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Business Best Practices: Competition, by Design

Posted By Administration, Friday, December 20, 2013
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By Chuck Wilmesher

Note: Chuck Wilmesher is skacel Collection's director of new product research and development. He is also the producer of The Fiber Factor, which was a winner in the 2013 TNNA Needlearts Business Innovation Awards program. The program is a joint project of TNNA and Hart Business Research.

Chuck Wilmesherskacel Collection has created The Fiber Factor — the knitting industry's first online, video-driven knitwear design competition. It follows 12 fiber-fueled hopefuls as they attempt to win a series of knitting-related challenges in hopes of claiming the grand prize: a trip for two to Germany to tour yarn production facilities and the addi needle factory!

Showcasing how diverse the knitting population truly is, diary-style videos allow website viewers a sneak peek into the lives, minds and knitting talents of the 12 contestants who hail from all over the United States. These "Official Swatchers," ranging in age from 21 to 56, were selected and announced in early April 2013.

The contestants are quite diverse: One sings, another designs lingerie, another is a student at FIT in New York, etc. But each is an amazingly creative knitting addict with a real passion for design. Viewers are sure to find these contestants both relatable and inspirational — and will quickly begin following and rooting for their favorite Swatchers!

The contest was comprised of six challenges plus a final challenge among the Top 4 contestants to determine the grand prize winner. While the ultimate winner of The Fiber Factor will be announced in early 2014, the contest will continue throughout the year with knit-alongs of the contest's best designs. Over the course of the competition, skacel Collection's Karin Skacel and Cirilia Rose have been joined in judging by such guests as Josh Bennett, Cat Bordhi, Lily Chin, Nicky Epstein, Franklin Habit, Trisha Malcolm, Rick Mondragon, Clara Parkes, Lisa Shroyer, Ysolda Teague, Stephen West and many others.

The Fiber Factor LogoThe show's tagline is "Will you swatch… or will you watch?" With that in mind, viewers watching the competition unfold (affectionately called "Watchers") can get involved by submitting pictures of their knitted items designed in response to a challenge. An entire section of The Fiber Factor's website is devoted to Watchers and their projects, and prizes are being awarded to the best submissions. This way, everyone can participate in The Fiber Factor!

It should be noted that there is no "loser" in the competition, and no one is eliminated until after the sixth challenge. After the sixth challenge, the Top 3 contestants compete in the final challenge.

Why we did it

Reality shows have grown in popularity, and for years people in the knitting industry have been wishing for a knitting version of "Project Runway." We at skacel Collection figured it was time to make it happen.

The purpose of the contest was multi-fold:

· inspire non-knitters to start knitting;

· help talented, budding designers gain exposure;

· build awareness of skacel Collection and the addi brand;

· build sales for retailer customers; and ultimately,

· sell more needles and yarn!

Beyond, the contest has a presence on several platforms, including Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest and Ravelry. The participation on these platforms has been immense. Below is a voting page from Facebook during Challenge 3, for example.

Screen shot

By having our contestants use addi needles and skacel-distributed yarns, we are advertising in an entertaining and engaging way. We are confident that we are introducing our needles and yarns to end consumers who would otherwise be unfamiliar.

We have also heard from many "non-knitters" who found out about the contest and are now fans. Our goal is to show non-knitters how creative and "cool" knitting can be. By reaching non-knitters with an entertaining, fun-to-watch contest, we are confident we will inspire and reach an entire segment of new knitters, which in turn will grow the knitting community, increase yarn shop sales — and increase sales for us, too.

Tags:  business  contest  crochet  Designer/Teacher Section Chair  Fiber Factor  Hart  knitting  needlearts  reality TV  retail  skacel  TNNA  Wilmesher  Wood 

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