Conversations on Passion: Emily Worden of eThreads
Conversations on Passion is an interview series with those who have found and are living their passions in some form. If you'd like to be profiled or know someone who would be a great fit, send me a note at email@example.com.
I met Emily at a workshop she gave on business marketing at Miranda's Hearth, and was immediately impressed. I had previously flipped through her book Make. Sell. Repeat., an awesome guide for starting businesses, and had been looking forward to learning more. With both a book and a custom bag shop, eThreads, Emily has a ton of experience in creating and living her passions.
Read on below to get the full story behind her journey from a DIYer to a full time businesswoman.
What is passion to you?
Passion wakes you up in the morning and keeps you working late into the night. Passion adds excitement to life and gives it meaning. Passion fuels you and makes you happy; it is fulfilling. Passion gives you purpose, drive, and focus. It is an opportunity to escape the daily humdrum of life; it is thrilling. Passion is the spark that leads you into new projects and down exciting paths.
What are you passionate about?
Learning new things. Exploring new ideas. Jumping into new projects. I’m also passionate about helping people, helping them be happier and more successful. Finally, I'm passionate about making things, creating. I'm very DIY and love making things with my hands.
How did you come to find your passion?
I've been making things all my life - I grew up crafting and sewing. I've always been a big reader too, so I’m always learning something new. Helping people to be more successful...that's relatively new, it's been developing the last few years. It really crystallized in 2013 when I decided to write Make. Sell. Repeat. and help creative people make money doing what they love.
How did your past influence and help you in creating eThreads and launching your book?
I started a custom clothing business in college and that was the first time I made money doing what I loved. The pay was terrible because I severely undercharged for my services, and that was a big lesson - the art of pricing. I also learned a lot about customer service and managing customer expectations.
Getting an MBA was also a pivotal time. Until then, I always considered myself an artsy, creative person and quite the opposite of a business professional. Getting the business degree helped build my confidence in the business realm - suddenly spreadsheets looked less scary and dare I say, fun? Plus, I was able to apply my school lessons to the business. I created an independent study just to work on my business plan for an entire semester - it was great. Finally, working on eThreads for the last 8 years, I learned a lot about running a successful business and I wanted to share that knowledge with other creative entrepreneurs.
How did your formal education impact your choices on how you incorporated your passions in your life?
I was an English major in college, but I wasn’t necessarily passionate about it. I wasn’t particularly passionate about getting an MBA either. It wasn’t until I combined the two - by starting a business and then writing a book about that process - that I realized my formal education helped clear the path for my passions. What a circuitous route.
What about launching your book are you most excited about?
I am so very excited to help people. I'm excited to apply all I've learned the through the years - crafting, writing, business - and use those skills to help others. I'd like to travel, speak at events, and meet creative entrepreneurs throughout the country.
How have your passions changed over time?
There hasn't been much radical change, just the gradual shift into writing and coaching. Since I was an English major in college, I was into writing then, but it didn't get really serious until 2013 when I started writing the book. In terms of coaching, that really started kicking off in 2013 too, as I met with more creative entrepreneurs and small business owners who needed direction. I found myself excited to wake up every morning and continue writing and meeting with business owners.
With everything that you’re working on, how did accomplish all of this at once?
My passions are all over the place. However, I do believe in having discipline and focus. There has to be a balance between passion and pragmatism. If we followed our passions all the time, we'd be raving gluttons! Following your passion is great, but you have to be strategic about it too, particularly if you want to turn your passion into a career.
I wasn’t always this disciplined. I used to be terrible with planning and time management. It changed in my mid-twenties when I was in grad school at night, working a full-time job and two part-time jobs, then decided to start eThreads on top of that. I had to learn time management pretty fast! I think you get more done when you have less time available. When your schedule is packed, you have to allocate your time in a strategic way, and it makes you more productive.
Focus is really important too. I’m all about SMART planning - Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely goals. This means looking ahead at 6 months, 1 year, and 3 years from now, deciding where you want to be at that time, then making specific plans to get there. SMART goals keep you disciplined and focused.
I have a favorite quote that sums it up perfectly: “Discipline is the difference between what you want now and what you want most.” It’s helpful to remember when you lose focus.
How has moving from crafting as a hobby to starting a business impacted your love for making?
Great question. Sometimes work gets tedious, and when your passion is your job sometimes your passion becomes tedious too. It becomes something you dread doing. When that happens, I have to balance my job with something I enjoy. For example, if I just spent two weeks straight working on eThreads orders, I have to switch over to a few days of "personal sewing" or working on some other personal crafty project. When I got sick of researching and writing the book, I'd take a break and read fiction for a few days. It's all about balance.
Were there times, looking back, that you realize you made mistakes while creating this business around your passion?
Oh gosh, that would definitely be Groupon. It was 2011, at the peak of the Groupon-craze, and I had all these daily deal companies approaching me to create an offer for eThreads. They all made it sound so glamorous - Guaranteed sales! Reach over 250,000 subscribers! Increase exposure and revenue! And I signed up for a dozen deals with various companies. This was definitely a case of passion blinding common sense. If I thought rationally and did the math, I’d have known this was a terrible idea for eThreads. By the time I realized it, we were three deals in and I still had signed contracts with nine other companies. We were making hundreds of bags a week, and I was losing money on every one. My employees were making money, but the business was going broke, and it took nearly two years to recover. Ugh. Now I shudder when I think about my stupidity and naiveté.
Are there are any tips you would give to others to help them in their search for passions?
Passion is tricky - sometimes it smacks you in the face, and sometimes it’s a lot more subtle. Passion isn’t always obvious either; sometimes it has to be rooted out and discovered.
Just think about your happy place - what do you daydream about? What do you spend your free time doing? What do you get the most excited about? Don’t feel pressure to discover your passion right away, it’s ok if you’re not sure where to go. Just experiment, try new things, and keep an open mind. Don’t be frustrated by the process, be excited about the journey.