered if people would really be willing to come all the way down to purchase materials, especially since many things are now available online, but I was pleasantly surprised by everyone who came down and supported us. Even our neighbors were very supportive and started picking up crocheting and knitting after we opened. It was fun and we seemed to finally be in a good place to continue with what we had started.
Things were on track, we were able to provide yarns, give advice and learn from fellow crafters - everything was looking good now. We still had lots to do, but this was really a change for the better.
2022: Heading towards my vision, 1.5 years later
As we hit our 1.5 year milestone since I started this whole crazy journey (and dragged my boyfriend into this), it looks like we have finally found a good position to manage everything. I look back at all the things we went through and all the late nights we spent and despite how difficult and negative things could be, I still look at it very fondly and cannot believe that I did all of that.
Nevertheless, this was not our end point.
The craft community has always been very supportive to me in my past 8 years of crafting. It provided me with many opportunities to participate in a variety of experiences I would never otherwise be able to have. I participated in events, booths, charity projects and through crochet, have met many new people and friends along the way. I even got to know a wonderful group of Crochet Buddies, who I trust will always have my back when things get rough. Craft has brought us together to become close friends and our friendship transcends age, race, background.
I am thankful for the community and I think there will be many others who can come to benefit too, if we can become a space for the community to meet and bond.
However, being at Golden Mile Food Centre gave us limited space and opportunity to create such a space. The shop space was small and we could not do classes or meet-ups, especially with safe distancing guidelines to adhere to.
It was also not all smooth and easy at our shop as well. With no air-conditioning, it was stuffy and hot for both us and our visitors. It was so humid that our fan even broke down! Furthermore, there was no lift in the building, so goods had to be carried up the stairs. It was difficult and we sustained many physical injuries whilst carrying up the yarns.
Eventually, in January 2022, the last straw came when I started to experience severe pain in my lower back and numbness of my hands. It was so bad that I could not even grip a pen, much less crochet.
It was time for our next move - to a larger space down the road. Not only will it solve the problems we face, but I think it will also help us towards the goal of creating a space for the community that I love.
Cheers to New beginnings
On 12 March 2022, we will start operating at our new space. It is both scary and exciting for me. Exciting because I cannot wait to start moving towards our next goal, but also scary because of all the risks and unknowns that will come our way.
In our new space, we will continue to offer crafting materials as affordable as possible. We will strive to keep prices consistent even with the higher rental by working harder to keep moving towards our goals. The rental scares me, but I really don't want to deviate from my initial vision when I first started out: To offer affordable materials for the local craft community.
With a larger space, we will also be doing classes and small gatherings for crafters. There are many plans underway and I sincerely hope that everyone will be able to benefit and enjoy what we have created.
Moving forward, I'm sure we will continue to face challenges and difficulties, as we always have for the past 1.5 years. But I believe that we will be able to push through and continue working hard and bringing good yarns at affordable prices locally.
Thank you to all those who have supported us, cheered us on and gave us your kind understanding for the past 1.5 years.
Here's an even better crafting year ahead for all of us, cheers!!!!