Hanna Lisa Haferkamp is a mega-inspiring creative entrepreneur of many talents. Not only does she offer business coaching services for knitwear designers and other fiber artists, she also co-owns a knitwear design publishing company called Making Stories, makes and sells project bags for knitters, and recently started her own foray into knitwear design! If you haven’t yet heard of Hanna Lisa and are struggling with starting up your own creative business, her blog and Patreon page are both great places to check out for inspiration and ideas. Based in Berlin, Hanna Lisa is super passionate about helping other small fiber business owners succeed, so I was thrilled when she agreed to be interviewed on this Maker Spotlight feature!
Hanna Lisa has also graciously offered a 15% discount off all of her project bags and patterns at HLH designs up to May 31, 11:59 pm CEST! Just use the code WOOLYVENTURES15 at the checkout.
1. What was the “tipping point” that led you to venture out and start working for yourself?
About three years ago I became increasingly unhappy in my previous role. I was COO for a medium-sized company based here in Berlin, and I just felt I had to fight for my values and what I believed in every single day of the week. After a trip to Iceland with my partner, I realized that something needed to change – and as it wasn’t very likely that the company or the climate I was working in would change, I started thinking about leaving. And as it sometimes is, all of a sudden things started to speed up: After addressing my thoughts about change and leaving, I ended up in a terrible settlement negotiation and packed my things about one and a half months after coming back from Iceland.
I felt terrible, I’m not going to lie. All of a sudden that work I had loved so much and that had been such a huge part of my identity was gone. I decided to take a year to figure out what I wanted to do with my life. The majority of that year felt as if I was going through really thick fog. I had no idea where I was going, I could only see one step ahead, and I just had to trust that I was going to come out the other side eventually. I started out doing freelance consulting for start-ups in all sorts of areas – strategy, Marketing, sales, you name it – and in parallel, I became more and more active on Instagram in the knitting community.
Over time, I realized I really wanted to do something with my hands, so I started sewing project bags. I’d always wanted a shop, so it was a natural progression for me to start selling them on Etsy. And then one thing led to another: I figured out that I’d rather spend my time and energy helping other small business owners be successful than big companies. I realized that the experiences I made with my own creative business were super helpful in helping others. And over time, the puzzle pieces started to fall into place to create what I do now: A few creative businesses of my own (project bags, publishing & soon knitwear design) that fuel my coaching practice.
2. I heard that you recently started designing knitwear. Tell us more!
I did indeed! Whereas my project bag label used to be my creative outlet for the past 2+ years, it’s gradually become unsustainable for me to sew all my project bags myself. I also started to lose the joy in making them – probably because I made so many! A few months ago, I felt as if I desperately needed another area for my creativity to explore, something that didn’t have anything to do with my existing businesses.
I’d always said that I never wanted to design knitwear, but then a wonderful Quince & Co. kit from my friend Chloe Benjamin’s novel launch fell into my hands and I just had to try and design something for it. Initially only for myself, and then I realized I really, really liked the process of designing: Creativity combined with maths, yay!
I still don’t have any revenue-related expectations for my knitwear design. I’m hoping I can use my perspective on the market to drive about change in areas that really need it – think pricing of knitting patterns
for example – and I also think it will be super useful to have this hands on experience to draw from in my coaching!
4. What is the biggest challenge you face in working for yourself?
Oh, good question. I’d say probably the lack of distance to your businesses. I find it easy to look at someone else’s business and see what might need to change, but that’s impossible for me to do with my own ones. I’m lucky in that I have a partner who talks things through with me, and occasionally I will discuss specific problems and challenges with friends who also have creative businesses, but I would really like to be able to see my own businesses from the outside every once in a while.
5. What is your greatest joy in working for yourself?
Everything! Well, almost – but jokes aside, I really love the freedom and flexibility it gives me. I am my own boss. I don’t have to deal with office politics (something I’ve loathed), I can choose how I spend my time and whom I want to hire and how much I want to pay them, I can choose when and where to work from and with whom.
6. What is your best piece of advice for a knitwear designer (or similar creative business owner) trying to get started in the industry?
I’d say spend time building up relationships – genuine, authentic relationships – with like-hearted people. Not because that’s good for your business, but because the joy in being active in a market like ours are the connections and collaborations you can create with people. It’s growing together, and to do that you need to become friends.
7. You sew and sell project bags, co-run a publishing company for knitwear designs, have a Youtube podcast, are a creative boss consultant, and recently started designing knitwear! Do you find it difficult to manage so many different projects at the same time?
Yes and no. In my day to day work, I am extremely organised and well-structured. I love planning and I can easily grasp what needs to get done for something. Where it gets tricky is deciding how much time to spend on what. Does it make more sense to invest 10 hours this week into Making Stories
work or into marketing my Patreon
? Should I focus on promoting my new challenge this month or my new project bag collection?
I have to admit that I sometimes ask myself whether I’d be more successful or less stressed if I had less projects. But then I remember that I enjoy working on multiple things at the same time and that I think I would get so easily bored had I only one of them!
8. When you’re not running the many aspects of your business, what do you like to do in your spare time?
Knit! And read. I read tons of books – both fiction and non-fiction – and I absolutely love it. I’m also trying to make it a priority this year to spend time with friends and family as this has fallen a bit off the wayside in the last two years of starting my own businesses. Not very exciting things, but then again: my ideal night out is cuddled up on the sofa next to my guy with a good knitting project, a movie and homemade popcorn, so yeah.
9. I noticed on a recent blog post of yours that you have started doing “Untouchable Days” (a full day with no meetings, no emails, and no phone for social media purposes). I love that concept! What’s your perspective on the necessity of using social media for your business?
From my perspective, social media is the necessary evil of running your own small business. I don’t think it’s realistic to be successful right now without having a well-managed and active social media presence if what you’re doing is mostly selling online. Which means yes, you need to be active on social media as a business owner. BUT. You also need to manage it so that it doesn’t destroy your life. Instagram is highly addictive (anyone else needing to force themselves to go to the bathroom without their phone?) and that gets only worse when you feel the pressure of needing it as your main sales or marketing channel.
I’ve definitely noticed negative side-effects of social media in myself: Feeling not good enough because other people are seemingly more successful on the grid. Not being present in the moment because I’m thinking how I could use this coffee chat / knit night / beautiful walk to feed my Instagram content. Losing sometimes literal hours when scrolling through Instagram Stories.
Untouchable Days – days where I’m not on Instagram – are one part of a solution I’m currently trying. Another is to plan out content ahead and use apps to schedule and auto-post. A third one is to try and realise every time you open the app that you are actually opening the app. Sounds weird, but it actually helps in understanding how much of a time suck Instagram can be!
10. What’s in the future for Hanna Lisa Haferkamp? Any exciting designs, collaborations or announcements that you can share with us?
I’m at a point with my businesses where I desperately need to add more people and processes to them. I don’t want my businesses to only depend on me anymore, so I will start hiring more in the near future!
I’m also planning my first knitwear design releases (socks, anyone?) for later in May. (Blog update: Hanna has just released her first sock pattern, the Kuopio socks, here!)
Oh, and last, but not least, the Get Shit Done Challenge
is back! It starts on May 28 and I can’t wait to see what everyone else is creating this time around.
All photos shown are courtesy of and credited to Hanna Lisa Haferkamp.
Thank you so much Hanna! You can find Hanna around the web and on social media at the links below:
Don’t forget to use the code WOOLYVENTURES15 to get a 15% discount off of all of Hanna Lisa’s beautiful project bags and patterns at HLH designs up to May 31, 11:59 pm CEST!