Gist Yarn was founded in 2017 by Sarah Resnick, who took her hobby and found a business opportunity adjacent to what she loved. An avid weaver who started knitting at the tender age of seven, Resnick eventually discovered that textile mills had access to beautiful quality materials that individual weavers did not, and she wanted to bridge that gap. Weaving is a niche interest, and so Resnick found that e-commerce would be the best way to reach small weaving communities across the world. In the first few years, the company’s revenues doubled year over year.
While niche audiences may not be large in number, they can be strong in support. Resnick was able to benefit from the strength of the support of her community to expand her product line with no upfront capital, through inviting their customers to pre-order their products six or seven months ahead of time. This allowed her to develop new products and offer more variety to her customers without any capital risk.
Resnick focuses on organic growth through serving the weaving community with valuable resources. “As much as possible, we're trying to use our content to grow now,” she says. The content feeds into growing their email lists. Below is a screenshot that shows Gist Yarn’s keyword search traffic for May 2022 being 100% organic. (Source: Similarweb)
Gist Yarn’s story is a model of how to grow a small business with limited resources. Let’s take a look at what worked well for them, and what other small businesses can learn.
Build a presence on platforms frequented by your audiences.
As a community-oriented business, it stands to reason that the second largest marketing channel for Gist is social (9.69%).
Pinterest has long been the go-to social media platform for creative inspiration, and is a platform that weavers would frequent to find ideas and tips for their next creative project. Gist had invested in paid ads on Pinterest in the early stages, and although paid promotion is no longer a focus, they are still seeing organic traffic from Pinterest. In May 2022, all of their social media traffic came from Pinterest. (Source: Similarweb)
Offer valuable resources to your site visitors as a lead magnet.
How does the company manage to lure casual Pinterest browsers to their website? They created guides and free resources, which they used as lead magnets to collect first party data on their website.
As Gist is a small team - in September 2021 they were a team of five - they don’t have a luxury of resources to work with. As such, every action they take is intentional and focused on bringing the most effective results possible at the lowest cost. This shows in their marketing funnel, where they have streamlined their efforts to one specific method of lead generation - namely, capturing traffic from Pinterest and Google search (which they have identified as their main traffic sources, and collecting first party data on their website using lead magnets.
“[W]e worked a lot with driving Pinterest traffic, building out lead magnets that would get people over to our website, learning about email marketing and email marketing automation,” says Resnick in an interview.
“…we worked a lot with driving Pinterest traffic, building out lead magnets that would get people over to our website, learning about email marketing and email marketing automation.” - Sarah Resnick, Founder of Gist Yarn
The most successful lead magnets on their website have been patterns, and resources about weaving. This information helps the team to plan the direction of their future content creation.
Below is a screenshot of the form that pops up when a visitor lands on the website, which collects an email address in exchange for weaving patterns. Additionally, they ask for more detailed information on their audience such as the specific type of weaving they are interested in, as well as their birthday. These additional questions allow Gist to know their audience better, and also help their site visitors feel a stronger sense of being part of a community.
Grow a community around your shared interests for long term benefits.
There are many ways that businesses can reach out to wider audiences; Gist Yarn has chosen to do this through podcasts. Aptly titled ‘Weave’, its roster sees a variety of people from the weaving community, from farmers and mill owners to textile artists and loom manufacturers. This podcast is a huge part of their community building strategy, and is promoted right alongside their shop on their Facebook and Instagram pages.
Though their upload schedule is not consistent - sometimes twice a month, sometimes once every two months - they have built a repository of 154 episodes, and accumulated a 4.6 star rating based on 135 reviews on Apple Podcasts.
Their listenership will only increase, because these episodes continue to live on the internet in perpetuity as a form of content marketing for the business. With podcasts seeing immense popularity these days, there would certainly be a demand in the right communities for podcasts on their topics of interest. Relevant audience members searching for terms like “weaving podcast” see Gist Yarn’s website up top - a success for the company’s organic SEO. You can see this in the screenshot below.
Audiences can also find the podcasts in another way - through communities. For example, followers of individual personalities may be curious to listen to podcasts they have been on. The guests also sometimes help to promote the podcast by posting about them on their own websites, such as these guests. In this way, podcast guests’ communities can also become aware of Gist and, if relevant, become their customers.
Below is a screenshot with their latest interviewee Melanie Fallick, an author with a following of her own; the first result is the Weave podcast on Apple Podcasts.
Though Gist is unable to bring traffic to their site through their content on other platforms like Apple Podcasts, they benefit from greater exposure of their podcast to a wider audience. They also link their own website in the podcast under ‘Show notes’ for audiences who want more information.
By creating this podcast, Gist has found an avenue for content marketing that is very much focused on the weaving community. As the community grows, so too will their audience, and eventually, their customer base.
There is value in niches, and Gist Yarn has certainly managed to turn its niche into a successful small business; one which is able to create an environment that its employees are excited to work in. By creating a strong community around their interests and providing value to the community, Gist has been able to carve out its own corner of the yarn consumer market.