I didn’t grow up with a dream to be a maker or have my own business.
I never set out to be an entrepreneur, or own a business. All I really wanted to do was marry a gentleman and be a mommy. So I did that. I married the man God made for me, and we were blessed with 3 adorable, cuddly, lovable baby girls.
(girls when they were 9, 11, and 15)
Along the way, I started sewing for others to bring in a bit of extra cash and to fill my time when baby number 2 didn’t come along quite as quickly as I had hoped.
I sewed dresses, skirts, furniture slipcovers, pillows, curtains – whatever people asked me to make for them, I made. I made wedding dresses, bridesmaid dresses, prom dresses, and altered special occasion dresses as well. Slowly I was creating a handmade biz without even realizing it.
I dabbled with pattern making for a time, but it just wasn’t my thing. I learned lots of tips and tricks I still use today, but the precision of true pattern making is a skill I’m not willing to invest in.
Although I loved making the beautiful dresses for the special occasions in women’s lives, it was also stressful. Dealing with fittings in a home that didn’t have a dedicated fitting room, making sure every detail was perfect, concern that one of my small children would somehow ruin a work in progress, evening appointments with clients, it all began to wear on me and my family, and it was a relief to finally start saying ‘no’ to that type of creating.
In 2011, a friend of mine announced she was having a pop-up shop sale in her yard, and asked me to make things and be a vendor at her sale. I agreed and thus was born this Handmade Home Decor Biz.
The handmade home decor began in 2011, but Sew a Fine Seam was born in 2008. I discovered the world of blogging in 2007, soon had a long list of blogs I ready daily, (I marvel now at the amount of time I had to read back then!) and I created my own blog in 2008 – I called it ‘Sew a Fine Seam’
All that blog reading had a big part in shaping this business – I read the blogs, I connected with the bloggers, still call several of those bloggers my friends today.
I started my blog in August of 2008, just for fun, a ‘hobby’ blog. I had no idea what I was doing or that people were actually writing blogs and making money at it! Several days were spent debating on what to call my blog, and finally settled on Sew a Fine Seam, never dreaming it would one day be a trademarked business name.
The name originated as a line in an old nursery rhyme, and I remembered it from when I was a child. It also seemed fitting, as I was always sewing something, and trying to do a ‘fine’ job of it. Here is the nursery rhyme – just for fun.
Wilt thou be mine?
Thou shalt not wash the dishes,
Nor yet feed the swine;
But sit on a cushion,
And sew a fine seam
And feed upon strawberries,
Sugar, and cream.
This is also where the strawberry in my logo came from as well as the ‘Strawberries and Cream’ newsletter I send out to my email list.
I remember that August afternoon, sitting at my computer, reading blogs, and thinking about making my own. And then I just did it. I clicked the Create Blog button, and within a few minutes I had a blog. Much time was spent playing with it, tweaking this, changing that, and having fun with it. I had a point and shoot camera, but had not even heard of editing photos! I took a few pics, and started sharing the things I was sewing, what my girls were doing, peeks of my life and what we were up to. My girls online names were, Big Sister, Middle Sister, and Little Sister. Back then we didn’t share REAL names on the big bad internet!
I had no plan. No dream. No idea that a blog could be a business, or that I even wanted a business. (Honestly some days I’m still not sure I want a business) But I had this blog and I started putting myself out there in the big scary world of the web.
I don’t remember realizing blogging could be a business, and bloggers were actually making money, but at some point I did.
When I did realize this crazy phenomenon, that blogs with ads were actually making money, those blogs were family or decor blogs. I fell somewhere in the I-have-no-idea-what-I’m-doing-but-I-have-a-family-and-I-love-decor category. If that’s even a thing? Probably not.
A couple years in, I read somewhere that it was a good idea to buy the url for your blog name, even if you didn’t plant to use it right away. URL names were getting snatched up fast. I didn’t NEED this as my blog was hosted on the free blogger platform, but I listened to those wiser than I and googled ‘how to purchase a domain name’. I was soon the owner of sewafineseam.com. A year or so later I finally utilized that URL, created a wordpress website, and left blogger behind.
That wordpress site is the same blog you are reading today. It’s undergone some major changes over the years, but it’s still the same site and it’s mostly been created by me. I used the tutorial from Amy Lynn Andrews and I still recommend it today. I googled A LOT. When I wanted something updated or changed I figured out how to do it myself. I had no budget for tech support! Eventually I did hire a few things done that were more than I could figure out on my own and today I have a tech I call on semi-regularly to help out with the online shop set up.
In the beginning I blogged about my family, my home decor, some DIY tutorials, recipes, inspirational Sunday posts, a complete mish-mash of all the things I was doing. Sew a Fine Seam got accepted into an ad network, ads were added to my website, and I made a few pennies from that.
I learned to edit photos and got a ‘real’ camera. Photography became a side passion for me, and I even photographed a few weddings. I enjoyed second shooting at weddings, but wasn’t into it full time. I painted furniture, created sewing tutorials, decorated my house, made more things, and blogged about it all. Blogger groups on fb were a great source of info. I submitted posts to places like Craftgawker, FoodGawker, Hometalk, etc. Blog posts got featured, shared, a few went a tiny bit viral, and I slowly built a small following.
I need to insert here that though I had ads on my blog and it looked like a grown up, real blog, it was really just a very, very tiny fish in a very, very huge ocean of blogs. I made PENNIES from those ads. And I never grew past 25k pageviews per month. I probably could have – I just didn’t ever find the drive and stamina to make it happen. It’s a TON of work – no one just ‘throws some pics online’ and makes an income blogging! I promise – that does not happen! I slowly quit blogging as the handmade business took more and more of my time. Eventually I dropped the ad network and pulled all the ads from my site. It just wasn’t the direction I was going anymore.
After doing the pop-up shop in 2011, I began to look into what steps I needed to take to create a ‘real’ business. I had a friend who was/is an accountant (and still does my taxes for me) who helped me out. He got my EIN for me, I got a business license, and felt so GROWN UP! (actually I felt like I had no idea what I was doing – do you see a theme here?)
I opened up an etsy shop. I made a camera strap for a friend when she requested one, and then shared about it on the blog. A featurby a few other bloggers made it go a teeny tiny bit viral. I listed them on etsy and sold several. I made leggings for babies and toddlers out of ruffled fabric and sold them on etsy too. My total number of sales for 2012-2014 was 95. Again – I was making PENNIES.
Reiterating PENNIES as a reminder – a business can LOOK like it’s doing really well, it’s all figured out, money is rolling in, but the reality may be there is a TON of hard work involved, along with sweat, tears, and blood! Don’t be fooled by the exterior you see – the back story of every single business is lots and lots of hard work, disappointments and sorrows amid the triumphs and joys.
In 2013, a friend and I set up a booth at The Springfield Flea in Springfield, OH, both the spring and the fall shows. We took lots of vintage finds and handmade goods. We met a lot of people, made some new friends, and took home a bit of cash. And the show biz sort of wormed its way into my blood. The following summer, 2014 the same friend and I, along with another friend, traveled up to Lake Erie and set up shop at The Summer Market.
A couple of the first shows I did with friends and then started signing up for a few on my own, along with help from my hubby. Selling vintage furniture that I had either painted, slip covered, or both, took a lot of effort to load, haul, and unload it all. I couldn’t do it alone so I was asking Travis to take off work every time I had a show to travel to. He was a good sport about it most of the time. He did, however, want to see a bit of profit for all our efforts!
And so time went on. We did shows, I sold a bit online here and there, just doing the next thing and then the next. Slowly the business grew. I had several wholesale clients who kept me busy filling orders for pillows. I hired a couple seamstresses to help out. And all without a real business plan. And I would definitely NOT recommend that to anyone thinking of starting a business of their own… remember I didn’t go into this with any plan at all. It all just sort of happened – and then kept happening! Nine Years, 2008 – 2017, slow growth led to considering expanding and getting the biz out of the house.
…to be continued…