Do you dream of having your own shop filled with beautiful fabrics, fun classes and wonderful customers? Perhaps you would like to start an independent pattern company? Designer Sewing Center started with just one friend asking me to help her with a T-shirt quilt for her daughter. It grew to a little online club for a few friends and fellow sewists, called The Sewist Club. I started a four page newsletter, called Sutura Style, to share tips, tricks and tidbits. Then more classes at home, in my living room. In the Spring of 2015 I started teaching at Hancock Fabrics, and when that grew to the point that I needed a space of my own, we moved to our new, permanent home, at our shop Designer Sewing Center. It has been a wonderful, sometimes nerve-racking, but always exciting, experience. While the shop has been getting set up, all sewing has been pretty much on hold, but I realized that the journey is a story well worth sharing. Here is a picture of our shop, before signage or merchandising the windows.
I was blessed to receive some really great advice at the beginning and it has kept me in good stead every step of the way, “start small and build your way up slowly and carefully”. The ISBDC, in the state of Indiana, provides mentors who can help you learn what you need to know to write a solid business plan which is key to mapping out your future success. It takes patience and passion to start from ground zero with nothing but your two hands and no money, but it can be done. It also takes time and some other way of paying the bills until your business is in a position to stand on its own. The money portion is the toughest part. Turning your passion into a profit making venture actually takes more time than most people realize.
So, I want to bring money in, but I’ve got no money to open a business with. Starting with my own circle, my first student was our Pastor’s wife and my buddy, Robin. That was back in 2013. I didn’t charge any money but I the joy of spending time with my buddy and I learned a lot about sharing what I know with others. Fortunately, I kept a notebook to write down my experiences. I was selling cosmetics through a direct sales company to keep positive cash flow. Robin was a wonderful person to have a my first student. She was so encouraging!
My buddy Robin Mullins and I with her completed T-shirt quilt.
Lessons I learned:
First, volunteering pays in ways we can’t imagine. Being with someone who cares about you provides the safest place to get feedback and to share your knowledge. Second, listening and writing about experiences is payment in wisdom. Having the chance to listen to Robin’s questions inspired me to finish the first workbook in the Sutura Style series, Sew Like a Pro. It has been revised several times since the first thoughts were but put to paper but the foundation was based on listening to the needs of others instead of merely trying to regurgitate acquired knowledge.
After meeting with Robin, I decided I wanted to have a teaching business from home but it was nearly a year before I found my first paying customers, our neighbors. Those who have been following this blog know about how illness struck suddenly and all my plans were derailed. To be in business, good health is vital.
My living room turned sewing studio circa fall 2013
Lessons I learned: there is a time and a season for everything.
I spent the rest of 2013 and most of 2014 writing, making videos and sewing, carefully testing every lesson on entry level, domestic sewing machines and listening, listening, listening. And healing.
Finally, in the fall of 2014 a few neighbors came by for a sewing class. I charged just $10 to cover the cost of fabrics and I put it on as the “beta” version of the new classes that I would be teaching.
Lessons I learned at our first “class”? The most important one was the level of difficulty. After two years of writing, making tutorials and teaching online, I had finally nailed it. And the Sutura Style program was born. Into the ISDBC I dove for business plan writing and skill development. When we first opened the shop we had just a few used machines, a handful of bolts of fabric and not much else, all of which had to be paid for by money earned teaching the Sutura Style program at Hancock Fabrics. Earn, save, strive. It’s the best way to build a business from nothing. Oh, and by the way, a hard work sandwich every day will ensure that your business gets off to a good start. That sandwich is made up of Hard Work, Innovation and More Hard Work:)