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Pillows are my absolute favourite sewing item of all time but they can get quite boring if repeatedly using the same fabric and style.

I go for versatility all the time which means including different colour, texture, material here meaning fabric, and a bit of mix and match.

I started making my own pillows when I was sewing for our new home which needed some pillows and curtains.

I  had made some pillows but just basic ones made from flannel fabric and I adored at the time.

I have a pillowcase that I ripped and made a pillow with!

I learnt that sewing pillows wasn’t hard at all but yet pillows were quite expensive even when bought in plain white fabric without covers.

Now, I have a policy in my life which states:

”If I know how to do something, why pay for it when I can do it better and more creatively to express who I am?”

I gathered my sewing supplies which were flannel, coding and some pillow forms. At the time, I was also a bit frustrated because I didn’t know where to buy the polyester filling.

So, I imported some from the USA at JOANN’s and when I ran out, I’d buy some big pillows at Nakumatt, 26 by 26 inches cut them up and reproduce pillows.

That’s how I started.

After sitting down and analysing my sewing needs, I decided to open a sewing shop, which I have since closed because it wasn’t offering me the flexibility I needed in my time.

I even neglected my online business which is quite ironical because this is where businesses are rushing to and I’d love a slice of my own pie!

Want to hear about the sewing shop story, how to start one and become successful? 

LISTEN TO PART TWO AND THREE ABOUT STARTING A PILLOW BUSINESS EMPIRE IN THE YOUTUBE VIDEOS ABOVE AND SUBSCRIBE TO MY CHANNEL. 

Funny, when I started my shop, the need wasn’t to fulfill any pillow orders but to sell bags, I’m a big fan of bags and don’t feel like there is enough bags in my style in the Kenyan market.

Or if there’s it doesn’t match with my taste or style or I’m in fact too picky and would love to make things my own way, ALL THE TIME.

I one day made two pillows from the left over pillow forms from the Nakumatt haul( I miss those Nakumatt hauls – Revive Giant Retailer)!

And that’s barely two months into the business and I made about 300 dollars in profit and over a 100 pillow orders, in a Month! .

 It was a good month, I knelt down and prayed to God daily over the blessing. 

Unfortunately, I hadn’t prepared for orders to take a toll or burn out or monotony as people wanted me to make the same thing over, over and over again.

I find it hard to repeat myself and found it hard to keep up.

The job became boring but I went on.  Until the day I realised that wasn’t my true calling, mine lies with work flexibility and freedom. And if I don’t have that, then I have lost everything”. 

IN THIS ARTICLE, YOU’LL FIND GOODIES LIKE: 

1 . How to Get Started in Pillow Business, these ideas will actually be extended to other businesses you have in mind but with a tweak here and there to accommodate the niche at hand.

 2.  The Supplies You’ll need and How to Get Them. 

3.  How to Price Your Pillows. 

4.  Hiring Extra Hand. 

5.  Does Location Matter  

6.  How to Keep in Trend ( knowing what sells and what doesn’t). Pillow Styles to Emulate.

7.  How to Find Customers Online. Creating an Online Store 

8.  Exactly How Much is the Profit? And How to Calculate Your Profits. 

9.  Finding Distributors. 

10.  How to Sell Your Pillows to Retail Stores. 

11.  Networking with other Home Decor Businesses. 

12.  Custom Making Orders and Taking. 

13.  How to Brand your Pillow Business 

14.   How to Expand a Pillow Business. 

15.  How to Get Repeat Customers. 

16.  Dealing with Unhappy and Rude Customers. 

17.  How to Sell on Social Media

18.  Self-Care and Avoiding a Burn-Out 

19. Value-Adding Pillow Services 

20.  Having fun, learning, patience and perseverance are the key to building success. 

21.  Niche Marketing your Pillows. 

22.  Managing Profits and Tips for Business Expansion. 

  1. How to Get Started in Pillow Business

To get started in the pillow business, you’ll a few of the following skills and items. 

Sewing skills doesn’t have to be advanced but needs to know how to sew zip both invisible and the normal kind.

You also must know how to sew cording for the decoration part or pillow fringes. 

You’ll need sewing machines and I have a few recommended for beginner tailors 

A sewing space or sewing room 

A camera for snapping the pillows because you are starting from home. And I make for you a few camera choices for beginners.

Phone cameras and cameras themselves. 

A Facebook/Instagram dedicated group/page for pillows and show your pillow pairing prowess

  1. The Supplies You’ll Need and How to Get Them

The supplies needed for sewing pillows include: 

Zips buy in bulk 

Sewing machines 

cording/piping 

Fibre, there are various types of fibres available in the market.

From the cheapest to the most expensive ones.

I prefer hypoallergenic fibre and goose feathers. They last longer and are luxurious. 

Fabric for the outer pillow cover. You can use the most basic cotton to the most luxurious silk covers. 

Sewing needles/pins 

Markers 

Shop for these items pillow sewing supplies according to my recommendations below; 

THE FIBRE 

If you want to use the cheapest yet affordable fibre, I recommend the following types

  1. The polyester polyfil fibre is the third best in the fibre-filling. It’s soft and fluffy and it doesn’t age fast. Note, there are many types of polyester fibre. 

Keep in mind the cost of shipping varies. 

More polyester pillow fibre options include;

2. Fairfield the Original Poly-Fil Premium 100% Polyester Fiber Fill Box, 6.5 Pounds, White

3. Air Lite 580/6 Eco-Friendly Recycled Polyester Fiberfill, White

4. VirtueValue 20 LBS of Raw Polyester Cluster Fiber Filling | Arts and Crafts| Teddy Bear Stuffing | Pillow Fill (20 LB. Bag)

The best luxurious pillows get filled with goose down.

In fact, when using goose down, you are going to increase the price for it because the pillows will last for a decade. 

The best goose down recommendations from me include

  1. Bulk Goose Down Filling (1/2 lb.) 700 Fill Power – 100% Natural White, No Feathers – Fill Comforters, Pillows, Jackets and More – Ultra-Plush Hungarian Softness – Dream Solutions USA Brand

You can also get fancier by using buckwheat in pillows.

Buckwheat pillows provide proper head and neck rest so very suitable for bed pillows. Get your buckwheat filling 

Buckwheat Pillow Replacement Hulls: Zen Chi 100% Organic Premium Buckwheat Hulls – 2 Lb Refill Bag

Feather filling. Goose Down Feather Stuffing & Fill – Bulk 10lb Bag – 10/90 White Down Real Feather Mix for Filling, Repair, Restuffing Fluff to Couch Cushions, Pillows, Jackets, Bedding Products

Cotton Fibre Filling 

Organic Raw Cotton Fiber – Natural Color – By the Pound

Wool Fibre Filling 

SUPER CLEAN WOOL FILLER for Stuffing, Needle Felting, Blending and Dryer Balls – 1 LB Bag, Natural White

CERTIFIED ORGANIC Merino Wool Roving. Ethically & Responsibly Sourced Fiber for Spinning, Felting, Filling and Dryer Balls – 1 LB Bag, Natural White

Pillow Fibre 

  • Latex.
  • Feather & Down.
  • Wool.
  • Synthetic.
  • Memory Foam.
  • Cotton.

  1. How to Price Your Pillows

After gathering all the pillow sewing supplies, you need to know how to price your pillows.

Pillow prices depend on a number of things including 

Type of fibre used

 If using the hypoallergenic fibre or the goose feathers, your pillows prices will definitely go higher.

Why, because you’re focusing on the quality of production.

Also when you use silk and satin as the pillow fabrics, your pillows price increase. But when using foam, the price isn’t as high. 

Type/design of the pillow is the pillow an owl or another shape like emoji or the like pillows

How long did it take to come up with the design? How much fabric and fibre did you use? 

Is the pillow custom-made?

The amount of time it took to make/design the pillow.

If a pillow took 30 minutes from start to finish that means the materials and cost of production aren’t high.

For example, if making overlapping pillows vs zip closure pillows, the zip closure takes a considerable amount of time to produce. 

Type of fabric used

If you use satin or silk the price of pillow increases. These are exotic materials which take time.

See why pillow sewing isn’t easy contrary to what others say. 

Your pillow niche

Who are your pillows for. Who’s your ideal customer. Are you sewing pillows for high-end clients. Do they need real silk and goose feathers? 

You pillow size

Pillow sizes matter a lot. The most selling pillow size is 16 by 16 inches or 18 by 18 inches. And the bed pillows which range in sizes. When sewing keeps that in mind. 

Are your pillows fixed-price or negotiable? And to what extent is negotiable. What’s does custom price mean 

  1. Hiring Extra Hand

When hiring an extra hand to help you come up with your pillow designs, keep in mind the following;

It’s never an easy task to find someone who’s willing to execute your tasks as needed. 

Hire very slowly but fire faster is a mantra I use. 

Train your hired help in customer service. You’re not sewing pillows, you’re serving a clientele. 

Decide on how much you’ll be paying the customer. Is it on commission or a month-end agreement? 

  1. Does Location Matter  

Your sewing location matters if you choose to go for the offline way of marketing your pillows.

Choose a location where your target market frequents.

Is it a shopping mall. Have you positioned your goods in front of your audience so they see you the goods you’re making? 

What kind of customers do you want to check in on your shop?

Have you properly displayed your pillows to entice your customers?

Do you have a great pillow selection?

Divide your shop to be eye-catching, an eye-candy not an eye-sore to your customers.

This determines the kinds of customers who will come to you. 

  1. How to Keep in Trend ( knowing what sells and what doesn’t). Pillow Styles to Emulate

You’re going to keep atop pillow trends and there is a number.

There are emoji pillows, do you have the yellow fabrics to emulate the emoji pillows.

There are body pillows, pillows for side sleepers and nursing pillows among other trends.

How well do you know the trends and how can you add these pillows to your shop’s collection. 

  1. How to Find Customers Online. Creating an Online Store 

The best marketing there is these days is online marketing.

How well do you know how to start an online shop.

What are the best online shops you can use to display your pillows and how do you create one. 

I’ working on my Shopify store and it’s the best time of my life to show my creativity and also to help others find my goods easier.

Pair your online store with a facebook or Instagram shop.

I add other people’s pillows in my store as well, will share with you when I’m halfway done. 

  1. Exactly How Much is the Profit? And How to Calculate Your Profits. 

I’ll show you a very easy way of calculating your profits, no hard economics here. I love simplified projects. 

How much are you spending on fabric and supplies and hired labour? 

How much are your intended profits? 

How much do you want to sell your pillow at? 

With this in mind, I buy lots of bulk fabrics, so I get a lot of discounts. I also buy when the fabrics are on offer from Black Friday and other holidays.

But for each 16 by 16 pillow, you use about three quarters of a yard or metres if you’re using the fabric for coding. Or even less fabric.

For example, for a fabric measuring about 60 to 72 inches by 36 inches, you can make four pillows measuring 18 by 18 inches. And have fabric for coding.

If the fabric cost 1000 shillings, the fibre you; ll use is the normal type of fibre, costing 1900 for 5 kilogrammes, and you use about little less than a half a kilo.

The coding cost 200 shillings depending on the size and you won’t use it all on four pillows and four zippers, costing 50 shillings each, you are spending about 2400 to produce each pillow.

Add your cost of labour which ranges from 500 to thousands of shillings.

The cost of these pillows will average about 1000 for the 16 inches to 2000 and 2500 to 3500 for the 18-inch pillow.

You have to calculate the average cost of all the materials then price either a low by 500 to 1000 or higher by the same amount.

The purpose of mark-up prices is to pay yourself the building and your workers while maintaining a profit.

And it’s an average, now, use this method to price your exotic materials. Just make sure to charge what your chosen ideal customers afford.

Ask for your worth, more on worth below. 

  1. Finding Distributors

After you know how to price your pillows, keep in mind the money your distributors will be pocketing.

Distributors can either be affiliates online or offline.

Whatever mode you choose, ask yourself who are my ideal customers.

How do I want my distributors to talk to the ideal customers?

Who are my distributors and how will I pay them.

Do they need to invest in the pillows first, like how network marketing world?

The meaning, will they buy the goods, then I teach them to market and sell the pillows.

When working with other people there are a lot of factors to pay attention to. 

  1. How to Sell Your Pillows to Retail Stores

I looked into the option of taking my pillows to supermarkets and my offer was accepted.

The process is tedious and the profit margin measly. But if this is a route you’d love to go to, a few words of wisdom are abound: 

What is the retail store you have identified? 

Do they sell these kinds of pillows you are selling

Why should they want your pillows

Is your business ready to ‘suffer’ without money? 

They don’t pay you upfront, are you ready to work with what you have is it going to pinch your pockets deep. 

Are you ready to lower your prices? 

And are you ready to get KEBS certified or some kind of authorisation to sell this product?

If you answer yes to all this, then take the dive.

I found it too daunting especially when they mentioned I have to deal with another government agency, I smelt corruption because I’m not selling food. But, your experience isn’t mine go for it and see how it turns out. 

  1. Networking with other Home Decor Businesses

Establishing proper networks isn’t for the top marketing gurus alone, you’re a business owner who needs proper and strong networks.

What are the other home decor places in your neighbourhood selling and at how much?

It’s not a competition it’s knowing your market and believing your customers are out there waiting for you.

They’re at the doorway. Don’t share your trade secrets an important virtue I earnt from Toyin Lawani a Nigerian business mogul in her book, unstoppable.

Don’t tell it all, it’s knowing the competition and how you can stand above them.

If they value your connection, great, if they don’t well move on. They may not be as niche as you though. 

  1. Custom Making Orders and Taking

The learning curve towards taking custom orders is going to make write two and a half pages for this blog post.

But to take custom orders pay attention to the following

Measure the clients’ fabrics and determine the length, width, defects. 

Tell the customer how much fabric is expected to remain and why if nothing going to remain. 

Show them how you store their fabrics by labelling and writing their names. 

Include their basic customer information like name, phone number, id number and give them your business card with the same info. 

Tell them your mode of delivery and why custom orders take a little longer and are charged a little pricier than ready-made projects. 

Tell them how many business or working days you open shop and what happens when their pick up day is on a weekend when you’re closed. 

Explain to them that you accept corrections and they can come back to have their pillows fixed 

And who will receive the pillows? 

Having and keeping proper custom taking orders record is critical so that customers don’t say you short-changed them. 

It’s also a way of ensuring your customers know you’re not a conman. 

  1. How to Brand your Pillow Business 

No one starts a pillow business knowing it’ll be a brand movement.

A brand is a name, logo, design among other things like customer service.

So what’s your pillow business name. What does your logo design say about your business? 

Who are our ideal customers and why?

Can they afford your pillows and where do they live.

Know about establishing a memorable and credible brand in this blog post. It’s about creating a brand movement like apple or star wars. 

  1.   How to Expand a Pillow Business

When looking into expanding your pillow business, consider the following;

The cost of expansion. Are you getting a new premise? Are you going to work out from your home if you were working from home? 

How much will this expansion cost, does it also increase the cost of production. 

Keep in mind that expansion means growth. 

What will you add in your expansion 

After establishing yourself as a pillow guru, it’s time to get into another lucrative niche area. The toy industry.

It’s a booming industry with billions of dollars made every single day. That means more fabrics, sewing patterns and great organisations skills. 

Also, what are the growth expansion projections?

How much more profits will you make.

Remember if you are going to rent out a bigger place it means more profits and also an increase in the products.

And also acquiring new customers. Business expansion is great, scary but go for it.  

  1. How to Get Repeat Customers

How would it feel to have 80 per cent of your customers come back? Maintaining customers is a handle many business owners don’t know how to handle. 

To maintain customers you are going to do the following strategies;

Have reward programmes 

Reward programmes include discounts and offers.

For example, for every customer, your loyal customer brings, give the loyal customer a commission or a discount on the customer they bring. Whatever works for you. 

Rewarding customers means they stick and hang around for a lot longer. And business grows with loyal customers. 

Offer your loyal customers with teaser products.

When releasing new products, make sure your loyal customers hear and get to test the pillows first.

Let them critic it and also help spread the word. 

You reduce your marketing messages/plans when your customers market for you.

QUESTION OF THE HOUR: Is your interest sparked on starting a pillow business and would want to find more info?

What more info would you love to see added in this article? 

NOTE:         Yours is to keep in touch by subscribing to my email list or asking a question down below which I’ll get to you asap.


stephanie

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2 Comments

Catherine · 4th September 2019 at 5:12 pm

Great introduction to the topic. Main question is am I missing something or is this the entire article? How do I get answers to the questions you posed at the end of the article?

    stephanie · 19th September 2019 at 11:56 am

    Hello Catherine, this is a work-in-progress article that’s under renovation. Thank you for your comment, please check the article by Friday 20th September 2019 and it’ll be done.

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Online Businesses/Work from Home in Kenya