Remember when we heard from Anna at Crafty Girl’s Workshop about starting her own fabric retail business? Today, we’ve got some great inspiration from another craftyprenuer, Sarah Lang!
Sarah was so kind to share with us about how she decided to start her online fabric store Fabric Seeds. It’s a new venture, formed just this year, and we’re excited to watch it grow like seeds, planted and nurtured. (There’s also a coupon code for her shop below.)
1) What made you decide to take the plunge into fabric retail?
I have always enjoyed going to a fabric/quilt shop. Even if I was there the day before, I have to look at every bolt before I can leave. I never thought I would one day have my own business selling the fabrics I love.
I used to work for a major airline, in the reservation center. I had a desk job that was not always busy and was allowed to bring something to occupy my time. I started doing my quilting there. I would even bring along my graph paper and colored pencils to draw out new patterns. And, to my great surprise, my quilts started to sell.
Last April I was affected by one of the many lay-offs my company had to endure. My first thought was how nice it would be to have my own little quilt shop. I could spend all day surrounded by pretty fabric. I really didn’t have many options, however. I was pregnant with my second child, and due in 4 weeks. As the months went by, I thought more and more about doing an online shop.
2) What were some of the logistical things you had to think through when starting a business?
The biggest thing I had to think about was taking money away from supporting my family to support my business. After many discussions about operating a business and if my family could support it and any possible loss, I decided to go ahead and follow my dream. I did online searches on how to start a business in my state, made multiple phone calls to each department, asked the same question over and over until I understood what I needed to do, what forms I needed to fill out, and in what steps. Doing this on my own was a great learning experience. Lucky for me, the state of Utah has a one-stop business registration application.
3) Which tools did you choose to start your shop and why?
Now that I had been registered as an official business, I needed set up the rest. I went with a hosting company that I had heard of and I was familiar with some of their products. I knew absolutely nothing about putting a website together or how to add a store, so it took longer than I’d anticipated. The website has been the most frustrating part of the whole process. I wake up in the middle of the night and wonder if I had set up the credit cards the right way, did I list a particular product right, or did I forget about shipping, or taxes?
4) What are some of your favorite fabric lines?
I am a lover of all fabric. I love paisleys and argyles, stripes and polka dots. Some of my recent favorites have been Lollipop by Sandy Gervais, Urban Remix by Ann Kelle, Central Park by Kate Spain, Sugar & Spice by The Quilted Fish and Tailor Made by Cosmo Cricket. I like that Moda has a large number of SKUs per line, the boyish prints from Robert Kaufman & Riley Blake Designs (they are sometimes hard to find) and the many color combinations that can be acquired through pieces of fabric. There are so many great fabric manufacturers and designers. We are lucky to have the awesome selections we do today!
5) Any favorite quilting or sewing tools?
I love my 1/4″ foot for my sewing machine. If you don’t know about this foot, it has a little guide on the side of the foot to help keep the fabric aligned, kind of like a serger. I recently found the coolest tape measure no quilter should be without. It is the Yardage Tape Measure by Dritz Quilting. It measures 288″. Not only does it show inches, but also yardage starting at 1/16 yard. It is perfect for knowing just how much backing you will need (I am working on getting this in my shop).
6) What advice would you give to someone who is thinking about starting her own handmade or crafts retail business?
If it is something you really want to do and are serious about making it happen, find a way to do it. Research your market. I didn’t come into this lightly. Not only had I deliberated for months on if I should start a business, but I also looked at others in the same market. How they started, where they are located, what they are selling and for how much, what their website looks like, etc.
And most important, get the support you want, talk about your plans and think it through. I never would have done this if it wasn’t for others telling me how I should be selling my quilts and patterns. I am lucky to have the support of my husband, whether he actually wants to or not, he still supports me. 🙂 It might mean that we will have to live off Ramen noodles and potatoes, but without that support, I would not be able to carry out my dream.
Thank you Sarah for teaching us all a little bit more about the craft retail biz! Because Sarah is so generous, she’s offering readers 20% off anything in her store through April 30, 2011. Head over to Fabric Seeds and pick use the coupon code craftbud20. And check out her blog for updates!
Just a reminder that the Bias Tape Giveaway ends at midnight tonight (10 winners will be announced in tomorrow’s Fresh Picks). Hurry over!