Behind the Stitches
Owning and running a small business is so much more then the main work, which for me is the design and sewing. In fact, some days I feel as though that’s the thing I spend the least amount of time doing. It’s not true – the majority of my time is spent sewing but there are many days that it does not feel like it. So here are just a few of the other aspects fo the business:
With each season comes new designs. From concept to actual pencil on paper to trial runs, design work is time consuming and for me not my favorite part. I love seeing my designs complete but getting to that place can be painful for me. Many hours go into sewing and adjusting until it fits with the original concept. There is a lot of stitches ripped out and requests for my friends to try things on their different aged babies (thank you all, thank you all!)
Planning is a large piece of the day – planning what to make for what season, how much fabric to buy, what prints, how many designs to offer for the season. Because I want to sell at markets, I am constantly researching and planning for markets that are accepting applicants in my area. Market applications come out anywhere from 6 months to 3 months prior to the actual market. Market applications themselves take extensive amounts of time – the competition is huge so making sure that you are putting your absolute best forward in your application is vital.
Currently as we move towards the world of sleepwear, the research has been focused on making sure that we are compliant with all of the sleepwear regulations in Canada. Children’s sleepwear is heavily regulated (which is fantastic) but it means that small businesses like myself have vast amounts of information to sift through to make sure that we are meeting all the requirements and standards. This past week I have also been looking at updating all of our labeling to make sure that all the standards that need to be met for labeling are being met. There are rules around permanent labels and non-permament labels and which types of items can use which kinds of labels and then there are rules around what goes on the label.
Requirements are different for different countries for both of these things so depending on where you want to sell your items, you need to make sure you are meeting the requirements of those particular countries. Now I understand why there are 17 labels on clothes from H&M.
The sewing is the part I love the most. I love watching a big piece of fabric turn into smaller pieces of fabric then put together like a puzzle until it creates an actual piece of clothing. I do almost all of the sewing myself. I say almost because from time to time my mom comes in and helps me attach straps or elastic or tags when I need to get caught up. I am fortunate enough to have the space to have a studio in my home that I can do all the cutting, sewing and packaging from.
Large chunks of every day is spent working on social media. What does that mean? It means not just posting – that’s the easy part. It’s planning the posts (like what to post, when to post it, what hashtags to use, which social media platform) and being active on each of the platforms. That includes being part of the community – talking and working with other makers and giving them boosts where possible in hopes that they will do the same for you. Social media posts often take time working in Adobe Photoshop to create any post that isn’t a photograph. Even those go through their time in Photoshop as well.
I do all of my own photography which I find the most time consuming next to the actual sewing. I plan all of my shoots, have to find backgrounds, models and props, appropriate lighting and locations and then time to actually take the shots. Once that is complete, hours of editing and sorting take place before photos are selected for social media and the website.
My bookkeeping practices currently are trying to keep my receipts semi in order so that when I meet with the bookkeeper at the end of the month it won’t be a complete disaster… just a small mess. I am having a bookkeeper set up my books for me but then I will take them back over and this will be another aspect of the day. As much as I’d love to hand this off to someone else, when you’re a small business, keeping things lean is important and I simply can’t afford a bookkeeper at this point. But trust me, WHEN I CAN…..
I design and maintain the website myself and do all of my own records keeping. I am required to keep good records so that if there are any issues with any of my products I can look at it and know what batches were used for that item and what other items were made from that batch. What that means is I record when and where I bought all the materials used to make each piece that I sell – fabric, thread, zippers, snaps, tags, everything. So a good chunk of time goes into cataloguing anytime I buy things to keep all of that straight. Then there's the other stuff techinical stuff like emails and creating and sending newsletters. All me.
Markets & Selling
Once you make it, you have to sell it! Online sales - packing an item, printing shipping labels and getting them all off to the post office are all my job too. In person sales, or Markets, can be anywhere from 1 day to 4 days long and have their own planning requirements. Setup, props, prep for market (ironing product, labeling product, sorting and prepping to move it to a location) all takes time. This fall/winter I have 2 large markets I am preparing for and am hopefully to get in at least 1 more.
It’s not an exhaustive list but it certainly gives you an idea of the world and what it looks like from over here. Oh yeah… and add weekly blog posts into there somewhere!