{on becoming an expert in your field + a list of my favorite books}

Three years ago I was determined to start my own business. In all honesty, I had no clue back then what I was doing when I started sewing, but the thought of feeling challenged and LOVING my job was so exciting to me — so important, that I pushed hard to make it happen. I studied and read and checked out library books and bookmarked sites and read a lot of blogs {AND introduced myself to a lot of bloggers via email}, all an attempt of learning all I could.

To me, learning about what I love is exciting, and at times it’s also a challenge, but the challenge has always paid off.

It can mean quiet days at home or noisy days at home {if you have hired help}, really you may experience any number of challenges, the key is finding a work to work through them.

Alongside the challenges, starting my own business has been a really fabulous journey and has given me some really great opportunities. Thinking of all the people it’s introduced me to, the opportunities it’s brought Zack and I, the affirmation it sends my way daily, even the spiritual affirmation ~ yes, it’s been a fabulous journey.

With the start of the New Year I thought it would be really great to share some of the business + craft books I’ve read these last few months, along with how they’ve begun to change my life. These books have offered simple ways on how I can run a business, ways that are literally transforming Gussy Sews for the better. And it makes January 23, 2012, the day my shop opens back up, even more exciting :]

* * *

1. in need of advice? read something written by the experts {they are smart}
2. want to feel encouraged? read something written by the experts {they know how to predict trends}
3. want to feel challenged? read something written by the experts {they tell great stories}
4. want to become an expert in your field? read something written by them! {see the trend here??}
Three years ago I started the journey of becoming an expert in my field and to this day I still work towards this status ~ EXPERT. I’ve been working on this post for a few weeks now and recently saw that The Nester reads a few of the same books each year, a variety of sources to help her stay at expert status. I think this is genius!

I can’t think of a better time to kick-start your attitude into a positive direction, to work on your expert-ness in your field, to turn your GOALS into REALITY by becoming an expert in your field.
* * * * *

Listed in order of appearance, from top to bottom ~

Tribes by Seth Godin — Are you a leader within your community? {Or, do you wish to be a leader within your community?} I’m still reading through this book, but it’s super inspiring and makes me feel like I can conquer all my goals! Plus it’s an easy read {yes!}.

The Handmade Marketplace by Kari Chapin — I LOVE this book! I have numerous pages marked because I refer back to this book constantly! It’s organized super well and is perfect for anyone selling their wares online. Includes over 50 topics across 12 chapters.

Craft Inc. by Meg Mateo Ilasco — For those who have dozens of craft ideas but not so many ideas on how to run a business! I also love this book for the little interviews & success stories that are scattered throughout. Seven chapters covering your creative and business mind, personal style, production tips + pricing, marketing and publicity how-to, fulfilling orders and more! Bonus: tips from Design*Sponge!

EntreLeadership by Dave Ramsey — I’m currently reading this one and let me tell ya, it’s totally pumping me up! Dave Ramsey’s debt-free teachings have helped me keep my business debt-free and now this book is giving my business over 20 years of tips, straight from Dave himself. Awesome!

Normal Gets You Nowhere by Kelly Cutrone — I’m about half-way through this book. One minute my eyes get big as I take in the crazy things Kelly has experienced and then next I’m just dying from laughter over how she handled the situation to make it right. It’s pretty crude at times but the advice and realness of the book is what keeps me reading.

Linchpin by Seth Godin + 48 Days to the Work You Love by Dan MillerTwo books I will be reading early this year.

What is your field of study and what are you doing to become an expert? What are you doing to stay an expert? Share with us below!

Pin It


  1. 3


    What a perfect post to wake up and read this morning! :) I think I will start with Craft, Inc. on my Kindle with a nice cup of coffee :) Happy New Year Maggie! The best to you, Zac and Bauer! :)

  2. 4

    Jesslyn42 :) says

    Oh sweet friend, you are an expert! I mean, look at ALL of your fantastic work … it is beyond evident in each and every piece!!!! :) I’m just so proud of you and what you have accomplished in 3 short years! Keep it up, sister!


  3. 6


    My problem is that I want to be an expert in several things. I suppose that I should write them down, then check them off one by one (?) Obviously I don’t want focus fully on each until I am an “expert,” but it’s so hard!

    • 7



      Is it possible that some of the areas you want to become an expert in relate to other areas you want to become an expert? If so, organize them by priority and work on learning more that way. It’ll be like your accomplishing two things at once :)


  4. 8


    Gaining wisdom from people who have been there is invaluable. I know that we all have to go through our own processes in life and weed out the things that hinder our dreams. Reading inspiring stories is what helps me to keep pushing through especially when I feel like giving up. Thanks for the book list:) I look forward to diving into some much needed inspiration.

  5. 11


    Thanks so much for this awesome list of books! I am so excited for 2012 and what it has in store for my creative business and I really think these are some great reads to get me off on the right foot.

    I am currently reading Kelly Cutrone’s first book “If you have to cry go outside” I totally get what you mean when you say one minute your in shocked of all the crazy things she has experienced and then next your laughing your butt off over how she handled the situation to make it right.

    I have a quick question….I was looking at Craft Inc. at my local book store but there seems to be a few different editions… which edition did you read?

  6. 13

    Candace Rasmussen says

    Thanks so much Gus! I look to you as my inspiration and always value your advice. I can’t wait to dig in!

  7. 20


    Thanks so much for all of your constant encouragement! I’m currently reading Craft Inc. and feeling super inspired. Gotta go… I’ve got an amazon order to place!!

  8. 21


    This is a great post! I just recently made up my mind to start a small business once I get out of the service. I ordered a book online about small retail businesses, but this list is very helpful and I’ll probably order some of those too. I love to knit and I love to scrapbook. It’s my dream to own a small shop where I can sell products to creative people, host classes and rent out workshop space.
    Since I have so much time (three and a half years) before I can start my business, I’m going to stock up on books, save money, follow blogs of entrepreneurs, keep up on new products and network with people in the scrap and knitting business. If you have any advice please let me know! I know you’re a busy lady :)

      • 23

        Sarah Grace says

        So, my question is this… How long did it take to start making a profit? From what I’ve read (about brick and mortar stores at least, but I assume it’s similar) it takes about a year before you can start making money for yourself. How did you get through that time?

        • 24


          i’m not entirely sure because i don’t have a b+m, but i would think they aren’t that similar. {there are way more costs with a b+m shop than having an online shop.} my experience with having an online boutique is that we’ve made a profit from the beginning. it’s something we we able to achieve right away by having properly priced items and fair material costs. prior to having Gussy Sews as my full-time job we saved up 3 months of my salary so that once i quit my day job to do GS full-time we had a little emergency fund for back-up. and we used it all, and quicker than we thought we would, but of course having it was super helpful.

          good luck with this! you can start a business AND make a profit pretty quickly if you do your homework :)

  9. 25


    Thanks so much for this list of must reads, I have so many dreams to do just what you are doing now, sewing! YOUR blog has been such an inspiration to me! Its so motivating to see everything you have accomplished in only 3 years! Keep it up! Cant wait to see what all your new shop has to offer later this month!
    I would LOVE to hear/ see more posts about how you go started!!!


  10. 26

    Megan says

    Thanks so much for your always encouraging posts. Right now I feel like I am at a crossroads because I have so many ideas , but no budget. We struggle for our necessities and I am starting to feel discouraged and think it really does take money to make money.I remember you writing somewhere that you and Zach had both been layed off when you started your business, so right now, I am pushing through and trying to find ways to feed my creative monster ;-)

  11. 28


    Iam very interested in photography as well as ading some new items to my etsy shop, so I would say the three things would be, fabric, some minor, but essential photography equipment and money for advertising.

    • 29


      to get started, the only photography equipment you really need would be a nice point & shoot camera {some great ones recommended to me were Canon S90, Nikon L110, Canon Powershot A610, Nikon CoolPix S8100}. spend a few days noting where the best natural light comes into your home, it may be mornings in the winter but later change to afternoons in the summer. i used to work with an armchair and faced it toward the window for my product pics, then i set up my display with the items i was photographing right on the seat of the chair. what are you selling? consider this as well when setting up your display {capture the style and branding of your work}. your camera should be your only expense — and search around for the best price, perhaps Amazon?

      you’re right – you’ll need to spend some money on materials, like fabric, to get started. that is a totally normal expense. advertising, on the other hand, could be swapped with fellow bloggers. write up a quick email about your shop and email a few of your friends, proposing a swap :)

  12. 31


    Thank you for the awesome list of books! I went out and picked up Craft Inc. and The Handmade Marketplace! I can’t wait to start reading both, I’m getting all fired up just thinking about it! <3

  13. 32


    I am all over Dave Ramseys Book right now! It’s full of real information. lil’ alice is going from hobby to biz this year, squeal…. i have always done the hobby debt free and using it’s own earnings to replenish for the project. i haven’t borrowed from the family funds at all and i am very proud of that!

    it’s challenging considering i am doing this all on my own, but it gives me great knowledge and great ownership of the biz!

  14. 34


    Such a great list!! Seth Godin challenges my thinking daily, and Linchpin was a favorite of mine. Have you read Rework or Delivery Happiness? I think those two might be right up your alley! I just added Normal Gets You Nowhere to my must-read list. Thanks for the recommendations!

  15. 36


    Wow – what an amazing list! I’ve been looking for a way to finally get my act together and start planning and gaining inspiration for the upcoming year and your list is perfect! It covers all of the things I’ve been thinking about! I just love your inspiring content!

  16. 37


    I’m in the middle of Dave Ramsey’s Total Money Makeover right now, but after I plan to move on to Entreleadership. I’ve also got my copy of Craft Inc. and the Handmade Marketplace on my Kindle. I read through both last year and now I’m focusing on taking baby steps.

    Seth Godin is totally new to me, I’m looking forward to checking out his books!

    Thanks for the recommendations :]

  17. 39


    Great advice! I have read a couple of those and have found them to be very inspiring.
    I read Crush it this year by Gary Vaynerchuk. He gives advice on cashing in on your passions. Awesome!! ;)

  18. 41


    I have read a few of those and a few are on my to-read list! I love love 48 Days. I think it’s applicable to ANYONE at ANY point in their career/life. I wish I would have read it before I spent 4 years in college getting a degree that I don’t use. Even if you love your job and don’t plan on changing, it still has great information!

    I’m adding Tribes to my list because you’re one of several people who recommend it. :)

    Have a great new year!

  19. 43


    That was one of my takeaways from BlogHer this year – be an expert in your field. Thanks for showing that even if you have no backgound in what you want to do, you can still do it!

  20. 44


    What a great list of books! I just finished Unmarketing by Scott Stratten and Mom Incorporated by Aliza Sherman and Danielle Elliott Smith. Both were fabulous reads and full of great info! Wishing you a prosperous new year!

  21. 45


    You’re totally right. Reading the good stuff really helps me get pumped. I’m reading Craft Inc now and wish I’d read it last year, when I was just launching my shop. But it’s never too late to learn and be inspired!

  22. 47


    Thanks so much for sharing these books Gussy. I just ordered ‘The Handmade Marketplace’. Just what I needed!! Your a wealth of information girl . . . keep it up!! *big smiles*

  23. 50


    I just recently discovered your blog and am loving all of your practical advise and wisdom on the business topics! I have a bit of an unrelated question for you…did you have a business plan when you got started or have you since written one? And if so was the 785 page version that is recommended or more of your own adaptation. As a fellow creative, this is something I’m struggling with, but I know I need to create a business plan to take my business to the next level. Thank you Gussy for all you do!


    • 51


      another great question! i didn’t write a formal business plan but i did keep a very structured goals list. what i wanted to accomplish, how, when, etc. and i still do this — it’s KEY to success! :)

      also, make sure you think ahead into the future for your goals, not just short term.

  24. 52


    Normal Gets You Nowhere is a book I have been wanting to read for awhile now! I have heard it is outright hilarious, but the advice is as real as it gets. Going and getting it today now!

  25. 55


    I stumbled upon your site and am happy that I did. Thank you for the book recommendations. I have added all these titles on to my reading list.
    I have always loved crafts and thanks to reading through your site, it has reignited the fire in my belly (that was slowly diminishing). I am going to teach myself how to sew and can’t wait to start! Thank you !


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>