I've done a lot of hard work myself, but I've also had some very wonderful individuals that have provided me with information and guidance and I am happy to share what I've learned with you. I believe there is plenty of business out there for everyone and that given the same set of tools and knowledge we will all forge a different path through our creativity and art.
So there are quite a few topics to cover, but today I'm starting out from the beginning with......my story.
I guess you could say creativity runs in the family. My Grandma, Marge Harrison, was an amazing painter and art gallery owner, my Grandma Peggy has always been incredibly creative with different handmade businesses throughout the years, my mom is an amazing creative force in my life as well as several of my aunts and my Dad instilled the love of music through his guitar playing and singing. Needless to say, I have always been into the creative arts. I started dancing at the age of four, singing in second grade and acting in middle school and was very serious about becoming a musical theater performer on Broadway. I auditioned for many different colleges around the country and was accepted into the prestigious University of Cincinnati - College Conservatory of Music as one of the 26 musical theater majors.
I went through my first year of school and came to the conclusion that musical theater was not the life I wanted for myself. My parents got divorced that year and money became more of a concern to me and I just wasn't quite sure how I could truly make a living as a performer. And with that thought in mind, I decided to switch over into something more stable. I transferred to DePaul University in Chicago (where my high school sweetheart (now husband) attended) and three years later received my Bachelor of Science in Finance (yes, quite a switch from musical theater). Brett and I were married a month after my graduation and I began my career.
I spent a year and a half working in commercial banking but knew pretty early on that I needed to do something else. Sitting at a desk analyzing numbers was definitely stifling for this creative soul. So I got my real estate license and began selling residential real estate up until I had my first child, Savannah Rose. I have always been into decorating my home and prior to Savannah's birth, I wanted to sew a few things for her nursery - a table runner, a table skirt and some large pillows. I went over to my Grandma Peggy's house and she guided me along the way using her sewing machine. After that half day spent with my Grandma, I knew I wanted a sewing machine of my own.
I had grown up around sewing. My mom used to make us the most amazing costumes for Halloween, dance, and theater, but I never had the patience as a child to truly learn how to use the machine. I was mostly focused on performing, though I always appreciated all the work my my put into everything she made for us.
Four months after Savannah was born, I got my first sewing machine for my birthday (July 2008). I started out wanting to sew a few dresses for my baby girl. I read the manual for my machine and worked my way through my first commercial pattern using the tips that my Grandma had given me and the things I had seen my mom do growing up. I was pretty pleased with my first dress......especially the fact that I sewed a zipper (picture below)!
Very First Dress and Diaper Cover I Ever Sewed
My First Attempt at Drafting My Own Patterns
Thanksgiving Outfit for Savannah Rose
From there, I continued to sew little outfits for Savannah as well as burp cloths and bibs. I was sewing every chance I got and I really believe that practice makes perfect! I even started dabbling in drafting my own patterns. But for Savannah's 1st birthday I wanted to make her a really pretty, fancy dress. I purchased two prints from Amy Butler's 'Midwest Modern' fabric line and went about creating Savannah's birthday dress. From the time I cut into that gorgeous Amy Butler fabric, I was totally hooked on those bright, patterned fabrics! I had several people ask me if I would ever consider selling my items and I did from time to time, but nothing formal.
First Dress in Designer Quilting Cotton by The Cottage Mama
As I continued to sew, I decided that opening up an etsy shop would be a really fun thing to do as a stay at home mom, but never got around to making it official. I wanted to make sure I had a serger (so my items would look professional) and had my business branding (logo, clothing label, ect) in order before I got started. I guess that's the finance major in me.......I just wanted all my ducks in a row. In October 2009 I started this blog, The Cottage Home, to share the projects and recipes I was working on with family and friends. And in January 2010, I finally made it official and opened up, The Cottage Mama.
Very First Item Ever Sold in The Cottage Mama Etsy Shop
I was very nervous about listing things on Etsy since I didn't really know what I was doing, but I listed six different items and felt really good about finally taking the plunge. I went to bed that night and when I woke up, I checked my email and I had sold something!!!! It was seriously one of the most exciting moments. I couldn't believe that a random person had liked my creation enough to buy it. I think I needed that. I need the affirmation from someone, other than my family and close friends, that my work was good enough to sell.
Early The Cottage Mama Designs
From January 2010 until September 2011, I pretty much sold ready-made and custom clothing online and in September 2011 released my first two printed sewing patterns. I plan to release the next three sewing patterns and a series of hand-embroidery patterns in May 2012. There are lot of new projects on the horizon for The Cottage Mama, but some of which you'll have to wait to hear about when they are ready.
So how did I get noticed on etsy? How did I grow my blog? Who designed my logo/blog? How did I purchase my web domain? How do I have a small business and still take care of my children? When did I incorporate my business? Why did I decide to go into selling patterns? Do I have a business plan? How do I manage my finances? What business books and publications do I read? How did I start working with different fabric manufacturers? Where do I buy my fabric, clothing labels, size labels, mannequins, notions, ect.? Do I buy wholesale or retail? Do I sell my items wholesale?
These might all be questions that you would like answered, but these are all questions that will have to be answered in later 'The Handmade Business' posts. These are questions that have come to me via email or through The Cottage Mama Facebook Fan page. If you look at my time-line from when I started my business to where I am now, you will see that I haven't been doing this for very long, but I have figured out ways to make it work and have grown my business beyond my wildest dreams. I hope knowing this will help inspire those of you wanting to turn your hobby into a full-fledge business to realize that it is a very real possibility.
So that's my story in a nutshell, but my question is.........do you have any other questions you would like addressed?
Remember, I am an open book, I'm here to help you become a success story of your very own.
There are no silly questions, what do you want to know?Pin It