Starting your own sewing business is an exciting prospect; to do what you love and be your own boss is everyone’s dream! It is not without it’s challenges though however, which is why I know this article by Kate, from Sew Creative in Altrincham will be so inspiring and helpful to you if you are considering taking this huge step in your career! You can follow her on Instagram, Facebook, and Website !
Read Kate’s full article below…
Starting A Sewing Business
Written by Kate, Sew Creative
Being asked to write a blog post on starting my own business feels a little surreal. Other people have businesses – other people who are ‘real grown ups’ – not little old me (I know at 31 I am technically a grown up, but I still feel like I’m 15)…yet here we are!
Some people are born business leaders and entrepreneurs – I am not one of them. I didn’t have a epiphany one day where I came up with an ‘amazing’ idea, and as a child I never wanted to be my own boss (I actually wanted to be a doctor – hilarious as my surname is Proctor – however a particularly graphic episode of Casualty soon wiped that option off the table). My business started partly by accident and partly through desperation.
I learnt to sew about ten years ago, I went to university to study Fashion Design and was horrified when they announced that I had to actually make things as well as design them! So while my peers were out partying, I was at home learning how to sew. Hard work, determination and a massive stubborn streak got me through. Little did I know, but this would all be required again when starting my business.
After a spell working in New York and London in the fashion business, I decided to come back home to train to be a Design & Technology teacher at the University of Manchester, specialising in Textiles. As mentioned above, the business grew partly out of desperation. I absolutely loved teaching, there is no greater experience than witnessing someone learn something that you have taught them – that ‘lightbulb’ moment is euphoric. Unfortunately, in the current era we live in, teachers are required to do so much more than teach. Consequently the teaching, and the children, end up being put on the back burner, because you’re stuck in a pile of unnecessary paperwork. I will not bore you with the details, but I decided to get out while I still had my sanity! I needed a job, any job, but I did not want to be stuck in an office, and I had the issue that I loved teaching, while not wanted to step foot in a school ever again! That is where the idea for sewing classes came from – it was still teaching, but teaching in my way.
I also mention above that the business was partly an accident, the classes started out as kids classes, however no kids turned up! One day, I was sitting in Hobbycraft, surrounded by sewing machines and flyers advertising my classes and a lovely lady named Sue came up and asked if they were for adults – needing customers, I immediately replied yes and made up an adult course on the spot! Sue is now my longest running customer, and has seen the business grow from a table in Hobbycraft, to my own studio space in the centre of town.
Since starting up a year ago, and since going full time in January 2017, the business has grown steadily. I now run nine adult classes and four children’s classes a week, with plans to expand and add on a teen-only ‘young fashion designers’ course, as well as more daytime adult classes over the coming months. Whilst this is all fantastic, it doesn’t mean that everything is rosy and I can now sit back and enjoy the fruits of my labour! Some weeks are brilliant, and others are really difficult. It is currently the school summer holidays and therefore a lot of my customers are away, in contrast however, I know that September will be really busy, with most classes booked up already.
Although I have only been on this journey for a short while, and by no means do I profess to be the next Alan Sugar, I thought that I would share with you some tips for starting up a business, based solely on my experiences so far.
- DO NOT give up at the first hurdle! This is so easy to say once you are past that hurdle, however its so important! Before I even had my table in Hobbycraft, I rented a room in the local town hall. I sat there week after week with no one turning up, and I could have easily given up. However, instead I looked at the reasons why no one was there. For me, the problem was purely advertising. You may not hit your first hurdle for a while, but you will hit it at some point – and there will be second, third and fourth hurdles – but perseverance and complete honestly with yourself helps to get over these.
- Network network network!! I am a local business, therefore I network in my local area – with other businesses and with the general public. You never know who could help you, or who you could help. Try and get some collaborations going if you can, I did a promotional event outside a new cafe last summer, this brought a record number of customers into the cafe, whilst I also managed to gain a lot of new business myself.
- A knowledge of social media is must. I personally use Instagram and Facebook (shameless links here and here!). I don’t have a Twitter account, however I know it works well for a lot of other businesses. Once you have these accounts you then need to update them – Every. Single. Day. It doesn’t matter if you’re ill or you’re on holiday, update them all the time. Give your followers, and potential customers, interesting content, this will then make them think of you and your brand on a regular basis.
- Don’t undersell or oversell yourself and/or product. This is something I find very difficult, however you need to work out how much your product costs (in my case, how much fabric is used, patterns, cost of machines, studio rent, tax, etc etc.), then add on how much your time is worth. You will always get someone telling you that you are too cheap, or more often, too expensive! However, you cannot please everyone and the trick is to know when to ignore people and when to listen. If you have a lot of interest, yet no sales, then maybe reduce your price, otherwise – stick to your guns and know your value.
- Give yourself some time off! You will have a moment when running a new business where it suddenly dawns on you that no one pays you if you are sick or if you go on holiday. If you went out the night before and don’t want to turn in work, then there is no boss to tell you otherwise – but there will also be no money! The harder you work, the more money you get – however that being said, you also need time off away from the business (apart from the social media – that world never sleeps!). A day trip to the beach, or a glass of wine with friends, gives you time to reboot and go back to work refreshed.
Running a business is hard; amongst other things you need to be a marketing pro, get your head around website jargon, be a social media wiz-kid and get to grips with accounting, whilst being an expert in your chosen field! It is also, however, very rewarding. I am so busy that I honestly sometimes forget that I’m a business owner – a real life, grown up business owner! Every day is busy, and not always easy, but remember to stop and give yourself a little pat on the back every now and then (before then getting back to work!). Like any job, there are ups and downs, but as the Chinese proverb goes; choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.