Inspirational Woman: Sally Wilson | Founder, Caterpillar Cross Stitch

Meet Sally Wilson

Founder, Caterpillar Cross Stitch

Sally Wilson is Founder and Creative Director of Caterpillar Cross Stitch.

In this piece, she talks to us about building her brand, her biggest achievements – including raising money for the Ukraine appeal – and her goals for the future.

Tell us a bit about yourself, background and your current role

I’m Sally, a 30-something married mother of 2 small children and former solicitor. I always wanted to practise law so I completed a law degree in Sheffield and later worked for a variety of firms working in employment law until I was 29. While on maternity leave, I completed an ecommerce course and noticed a gap in the market for modern cross stitch kits and accessories. There was no one leading, global brand innovating in this space. I’d always wanted to start my own business and the time felt right to do something more creative that provided flexibility for us and our growing family. In 2015 I started www.CaterpillarCrossStitch.com and am currently Creative Director. I oversee product development, social media and marketing. We have a team of 7 (my husband Tim has also recently joined the company as Operations Director), sell to over 30 countries globally and our products are in various retail stores including the National Trust. We host events and classes, run a subscription box and www.LoveItStitchIt.com which is a cross stitch design platform and dedicated marketplace. 
 

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

Yes, I did actually! I’ve always been a bit of a planner and ever since watching Ally McBeal at around age 15, I always thought how exciting it looked so I studied law at A-Level and as a degree. My plan was to move to London after university but it was really difficult to get a training contract so I applied anywhere and everywhere and luckily found a really nice medium-sized firm in Yorkshire where I qualified into employment law. I always wanted to work for myself and did consider starting my own legal consultancy or HR practice but realised I actually wanted to do something much more creative. I’d always been really passionate about arts and crafts; I love painting, fashion, art and particularly graphic design. All of those things combined led me to cross stitch. I did have a very clear plan when I started Caterpillar Cross Stitch to replace my income within a year and grow the business to multiple 6 figures. I knew the size of the market and what I could achieve. It’s much easier to reach your goals if you have a clear plan and strategy in place. 
 

Have you faced any challenges along the way?

Yes there are challenges (almost daily!) when running your own business. Finding the right staff is really tricky and recruitment takes up so much time. Finding the right suppliers is also really difficult – we have supplies from all over the world and we have seen increased costs, taxes, additional charges, delays due to all kinds of worldwide events, shortages of essential supplies etc. Another ongoing challenge is to constantly improve efficiencies of our processes. We put together the kits and subscription boxes ourselves and handle all fulfilment. We designed our own machinery for threads and have invested in stock management systems and production. A large part of running any business is mindset (or at least it always has been for me!) Avoiding social media when it becomes toxic, recognising imposter syndrome and trying not to compare. Everyone is on their own journey and has come from a different background, support system and experiences and no two can truly be compared.  
 

What has been your biggest achievement to date?

I think the biggest achievement to date (aside from winning some awards which is always a great honour) has been launching www.LoveItStitchIt.com, taking risks and never giving up, being able to donate money to various charities e.g. we raised over £3,000 in one day for the Ukraine appeal and I think another achievement is also doing something I love and being able to provide for my family.

Level Up Summit

 

Don’t miss our Level Up Summit on 06 December, where we’re tackling the barriers for women in tech head on. Join us for keynotes, panels, Q&A’s & breakout sessions on finance, people management, negotiation, influencing skills, confidence building, building internal networks, maximising the power of mentorship, and much more. 

What one thing do you believe has been a major factor in you achieving success?

I believe the main factor in achieving success is having laser focus, pushing doubt aside and having an unwavering ability to not quit! The winner is not always the best person, it’s the person that works really hard, consistently, for a really long time! A major factor is being dedicated to your ‘why’, being driven and having audacious goals. Seeing every block along the way as an opportunity and remembering in any situation that you either ‘win or learn.’ I think it’s also important to be confident on camera and not afraid of what others will think of you – how you look, how you speak or how they might perceive you. 
 

How do you feel about mentoring? Have you mentored anyone or are you someone’s mentee?

I think mentoring is absolutely fantastic. I’ve never mentored anyone formally although I have had a few people reach out to me who I have mentored informally. They had various businesses from baby products to subscription boxes etc but it definitely is something I would like to do more seriously after some training. Long term, I’d love to become a mentor or coach for other aspiring female entrepreneurs and create an online course whereby I can help others and share what I’ve learnt along the way. I don’t have a mentor myself yet, I just read a lot and listen to a ton of podcasts and audiobooks!
 

If you could change one thing to accelerate the pace of change for Gender Parity, what would it be?

There’s already been many changes around maternity leave and protections recently but I think this needs to go further. We need to change society’s expectations that women have 9-12 months off, go back to work part-time (or leave paid work altogether) then aren’t as focussed. I dealt with so many patronising, sexist comments and I think we need to stand up and challenge the attitudes when it comes to work and childcare. There’s such a hidden mental loading of everything to do with the house and children that often falls to women. This needs to be completely reassessed and recognised to try and gain some equality. 
 

If you could give one piece of advice to your younger self what would it be?

Sometimes I think I’d rather have studied business, economics or art at university instead of law but actually I believe that everyone has to make their own path and sometimes it’s essential to lead you onto the next time. No time spent learning or experiencing anything has ever been wasted. As a solicitor I learnt so much that’s now relevant day to day – negotiating, drafting contracts, tax and accounting and standing up for myself and being confident. I’d tell my younger self, don’t care what other people think of you. People are much more interested (or worried) about themselves than they are about you. Do what’s in your heart and not what people expect you to do. Speak out when something is wrong and stand up for what you believe in.
 

What is your next challenge and what are you hoping to achieve in the future?

My next challenge is launching our Christmas stitch-a-long and our final two subscription boxes for 2022. We are also in the process of launching a crafters planner, an advent calendar filled with 24 crafty goodies and to grow our events side of the business (we now have five hosts working remotely). I’m also working really hard to grow www.LoveItStitchIt.com to become the number one place to design, buy and sell cross stitch patterns. We are also working to get our products into large retail stores across the USA. 

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