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.