Spinning up a business: Cardigang founders share their side hustle yarn

From an idea born in the boredom of lockdown, the two founders of Melbourne-based Cardigang have taken their innovative ‘knit kits’ to the world.

Learnings from launching Cardigang:

  • Prepare for growth – it can happen unexpectedly, so prepare for progress no matter what and you can’t be caught off guard.
  • Shared values lighten the load – simplify communication by working with someone who understands your perspective.
  • Consider an idea you enjoy and run with it – develop a side hustle that doesn’t feel like work. 
Two women laughing

Fed up with baking sourdough during Melbourne’s lockdown in early 2020, Cat Bloxsom and Morgan Collins wanted a new fun way to stay connected.

After warming up to the idea of knitting, an unexpected pattern emerged when the pair tried sourcing material.

“When we started knitting, we found it really hard to find anything local, and there was nowhere that had chunky Australian Merino,” says Cat.

“We thought if we're having these troubles someone else must as well,” Morgan adds.

And this is where the concept of a DIY knit kit unfolded. From there they stitched the idea of Cardigang together: a kit designed for knitting novices.

"We give our customers all the gear they need to knit themselves a masterpiece." - Cat Bloxsom 

According to Morgan, the pair of newbie knitters were their own perfect target market.

“As two beginner knitters ourselves, we wanted to make sure that every pattern we put out is something a beginner can master.”

And this is where the concept of a DIY knit kit unfolded. From there they stitched the idea of Cardigang together: a kit designed for knitting novices.

A woman touching folded piles of colourful knitted wool

Hidden benefits of a close-knit community

Finding fresh businesses online can be like finding a needle in a haystack, and Cat says Cardigang was no exception.

“We didn't have a lot of money when we launched the business, so we knew how important something like Instagram would be.”

The pair managed to quickly grow an online following by leveraging their innate eye for aesthetics, brand marketing and PR.

As a result, Cardigang has enjoyed a strong relationship with a growing audience since launch.

“People with quite large followings organically found us and the word spread from there. It helped us grow the brand a lot quicker than we could have otherwise,” Cat says.

For such a fun and colourful product, social media was an ideal way to develop brand awareness – but it also provided something the pair hadn’t anticipated.

“We weren’t expecting customers to share so much about the benefits of knitting with us,” Morgan says. “They've been so open about the experience of learning a new skill and the mindfulness benefits they've experienced.”

Cat thinks it’s the perfect antidote to an increasingly tech-focused world.

“We spend our lives attached to screens, and this is such a great way to disconnect.”

"There've been amazing benefits for our customers that we didn't quite expect, and it's been amazing that they’re so willing to share with us" - Morgan Collins

A stitch in time: Managing growth in a woolly business

Morgan and Cat still work full-time in marketing, so reducing hours spent on side hustle admin was a priority from Day One.

The two friends had started out investing a modest amount of their own savings and planned to bootstrap any growth from there. What they hadn’t been fully prepared for was just how popular they would become.

A year since launch and Cardigang has already sold 4,000 knit kits (which works out to around 1.2 million metres of Australia Merino yarn!) worldwide.

“As an eCommerce business, we ship worldwide,” says Cat. “We focus most of our efforts on Australia and NZ at the moment, but we have customers all over the world – in our first week we received orders from people from the USA and Portugal - it’s very surreal.”

But that success brought new challenges. The pair were now faced with mounting orders and needed to keep track of sales data, inventory and supplier relationships.

“We were using spreadsheets and that wasn't working too well for us,” Morgan says. “So, we started using MYOB to track our expenses.”

Cat reckons it’s the time management tool they’d always been looking for.

“It takes the stress away so we can focus on the stuff we love doing: growing our brand and creating new patterns, instead of spending hours reconciling our accounts.”

Two women looking at folded piles of colourful wool, backs to the camera

"MYOB has allowed us to have a really clear view of the health of our business, particularly at the rate we're growing." - Cat Bloxsom

A series of clipboards with photos of women in cardigans on them

Seamless business integrations a must-have for eCommerce

Another operational challenge for any growing business is the sheer amount of technology you encounter. 

For Cat and Morgan, they recognised this was something they had to get right early on if they were to maintain an efficient business online. 

“If I think about the solutions that're important to our business? It's Instagram, it's Shopify, and it's MYOB,” Morgan says. 

The pair particularly enjoy the way Shopify works with MYOB to maintain a clear record of transactions via their website. 

“Our sales are automatically recorded from Shopify to our accounts in MYOB, which makes it really easy to see incomings and outgoings,” Morgan says. “It makes our life a dream when it comes to tax time.”

Cat also finds it streamlines planning for the future.  

“We’ve found the reports really important when it comes to forecasting.”

"Our business is growing quickly so being able to model out what it could look like when it comes to inventory management is a big help." - Cat Bloxsom

Knitty gritty pointers for startups 

Having made a name for themselves with a concept they love, Cat and Morgan remind budding business owners that side hustles can develop from unexpected beginnings. 

“My tip would be to just give it a go,” Cat says. “If you've got an idea, explore it, and create opportunities for yourself. 

“We've always known that we wanted to start a business, but we never thought it’d be knitting.”

Morgan also emphasises the importance of listening to your customers when it comes to startup success. 

“The greatest lesson for us has been to listen to our customers. 

“Every success we've seen in the business has been based off what our customers have told us.” 

Two women holding balls of yarn

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