Changing of the customer service guard

AUG 22, 2011 updated May 30, 2016

For those of you who email Spoonflower help a lot, you may have noticed that I haven't been answering lately. That is, someone has answered you–most likely Stephen B. or Beth, our wonderfully helpful help staffers–but not me.  After three years of answering Spoonflower help emails, I've stepped down from this role and will be going back to a bit of Spoonflower blogging instead.  It's been quite awhile since I blogged regularly.  I feel rusty.

My Stephen asked me to start with a post on what I've learned doing customer service which seems a tad self-indulgent to me given how much Spoonflower has grown.  It's definitely not just ours and Gart's families doing the printing, cutting, and shipping of your fabric orders anymore.  Spoonflower includes some 20 employees now, all of whom are awesome, work their tails off, and contribute so much to the running of the business.  But I've gotta start this blogging somewhere so in the spirit of the "What I Did This Summer" back-to-school essay, here are a few things I've learned over the last three years, in no particular order.

1. Spoonflower customers are nice people.  I don't say this just to butter y'all up.  It's truly amazing to me how nicely you all point out when we've made mistakes–which has been often!–forgive us for them, and come back again.  You offer useful feedback which we always read and consider, even if takes us longer than you might want to implement.  And you're nice to each other, too, writing thank-you notes to people who have bought your fabrics, and saying appreciative things about each other's designs and photos.  Which brings me to….

2. Online communities really are communities.  A couple of years ago, I scoffed at the use of "community" to describe groups interacting online.  A "community" is a real place, I thought.  You could walk, bike, or drive there and have real interactions with real people, and anything online couldn't possibly be a community.  But I get it now.  You certainly could walk, bike, drive to Spoonflower if you wanted to, and would probably enjoy pleasant interactions with good people while you were here.  But we here in the office are part of a larger and very real Spoonflower community that includes all of you.  There are some real interactions and real relationships going on out there, and you all support each other in a very real way.  Spoonflower is a community.  And I think it's a pretty nice place to be.

3. Starting your own business is hard and scary.  Stephen tells me that I am brave and have a high risk tolerance which is his way of saying, "I can't believe you were ok with us putting everything we had (and some that we didn't) into Spoonflower when we had no idea whether it would work!"  It probably helped that Spoonflower happens to be all about things I myself love–fabric and sewing–but we've had many  sleepless nights and knotted up stomachs over the last three years.  Those have gone away, thank goodness.  Mostly.

4. Anything is fodder for fabric design.  I used to worry that people's creativity or their interest in creating custom fabric designs would somehow dry up, but nope.  We see so many designs uploaded to the site and rendered by the printers every day at this point that a workday here is never, ever dull.  Name it, and I'll bet we've printed it!

5. People use fabric for WAY more things than I thought they used fabric for.  I knew about quilts, clothing, and home-dec sorts of projects, of course, since that's what I usually use fabric for.  But I didn't anticipate wedding invitation handkerchiefs, custom drum covers, or sports car upholstery, among other projects.  I can't tell you how much it thrills me to see how the fabrics we print get used.  Upload to our Flickr pool, please!

6. When you run a fabric- and sewing-related business, you don't have time to do anything fabric- or sewing-related for yourself.  Which is a huge bummer.  Since I've stopped doing customer service over the last couple of weeks, though, I've been on a curtain-making spree at home.  With Spoonflower fabric, of course.  Three rooms down and one bathroom to go!


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  • Kim, Happy days to you as blogger (of course along with owner, mother, wife, friend, neighbor etc. etc.). I don’t know how you do it all. You helped me once when I wanted to make sure that I was saving my design correctly to enter a contest. I was surprised that YOU answered my question (being the owner and all) and it was on the weekend! Which really helped since my day job seems to always interfere with my SF time. 
    In less than a year after discovering SF, I taught myself GIMP, now learning InkScape, learned how to create interesting repeat designs, figured out flickr and now typepad, actually sold a few designs!, have met incredible people including some across the globe, discovered other really neat websites, decided to learn watercolor painting and all at the tender age of “almost 60” and because of Spoonflower!! I now walk around seeing colors, shapes and designs in everything. My husband and biggest fan is not surprised with I have to stop and take a cell phone picture of something that might inspire a new design. And I’m not sure where I’m going with all of this since I’m not a career designer or seamstress. All I know is that I’m having the best time ever and visit your site every day to get my SP fix.
    One final note about how I found you guys…. I was on the Better Homes and Garden site getting ideas to make curtains. I saw a set made from the most interesting fabric and a link to the NC Art video. I watched the video and had to back it up a few times to catch where Stephen was saying you were located…Did he really say Durham NC! And that was the beginning of my new found addiction that has gotten me back to what I love to do—create!
    So thanks and greetings from Eastern NC.
    Laura aka minniemeatdaydreamstudio

  • Thanks, Victoria! That’s funny that you remember our first correspondence. There are several folks with whom I’ve emailed quite a bit and feel like I almost know personally at this point. You’re definitely among them. I’m so glad that SF is such a help in your creative life!

  • I’m at Spoonflower almost everyday, also. I still remember my first correspondence with you, Kim. I had tried to sign up and had some sort of problem; but you took care of me, got me signed up, and I’ve been addicted ever since.
    I’m very thankful for SF, and the friends I’ve made through it. Yes, not only can you have a real community; but you can make real friends in that community.
    SF has jump-started my stalled creativity; and improved my brain function. I know that sounds strange; but I think it has. I had never made a repeating pattern when I first started and I taught myself all sorts of tricks to make them work. I consider getting a design to repeat like doing a fun puzzle. And I’m always trying new things (although they don’t all make it to SF).
    I would dearly love to be doing design as a career; But I think working for SF would be great also. When you post job openings I always wish I lived down there.
    Be sure to post picture of all those curtains.

  • Thanks for the suggestion, Cherie! I may very well write more about my own sewing projects, or about projects from all the other sewists in the office. Among the group of us, there’s usually something lovely that someone has recently sewn up with Spoonflower fabric!

  • Thanks, Sharon! You and Virginia both are such lovely community members, and I’m really glad you’re so involved in SF!

  • Thanks, Julie! I have a fondness for Floridians myself, having been born in Miami. Glad you’ve been happy with everything so far!

  • Thanks for your kind words, Jane. I’m Kim Fraser (aka, Stephen’s wife) and have answered some of your help emails before. I definitely know who you are!

  • You’re one of the folks I had in mind when I talked about community here, Virginia, so I’m not surprised to hear that SF is part of your daily routine. We’re so glad you’re here, and thanks for having our backs!

  • Thanks so much for your kind words, Julie (and Jane, Sharon, Virginia, Cherie and Pininkie as well!).
    Stephen Fraser

  • Your business has made my business possible. (As a Floridian, I have a great fondness for North Carolinians .) Everything I’ve ordered from Spoonflower has been as good, usually better, than I expected. Your service is quick and your information is clear and helpful. I love your videos and I am very thankful you had the courage to start this business. May you live long and prosper. You are the American Spirit.
    Julie Sloane
    Distinctly Florida

  • Great blog, wonderful writing, especially the compliments to “our community,” lol. I love Spoonflower. However I must say this, that I am not new here but for some strange reason I don’t know who you are.

  • I owe Spoonflower a huge THANK YOU! I too have made awesome friends…. and boy oh boy, I’ve learnt so much. I LOVE that I can turn my artwork into fabric into stuff I can sell….. and it’s such a thrill when other people buy my designs ~ woo hoo!!!!
    I am guilty of checking my spoonflower before my email nowadays…
    Kim, you have always been awesome ~ so helpful and lovely. I look forward to more great project pics and lots of fab blogging!
    Thank you… thank you… thank you…
    and again, thank you.
    Sharon xxx

  • You know Kim, I’m at SF daily. It IS part of my life and I’ve made really good friends here. And truly it’s because you all have made it so easy for us to be a part of that community.
    I owe my sales to you all, I owe my relationships around fabric design to you all, I owe my getting over my fear of letting people see my design to you all. I’ve gained so much by being a part of this community. I get upset and incredulous when I see public complaints or unfair criticism and often feel like it’s my own company that’s being talked about. That kind of response only comes out because SF has allowed me to be a part of that community so thank you, all of you!

  • Well, it sounds like you are really going to enjoy your two new roles, as a blogger and curtain maker. Once you get those curtains done you’ll be wanting to write blogs on all the new crafty projects you’ve sewn, right?
    Thanks for the great customer service over the last three years and I’ll be looking forward to reading your blogs!

  • Thanks for the kind words, Pininkie. There’s no wafting fabric or floating employees at Spoonflower HQ, but it’s still pretty magical to see fabrics being printed up. Feel free to visit if you’re ever in the area. We definitely do have some pretty great people working here!

  • Enjoy your new blogger role! I am looking forward to your posts. I’ve not needed SF customer services yet as I have always been happy with my fabric, but I get the feeling EVERYONE who works for Spoonflower is lovely. I imagine you all floating around the print room on wafts of fabric, spreading the love (ok – not particularly realistic I am sure!). It must be amazing to grow your own business from those scary early days with no money and high risk to today where you have a huge fan base – a massive achievement. SF is such a great idea but it would only have worked if you had great people – which you do!