Made by Hand, Learned Online

Friday, January 11th, 2013

The creators of Sympoz found that demand for quilting tripled that of any other class they offered, so they spun off Craftsy:

Unlike some other online-education services, which offer back-of-the-auditorium access to university lectures, Craftsy spends upward of $15,000 to develop and film each class. Most courses, which last several hours and are broken up into lessons, are targeted at intermediate-level to advanced quilters, embroiderers and bakers.

The company has invested more than $5 million in technologies meant to mimic the live classroom experience, the founders say. For example, a single-click, 30-second repeat feature allows students to back up and catch any bits they might have missed in a fast-moving video. Videos are layered with 3-D models and magnified graphics that help explain important words and methods.


Craftsy concentrates on helping people master hobbies that many have spent considerable sums of money on already.

“When you’ve bought a sewing machine, the cost of failure is high,” says Mr. Scott, a co-founder. “Spending $20 to get better is a small investment.”

To date, Craftsy users have paid for 410,000 classes and thesite had 50,000 paid enrollments just this past November. Fifty percent of students who have paid for a class go on to pay for a second. The company says nearly all of its users are women, 83% are over 41 years of age and 75% attended college. Their average household income is more than $80,000.

Craftsy also sells materials like knitting yarn and fabric for quilting. Nearly a quarter of the company’s 2012 revenue of about $12 million came from this e-commerce, Mr. Scott says. November was the company’s first profitable month, Mr. Scott says. It hasn’t touched its latest venture-capital investment of $15 million, and plans to reinvest profit.

The site can be a lucrative outlet for craft teachers. Stefanie Japel, now a Craftsy staffer who helps find other instructors, has taught three knitting courses, including “Circular Knit Lab: Hats Four Ways.” More than 20,000 students have paid to take her classes and she has netted more than $60,000. Teachers get between 10% to 15% of the revenue from a class.

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