EP 127: Getting Lean For More Meaningful Growth With Textile Design Lab Founder Michelle Fifis

The Nitty Gritty

  • Why Michelle Fifis consolidated her offers into her membership program, the Textile Design Lab
  • The steps Michelle took to achieve greater profitability focusing on doing less and more meaningful growth
  • What parameters Michelle uses to decide whether a new marketing opportunity is worth pursuing–or just a time suck
  • The brand partnership Michelle has leveraged to increase her reach, get paid, and amp up her brand’s visibility
  • How Michelle’s team has evolved to support the focus she’s created in her business–and what her next steps are with hiring

Today, I’m catching up with Michelle Fifis for a special episode of What Works that we recorded live on Crowdcast.

Michelle is the creator of Pattern Observer, a blog all about surface design, and the founder of The Textile Design Lab, a community and education space for emerging and established surface designers.

After leaving her corporate textile design job in 2010, Michelle wanted to keep her momentum going, stay up with the trends and industry news and keep track of her inspiration and resources, so she created the blog Pattern Observer. Today, Michelle is a successful textile designer who has worked with such clients as Lucy Activewear, Columbia Sportswear, Jantzen Swimwear, Pendleton and P&B Textiles.

On her blog, she continues to write about business and textile design and her membership community, The Textile Design Lab, offers learning and networking opportunities to hundreds of designers worldwide.

Fewer moving pieces, more profit

Michelle and I focused our conversation on how she’s made her business more lean-and-mean over the last year–and increased profitability at the same time.

She said:

I am constantly trying to systematize what I am doing and then passing it off to someone on our team, which includes my teammate Chelsea and my husband Ken.

I have cut back on the amount of information that I am taking in with regards to marketing and business growth. I used to constantly try new things and really bought into the “you have to do x,y, or z to grow your business.” I am now very hesitant to start something new or add something to our business unless I can figure out a way for someone else in our team to manage it AND it is not going to affect our profitability.

Meaningful growth instead of a breakneck pace

It can be so tempting to pursue growth at the expense of your life, health, and bottom line. Michelle took a hard look at how she’d been growing her business over the years and decided to make some changes. She said:

I am over this focus on super fast business growth. When my business was very young, it would double every year, so I got into this mindset that I needed to continue to grow at that rate. But that level of growth became stressful and I was investing so much money in future growth that my profitability was becoming lower and lower. Since pausing on my extreme growth plan I am happier, less stressful and more profitable than ever! And still growing at a healthy rate!

Listen to the full episode to learn more about how Michelle Fifis has streamlined her business to make more money.

By Tara McMullin

Writer, Podcaster, Producer. Founder of What Works.

Apr 19, 2018

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EP 299: How To Design Your Own Sales System

This week, I’ve got 4 more stories to share with you from small business owners who have intentionally done things their own way when it comes to sales and selling. They’ve found what truly works for them–even if it bucks the prevailing wisdom or would make a bro marketing expert role his or her eyes.

These stories come from business coach Ashley Gartland, marketing expert Amy Lippmann, designer Mel Richards, and work reinvention coach Lydia Lee.

Listen for how they incorporated these same considerations into finding their own unique sales systems. They designed their systems with personal values, strong relationships, reduced anxiety, and agency in mind.

EP 298: Creating A Less Harmful Sales System with Wanderwell Founder Kate Strathmann

This show is called What Works for a reason.

Sometimes it’s a declaration: this is what worked for this small business. And often, it’s a question, “What works?”

Today’s episode is very much a question, many questions, really:

What works when it comes to selling when you want to avoid manipulative or exploitative practices?

What works when your values conflict with many of the best practices of selling online but you still want people to buy your stuff?

What works when it comes to sales in a business that is actively anti-racist and anti-capitalist?

And even more bluntly: Can you even sell things without causing harm or perpetuating harmful systems?

My friend Kate Strathmann is the founder of Wanderwell, a bookkeeping and consulting firm that grows thriving businesses while investigating new models for being in business.

Recently, Kate took a bit of a detour from how she’s used to building her business, which is 90% referral based and fueled by deep relationship- and community-building. She decided to offer a small group program called the Equitable Business Incubator as a way of exploring anti-capitalist business practices and how they apply to the small businesses we’re building.

To fill the program, Kate need to sell differently.

Which led her to asking the question: Can you even sell things as a anti-capitalist?

While that might not be your specific question, I have a feeling that you too have wondering how you can effectively sell your offers without causing harm, perpetuating harmful systems, or damaging relationships. And that’s why I knew Kate and I needed to explore this topic on the show.

This is a conversation about what a kinder, less harmful sales process could look like—and it probably contains more questions than answers. But I’m confident those questions can help you find the answers that are right for you and the sales system that you want to build to make your business stronger.

We start out by defining what we’re really talking about when we talk about capitalism and anti-capitalism. Then, Kate shares how the Equitable Business Incubator came to be and how she ended up selling it. And then we dig into what makes many of the sales formulas and best practices being taught today problematic—and how to think differently to create your own alternative practices.

Now, let’s take a look at what works for creating less harmful sales systems!

EP 297: Selling A New Program With Proof To Product Founder Katie Hunt

Today’s guest is Katie Hunt—who is a member of the former group and serves the latter group.

Katie is the founder of Proof To Product, which helps creative entrepreneurs run and grow thriving product-based businesses. She works with designers, illustrators, and artists to help them develop in-demand product lines and get them sold in stores all over the world.

Not long after the pandemic threw her business and the industry she serves for a major loop, Katie and her team launched Proof To Product Labs to provide a completely digital, ongoing support opportunity for business owners when they needed it most.

And that launch was a smash.

Katie and I get into all of the nuts and bolts of how she adjusted the offer to meet the moment and how she warmed up her audience before the campaign, as well as the exact mix of emails, podcast ads, and social media content she used to sell the offer when it went live. We also talk about how she sees the sales system evolving in the future and how the offer has been received now that people are using it!

What Works offers in-depth, well-researched content that strips away the hype of the 21st-century economy. Whether you love the podcast, the articles, or the Instagram content, we’d love your support