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The Cottage in Cyberspace
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eedlework would appear to be the paradigm of a cottage industry. Needlepoint, embroidery, knitting and crocheting may be perceived as crafts that never left the Nineteenth Century. So what in the world is Hard-to-Find Needlework Books doing on the Internet? [].

          Bette Feinstein's earliest foray into the book business occurred by happenstance when she was 16 years old in Mount Vernon, New York. As her girls' club was struggling to raise money for the Vacation Camp for the Blind, she discovered they could buy books (discounted) through the New England Mobile Book Fair and resell them profitably to the supporters of the Camp. Their fund raising goal was quickly achieved.

          Like most of us, her career unfolded with many surprising twists and turns. Taking a leave of absence from teaching high school mathematics during the pregnancy with her son in 1969, she energetically produced needlepoint seat cushions for four of their dining room chairs. Then exploring the possibility of private needlepoint as an attractive cottage industry for a young mother, she promptly found that this labor-intensive craft would not even yield a minimum wage. But somewhat by accident, she also discovered that there was a market for needlepoint kits. Over the next decade, she developed an attractive home-based business making hand-painted needlepoint canvases and needlepoint kits; hospital gift shops became an important outlet. She also became active in the Embroiderers' Guild of America, attending many classes and workshops, and earning a Teacher's Certificate and a Master Craftsman Certificate; she served in numerous positions of governance including the New England Regional Chairman.

          1979 witnessed another unanticipated turn on the career path. Her husband, Roger, brought home one evening an old book on needlework he had purchased in Filene's Basement for 89ยข. Recognizing the value of this book, she was quickly able to resell it at a fair price of $3.00. This tiny step swiftly propelled them down the road to becoming booksellers. During the earlier years of the 1980s, the needlepoint kit business was transformed into a blossoming worldwide bookselling business specializing in: Hard-to-Find Needlework Books in Newton, Massachusetts. While this is now primarily a mail-order business, substantial revenue is also generated by consignment book sales at national meetings and workshops of groups such as the American Needlepoint Guild.

          Today, Bette Feinstein is virtually the sole source for books on all forms of the needlearts. Catalogs are issued regularly on in-print, out-of-print, and rare books on specialized topics such as: needlepoint, knitting, crocheting, cross-stitch charts, sewing, fashion, weaving textiles, doll making, lace and lace making, old craft magazines, trade cards, samplers, and ephemera. An inventory of thousands of titles is maintained in stock. Hard-to-Find Needlework Books has had a well-designed Web site for two years that is currently visited by almost a 1,000 people every month; this site is linked to many other authoritative needlework resources, offers simple instructions on how to place an order, and facilitates having a catalog Emailed to you. How the world has changed since the days of Betsy Ross!

          What are the keys to the success of this flourishing home-based business. One of the keys is that Bette Feinstein is an inveterate student. As new opportunities emerge, she first acquires sound instruction. Beginning with her early classes and workshops with the Embroidery Guild of America more than 20 years ago, she has also participated in the authoritative seminar-workshops on the Out-of-Print and Antiquarian Book Market for Booksellers and Librarians, and more recently with the Boston Computer Society (BCS).

          Another success key is making her own decisions. She recounts the quaint advice presented in an ABA workshop more than a dozen years ago: "Unless you are grossing over $1/2 million, don't even think of investing in a computer!" Today, the computer is the heart of Hard-to-Find Needlework Books maintaining cross-indexed mailing lists, billing records, catalogs, resource and inventory records, and general accounting. And, of course, the computer is now the indispensable link with the Internet.

          And a third key to success is that Bette Feinstein knows her market as people, not simply statistics. She is active in the pertinent trade associations thereby knowing her customers personally, learning their preferences and new interests, and responding to these customer tastes quickly and with enthusiasm. Hard-to-Find Needle-work Books is not a virtual presence in cyberspace or even a remote mail-order house; Hard-to-Find Needlework Books is Bette Feinstein, and Bette Feinstein is a warm and concerned person eager to search for her customers' special interests and requests.

           Perhaps the critical key to success is that Bette Feinstein relishes her work, and enjoys delighting her customers with unanticipated discoveries.


           Excellent descriptions of Hard-to-Find Needlework Books have been presented in Newsweek,  "Cyberspace Superstore" (June 10, 1996, p.86), and The New York Times,  "Getting a Read On Bookselling In Cyberspace (September 2, 1996, pp.37,39).

Hard-to-Find Needlework Books


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