Starting a business can be intimidating. You may be toying with the idea of selling something you make or offering the service of something you love to do that helps others. No matter what your passion, the business part of the idea can be what puts the breaks on an otherwise amazing dream.
It is important to remember that you don't have to start big, spend your life's fortune, or jump in with both feet from the very first moment. You can take some time to dance with this new idea that has presented itself to you. Sit with it, let it soak in and see how you feel. Does the idea of this new venture excite you? Does the vision of people rejoicing in the product or service you are offering bring you great joy? Do you get giddy thinking about what you will do with the extra income that your business will provide? If you answered yes to these questions, then you are probably ready to start working on your new dream, even if it is by taking baby steps.
Some great ways to get your feet a little wet in the business world are:
Decide what you want to sell/offer.
What is it that you love to do more than anything else? What could you do all day and never want to stop. Maybe you could do it and not even realize that hours have gone by and you haven't once thought to stop and do other things. This is the thing that you should focus on. When you can get lost in something so much that nothing else seems to matter, you are definitely doing what you are currently made to do. What would be more satisfying that being able to get paid to do what you would do all day for free anyways!
Create a business name.
Think of what you love, what makes you tick, what products/services are you offering, what emotion do you want the name to evoke? Make a list and see how you feel about the ones that stand out to you.
Remember that the name you choose will be what you stick with for quite some time, if not for the whole duration of the business. You will want to be sure you love it fully. Also, keep in mind that you may only sew baby clothes right now and be tempted to choose a name that is very specific to that. For example, you might choose Bitty Little Creations. This name is super cute, but what if four years from now, you decide that you want to also sell matching women's clothing, dog outfits, make travel mugs or even teach classes? The name Bitty Little Creations might not fully represent your business as it evolves. Try to choose a name that does not lock you into just one area of expertise, because you want to the long term goal to be to grow and expand.
Decide on branding colors.
It seems kind of silly to be worrying about branding when you are just now creating your business, but it is the most important time to think about it. When I started my first business, I was sewing custom boutique dresses for little girls, I had four children and I wanted my name to have something to do with that and sewing for young girls. I went with Little 4 Awhile. I loved it. It made sense. It totally named what I was doing.
The problem was that eventually, my heart found new ways of expressing itself and I added in pattern designing so I could offer others the ability to make the things that I charged a lot of money for. After that, I found my way into embroidery digitizing. My world of creation was changing as I changed and my children grew.
I eventually wanted my pattern company to stand on its own two feet and had to rebrand the company with new colors and, Gasp, a new name. This time I went with a more broad name that I felt didn't really lock me into a category, but just represented my family.
Family is why I do what I love. I got into sewing because I had children. I love being able to make money sharing my art with the world, because it makes money for my family. It just made sense to me. I went with Ellie and Mac. Ellie for my daughter Eliana and Mac for my daughter Makayah. I do have other children, but working them all in was just going to sound too funny.
Choosing colors, design and a name you love really are important because customers start to recognize and remember you by what they see visually. That is why big companies that have been around a long time stick with the same colors and logo. They know that changing it would not be instantly recognizable and doesn't make good advertising/business sense even if they are bored of it.
Decide what you are going to charge.
This is important and also very personal. You need to decide what you want to charge for your time. Your time is very precious. Only you can deliver whatever it is you are offering the way that you offer it to the world, because only you are you! You are the very best you that there ever will be. Only you can decide what that is worth.
This was so hard for me in the beginning. I had several small businesses on Etsy when I was a younger mom. I was just learning to sew and I didn't value my skills or ability. I felt that just because I wasn't willing to pay $10 for a dress on my stay-at-home-mom budget, that others surely wouldn't fork over more than that either. You CANNOT believe these lies that your mind is going to tell you. You have to start owning your own awesomeness and worth! It is hard and you will probably feel like you are charging far too much at first, but eventually, you will see that you are worth it.
I suggest to price your custom items higher vs. competing with everyone to be the lowest. There are plenty of customers out there that WANT to buy the things that cost just a little bit more. In their mind, they are getting the better made of the bunch. Some like to be able to say they bought the more expensive item. I have also found that those customers are far more pleasant to work with than when I am competing to sell my clothing for as little as possible. It seemed that no sale was ever good enough, even when I was making no money at all.
If you are a craft supply item, it is a little different. I find that people that are making items for themselves or to sell as a business, have to factor in the cost of supplies to what they are making. Fabric, patterns, embroidery designs, cutting files, and other craft supply related items will need to be priced a bit more reasonably so that everyone wins. You need to have prices that will still make you money, but are fair for your customers. Decide what that looks like for you and then go forward confidently.
Know why you want to have a business.
Why do you want to offer your product/service to the world? What will you gain from offering it? What will the world gain from you? I didn't intend to start a thriving business when I began designing patterns. I just wanted to give back to those around me that were in the position I was when I first began sewing. I was a stay-at-home-mom with a daughter that I wanted to dress in all the beautiful boutique clothing I saw, but couldn't afford. I taught myself to sew so that I could make her things. I knew what it was like to not be able to afford the fancy things but want so very much for my daughter to have them. When I began making patterns, it was so that those who couldn't afford to spend over $100 on a custom dress, could make their daughters one themselves, or even better, sell their own to make money for their family in whatever way it was needed.
I find that businesses that start from a great heart space, grow into beautiful things. Find out why you want to do this and think about how offering your gifts to the world will better it! This will put you in the right mindset to move forward confidently.
Finally, put some feelers out there.
Find a way to start showcasing what it is you make. You could create a page or group on facebook, create an Instagram account, rent a booth at a flea market or craft show, sign up for an Etsy or Craftsy account, or create a free website. Start putting out what you do and the price and see what response you get. You might be surprised how your little idea turns into a business just like that. Be patient with it. It might not explode over night, but with love and care, you will see it grow.
Always remember The More You Give, The More You Receive. It is important in life to be kind and give to others. However, you can do that, do it. It can be that you smile at people when you walk by, you can give your time, you can help others by sharing what you know or by giving something you have or make. Kindness is by far one of the most important things to do in life.
I hope that you are inspired to take some baby steps toward your ideas of running your own business or even jump in all the way. I wish you the very best success and that you love every part of the journey! Be you, all the way!
Lindsey Essary - Owner and Designer Ellie and Mac Sewing Patterns
Lover of those who follow their dreams.