Sweet Red Poppy is a blog and website dedicated to inspiring others to live a colorful and creative lifestyle. Founder Kimberly (Kim) Coffin and co-founder and husband Josh are a couple dedicated to utilizing ways to help others learn the art of crafting, sewing and Cricut. Josh speaks about Kim’s journey getting started, how they grew a hobby into a successful business, what attendees can expect to take away from their Creativation+ sessions, and much more.
In 2016 while I was working in the tech industry, Kim decided to take a step back and be a stay at home mom of three little ones all under the age of three — which was a lot of work, to say the least. We were very grateful for all that time she dedicated to the kids — but she needed a creative outlet. It was just so much work as a mom; I was a hands-on dad as well, but I was very busy working, so it was hard for her to have that outlet. She's always been a seamstress, a soloist and a crafter. She learned to sew when she was really young from her grandma and her mother. She started doing pattern reviews and created a website called the Red Poppy Calm. It was a hobby blog that was more about testing patterns (her minor in college was actually clothing construction). She learned to do high-level patterns, drafting some trial and error on a lot of different types of clothing. So between being raised sewing as a kid, a teenager and then also taking part of that in college, that's where her background comes from.
As she started making some of these patterns, she was also sort of a self-taught photographer. When she learned how to take professional photos, she taught me how to take photos of her and the mistakes that she was making. She did a lot of women and children's clothing, that was her focus. So we would take photos of her and blog about the steps, tutorials and “how-to” or tips and tricks, etc. And that's how she got started.
Then, slowly but surely, she reached out to certain brands and started to partner for a few hundred here and there and learning that she could actually make a little bit of money in this blogging world. So she started to get her website up and running. Then she was actually moved to Utah, which was a huge catalyst to our business. Salt Lake City, Utah is very much a crafting hub. There are a lot of crafting companies here, a lot of crafting stores, it's just very much a crafting center. We met this company called Cricut, which was really big for us. Kim helped bring a bunch of bloggers into this campaign for Cricut and realized that some bloggers were charging $4,000 for a blog post and some were charging $40. And she was like, “I don't understand how that's possible. How do we have the same campaign?” She would go to all of them and ask, “How are you doing this?” They explained blogging to her, “I've monetized my blog,” “I have this big of a social media following,” “I have this many eyeballs on my content.”
You know, modern-day eyeballs are really what it’s about, instead of billboards and TV, it's now ads on websites and ads on social media shares. And so she went right to work. A self-taught coder, she went into the website, she learned SEO on her own, took a couple courses, learned how to monetize her blog, asking questions like, “How many views do I need? What is the criteria to monetize a blog where I can have ads placed and make money off those ads?” And she learned how to do that.
In the meantime, she learned all about Cricut and sewing machines — it's almost like two different categories, sewing and Cricut — and did as many DIY tutorials as you can possibly think of, constantly. In the meantime, I was still working in tech, and she still was a mother of three. But she was so dedicated that she'd get up at five in the morning to blog and write and craft until 8 a.m. Then the kids would get up. Then during naptime, she’d do more blogging and crafting and selling. And then the kids go to bed at seven or eight at night and she'd stay up until midnight or one in the morning crafting. So she was just ‘round the clock, finding time as a mother. I was always dumbfounded by her — so dedicated.
I knew about influencers, but I didn't really understand how they made money. The value that you put out for people — free content, free downloads, free patterns, free tutorials — then will allow you to make money back with ads and sponsored content. Since then, we've started partnering and making affiliate sales; some companies would offer a cut of sales on certain products, which was awesome.
In 2018, we were kind of balancing both worlds. The kids were getting a little bit older and we got a nanny so she could finally have some dedicated time to work, which was long overdue for her. The pandemic hit in March of 2019, and she started growing every social channel that she could —YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, TikTok. And that's what she's focused on, making sure that she's got stuff everywhere.
Another key point during 2018 was she got really good at video. So not only is she a self-taught photographer, but also a self-taught videographer. She took courses on lighting, she took courses on colors, etc. Her brand is very bright and rainbow, if you will. And what really sets her apart from everybody else was her videography. She basically had two types of videos: one is a tutorial-style YouTube kind of video, where she's talking and showing you how to make something. The other one's more of an overhead style of just her hands; sort of like those five-minute craft videos that you see out there with maybe some overlay text, steps and cool music. Or maybe it’s a holiday-themed video. Her overhead videos did really well for some of these brands.
In 2019 when the pandemic hit, doctors and nurses were out of the PPE masks. There were literally nurses and doctors using trash bags to cover their faces. I cannot believe we didn't have face masks out to all of our people that are hard workers on the front line risking their lives. And so obviously, everyone was devastated by that news. Immediately, Kim was bombarded by thousands, literally thousands of requests: “Kim, we’ve got to do something, you're so talented. Can you put out some sort of a pattern for face masks? Can you do anything to help all of us makers across the country and around the world do something to make something to help with this crazy time?”
To be honest with you, at first, she got a lot of pushback because a lot of people were saying, “It's not an N95, it's not approved.” She got a lot of haters because she wanted to use homemade, cotton masks to help out those doctors and nurses and all the frontline people. But she pushed through that negativity and said, they're using trash bags. If they're using that, they can use handmade cotton, and different material type of masks. And I'll never forget this: she spent 72 hours straight the second week of March and didn't go to sleep for three nights. She was up for 72 hours. I remember this because she came to me after designing this pattern. She basically handed me the PDF paper and she goes, “Can you email this out to everybody?” And then she went to sleep. And I said I would put it on the website for free and tell everybody I possibly can. And within two weeks, we had over a million downloads of that pattern--a million, from all over the world, not just the U.S. It was amazing.
We started a Facebook group, and within a couple of weeks had 10,000 people in the group. They were asking questions just about mask-making. And that was just her first pattern. She went on to make nine other facemask pattern variations. There's the 3D, the surgical, there's the different types of ear ties and case-ins. And all these different styles make it easier to read, are closer or farther away from your face, depending on the design. There’s even one that has a clear window so that teachers who help kids with special needs can read their lips. It’s incredible that over the span of about two months she put out 10 different, free facemask patterns on our website with millions of downloads. She grew an audience that she didn't really have before.
Truly, that audience size was part of the digital pivot that we're all home and not sure what to do. People were saying, “I can't really go to events anymore. I can't go talk to brands and vendors. How do I pivot my business? What do I do?” And she said, “I'm going to do stuff digitally. Not just social media, but I'm going to try and add value to people’s lives. I'm going to try and sell my own products that add value because I have so many things that are free on my website. I'm grateful for that ad revenue and to deliver value to people for free, but I have a lot more I can give and that I can package in different ways that can be of benefit to people.” And it was through education.
During the pandemic when everyone was in quarantine in May, June and July, she wrote and filmed her own “how-to” sewing course, because tens of thousands of people bought sewing machines because they wanted to make masks at home. You couldn't even buy a sewing machine in May or June; they weren't even on the shelves. They were sold out for maybe eight weeks on Amazon. She had all these people come to her and say things like, “I love making your masks, you made the tutorial so easy to understand. But I want to make more things, too. I don't want to just make masks.” So she decided to put a course together where she would teach you all about your machine, about different types of fabrics, different types of materials, different types of patterns, the different PDF patterns versus the paper patterns, etc., and nd then also teach you how to make products: how to make an apron, how to make a scrunchie, a 3D mask, how to sew a zipper. She decided to put all these videos together, build these PDFs, and host an online course and charge a certain amount. She put a Facebook group together for students so they can ask questions and show each other what they're making.
The course was listed at $99 when launched, and she had 2,000 students enroll in a one-month period, which was just crazy. I quit my job in tech during that registration period. I would spend 20 to 30 hours a week on the side on weekends and nights helping her build this because I am so passionate about her passion as well. As we built it together, she wanted to partner. We have different skill sets, which is really cool. She's more of the creator and I have an accounting background. So I'm more of the admin who doesn't know how to craft at all. So we actually make a great team in that regard. She's like, “Can you handle all the emails? Because I can't do it.” And I'm like, “Can you come up with new ideas? Because I have no ideas.” And so it was kind of this fun back and forth husband and wife team. I think that actually helps us work well together, because we don't want to take over each other's area; we kind of give each other that space. Now we have 12 employees, which is crazy and awesome. And she's the CEO, I'm the CEOO; operations is what I call it, but it also involves marketing. Kim kind of directs us in all products, all sponsorships, what kind of content she wants to put out; she drives all the content, all the ideas, all the pivoting that we do every day. I'm more of the scheduler, the operations and the marketing.
She really did pivot a lot in 2020. I mean, she's a content creator so her business already was online. Our sessions for Creativation+ are about how to encourage store owners, the brick and mortar, the vendors how to how to take your business online and how to pivot to this new world we live in.
Obviously our story is fun and it's very cool. It's a great success story. But we want to be very conscientious as we speak with the team at Creativation+ about innovation, how we can encourage others, what to do and how to how to pivot to online. We did some pivoting ourselves (even though we had social media already). We'd never done an online course, we had never done an online e-book, we had never done anything like that online or sold our own products in any way online. We had never taken anything that we had written and turned it into online content. So that was a big learning curve for us. We pivoted to two different e-books that actually just launched in January. One sewing e-book and one Cricut e-book. So people who don't want to pay for a course or can't afford a course, they can buy our e-books for $19, which is really affordable for over 100 pages of tutorials, “how-to’s” and demonstrations, things like that.
We then wrote a Cricut course from September through November and launched it in December, right before the holidays. And that was really, really successful as well. As an online Cricut course, we've got two different groups of students now for sewing and Cricut, and still people enrolled. It's just been cool to see that we created our own products. You know, these are our products. We have full credit. She has full creative control over them. Even though I have built our business, she's so set on delivering value and teaching. And her whole slogan is empowering women to live a crafty and creative life.
Something I left out is that during this process we both dealt with mental illness, here and there anxiety and depression in different ways. Both of us have high anxiety; we're very open about our anxiety and how we try to cope with our anxiety. She's also had postpartum depression that she's dealt with, and even bouts of seasonal depression that are hard for her. She blogs about it and talks about it on her social media channels, which a lot of people resonate with and can empathize with in a lot of ways. But crafting, creating, making are great ways to deal with mental illness. It's a great way to cope with life and to actually do something with your hands, right? Whether it's paper, sewing, crafting, Cricut, whatever the type of craft it might be — just to do something with your hands builds confidence, it builds self-esteem and builds your value, it's tangible.
There are so many different things that we have people come away with and say things like, “I was in the middle of depression, I took your course and I'm feeling so much better. I can make an apron, I never knew I could even sew.” I cry every other day when I get emails from people, because I'm like, that was the sweetest story in the world. And, you know, Kim just inspires people to go and make with their hands and go do things that they don't need to have anxiety about. Because you buy these big machines and you're like, where do I even start? What are these buttons? How do I start? So listen, we're going to unbox it together. We're going to take it out, we're going to go over every button, we're going to try things out, we're going to fail over and over and over. And we're going to laugh about it, because it's funny. And by the time you're done failing over and over with me, you're going to start making things and you're going to be so impressed, and everyone around you is going to love what you're making. Handmade gifts are making a big comeback. So that's kind of her journey, the last two or three years. Again, we have a team of 12. Now, many of them are remote. Some work here in our office in Utah. We have a studio here where we have a couple of shooting rooms and behind us and filming rooms and the office. It's been a lot of fun. We have a content writer, we have a graphic designer, we have a couple of project designers, we have a couple of videographers part-time.
We’re trying to maintain this long term. You know, it supports our family of five.. It's been fun as a team, for our family to kind of go through this growth stage. We're all about encouraging others to start their own business to try to make something and we have a lot of handmade followers who’ve opened up their own Etsy store, their own Shopify store or want to sell things on Instagram, or whatever they might want to do. Some of them want to make $10 a week, some of them want to make $100 a week, some want to make $1,000 a week, and that amount of money can mean so much to them. And so, as she teaches people to make, it's really cool to see them start their own businesses and, and turn, market themselves online. It's been a journey. And we're very grateful, very fortunate, very blessed.
To learn more about Sweet Red Poppy, click here to visit their website.