Sewing is for the enthusiasts who are either into fashion or home decor.
Most people only think sewing as owning a clothes line and becoming the next big designer, which isn’t a bad dream at all.
But you can own a sewing shop for entire different reasons.
I owned my sewing shop for sewing bags as I felt there were never enough good bags out there and if they were, they were too pricey and not my style either or my choice of colour.
I figured I can make and supply bags all over the beach town, I was new here by the time.
I didn’t do any market research per se but a little walk around the town one day revealed there’s lack of bags but demand for clothes.
In every corner, there’s a boutique shop going on be it men’s clothes or women’s.
But there’s hardly kid’s clothing or bags or even shoes. People love to do the clothes business as they believe it’s ”risk free”.
Or so they think?
I was going to fill in a gap like I spoke about in this blog post.
I got down with pen and paper and thoroughly noted my business plan’s: executive summary, organisation, expansion strategies and all the nitty gritty .
I was so excited but after the August elections, businesses slowed down, life became almost unbearable and no one was buying.
People were simply not there, had run away because of election scare and fear of being singled out.
I didn’t give up, armed with the business world arsenal, I was going to be a conqueror, those weekends, I could barely sleep due to excitement.
I forgot to check some of the dummy/rookie mistakes, I forgot to learn and look beyond the excitement of owning a shop. I refused to open my eyes.
a). I had no niche. So when they brought for me clothes to repair, I jumped right in.
I consulted a friend who ran a cafe( which she closed barely a month later), and she said.
“You’re missing out girl, anything for the money darling”.
That’s a month with no business and me shopping fabric and working very long hours with my bags.
Still caring for my kids, but I forgot my blog, basically I neglected what I loved to grow this new venture which I didn’t want to fail it.
But I was a Jane-of-all-trades as the month waned off.
And work began piling up. That’s despite me knowing that repair work scares the crap out of me and having destroyed my mum’s clothes while trying to repair them.
And it happened that I burnt my client’s dress, her favourite. I’m so glad that she never got to the extent of murdering me but she was so pissed off.
And there’s some repair work that simply refused to work. I spent an entire month of September repairing two clothes for 40 shillings!
b). It was the burn out I hadn’t seen coming, it was the horror of not knowing and not rereading my business plan and listening to what others had to tell me. It was the fear of failing that kept me going.
c). I listened to a lot of negative vibe and people who weren’t in my niche.
Yes, I focused more on what they were telling me about my bags than me producing the bags. I ended up delaying production and suffering burn out.
I started making pillows which turned my fortune around.
If I had foreseen that sewing is more like a side hustle than a full time income, I’d have kept things running here.
But I’m always running with ideas and some I jump into them without extensively reading( I learn on the job). It can be good or worst, you can lose a lot of money.
D). Don’t go in to test the waters. I was going to ”get my feet wet”, to interact in this small town or new town I went to.
I was going to see how business works without careful thought or plan into my business plan.
You can never go right with that unless you only invested stones into it. Which you’re also using energy and wasting time to collect!
e). I lacked in my patience.
Businesses are started all the time, even online but individuals lack patience to continue fighting because the business didn’t provide an income in a month or week.
That’s never the case, in fact, you’re going to wait for your business to grow in five to ten years so stop kidding with yourself and prepare that in advance.
f). I started believing and creating mental blocks that I had heard from the women that women don’t buy cross body bags as they’re actually for girls.
I still hadn’t produced my tote bags.
They also believed my market bags were so annoying or their handles were not of their taste.
So, they weren’t going to buy. My heart got fragile and lacked belief and confidence.
As the pillow business grew, I felt a gap in my heart for tossing my bags in sacks and never finding time to pull them out for fixing and growing.
And the trash pile grew with never ending bags. As client’s work was more crucial.
g). I didn’t hire anyone in my business.
I don’t know what’s with me and always going it solo. I don’t accept help or hired help overwhelms me.
I’m not a very patient teacher so once I teach someone who doesn’t understand, I usually leave them to self study.
If they don’t want, they’ll disappear and remain stagnated forever and also begin wondering why they started working for me.
It became so tiring as time went on because pillows become so popular from October leading towards the Holidays.
I would sleep at my job( which I feel quite brave for doing so) and sew the night away.
h). I never understood my value so I undercharged and got burnt.
I simply would charge a repairs clothes at 10 shillings or 20 shillings.
Some of my best customers actually pointed it out and began to wonder why it is that my prices were too low.
They didn’t know it was because, I wasn’t so confident in repairing them and I didn’t know the market rates so I offered ”competitive rates” at the expense of my efforts, time and money.
Mostly, I dug into my pockets to provide until the pillows got traction.
I). I turned down more jobs.
If a woman wanted a dress, I wouldn’t make it for them.
What I have realised thus far is that, you don’t turn down a job, you take it and outsource to other fundis (tailors), that way, you make an income and also for another fundi. How generous?
j). You can’t just make enough with a sewing shop.
You have got to find other markets in the sewing industry.
This is where you get creative with sewing by exploring and pursuing other sewing creative outlets which include: lamps, refashioning, recreating and recycling.
These niches are interconnected with sewing which leaves room for you to explore your creativity.
QUOTE OF THE CAREER: YOUR CREATIVITY YOUR IMAGINATION OR LIMITATION.
K). Have fun and learn.
In every blog post, I’ll emphasise the value that it is in learning and fun.
You can’t take this business too serious that time for having fun is never there.
You can’t just stop having your life because of having or running the business. The business will suffer from your grumpy attitude.
l). Listen a lot but do you?. If you hear customers asking for a particular thing, offer it again and again making it better and valuable each time.
m). Value your repeat customers and take advantage of them.
By not overcharging but offering them the best and quality service that there is.
Give them discounts, because through them, you get more and more and more customers.
You can add value to their good or offer an extra for what they have bought from you.
I had a lot of repeat customers, but I didn’t know how to treat some of them.
I even complained about some of them(they were too demanding).
They had had a belief in me and believed in my product but I didn’t realise that by them keeping me on my toes, they were trying to make me improve on my products.
n). Go out and chat a little bit with other businesses.
I learnt about listening to others in my niche but other neighbouring shops, I’d sit at the coffee shop binging on my sugarless coffee as I listen to how the communication went down.
Especially when a customer asks for something the shop didn’t have that day either because there was no power or suppliers failed.
I picked some dialogue pointers from that.
Learn more about CUSTOMER SERVICE and how to treat every customer with great concern difficult customers will calm down when they see a humble but a determined face.
o). I learnt the value of time management.
Sometimes with the numerous power outages, they’d be no business.
So I did what I could days in advance and what I couldn’t I kept there pending.
Other customers would believe I’m just dilly dallying others would understand.
That would delay my production rate as days I’m to work on new orders, I’d spend working on older orders and sometimes I couldn’t just carry them home.
p). Know when stop.
I mean have business hours and those help you focus.
There are days I’d spend hours in the shop and end up not having food or cooking at home.
I’d hyper-focus on projects having no breaks to unwind or catch some air.
The wake up call was when the burn out was too much during the Christmas holiday.
DREAD THIS: Felt like a failure and duties piled. I was a liar too. I literally went out for a month at the expense of my shop. I just hated being around my shop.
q). Brand yourself or your products.
Don’t produce items without having a proper signature.
That’s how people recognise and respect you as an industry leader especially if you plan on going to retail or expand your business.
Creating a brand and a vision accompanied with the mission is something that you must do, whether offline or online.
Your brand leaves, and you’re reminded of the far you have come and the far you intend on going.
r). Keep evolving as the market trends keep changing.
Don’t stick to services you came to offer or products, listening to your customers carefully and diligently will actually show you a direction for expansion which you can tweak in your business plan.
Be strategic about change and test what the market actually asks.
Slowly learn what individuals are shopping and how.
The times of month which they shop more and less and introduce products which will make your shop be a retail business with daily returns.
Because, selling daily is more lucrative than just once a month or twice a month.
s). Outsource services which you aren’t confident tackling.
I made a mistake of doing it all by myself.
I should have solicited for a seamstress who would take orders or who I’d train for more businesses. Just like someone said,
”Sometimes trusting someone is a risky business”.
t). If you plan on moving or travelling like we do, a sewing shop will not work or offer flexibility.
You’ll begin to feel limited and constrained and leaving someone with no inventory as you wait for orders from customers is not what you want someone who you don’t trust that much to work on.
They’re just too many hyenas in the market.
I sure did learn a hell lot. I’ll make a vlog for you who don’t love reading very long messages.
I make sure to include my tips and tricks plus techniques so that no one is left out.
And when you read, you feel like all your questions have been answered. But if not, what are you waiting for and
SUBSCRIBE AT : GERTRUDE. AKINYI AT GMAIL DOT COM email list is free to opt in and beautiful e newsletters?