Meet Sally Wilson, founder of Caterpillar Cross Stitch

Founded in 2015, Caterpillar Cross Stitch is dedicated to helping others find joy in cross stitch by creating a welcoming and inclusive community. Sharing beautifully designed cross stitch products, they have a modern approach that always strives to make a positive impact in the world.

caterpillar cross stitch

Tell us about the business, how did it start?

I founded Caterpillar Cross Stitch in November 2015 while on maternity leave from my previous career as an employment attorney. After 8 years in law, I longed for a career where I was in control, happy to work flexibly and on my own terms, could express myself creatively and where the possibilities were limitless. I had a passion for art and graphic design from a young age, later I studied fashion design and photography after work in the evenings.

I saw a gap in the market for a modern day cross stitch brand that would create unique contemporary designs, produce kits of the highest quality and build a community via social media with a focus on Facebook groups and YouTube channels, something the competition was not doing. I decided to take an e-commerce course (My Wife Quit Her Job by Steve Chou) while my baby was napping in the afternoon, and within a year I had the site up and running. We genuinely listen to the community and value great customer service. We now sell to over 30 countries and stock our products at retailers in the UK, Canada, Europe and New Zealand. One of the most exciting collaborations was working with the National Trust, somewhere I grew up ticking off objects we visited in the little guidebooks they gave members!

We host over 30 Stitching Social Events annually for our large community of stitchers (there are now 4 hosts all working remotely which means we can host events and classes for everyone regardless of their location). I design embroidery projects 3 times a year where thousands of cross stitchers are creating the same piece at the same time, a really great way to embroidery in a group, make friends and get tips and support (especially helpful for beginners!).

In 2021, I launched the Caterpillar Club subscription box, which saw tremendous growth from 250 subscribers to nearly 1,200 just a year later. We partner with leading artists worldwide to collaborate on the themed boxes that ship every two months. I’ve just finished my first book Jump Into Cross Stitch, available for pre-order now on Amazon (released June 2022), which includes 6 starter designs to help complete beginners or kids discover cross stitch too!

What challenges have you encountered?

When it came to Caterpillar Cross Stitch, I had to overcome many challenges – some practical and some mental. It takes courage to leave a valued profession behind and to take a leap of faith, but also to take the financial risk. There were mistakes, but I kept my head and believe that if you take your time and think practically, there is always a way through any situation. It was difficult to build an audience from scratch, grappling with competitors, copycats and supplier issues. Most days are just problem solving! There were times when I wanted to give up, but I knew I had to keep going.

Building a team was challenging – finding the right people for the right roles, training and developing people. It was hard to give up control and develop systems and processes so I could move into a visionary/CEO role rather than an operational one. Moving to our first offices in 2020 and meeting increased demand during lockdown while homeschooling has been really difficult on a practical level; Take care of two small children, build furniture and process huge crates of supplies! I worked until 2am, ate coffee, and did school most days, but I wouldn’t change a thing. It can be frustrating trying to do everything when I have many responsibilities to juggle, but I try to prioritize, work efficiently and set realistic expectations. I am impatient by nature but I was only able to create by keeping profits in the business after a few years in e-commerce and investing in this technology and development.

What can we hope for the future of the business?

On May 6th, 2022 I am launching, a SaaS product after working on this innovative idea for over 2 years! Love It Stitch It is a web-hosted cross-stitch design platform where visitors can use the beginner-friendly software to easily create their own cross-stitch patterns, add text or images, and turn photos, artwork, or graphics into a pattern. It has all the exciting features a cross stitcher could ever want, but presented in a really clean, user-friendly format that’s accessible to everyone. We’ve worked with some incredible developers at Steadfast Collective who were recommended to me by Holly Tucker (founder of Not On The High Street) when we were chatting at an event a few years ago.

We’ve also developed a dedicated Cross Stitch Marketplace where users can upload and sell the digital designs they create or simply shop from thousands of carefully curated, high quality patterns from well known established or brand new designers. After 6 years in the industry growing communities and listening to feedback I’ve noticed a gap in the market. There was a real demand from customers for custom designs and for an accessible tool that would allow them to design and benefit from additional revenue from sales. We already have the audience and marketing strategy, so we’re best placed to bring this service to the sewing world!
Love It Stitch It operates on a subscription model and commissions from sales, although we are very clear and do not charge any listing fees or additional hidden costs. All designs are quality checked prior to release to ensure the marketplace is filled with the most amazing patterns. The market will only focus on cross stitch and will not be oversaturated, allowing designers to easily discover their creations. We offer tutorial videos, support and help from the customer service team with additional features and benefits for subscribers.

Alongside Love It Stitch It, we are also releasing a cross stitch planner and Christmas advent calendar later in 2022. Our goal is to partner with John Lewis, Liberty, Anthropologie and expand our reach in the US with collections at major craft stores like Joanns. Meet Sally Wilson, founder of Caterpillar Cross Stitch

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