"I didn't have a choice. I really didn't have a choice. It was like: make this online course and sell it or go out of business. So, I made the course and I sold it.”
No one likes ultimatums but for Amanda Overs of I Can Make Shoes, that’s exactly what 2020 tossed her.
In March of last year as the world came to a standstill, Amanda had a choice to make: go online or risk losing her business of more than 10 years. Her packed schedule of in-person shoemaking classes in the UK (and across the pond) came to a screeching halt with no return to the workshop in sight.
“It was gut-wrenching that I might lose it,” said Amanda. She had to take action fast. “I just knew...this is the moment to go online. So as soon as we went into lockdown, I was filming from day one.”
“Done is better than perfect.”
Although her move to online sprung from a gametime decision, it was actually a goal Amanda had for a while. In fact, after the launch of her first online course, Beginner's Guide To Home Shoemaking, in March, Amanda returned to her closed workshop and noticed a whiteboard of 2020 goals. One of the goals written across the board was: launch an online course.
“And the goal was by the end of the year—that was the deadline,” she noted. “And I was sitting there in March and I was like, oh my God, end of the year? I should have done this 10 years ago. Like, what was I thinking?”
Amanda had pivoted her entire 2020 goal and accomplished it in a matter of weeks.
Workshopping a solution
You see, Amanda’s goal to go online was never as far out of reach as she thought it was. A shoemaker who already taught her craft and had a solid foundation for her first course, she quickly learned that filming her courses at home was all she needed to get started online. No need to clear out the workshop. No need to cancel her usual classes. No need to hire a professional film crew.
“I filmed it on a camera in my living room by myself; edited it all myself,” said Amanda. What she discovered was this at-home element of filming actually made her courses more authentic to her students who would also be sitting at home adjusting the manner in which they learn.
“Done is better than perfect,” said Amanda of her biggest learning. “Just put it up there. Once it's there, you can improve it. People will give you feedback. But once it's live, it's live—you're committed to it!”
At the end of the day, done is what defeats uncertainty and unpredictability. And it’s exactly what helped Amanda accelerate her goal timeline and save her business.
Go-time and beyond
Amanda went from wondering if her business would survive to actually earning more money in a month than she normally would. But even a bustling enrollment posed a challenge or two.
“We had a lot of people book the course and then they're all like, ‘Well, where can I get the stuff?’ And we needed to order all these supplies in to stock up our supply shop, but you know, it was COVID. So that took quite a bit of time!” she said.
But outside of the environmental factors Amanda could never control, she ran into the same challenge all creators face: What happens after go-time?
The first three weeks of sales were robust with ample positive feedback, according to Amanda. But what comes next is where true success is measured.
“What else can I give them?” Amanda posed. “You know, how can I take them through a journey of being a longer lasting customer for me? And how can I get them making shoes? That's really what I want out of it.”
The topic of course longevity is one that many creators have. And it can be tricky, but ultimately it comes down to the reason students purchase a course in the first place: They want to learn.
For Amanda, this looked like a few smaller courses on sandal making, sneaker making, and pattern-making, to offer as upsells.
Students turn to creators like Amanda because of her skill and point of view. So simply giving students more of what they want—aka knowledge—can be one way to cultivate loyal students and provide that sense of “more.”
Beyond the paycheck
Online courses may have saved her small business, but the desire to teach was already at the core of what Amanda did. In fact, I Can Make Shoes allows Amanda to take her love of shoemaking a step further and retain a constant passion for her craft.
She isn’t tied to cranking out products or waiting on customers to buy her latest creation. Instead, Amanda is building a community, helping others learn, and continually learning herself.
“By teaching, I retain that passion side of it, you know,” she said of shoemaking. “Because everyday I'm communicating with people in a different way. I'm being challenged by being asked questions about things that I really have to think about. I'm having to think, how can I show someone the easiest possible way to do this particular—you know—to put this zip into this boot or something. So for me, I find teaching my passion more enjoyable than selling the things I make.”
Sharing her skills deepens Amanda’s connection to her craft and allows her to make a financial decision that can lead to a more constant and more sustainable form of income.
White boarding new goals
With 2020 in the past and her initial online course goal surpassed, Amanda now has new goals to set for 2021. For starters, she’s filming a new boot making course and transforming her entire business to be online.
But beyond adding new courses to her school, Amanda is working to foster an entire community of learners. She’s ready to spread her craft as far as she can, and online courses already have shown her that’s possible.
“You know, what I've realized by having the online course is just how [far] you can reach,” she said. “I can have students from literally all over the world working on shoes at once and watching that content at once. So I know I'm not even barely scratching the surface of—of people. So I think for 2021, it's going to be really about showcasing our students—really showing off what people are making and somehow profiling them in a way that will encourage other people to give it a go.”
Because really, it’s the students who have always been Amanda’s driving force.
“It's quite a daunting thing, shoemaking,” she said. “It's like people don't expect that you can do that from your living room. And I've been just trying to break down those barriers for years to show people how accessible it can be—even if you're a complete beginner. So I think 2021 is really going to be about pushing it further and further and further and building an online community of shoemakers.”
And we have a hunch Amanda’s army of shoemakers are already excited for what’s to come.