Have you ever flirted with the idea of turning your sewing hobby into a profitable business? If so you aren’t alone. According to the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), small enterprises account for 52% of all U.S. workers! However before you take the entrepreneurial plunge, you might want to consider:
The Value of Time
Creating items for yourself or family/friends on your own schedule is fun, but what about receiving orders from customers that need to be filled on a strict schedule? Running a business is great in that you can take breaks to run an errand, or you can choose to work late in the evening as opposed to working early in the morning. Unlike your typical 8-5 desk job, you have a great deal of flexibility, but with that you also have a lot of responsibility. You will find that time is no longer your own in a different kind of way. It’s true that when you own a business you actually work more hours than if you work 40 hours a week for someone else. So be careful what you wish for, and be sure to discuss this time commitment with others in your household.
Do you have the initial funds that will be necessary for you to start your business? If not are you able to borrow the money? Try to make a list of the costs that will be necessary, and develop a financial plan. Some costs will be up front, while others can be spread over a period of time. If you need more expensive items like equipment, find out if these items can be purchased and paid for over a set period with no interest charges, to save on the initial start-up costs of your business. All businesses take time to grow, so don’t plan on turning a profit too soon.
So you have decided you have the time/money and still want to start a sewing business. Do you know what type of business you want? There are so many choices. Do you want a retail store or would you like to sell online? Do you want to sell sewing supplies or actually create items for sell? Are you great at altering clothing? Maybe you love making patterns and would consider selling those to others? Would you like to write books for people that sew? Or maybe you would like to teach sewing classes. The point here is to think through all the possibilities and choose one that best meets your own time, financial, and creative needs. Find a niche and fill it!
Once you have decided on the type of sewing business you would like to have, start thinking of a good business name. Do searches, by going to a website for domain name registrations, to see if the name you like has already been chosen by someone. You definitely want a unique name. Even if you won’t be selling online you will eventually need an online presence, so choose your name wisely. You should also search the US Patent and Trademark office to see if the name you have chosen is trademarked. You might also check to see if your chosen business name is being used in social media – on a Facebook Page (this is different than a personal Facebook site), on Twitter, on Pinterest, and on any other social media you might use. Once you find an available name you like go ahead and register it as a domain name now (about $10).
It would also be a good idea to register this name as a dba (doing business as) name with your local county and perhaps your state. Most states should have an online website for this type of information. You will also need to register with your state comptroller’s office if you will be filing a sales tax return. Find an attorney or tax accountant to help you with the decision on what type of business you want to have – a sole proprietorship, LLC, corporation, etc. All have different legal and tax implications.
Finding a Mentor (or two or three)
Find as many good mentors for your business as possible. Bounce ideas off of friends and family. In business areas where you are weak find someone who can assist you. One friend that really helped me was a serious quilter, and she gave me “shortcuts” for sewing. She also happened to have a master’s degree in business! Read, read, read, and watch online videos. There are so many online resources out there now to help those wanting to start their own business. The Small Business Administration has a great website. I sell online with Etsy, and they have a remarkable network of resources for folks starting creative businesses. If you will be selling online, also check out other sites like Craftsy, MadeIt, and Big Cartel to see what online stores might work best for you.
The Big Learning Curve
So now that you have many of your business plans firmed up, it’s time to get busy and LEARN! This means completion of everything you need to do prior to hanging up your “Open” sign. If you have new equipment learn how to properly use it. Take lessons if necessary. If you are selling items learn about branding and pricing, and how to source materials. If you want an online business you will have to learn how to set up an online store(s), and will need to make enough items, or purchase enough supplies, to stock a store. You will also need to learn the ins and outs of shipping. Learn all you can about advertising and photography. Learn how to make use of social media to assist in advertising your business. For some it’s a sharper learning curve than for others, but if you just make a list and tackle things one at a time it will help. Determine what you need to learn first and start there. Oh, and be sure to enjoy the process along the way!
Trust me the rewards of all your hard work will be worthwhile, and in ways you can’t even imagine. There really is nothing like owning your own business. It is still the American dream and definitely an accomplishment to be proud of!