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10/14/14

Irma of Prairie Blossom Boutique : Blog Interview

I am super thrilled to share a blog interview with the lovely Irma of Prairie Blossom Boutique today!!

When I first received her answers to the questionnaire I sent, it about knocked my socks off..
and this is the first interview she said she has done!
Really, really good.
I found her beautiful handmade products awhile back, and just adore them.
Actually I am wearing one of her hats, the newsboy one as I type this!!
Also just recently purchased one of her slouchy beanies (which I am obsessed with) and I have one of her cowls.
Cannot rave enough about her shop -- love the handmade, quality, excellent customer service, and beautiful product images!!
So naturally I was so happy when she graciously agreed to be a part of Boho Blogtober.
Without further ado, here is Irma!
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Hi, I’m Irma, 11th of 12 children, farmer’s wife, mamma to 2 boys and 2 girls. I love country living, gardening, fitness, healthy eating, coffee, family gatherings, and last but most important my Saviour. I was born in Costa Rica, Central America but moved to Canada at the age of 4 so this country is all I know. Raised on the prairies and married a farm boy 12 years ago. I dream of having fields of flowers, having a dairy cow so we can drink raw milk, make yogurt, butter, and cheese, 
and dream of having free range laying hens.

When did you learn to crochet, and were you self taught or how did you learn?

I taught myself how to crochet in fall of 2009 shortly after we found out we were expecting our fourth child. I was looking for an opportunity to be able to stay home and take care of our children while earning a little money to help with our finances at the time. I purchased a crocheting book in our local Chapters bookstore after my sister Rosie of Simply Rosie Photography 
suggested trying it.
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When did you make the transition from hobby to business, and how did that work for you?

After purchasing the crocheting book I spent a few months trying out different patterns and after coming up with one that I liked my sister Rosie took some pictures for me and I dove right in! I did no research beforehand which may seem like the wrong way to start a business but I was excited and ready to go for it! So with no experience in online selling I opened my Etsy shop on January 26, 2010 and listed my first few items right away. I sold my first hat a few weeks later on February 6. I was so excited I ran into our bedroom and woke hubby out of his sleep. He wasn’t very impressed at the time. Looking back now I think getting noticed on Etsy was much easier than it is now so I jumped in at a good time. My sales started pretty steady but not too busy for the first year which was perfect with a newborn to take care of and my oldest starting grade 1. In the summer of 2011 Etsy announced they were switching up how search works. Up to that point search results were based on the most recent items so it was a rat race to stay at the top! I was getting lost in the shuffle and feeling very close to calling it quits. Instead, after much prayer and seeking I decided to do all the research I needed in order to get my shop ready for the switch to relevancy. In August Etsy made the switch and within a day my sales were pouring in! All the research and preparation most definitely paid off. 
 Lesson learned, do your research.
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What is the most satisfying part of your business for you?

Seeing the finished product of something I have visualized in my mind fitting just the way I wanted it to is very satisfying! The process is not always without frustration but in the end it’s worth every unravelled project. The cherry on top is seeing that product on the cutest little customers.

Since you have a husband and children, what has helped you balance home life and being an entrepreneur?

Balancing home life and being an entrepreneur is an ongoing challenge. I don’t feel I have found the perfect balance and maybe when I do life will throw a curve ball. After an incredibly busy 2013 fall/holiday season I hit rock bottom. I was burnt out and ready to call it quits. I went through an amazing treatment with an incredible naturopath doctor in my town. Her therapy was amazing! During this time of recovery and reflection the Lord showed me that He wanted me to stop. I was worn out and exhausted. I was so consumed with making my business work that I put my family and my happiness on the back burner. I knew change had to happen and I was losing sight of the most important things in life. So this summer started off amazing. I was relaxed, taking time for the family and having me time. It was a therapeutic start to a summer full of exciting plans for the kids. In July our worlds were shattered when my mom went from being very healthy to being on her death bed in a matter of hours. She survived what was impossible through human eyes and is on a long road to recovery. The blissful balance I had found was extremely short lived and our summer turned into hospital visits day after day instead of spending time at our cabin and at the beach. Mom’s near death experience made all my struggles seem trivial and really helped me to refocus. Life is too short to allow material things to occupy every ounce of time and energy! We only have right now. I have a passion for what I do. I love crocheting and hope that the balance part of it will keep falling into place. I’m full swing into another busy season and I’m excited! Another thing I’m in the process of changing in order to help me find balance is to get help. I have a sister who is starting to make hats with me and I’m hoping to officially introduce her in the very near future!
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What is the best decision you have made for your business?

Although it’s very early in the game, I already know that hiring on help is the best decision I have made for my business. Instead of turning orders down and getting burnt out I will hopefully be able to keep turnaround times down, which means my customers will get the finished product in their hands faster. With help I’m also hoping to have more time to design. I have so many visuals in my mind and I would absolutely love to have some of them become product that I can offer to my customers. Venturing into fibres other than cotton has also been a great decision! I used to be scared of anything wool because to me wool was automatically itchy. Some of the wool fibres I have tried are absolutely amazing and luxuriously soft!
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How important is good product photography, and do you have any tips with this?

Good product photography is an absolute must for running an online business. In the sea of crochet hats on Etsy it is crucial to have eye catching images to draw customers in. With online shopping pictures and written descriptions are what customers have to base their decision on. I can’t stress enough how important pictures are. Beautiful images also reflect quality. I have always had a bit of an eye for photography so I do some of my own pictures but I still prefer having a professional photographer photograph most of my work. I am fortunate to have two sisters who are amazing photographers but I have also done trades with other photographers when I’m in need of something my sisters don’t specialize in. I have had the honour of working with Caralee Case Photography for newborn images. Her photography is beautiful and she captures newborns perfectly!
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What inspires you?

I find a lot of inspiration in clothing. I notice colour everywhere I go. This time of year I find a lot of inspiration in nature. 
 All the beautiful rich shades this time of year give me a craving to create cozy items. 
 My new line of slouchy hats is available in delicious fall colours.
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Do you have a favorite item to make, or materials you use?

I am in love with alpaca. I’m so in love with this fibre I keep telling my husband that we need to buy a few for our little farm. Not sure if I’ll win this one. It is probably the softest fibre I have worked with. I love making newborn bonnets, beanies, and earflaps because I know the little babies will be so cozy wearing them. Merino is another fibre I adore. The tweed slouchy hats are made with a merino and alpaca blend yarn. The solid coloured slouchy hats are 100% merino. Love them. I have also made some earflap hats with a cashmere blend yarn and am quickly falling in love.
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What has helped to build up a good following with your products?

You know I have never tried that hard to build a good following! I have always wanted to but it’s not a strong point for me. I’m shy and have a hard time approaching people to promote my product, even online. Facebook has become a difficult social media to gain a following so I’m focusing more on Instagram right now. I’m currently in the process of getting a few reps on Instagram to send people my way and I try to keep my feed interesting with some personal, farm, and nature pictures, not just product images. I see a lot of potential with Instagram so hopefully this will be a good place to build a following.
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What is your biggest piece of advice for a young entrepreneur just starting their handmade business?

Patience! Selling online can be very challenging and the way Etsy has grown since I started in 2010 I think it has become much harder to get noticed. I can only give advice for Etsy since that’s the only corner I have on the web. They are a great venue with built in traffic. They are good at adding new tools for sellers continually. So many good things have happened since I opened shop. If you’re considering opening shop on Etsy do your research (not like me). Learn about search in particular, what you need to do to have a chance at showing up in results. Pursue professional images. Pay yourself. Have excellent customer service. Make a quality product that will keep customers coming back. Always adapt. The online world never stops changing.


Thank you so much, Irma!!
Be sure to leave her some love in the comments below, 
and then go look through all the gorgeous products in her shop!!
 Keep them in mind as Christmas approaches. :)

happy Tuesday!!
~Hannah Elise
connect on

11 comments:

  1. LOVE this! And I was wondering when she said she was in Canada if there was a connection with simply rosie photography!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thanks so much, Irma, for sharing these words! Super inspiring and your work is beautiful :)

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