3 years ago I was toying with the idea of a business – a business where I could make things to sell and perhaps have a bit of spending cash, and help pay the grocery bill. And for the braces we were putting on our oldest and knew we would have to put on our other two as well.
I had some leftover items from my very first pop-up shop event, so I opened an etsy shop and loaded it up.
I wasn’t sure what all I wanted to offer in my shop on a regular basis. I had quite a few pillows in various fabrics and designs. And some other odds and ends, both handmade items and vintage things that were small enough to ship easily. I wasn’t overjoyed with my mix up though.
I waffled over what I wanted my shop to look like and what my ‘brand’ would be.
I distinctly remember telling my husband that I didn’t want to be ‘just another pillow maker’.
Meaning I didn’t want to just make a bunch of pillows that got lost among all the other pillows out there. I guess. I’m not sure exactly what I really did mean. I just remember saying it. And knowing I wanted something more.
Somehow it just seemed like a not-so-creative way to build a thriving business – creating pillows was easy enough, but there were so many out there already and I just wasn’t inspired.
The etsy shop did sort-of ok. I never put the effort and time into it that it really needed. Etsy is a huge marketplace and you have to know how to work it to get your products seen and get the traffic you need to have consistent sales. I kept busy enough with other things I just never hit a good rhythm with it.
That first event was in late summer of 2011.
I spent the first part of 2012 researching and learning and July 1 of 2012,
Sew a Fine Seam
became a business with all the paperwork to prove it. I did a few more events, sold a few more things here and there on etsy. Continued to write the blog. Made new friends and contacts.
Fall of 2013 I loaded up my family and we headed north for a vacation – and for me to do a project for a friend. Laura from The Ironstone Nest got a couple of slipcovers made for a small bench and I got to take a milk paint class from her. And a friendship that started through our blogs became even stronger. Today Laura is one of my wholesale clients and one of my top sellers!
On the way home from our vacation in Wisconsin, we stopped in at a boutique in Rockford Illinois, called Urban Farmgirl. I’d followed Mary’s blog for years and it was in the back of my mind that we could possibly stop in at her shop on our way through the area.
We stopped. Actually we went out of our way to make it happen. But it happened. And another online friendship became in-real-life 🙂
Sometime in the early Spring of 2014 Mary and I worked out the details for my first shipment of handmade items to Urban Farmgirl. We started out handling it as a commission arrangement. But let me tell you the book work for that when it’s a long distance arrangement is a nightmare – on both ends. By late fall I switched her to wholesale. I’d been doing wholesale with a couple other clients and it was working well. When I mentioned it to Mary she was as ready as I was – that book work stuff can get to ya!
In the beginning I sent pillows, banners, key chains, and maybe a few other things to Mary. It soon became clear that pillows was the big deal. And not just any pillows. Mary had asked for a pillow that said rockford, il with the latitude and longitude coordinates. I accepted the challenge and created one. And it was a hit.
I’ve shipped over 100 of those pillow covers to Urban Farmgirl now. I’ve totally lost count – it could well be close to 200 or over. When I ship my pillows I just ship the covers. And my clients supply the forms themselves. And I’ve never taken the time to stuff a rockford pillow to get a photo of it. I’m always right down to the wire getting them in the mail and don’t take the time. This pillow is about the only photo I have of one of my latitude pillows. I really need to do something about that 😀 Imagine your town/state with your coordinates – and the coordinates are correct – I check them all 🙂
By November of 2014 I had a handful of wholesale clients. I was shipping out 3 styles of pillows on a regular basis. My latitude pillows, the ‘home’ pillows with the state as the ‘o’ and ‘state’ pillows with a large state cut out of fabric and sewn on the canvas pillow cover. A heart is stitched on the area of the state the pillows are going to and a small ‘home’ is stenciled on beside the state.
‘NOT just another pillow maker. These pillows are ‘Sew a Fine Seam’ pillows.’ Those words are from my husband. And he’s convinced there is a big difference – I’ll take it 🙂
Things exploded in November when Laura came onboard and started selling my pillows at The Ironstone Nest. Between her and Mary I was barely keeping up with the help of my assistant. So I brought another friend onboard and all three of us kept busy keeping everyone supplied for the Christmas rush.
I was sure things would slow down in January. But Praise the Lord, It was not to be. I had gone from not wanting to be ‘just another pillow maker’ to NOT just another pillow maker, but SEW A FINE SEAM pillow maker 😀 By the 10th of January we had over 200 pillow orders. I started back to work just a few days after Christmas and it’s been busy ever since. New clients keep coming onboard. I now send my pillows to at least 12 shops and 8 different states. I honestly don’t even have a definite count as it has changed so fast. Last week alone we cranked out 100 pillows. It’s crazy. In a good way. A very, very good way. I can hardly believe it but there are close to 1,000 (or more) Sew a Fine Seam pillows out there in homes, being enjoyed by the people who bought them or got them as gifts. I have been so blessed. And I am so thankful.
Thankful that I have this wholesale biz I never saw coming. Thankful I’m NOT just another pillow maker, but that I have established a brand that is recognized and loved.
I have a few more ideas up my sleeve too. And let me tell you I don’t want to be ‘just another handbag maker’ either!
Be careful what you say – you just may end up doing what you think you don’t wanna do 😀