Thursday, December 26, 2013

Reflections of a small business owner

I started my online fabric business in May 2012. I had quite a bit of customer service experience, but no real business or marketing knowledge. Having always been a do-it-yourself-er, I figured I would just jump right in with both feet and work out the kinks along the way. 

The first 7 months were really encouraging. I began work on getting my name out on the web, sponsoring popular blogs and participating in promotional events like contests and giveaways. Each month, my sales steadily increased and I ended the year nearly breaking even, with a very small capital loss. I felt very positive about the growth of the business up to that point, especially considering the extra expenditures involved in the actual startup: purchasing fixtures, inventory, advertising, etc. 

January sales went down a bit, but I assumed that was probably typical post-holiday consumer behavior. But then the sales kept going down each month, and flattened out for the whole of the year. Sales no longer seemed to correlate to the arrival of the latest fabric collections, or notions. I think every fabric shop (mine included) has different strategies for ordering their inventory. I've always tried to choose products that I felt would sell well, and just when I think I'm seeing some positive trends, sales take a left turn and I'm left totally confused about how to move forward. I have struggled with trying to figure out the best ways to reach my customers and generate sales, but alas, do not yet have the answers. Which leaves me now seriously considering closing the shop.

Being open for just over a year and a half, I still consider myself a fledgeling business, and have read that the vast majority of small business startups either inevitably fail, or take several years before showing profit. But how does one, in good conscience, continue to accrue new debt (as far as keeping inventory fresh and exciting for customers), when the sales are, at this point, not supporting whatever debt you may already have incurred.

Don't get me wrong, I do have passion for my business. 

I am a very creatively driven person, and I think most people dream of making a living doing something that they love. For me, that would be almost anything fabric-related. I love to sew and quilt, and petting beautiful fabric makes me happy :) But even though I'm enjoying what I do (for the most part), the stress of not feeling like I'm really accomplishing what I originally envisioned for my business does put a damper on my enthusiasm for it. 

Sara Lawson wrote an awesome blog post a while back about finding your niche, where she talked about starting out selling fabric on ebay, and then making and selling handmade goods - something I have also done - before finally becoming a bag/purse pattern writer and really establishing herself in the creative business world. She said she had fun doing those things, but never really made money at them, and never had that lightning bolt moment where she just knew that "this is what I'm supposed to be doing". I imagine that most people never have that moment, which is kind of sad. Most people go through life working mediocre jobs that they hate, but they need to pay the bills. It's a fact of life, a necessary evil. I am lucky enough to get to stay home with my 3 girls, while my husband works to support our family. That has afforded me the freedom to run my business from home and still be with my girls. I feel very strongly that my place in the world lies somewhere within the fabric/sewing/quilting industry. I'm just not sure that my current business is that place. My husband has always been supportive of my creative endeavors, and I love him dearly for it. He has lately been considering a total career shift, which may have added to my need for writing this post. It may be nature's way of telling me its time for us both to move on to something else.

~~~***~~~

Do you have any creative business experience or insight? I would love to know how you dealt with the earliest stages of your business, whether good or bad. I'm feeling in desperate need of inspirational wisdom. 

Sunday, April 14, 2013

...now if only the stars would align...

I've been itching to expand my shop recently, and have set out on a mission to learn everything there is to know about moving my business. Almost by accident, last week, I found out about a storefront  available for rent in my little town, for a very reasonable price. I've spoken to the owners a few times, toured the shop, talked to an Entrepreneurship Counseling Service, and my city planners. Apparently I don't need any licensing/registrations above what I've already got. Now, it all comes down to brass tacks. There's a thing or two that I need to take care of before diving into my own store, but I can't help but be excited at the prospect! I have such big dreams for the space, above and beyond just selling fabric. I want to host retreats, and sewing days. Summer is fast approaching, and I would love to offer day camps and 'sewing for beginners' to kids/tweens. And I could register these events through our Parks and Rec program, so people would know they're available... 

This is the story of my life. I've always been a bit of a cart-before-the-horse girl, but as my mother said to me just this morning, "You are a very determined and resourceful individual." Who knows what I can make happen for myself :)

Meanwhile, in etsy shop news: 

Simple Marks Summer by Malka Dubrawsky is arriving on Tuesday 4/16!

 As well as 14 bolts from Dear Stella, including some new chevrons:

 These gorgeous Twig and Tree Ring prints:
and this new Zig Zag in 6 colors:
These listings all go up Tuesday morning, so stop by the shop and check out all the new fabrics!   :)

 

Monday, January 21, 2013

Salt Water Giveaway!

Hi all! My friend Mara is giving away an Aqua Salt Water bundle - enough to make your own Anchors Aweigh quilt top!
She is also hosting an Anchors Aweigh quilt along that starts in February! I'll be playing along, myself - I just love the pattern! Did you know that the pattern is available for FREE from Tula Pink herself??

Be sure to hop on over to Mara's blog and sign up, both for the giveaway and the QAL!!

Have fun everyone!!

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Winners!

Wow. 

What an incredible response to my Sew Mama Sew Giveaway Day post! There were 575 entries, and I really enjoyed reading all of the Christmas/holiday wish lists :) 

I've used Random.org to determine the giveaway winners. First up is comment #568:

I would like to get a Samsung phone and a year`s worth of web hookup for it! Lovely fabric. I love the coral colour.

Congrats Janet! Coral bundle for you! I totally want a Samsung Galaxy S3, but it'll never happen.

Next comment is #82:

I'm going to spend my Christmas travelling for the first time so my one wish for Christmas is that for my family to be safe throughout our travels :]


 Congrats Dulce! I hope everyone who travels for the holidays is safe :) You've won the Seaweed bundle!

And last, but not least, comment #516:

FABRIC, lol, I would love to get a big old box of fabric for Christmas, but I already got my present a much needed bra that fits (I removed the rest of what I was going to say, probably not the place) thanks for the great giveaway.

Congrats Mara!! Your comment made me laugh :) I know all about bras that don't fit right, so I feel ya! Its the Aqua bundle for you!!

I have emailed each of the lucky winners. If I haven't received a response by Wednesday when the shipment arrives, I will choose a new winner. Thanks to everyone who entered my giveaway! I love reading all of you comments :) 

Happy Holidays everyone! I hope everyone gets to spend time with their families (and maybe their sewing machines). Best wishes from me and mine :) 
 

Monday, December 3, 2012

SMS Giveaway Day!!!

Wahoo!! I love Sew Mama Sew's Giveaway Days!!! 

I recently opened my own fabric shop, and have been struggling to find time to blog. I had to make sure I got a post up today, though :) 
Tula Pink's 'Salt Water' line ships this Friday, so why not do a little giveaway with it?! I'll be giving away THREE FQ bundles - one in each colorway from her line (Aqua, Coral, Seaweed). 


Gorgeous, right?? 

For a chance to win, simply leave a comment. Any comment will do, but just for fun, how about what's on your Christmas list?? 

I'm hoping for some kind of date schedule with my husband, lol :) We're pretty bad about making time for ourselves. I also would love a one-time cleaning lady....... High hopes, I know. 

Well, good luck everyone! The giveaway closes Friday night (December 7th). Winners announced on Saturday! Thanks for stopping by my blog, and make sure to check out all the other amazing giveaways today!!

Monday, July 23, 2012

My favorite phone calls are those from my quilter letting me know one of my quilts is ready to be picked up :)

I got one such call last night, and rushed right over to see what she had for me. This time it was my kaleidoscope quilt, which I made during Don't Call Me Betsy's quilt along last year. I'd thought of the type of quilting I'd like for it and even drawn her a little picture to reference. It turned out SO GOOD!!!!!!! It isn't even bound yet, but I just couldn't resist taking some pics - check it out!!
I'm just gonna go ahead and apologize now for how many pictures you'll have to scroll through. I'm completely enamored with this quilt and I just can't stop looking at it.
The background is Kona Ash, and all of the prints are a rainbow of Oval Elements from Art Gallery Fabrics. Take a look at these quilting close-ups:
I absolutely love how the pebbles are all different shapes and sizes. I'm so used to seeing pebbling that is mostly circular, and maybe different sizes, but I think the varied, odd shapes really add something here. Inside the kaleidoscopes she quilted some free-form diamond shapes. 

The back is really cool, too:
The aqua fabric is a paisley print from Half Moon Modern, but you lose it a bit in the quilting. The three strips were random pulls from my stash to make the backing wide enough. I really like the whole thing. I'm actually thinking this may be the first quilt I try to hang in my house. I can't wait to get it bound! The angles are obtuse enough that I think I might be able to get away with not mitering corners. That is- if I use bias binding. Hate making bias binding, but it'll be worth it in the end. 

Thanks for stopping by! Have any of you finished something awesome lately? Leave a link in your comment so I can check it out!!
 
 

Friday, July 20, 2012

Julia's Quilt

A few weeks ago, my next-door neighbor passed away. 

Regrettably, I didn't know him well. We got off to an unfortunate rough start, and never became friendly with the family (apart from the obligatory wave from the driveway if we both happened to be outside). His daughter, Julia, babysat for me once a couple of months ago. She is very sweet, and plays with my girls when they're outside. After hearing the news of her father's passing, I felt like I wanted to do something for her - however small. 

This quilt was already on my design wall, with no particular recipient in mind, so I've decided I'm going to give it to her:



This quilt was made using 2 charm packs of Kate Spain's 'Terrain' fabric line, and the equivalent of 2 charm packs worth of the solid. I used Michael Miller's Cotton Couture solid in 'Jewel', and I think it paired very well with the print line. I chose to outline the seams connecting the solid triangles, which formed a cool stair-step/zigzag pattern. The backing is Random Pencil Check in Turquoise, with a tiny corner of Grape shot cotton. 



I especially love the binding:




I chose MMCC in Violet for the binding. I'm a huge fan on contrast binding, or at least a different color from the quilt top. I like it to stand out. 



I'll be giving this quilt to its new owner soon. I hope she likes it. I know its a small gesture. As I said, I don't know them well, and I just wanted to offer some kindness in this sad time.