Handmade business: A Day in the Life (…of a fashion designer, sewing machinist, pattern-maker, cosplayer, miniature artist, tarot card reader, crystal – hoarder & all-round witchy woman…)
I’ve been wanting to do a blog post like this for a while – I just love reading about what other people’s creative lifestyles look like, and I thought I’d share my experience too! I find getting a sneaky peek into other folks’ handmade business (and how they live their lives around it) super inspirational.
So, here’s hoping my little preview gives you some idea of what it’s like to own + run your own creative business, and maybe a little inspiration to take the leap too (if you haven’t already!) 🙂
I will warn you, it’s not conventional – and sometimes (a lot of the time), it ain’t pretty! Think lop-sided messy bun (not the cute type…), pyjama pants and a stack of dirty dishes on more than one surface.
7:00am – Still in bed. 7:30am – Still in bed. 7:45am – STILL in bed.
8:00am – Probably roll out by about now! Wash face. Tie hair. Chat to my parrot. Chat to my dog. Make the bed.
8:30am – Make my morning breakfast smoothie (usually 1 ripe banana, 1/2 cup soy milk, 1/2 cup oat milk, handful of baby spinach/kale + 1/2 weetbix if I’m feeling sassy). Sit on couch, thinking about the day, drink my smoothie. Chuck on the TV to see what the outside world is up to.
9:00am – (Maybe) Change into a pair of “day” leggings and a (not gonna lie, Harry Potter) t-shirt. Lightly tidy up my workspace – either the coffee table or my cutting table in my sewing studio. Parrot cuddles and coo’s.
9:30am – Check my notes/planner to see what I need to work on today. Quickly check online shops (3 Etsy stores, with #4 in the works 😉 ) Collate my orders into an orderly list. Rate my tasks in order of urgency. A bit of day-dreaming, and time for my coffee. Chuck a load of washing or dishes on.
10:00am – Finally start work! Depending on what needs doing – this could be anything from making miniatures, creating cosplays for my clients, drafting patterns for custom garments, doing alterations for local peeps, sewing small production runs for local designers, or meeting with my clients in person at my home studio.
12:00noon – Yay. It’s lunch time, y’all! Usually I’ll have leftovers (nutmeat + lentil pasta or satay veg and tofu, anyone?). Or if I’m being boring I’ll have a PB sandwich. Chuck on some good ol’ Dr. Phil! Kick feet up and chow down.
1:00pm – Peel myself away from the tv and continue work in studio, or put a movie on and bring my work on to the coffee table 🙂 Coffee table especially grand for embroidery, miniatures, fiddly things or paperwork.
2:00pm – Parrot cuddles. Talk to dog. Make a cuppa.Go out to the garden if I have time and look at all my planter boxes. Marvel at what I have grown. Pity the plants that I have slowly but surely sentenced to death. Check for any e-mails or Etsy convo’s.
3:30pm – Package up any orders due to ship or take dog for a walk up to the park.
4:00pm – Head to the post office on foot to lodge parcels and pick up tonight’s dinner supplies at the mini supermarket next door.
4:30pm – Do a set of weights in the living room. Make another smoothie. Put parrot to bed while saying “night night” approximately 1 million times.
5:00pm – Take a shower. Get in comfy clothes or back in pyjamas. Yay! Tidy up the house a little. Maybe do a tarot/oracle card reading for myself or a friend via messenger.
6:00pm – Dinner prep + cook. Or if I’m lazy, a trip up to Loving Hut. 🙂
6:30pm – Neighbours is on y’all! Dinner… yassss!
7:00pm – Finish any miniature orders, flick through planner schedule and jot down anything that needs doing or finishing for the next day.
7:30 – A bit more sub-par tv. Small bits of work follow me into the lounge again and I continue to work away. Cup of tea time. If I haven’t showered yet, I’ll take a nice hot bath with a LUSH bathbomb.
8:00pm – Sometimes still working. Or still watching some doco or program on tv. Or reading a good book. My faves are dystopian/post-apocalyptic teen/young adult, sci-fi, fantasy/adventure + heart-wrenching shit like this:
9:00pm – Sometimes STILL working. This can go on until 11, 12, and worst case 3 or 6am if I need to meet a deadline. 10:30 – Usually bed time 🙂 Phew.
Weekdays I generally catch up with friends over a coffee or trip to the mall/local spiritual shop. Wednesdays I do a shift at a local boutique – Sad Jane – where I sew and run the shop. Come visit!
Weekends: Usually a mix of work and regular stuff. Weekends are when I do my fabric shopping and sourcing, visit local handmade artisan markets (or attend and sell at them!), complete any orders ready for Monday, go out for breakfast, go for a hike in nature or walk on the beach, explore new vegan places for lunch, go see a new movie, walk around Fremantle, have a beer, watch a band, go to a cosplay/comic/pop-culture convention and do some gardening. Tidy the house, play with the animals, relax at home.
Now that I have actually written it out, it doesn’t actually sound all that inspirational to me. But that’s life. Maybe if I was still working at the sewing factories of 5 years ago, it would sound amazing! Now I’m living it… well, it sounds kind of hectic, and like I haven’t heard of the word “boundaries”.
Looking back on this and examining my daily life, I realise it can be super hard sometimes… but I also get to choose what I do – and when I do it… I guess when it comes down to it, I am really grateful and happy I am able to do what I do 🙂
I hope if you’re thinking about maybe taking a leap and starting your own enterprise, or if you already have but it’s not what you envisioned.. that maybe you can stop, slow down, and start thinking about what your ideal lifestyle is. And then of course, how to go about changing your habits and schedules, so you can turn it into one that you enjoy living!
Anyway, it’s going to be much more relaxed when I’m a millionaire! ….Right?? >.>
This tutorial is super easy – How to make a tin can planter, to gift or to keep 🙂
What you’ll need:
Tin can from pantry
Ribbons, twine, string
Drill and bit
Seaweed emulsion liquid/Seasol
What is really great about this is that it’s an awesome way to recycle and re-use stuff you already have at home. Personally I love receiving plants and produce from friends and neighbours. It’s something useful, thoughtful and something grown with love from your own bare hands! What would really look great is a pretty herb or succulent.
First step – Choose your can, they come in lots of shapes and sizes – the shorter wide ones are my favourite! But it really depends on what you’ll plant in it – and how long you intend to keep it in the can for. Lots of plants will outgrow their cans and you could even re-use the can again – that’s if it hasn’t gone rusty!
Put your can in the next load in the dishwasher, or wash by hand. If the label isn’t fully off, scratch it off with a craft knife or sandpaper. Make sure there are no sharp edges on the inside rim where you could cut yourself – use pliers or a thin wooden rolling pin (I use one with no handles) to roll the sharp edge down, into the can.
Next, flip your can upside down and drill a few holes in the base for drainage. Please wear safety glasses – the metal flakes will fly all over the place! Also you should do this outside and try and clean up the metal shavings as they are not fun to get in your feet. If you need to, cover the surrounding area with newspaper and then roll up the paper and put it in the recycle bin when you’re done. Drainage for planters are really important! If your holes come out all rough and ragged, use a screwdriver to get rid of the rough edges or again, sandpaper!
Dig through your compost pile and find some good dirt, or alternatively go and buy a small bag of seedling starter soil from Bunnings or a similar garden center. Fill your can upto 3/4 point. You should have your seedlings, seeds or cutting ready to plant in. Place whichever one you chose into the can, and fill the remaining 1/4 up to the top and press down.
Once your plant is in it’s can, you can now gently water it in with a mix of water and Seasol. Follow the quantities on the back of the bottle. 🙂 Me, I just like to do a little dash here, a little dash there. I never measure anything 😉
Lastly, dry the outside of the can and then tie some nice ribbons around it. I also like to write up a little description of what the plant is on a small tag. I also like to do this a week in advance to make sure the plant is well established and looking healthy! I have also made cactus in teacups and herbs in vintage colanders, the ideas are endless and such a thoughtful, eco-friendly gift idea… Not to mention very affordable 🙂
…Feeling the pressure of keeping all of your customers and clients happy? In a creative rut, where you feel bored of making the same things over and over again? Maybe you have a million ideas about things you’d love to create – so you are now paralyzed by all these great designs spinning around in your head? Yep. I know them feels! Actually it happens quite a lot, and some days – it’s evening time and you look back and realise you haven’t achieved much at all! Grand plans were foiled by the laundry pile, a dog who wants to play, even a fantastic session of procrasti-baking.
I’d like to share with you 10 of my favourite things to get you back in the game and back to kicking a$$ with your creative business! I hope maybe some of them will work for you too.
Such a fantastic series – full of successful sellers doing what they love! Interview format articles, brimming with inspiring real-life stories of struggle, quick-thinking & success! A wide range of designer/makers to read about, and of course my favourites are going to be anything sewing related! After reading these you will think anything is possible!
Take a day off.
No, really. Do it. And don’t feel guilty about it either. Schedule in a WHOLE day, just for you. If you need to do some tidying or laundry – get it done within the first hour. Then… relax! Do some gardening, baking, personal creative projects, dye your hair, paint your nails… cook a good meal with a friend and a glass of wine! Make a really pretty cake, and then invite 1 or 2 good pals over to dive into it with a fancy coffee. Honestly, recharging your batteries is one of the greatest and smartest things you can do for yourself, to get a boost in your business. You are the CEO – you NEED to take care of you!!!
I have SO many Etsy shops that I admire and adore. Like, at least 300 of them, I haven’t even had enough time to save them all in my favourites yet. They range from supplies, to handmade, vintage… some of them are the same style/vibe as mine, some because they are so unique and clever, and some because they are killing it – and smashing sales left, right and center! Now, I’m not saying you need to go out and copy all of your competitors items and ideas. I’m saying you need to find brands and makers that speak to you, that speak your creative language – and get inspired by them! For all you know, they could be looking at your online shop in exactly the same way! I often like to think about what makes them successful, or what makes me enjoy their work? Is it their brand vibe? Their colour palettes and the way they put materials together that work? The fun way they describe their back story or items? Apply this thinking to your own store and see what you can come up with. Keep it unique, find your own vibe and build on it!
Scope out some new stockists for your brand
I find this so inspiring – as it’s a whole new opportunity to branch out for your business! Plus it’s another chance at cross -promotion between both of your social media platforms. More views = more sales. Hey look, “here and here” are now stocking my stuff, go check the shop out! Or – Hey look, we just started stocking this great brand “so and so” check them out, come and buy it – save on shipping! Take a walk through your city and pop into some local boutiques. Take a look at who/what they are stocking now, and make some notes about what they may like to add from your brand. Are they chock-full of jewellery and clothing, yet hair accessories are nowhere to be found? Do they have lots of homewares, but maybe they haven’t thought about stocking a regular supply of fresh floristry to compliment the designs and season? New stockists are always a “hands in the air like you just don’t care” moment. Shoot them an email with your details and you never know what can happen!
Re-arrange your work space
One of the biggest reasons that I feel “stuck” can simply be a messy studio! Take a trip to Ikea, grab some cheap wooden shelving units, a new lamp, maybe some fairy lights, a scented candle and if you really want to go batshit crazy – buy a new desk! They are really affordable, stylish, and not to mention they sell veggie balls in their deli food section. Yummmm. A new-look, photo-worthy, tidy workspace can give you the big kick in the pants you needed to get back into making your business rock! I find a massive Spring clean once a year really helps, but the smaller ones in the middle really are important too. Get some fresh flowers and open the window, grab a coffee and get cleaning!!
Take a short (or long!) holiday.
Depending on your savings account and budget, a getaway locally, nationally – or internationally, can really boost your: mood, happiness, life goals and relationships! It will actually make you miss work and your work studio! You will probably come back ITCHING to get in there and get some amazing new designs out into the world! Plus after all that money you spent, you will have to get your butt back to work anyway! Nothing like having to make money to get you inspired!!! When I came back from my international holiday last year – not only was I raring to get back into work, but I was stoked that my business had allowed me to afford to go out and have a break! I was so proud of myself that I wanted to see what I could push myself to do next!
Go supply shopping (or window shopping if your budget says so)
Fabric, jewellery charm, and knick-knack shopping always gets me in the mood to create! If you can time this to be when a sale is on or a coupon is out – all the better! You will get a bargain and be super happy with yourself 😉 If you can’t afford to do this, jump on Etsy and favourite all the things you want to purchase in the near future! Or take a trip to the fabric store and snap a pic of the fabrics you plan to get when that 40% off sale begins! This ALWAYS gets me excited to make new things and get them online! I am literally hanging on to my seat waiting for the first sale!
Write down your goals – long term & short term
This is something I do often. I always start by writing everything I am thinking about creating and the financial goal attached to it. For instance – Winter: make 5 sweater designs (eg. $65 each), 3 new hair accessories ($10 each) & 1 new dress ($110 each). I then price them up and make a goal of how much I will sell of each in 3 months and get a rough income figure. The goal is more of an idea and something to focus on – I am not really expecting to make my goal amount. Rather, it helps me think about how many designs and items I will want to make for the coming season, to at least reach part of the way to my monetary goal, and see what styles are selling. Eventually I will expect to make my goal amount, but that would actually mean I would need to follow through with all of my ideas (hehe!).
Pick up some inspiration from fellow sellers, get some advice and inspiration, have a chat and a coffee break while you list some new items! 🙂 Etsy forums are a fun place to peruse in your spare time. I have picked up many a hot SEO tip from there… and every once in a while – the Etsy admin chime in with new threads and Q&A’s which can be sooo helpful! Keep up to date and get inspired by what others are achieving! I love checking out shops belonging to people who comment as well, I have found loads of great ones that way!
Remember your “why”
You have probably heard this saying before. It really hits home for me! WHY??Why did you want to start your own business? Why did you want to create things? Why do you want to make money? Each person’s answer will of course be different, but mine is pretty straight forward. I was sick of working for other people, sick of getting up at 6am to catch 3 buses to go somewhere I wasn’t being paid well enough to want to be there. I did NOT like being told what to do, or when I could have my lunch, worry about how long I would take in the bathroom, or feel like I was giving 3/4 of MY life away to these other businesses. I have always been creative and love to design fashion and have fun with style. I needed to start my own business to enjoy my life!
I needed flexibility to get up when I want, eat when I want, run errands when I need to, play with my parrot and dog when I want, go and meet friends for coffee when I want… the list is endless. Basically, for freedom, for enjoyment, for fun and for fulfillment. I want to make money through my business – so that I can live comfortably in a nice home with a big vegie garden, so that my partner and animals can live comfortably, so we can take holidays, take days off to have a nice walk, give when I can, and of course… get tattoos! What is your “why”? Let this be your mantra and motivation! 🙂
Hey y’all! Hope you’ve been well 🙂 Yes, that’s right – another post on having (or starting) a #HandmadeBiz or #GirlBossBiz ! This post is focused on how to boost your business, how to get out of a slump, and how to make your business WORK for you! This is coming from a place of experience and honesty. I am telling you exactly what I wish I had been told at the start!
I have been on an epic roller-coaster ride ever since the beginning of my business almost 4 years ago. I have been broke, very broke, managing, coasting along, and even somewhat well-off enough financially for an international holiday, new sewing machinery, new bedroom furniture… and (most other) financial situations imaginable in-between. I want to share with you, through my many business focused posts to come, my journey – plus any advice I can muster to help you get through the epic learning curve of starting your own creative business.
Now you might be thinking what qualifications do I have to be giving advice? Well, none really. I am by no means a business expert. I can only tell you what I have learnt that worked for me! But I do have experience in starting, running and owning a global-selling, multi-faceted, micro business that pays the bills. I made it sound fancy …but really it’s what most business owners have! I have 3 online shops (between approx. 1-3.5 years old) with a collective of almost 600 orders – that’s not including the quantity in the 1 sale – some people have ordered 3, 50, 60, 75+ of the same item. I have sold triple that amount in person at markets, and through consignment in stores… Obviously I’m no millionaire, but one day I hope to be getting my goal income! I don’t say any of this to brag (it’s not really actually very brag worthy anyway) – I have a LONG way to go (especially in the branding department! I don’t even have a logo!). I just want to show you why I can share my advice with you… I have been in slumps! Been so broke I couldn’t go out and do things with friends. Been in a massive rut going around in circles, believing that my business will fail! I WANT you to succeed and not fall into the traps I fell into! And if I can help anyone with my business blog posts, darn right I’m going to share it! 🙂
Do you do make stuff? Or perhaps you sell a service? Maybe you’re a vintage seller or craft supply seller? Have you tried market stalls, or perhaps home parties/trunk shows? How about your own website, Ebay store, or even a brick & mortar shop? Maybe you have tried Etsy? If these are working for you, that’s great news – if not, maybe it’s time to re-think your strategies in order to get ahead. From my own experiences in my first year of business, I had to – what I was doing just was NOT working. I was too busy getting in my own way! If I kept going the way I was going, I would not still have my business today. I have been through a lot of things that haven’t worked for me…. A. LOT. I’m in my fourth year of business now and some things STILL aren’t working. I am by no means where I want to be with my handmade creative business. But I know one day I will. And I have a pretty good road map beginning (in my brain!). I am not the type who has a written business plan! Maybe I should? Maybe one day I will! But for now I am just doing one thing at a time.
All of the above mentioned avenues of selling are part of a cash flow “root system” – all leading back to your business – the big, beautiful, ever-green and growing tree. You want to nurture it, feed it, and be able to stand back and say – “wow” – I grew this, it’s magnificent, and it is thriving from year to year. I can support others and live a great comfortable life with all the fruit my big “business tree” bears. This financial root system will assist in building your brand, income, energy & profit. Do you want to expand and build on your business cash flow avenues? I am a strong believer in not putting all your eggs in one basket! If one cash flow slows down, or even gets cut off completely – your business will struggle to survive. I am writing from a place of experience – I have been there!
Now, I hate this statistic (and any mention of it), but many small businesses fail within the first few years. I was determined that it wouldn’t be me. There was a time where I thought it would be me, but I learnt very quickly that those negative thoughts would not get me anywhere. In-fact, they would actually be my downfall. Now that’s not to say “staying positive” is the only factor – you also can’t live in fairy land as a business owner. I know, I lived in fairy land for a while. It was nice, but it wasn’t helping my wallet at all. You know, that special place – where you get to do everything you want to do, whenever you want to do it, but aren’t actually getting where you want to be in the long run. The place where “it will work out eventually” and you don’t have to change a darn thing. I was there for almost the whole first year of my business start-up. You need to align yourself with a critical thinking mindset, early on, so you can see your business clearly from a consumer and CEO point of view. Is this working? What can I change?
Now – with all this speak of trees, root systems and branching out – you’re probably thinking, yeah well – that’s nice – but how can I make this idea of “branching out” my cash flow avenues work for me? How will this technique help my business and make me more money?? Let me give you an example:
Say you are a massage therapist… you work at a clinic (either your own or contracted out to someone else’s clinic) and maybe get paid fully or a cut of the cost of the massage per client (this depends on whether you work for your own business of course). What else could you do to make more money/profit? Say perhaps it’s your own clinic – do you have another room/space in the building you could rent out to another holistic wellness practitioner? Maybe a yoga instructor, a waxer, or even another massage therapist? Maybe you only have wall space or shelf space to work with – look into buying related products through wholesale avenues – perhaps candles, incense, books, essential oils or cds. Boom. You instantly have another income revenue with only minimal resources available. Your client loved the scent of oil you used today? Here. It’s $15.95, take your own home to enjoy the experience even more.
Maybe you don’t own the clinic, maybe you’re contracted out on your own ABN, in your downtime of course, you could offer other clients your services from home. Maybe you also are experienced in card readings, reiki, crystal healing or mediumship? This is another stream of income you could supply yourself with. Give your client a combo deal when ordering one or the other. Boom. Just up-sold, while leaving your client stoked they only have to travel to one place, for 2 services they have an interest to purchase. Only have limited time/space? Offer your card readings by e-mail. Want to share your skills and knowledge? Offer classes on intuitive card reading, offer classes on easy DIY massage techniques, start a workshop on couples massage.
Now let me be honest and share what my revenue streams are:
–Clothing alterations. Simple mending, to large jobs like pageant gown hems, take-ins & beading work. Replacing zips, buttons and even altering/upcycling the style of garment. Quick turn-around and helping the people fix their favourite garments, help the environment from excess waste, and of course making $$. I stand behind my strong make do & mend ethos!
–Custom made garments & gowns – bridal, ball & pageant. Client brings in a design, theme or idea and I source the fabrics and bring the design to life for their special occasion.
–Costumes, cosplay & accessories/props. I love cosplay and did work placement in a costumerie. So it only made sense to offer my services to the public. I love making custom cosplay for people!!! I love being crafty so this was a win for me.
–Sample machining & production – specifically for designers. Designer gets in touch with a sketch, I make the pattern and create the garment or gown for their next collection. I have done everything from gowns to swimwear, underwear, streetwear, homewares and even as simple as labelling.
–Fashion label – BettieKawaii, on Etsy, markets, consignment in shops etc. My kawaii, geeky range of clothing & accessories. Even through 1 revenue (my label) I am using other offshoots to sell (Etsy, markets, consigment in boutiques).
–Fashion label – Bettie Dreadful, on Etsy, markets, consignments in shops etc. My darker, retro vintage themed clothing, homewares & accessories.
–Making artisan dollhouse miniatures, on Etsy, etc. One of my hobbies turned business. I love making tiny things! 🙂
–Sewing lessons. I offer skills & expertise complete with handouts and notes, samples, etc.
–Contracting myself out! Once a week I go to a client’s shop & studio space, to sew and be the retail assistant at her brick & mortar store. A great break out of my own studio space!
Basically that is all of what I do in a nutshell (a huge nutshell!!). Obviously this was not my original business plan, but it makes me money to create the business model and structure that I imagine myself having in the future… All the while I still get to be my own boss, work from home and set my own hours. It’s a start. My big dream of course was to have my 3 online shops and do some great markets – local and international. Well I can’t quite afford to do that yet, but my several revenue streams are helping me get there!
The list is endless! Create a brainstorm for your business – what are your skills, interests, resources, ideas, and knowledge/qualifications? I did not start out doing this, and I so wish I had! I literally had my eye on one prize – and that was markets. Instant money makers. Meet and greet your lovely customers. Get rid of stock quickly and in person. All sorts of fashion events, handmade markets, vintage styled events and the like. I loved doing them, I still do, but unless you literally have one/two per week and make $400-800profit each time, it’s not going to sustain your business. Remember you need to be paying your home rent/mortgage, food, bills, going out/fun money, your personal wage, business space rent, business supplies and inventory, profit for your business… plus much more! I was making an average of $800 – $1500 each market – yet they were every 1 – 2 or even 3 months! I needed to not only do those markets, but come up with another way/s to make money in-between!
Clearly I didn’t do my numbers. That was when I got my kick in the butt, and had to branch out into other ways of making money from the skills and knowledge I already had. It was sink or swim time, and I doggy-paddled my way to other ways to make money! If you can’t offer a service – either think of one, or find another avenue to sell your wares! Seriously, it’s 2016 – get your wares ONLINE!!! If you aren’t selling it in person, at least pop it in your online store. You can’t have product sitting there unseen. No one is going to go digging deep in your sewing room crates trying to find that skirt you made 3 months ago. I wish it were so, but my stored inventory will remain a hidden secret, unavailable to purchase until I can be bothered to list it up in my online shops. Put EVERYTHING online. Those items are then available, globally, 24/7, 3-6-5. Without you constantly having to haul yourself to market. Yes it takes time to list them, yes postage is high and outrageous – but believe me, if they want it – they will pay for it, yes it takes time to photograph, measure and describe – but everyone who sells online HAS to do it too. It’s part of the deal when you sell online. Once you build your shop then people can buy your items!!! Items sold = money in your pocket = stock cleared = new stock arrivals = more money to make.
#1 tip for creative business start-ups – do what makes you money NOW. Even if it’s not your ideal business model, you will still be working for yourself, keeping your business afloat, and working towards a business model you much prefer – because you are making money.
I hope this strategy can help you in your #CreativeBusiness, I hope my advice and honesty has opened up (possibly) a new door for your business – I want to see small, creative businesses succeed with all my heart! I love you all and you so inspire me every day!
Leave a comment on what new avenues you are thinking of #BranchingOut to! x 🙂
The Western Australian Dollhouse & Miniatures Fair 2016 – held at Cannington Exhibition Centre in August. It is indoors in a large hall type building. It ran for the whole weekend Saturday & Sunday, 10am – 4pm. I decided to go because… well, it was the miniature fair! I happened upon it for the first time last year, driving past (I live about 10 mins away). What a fluke! I immediately made the stop and went in, discovering I had 25 minutes until closing time. I hurriedly went by all the tables, like a magpie, picking up the last little treasures I could find! …This year of course I made sure I was quite on time!
This only happens once a year and is the only miniature fair that I know of in W.A. I also attended because I wanted to scope out how busy it got, how many people came and what type of people, what were people buying and for what are they making? I also make miniatures and sell them on my Etsy shop. So of course I would jump at the chance to sell my tiny items in person. Although I am slightly disappointed that there was only a few 100% handmade miniature tables there… so I am not sure how my items and prices would fare. I can remember one sold suitcases, handbags and umbrellas, and the other was jarrah furniture of a few different scales. But as I keep telling myself, it is the only fair locally – so I may as well do it, whether I sell anything or not. The experience of showing my miniature pieces to fellow miniaturists and talking with them would be enough for me!
Plus I am pleased to announce I am now a member of the West Australian Miniature Association. The membership is quite cheap and you get a list of club meet-ups, help to start your own club meet & makes, all the up-to-date news and happenings in the miniature scene locally & I’m sure a great way to meet a new friend or two as well. Clubs usually are made of people in the same suburb/areas and they can meet from once a week to once a month. I guess they pick a project and make it while having a cuppa or maybe just get on with their own projects while having a chat? I don’t know yet because I have been too chicken to call up one in my area! They are probably full anyway as they are at someone’s house usually. Maybe I could start my own evening club meet ups? Shout out to anyone in the St James/Vic Park/Cannington area!!? There is even going to be a miniature retreat workshop weekend in Dwellingup. How great is that? Of course it’s not in the budget this year, but maybe next year I can lock it in, or maybe even run a workshop myself? …But let’s not get ahead of ourselves! 😛
I will also apologise as I know my photos don’t show much detail or seller’s wares, I have to admit taking photos came secondary to all my excitement in looking at/buying all the tiny fabulous things.
As I first walked in there was a raffle table to win some amazing roomboxes, but I chose to get some lucky dips instead. I am not sure where the funds went to but I am sure it was a worthy cause. Miniature fairs often have charity tables with the sellers and participants offering up some of their handmade pieces. What a kind bunch of people!
Speaking of kind, I must mention this one woman who stopped me, as she was sitting down having a cuppa. She looked up at me and said “Excuse me” ..she then took my hand and began saying how nice I looked, and thanked me for making such an effort to look nice at the fair today! Haha! Me?! Can you believe it?? Well I just almost laughed, but I suppose it was a new dress, and I suppose I did actually put make up on that day. Very out of character for me. I thanked her and told her how kind she was. Now that I think of it, it did make me quite cheerful for the rest of the day, in fact, and gave me a little pep in my step. But that was only until I was in Ikea with my best friend that afternoon, and caught a view of myself at a 45 degree angle. Yikes. But I digress!
There was plenty of furniture, dolls of various sizes, doll’s clothing and shoes, handbags and suitcases, poly clay food and cake, pots, pans, fencing, grass, trees and moss, home wares, lighting, miniature frames, woven baskets, sewing and craft supplies… plus much more! What I would have loved to see is some un-furnished dollhouses for sale. And more handmade pieces for sale as well, like the European miniature fairs do. But it is much bigger over there than it is here I must say! Most of my orders in my online shop end up going to Germany, USA, UK & France! One day I’m sure I will go to the big fairs, either as buyer (or seller!).
As you can see there was also a small display of vintage prams. How cool! I hope I can join a local club soon and perhaps learn some new skills, as well as share things that I do too. I also want to say that one of my favourite magazines, The Dolls’House Magazine, contacted me a couple months ago for a submission of one of my items to go on the shopping pages. It will possibly be in the November Issue. I can’t wait to see it in print. Fingers crossed! I am super stoked!!!
Well I hope you liked seeing what the fair was like this year, it was a lot of fun. Hopefully next year you will be seeing photos of my fair table as well! 😀 Later on, I might do a quick post on all the treasures I bought at the fair this year too.
Navigating your way through the world of a handmade business can be tough! …Maybe you are a one-woman-show like me? You may even have a fantastic #GirlBoss duo team, or even a collab of several women! Through a series of blog posts and interviews, I aim to help others with their amazing (and sometimes nerve-wracking, but most definitely exciting!) business journeys – from opening an Etsy store, to selling at markets, making enough money to survive & just juggling life in general! Join me in this fabulous life-changing adventure!
In our first #LadyBoss blog post, we are featuring one of our favourite local labels – Sad Jane. Read on to find out more about her own business adventure…
Hi Lisa, thanks for having a chat with me today!
Thanks so much for having me – I’m glad to be featured!
Tell us a little about what you do in your business/brand? What is a day in the life of a small business owner like yourself?
Sad Jane developed out of a hobby, it wasn’t something I had really put a lot of planning into; rather is was just something I did in my free time. I’m certainly still developing and the business is continually shifting, but I can say that I’m finally starting to get into my groove and have a clearer idea on what exactly Sad Jane is and what I’d like it to be.
Every day is quite different as there are so many aspects involved. This is great as it keeps things fresh and exciting. On a day-to-day basis I could find myself doing anything from creating new designs to developing patterns, cutting and sewing, working out costings, bookkeeping, labeling and tagging, plenty of procrastinating, ordering in or shopping for fabrics and supplies, researching marketing concepts and events, (for markets and showcase opportunities) taking photos of products and putting them on our online store, maintaining social media, drinking plenty of coffee, following up on orders, re-merchandising the store and meeting new customers.
What inspired you to start up a small business in the world of art/fashion? What is your background in these fields? What inspired you to call your shop and brand “Sad Jane” ? How would you describe your main influences and styles?
The arts sector was the industry I naturally tended to gravitate towards. From high school age I used to play around on my sewing machine and cut up and restyle my old clothing. I did every art subject that I could (which wasn’t much at my school) because that’s what I enjoyed doing. My art teacher was also really awesome, and I definitely looked up to her a lot. In year 10 I applied to go through the tafe route and applied to get into a clothing design construction course, but was then influenced to go through the ‘TEE’ path.
I then got into a contemporary fashion course at ECU but managed to talk my way out of it and to be a bit more ‘sensible’ so I started off doing a communications bachelor, which halfway through turned into a contemporary theatre bachelor (which started off as my minor) so yep, go figure! I definitely went around it the long way! I don’t regret it though, these are the journeys you sometimes need to take and the things I learnt and friends I made still helped shape me into who I am today. The name Sad Jane came about from when I was back in high school, which was around the same time Emily the Strange was around, a friend of mine actually came up with it for a project we had and it just resonated with me for some reason.
The things I tend to make are quite bright and happy so it’s more of a playful name. (I have a pretty sarcastic sense of humor sometimes) I have always loved 60’s & 70’s retro designs and find this era to be quite influential on me. However saying this, there are so many different things that also come into play, even the type of music I decide to listen to on a particular day can shape my direction. Although I understand that the concept of ‘branding’ is important I don’t like that to restrict what I do… otherwise it looses its fun. I tend to just make things that I like, and hope that there are other people out there that may share my opinion 😛
What makes you happy in your business? What is your favourite thing to do regarding your business/work?
Fabric excites me greatly, so its fair to say that shopping for new fabrics is right up there! Then of course there is the process of generating and putting new ideas into action- I love creating new things and problem solving. Certainly also meeting people who like what you do it very rewarding. It helps make it all worthwhile when you can think you’re on a road to nowhere
How do you reduce/manage stress in everyday life while running a full-time business?
Good question! I think it’s important to remember that you still have a life outside of it all. As much as running your own business can be consuming and SO much a part of who you are; it’s not the be all and end all and if something goes wrong, life still goes on. My husband and I both have hectic schedules, but we make sure that we always have our one night off together (every Monday evening) so we can actually cook a meal and share it together along with a nice bottle of red. I do try to make it to yoga when I can, I find that this makes me feel great and brings be back to my center.
The SJ shop is down a beautiful heritage arcade in the heart of Perth city. What do you love about coming to work here everyday?
I just love this old building! It has so much history and I often meet people who can recall coming in ‘when they were a little girl’ or when their ‘mum used to come here’ It was very different back then but I still believe some of its charm still lives within the walls.
When you reach a business goal, what is something you do to treat yourself?
I have to say; goal setting is one of my weaknesses… despite how important I know it is. If I reach a financial target, I must say that I go shopping! I’m pretty quick at pumping that money right back into the economy haha! If its more of a personal accomplishment with the business I would tend to have a bit of a celebration drink with family or friends.
How do you implement self-care (if at all) when owning and running a business as a solo female entrepreneur?
Another one of my weaknesses! Haha Although I must say I am getting much better. I found that after adopting my pup I have become much better at not overworking myself. Part of the reason for this is the fact that I HAVE to go home, looking after her in a way has also helped me look after myself. Avoiding junk food is another one I try to work on, by making sure I actually get out and have lunch AT lunchtime means that I don’t end up eating foods that make me feel worse in the long run. I’m quite lucky also to be surrounded by supportive people; this is a huge factor because you really need this on many levels. You can try to do it on your own, but sometimes you need a shoulder to lean on every now and then.
If you could have your perfect, ultimate retail space – what would it be like? Oh I would buy the whole building that I’m in! It just has soooo much potential, so much history, little shops within one place – each would be filled with something unique and creative and made locally (or at least in small amounts and importantly, ethically.) To tie the building together and create an experience, a real destination would just be amazing. One powerball…
I know that you stock many other local labels and artists, which is something I love about handmade fashion boutiques – can you share with us who else stocks in SJ shop?
Yes, this is something quite important and something I’d like to keep developing. At the moment I have work from Recycled Loving Creations, which include hand made paper flowers and decorative light switch covers, I have jewelry by local maker Jo Wayling (let me check the spelling on her name) , CUTE accessories by local labels Bettie Kawaii & Bettie Dreadful – these include coin purses, brooches and hair scrunchies. Lastly, I am also currently stocking footwear by Nomad Soul, a colourful, vegan, organic and fair trade label suitable for both ladies and gents.
When you search for labels to stock in your shop, what are you looking for as a stockist? What are the main points that you look at when deciding to stock a label or not? (Eg. quality, style, packaging – etc).
There are quite a few factors that come into play; a lot of it comes from a feeling. It needs to be something that can compliment Sad Jane and fit in with that style, although not necessarily the same. I’m a big fan of colour and prints but also like to promote locally made goods or at least locally designed and ethically manufactured. I also like to see things that have a point of difference and are against the grain of what’s in the windows of the big retailers.
What social media do you find has the most reach for your brand? How would you advise start-ups to utilize them best for their brands?
I first started off with Facebook – I think this is definitely a must, particularly if you are not running your own website straight away. There are so many things you can do with it now, much beyond just posting updates! Instagram is also great, I found that my following grew a lot quicker on here, you can reach a wider audience with #’s that you wouldn’t necessarily have following you personally.
A lot of people work from home and are finding it a little scary to bring another person into the mix. As small business owners, we often do everything ourselves and find it hard to let a little control go to outside help, even to our partners! (I know I do all the shipping, promotion, making, selling for my own labels …and it gets tiring!!). Do you have any outside help for any aspects of your business (such as a promoter, website or online, fabric rep or supplier, shop help, sewing/production help etc) , and how did you go about recruiting the assistance?
I’m really lucky to have a supportive family who has donated plenty of their time over the years. I know that my Mum is always there to lend a hand, especially when going to markets when you really need someone else there with you. If you pop into the shop on a Friday afternoon, you’ll catch her there, looking after the store like the trooper she is!
I was also lucky enough to find someone to help at the shop in both a retail and production capacity. About a year and a half ago I put up a post on Facebook advertising the fact that I was looking for someone one day a week (as I also work another job and was burning myself out.) It was through this that I came to know the wonderful Kate, who is still with me today. It was pretty perfect that this happened, as she was exactly what I needed and has been a massive help to Sad Jane. (Hehe, thanks Lisa!!!)
I know you use a lot of vintage fabrics, patterns and notions – plus selling vintage clothing, thus reducing waste… How else do you implement (if at all) environmentally friendly practices?
I also use up-cycling as a way for making new clothing. One of my core pieces is the ‘pocket short’ – available for both ladies and gents. These are made from pre-loved jeans and are given a new life – and if there’s not a pair that fits, Sad Jane can also spruce up your own jeans that you no longer wear.
I grew up in a household that avoided waste and were always taught to look after our belongings and if something broke, we fixed it instead of throwing it away. I literally don’t throw anything away that may still have some potential for use, even if I don’t know what that use is just yet. I’m probably a bit too much of a hoarder… but you never know when something might come in useful!
What do you love about having your own brick and mortar shop? What are your main challenges with owning/running a brick and mortar shop?
There’s something very special about being in a physical space. Its almost like you are your own art curator, it becomes more than just about the products you sell, but the story it tells and the feeling it brings, you can create whatever you want and put your own personality out there. I’m also the kind of person that can’t work from home, I need to get out (and shower) and get myself away from domestic distractions.
With having a brick and mortar shop, you are also looking at more expenses such as rent and electricity. It also comes with more work, as you need to keep the shop maintained on top of everything else. With the retail industry suffering at the moment, one of my largest challenges is getting people into the space, (especially being in the back of an arcade as there is limited foot traffic).
What was your basic process in developing your business (or did you just wing it like me!?), and do you have any tips for getting into the brick and mortar retail market?
I honestly can’t say that I had a particular process involved. In hindsight, if I did I probably would have saved myself a few setbacks! However, saying this I also believe that without jumping in and giving it a go you tend not to learn the most valuable lessons. When you are working in the creative industry, over planning can take away from allowing yourself to evolve naturally and often, at least in my case, would have just ended up being procrastination.
Retail is a tough business at the moment, particularly in brick and mortar format. Starting small would be my advice; although the more capital you can start with the better, unless you have it readily available I’d be wary of taking out large loans. On one side, you need to believe in yourself and jump in and take a risk, but on the other side you don’t want to end up falling too short that you end up in trouble.
What are your plans for the future and SJ label? Do you have any new fashion lines coming out or any events coming up?
There are so many things I would love to do with Sad Jane, including expanding into a separate men’s label. I also have a new love in my life… in the form of a puppy, so now I find myself with the strong desire to make dog clothes! 😛 but I think that would definitely have to come later on down the track. But then again, who knows what might happen!
You can visit Sad Jane shop in person here: 80 Barrack St, Bon Marche Arcade, Perth WA.
What you’ll need:
-Fabric & lining (size of your choice, 12cm x 15cm x 4 pieces)
-Lace/pom pom/ trim, enough to go around 3 of the edges of your purse
-Zip (size to match size of purse)
Here is a picture of the basic layout of the coin purse.
The outer (lamb) fabric with the trim for the front side, the zip, the 2 linings (1 for each side) and the outer (gingham) back piece.
So let’s assume we’ve cut it to size, a general size would be approx. 12cm x 15cm. But you can make it as big or small as you like! Don’t forget to add 1cm seam allowance all the way around every piece.
1.First you will want to place your trim along your 1cm seam allowance line, on the purse fabric (outer front piece). Make sure to have the decorative area of the trim (in this case – the pom poms) facing the inside of the coin purse, to your left. If you face it the other way, to the outside, to the right, the trim will be on the inside – inside the actual purse – which we do not want! We are going to place the trim on 3 sides of the coin purse, starting with the right side of the coin purse (not the top).
With the right side of the fabric facing upwards – Stitch as close as you can to the left of the trim (matching up with the 1cm seam allowance line). As you can see I have actually sewn on the center of the trim – because I like a bit of the tape showing for extra colour. If you are using lace, you probably won’t want any of the trim tape/binding showing – so you would stitch so far to the left of the tape, almost on the lace itself.
2. When you get to the first bottom corner, stop 1cm away from the edge, put the needle down and put the foot up. Pivot your fabric and trim on a 90 degree angle – so you can continue to sew along the next edge, and do the same with the last corner. Sew your lace/trim/pom pom all the way around the piece – until you have your 3 sides done – sides and bottom. Do not put any lace or trim on the top width of your purse fabric. This is where the zip goes.
3. Place your zip on the top edge of your coin purse (front). Put right side of zip onto the right side of the coin purse. You will sew a straight line down the centre of the zip tape. Alternatively you can sew closer to the zip teeth if you want to see less of the zipper. You may need to switch your machine foot to a zipper foot, because I didn’t sew too close to the zip teeth I was able to use my regular presser foot.
As you stitch down the zip tape you will need to put your needle down, lift the foot up and pull the zip slider back, out of the way of the foot/needle as you go.
4. Once you have done the front, you will now need to attach the other side of the zip to the back piece of your coin purse. Make sure it is right side of the zip to right side of the outer back fabric!
This is what it should look like from the right side:
5. Now the lining – you’re going to want to turn the coin purse back again, so the wrong side is facing upwards. Then place a lining piece on top, sandwiching the zipper tape inside the outer and lining layers. You can stitch it from either side, but most people find it helpful to stitch over the original stitch line we just made attaching the zip. Do the same on both sides.
Open it up again – here’s what it will look like when both sides are done.
6. Now fold the two linings together – right sides together. Do the same with the outer fabrics, put them together with right sides facing.
Begin sewing the purse together by starting on the right edge of the lining. Start sewing about 2 inches down from the zip seam, 1cm away from the edge. We are starting here as our opening will be on the side of the lining. This is the most subtle place to put your opening. We need an opening so we can turn our purse through! When you get to each corner, have the needle down, foot up and pivot to the next edge.
7. When you get to the zipper seam, stitch straight through it. Make sure to go slow and make sure you’re not going to hit the metal zip stops!
Once you get to the front portion of the purse, you will need to keep your stitch line following as close to the original trim stitch line as you can, or even a little over to the left. Making sure to push the trim into the inside, away from the needle as you go.
As you get back to the other side of the purse – make sure your zipper is open about 1-2 inches. This way we can turn it through! If it is shut it will be very hard to turn it through and open the zip from the wrong side – I know, I’ve done it!
8. Once you have come back around, gone over the other side of the zipper seam, you will be close to where you started. Finish and back-tack leaving approx 3-4cm opening in the lining.
This is what it will look like:
Clip your corners so they will not have excess bulk when turned through.
9. Turn your purse through the gap we left in the lining!
Once turned through, pull the lining portion out and find your gap.
Stitch it shut as close as you can to the edge. Make sure the edges are folded in 1cm each side.
10. Finish off your purse by putting your lining back inside your purse. Push the lining corners well into the purse corners. Give the whole thing a quick press with your iron… Do not iron the zip 🙂 Voila!