Tell us something about yourself. What is your niche? Why did you start your business?
My niche is retro-inspired clothing and accessories in bold colors and prints. My business stemmed from my strong interest in vintage clothing, and not always being able to find a particular item of clothing I wanted, in the correct size (particularly with items from the 1950s, which are often very small).
What type of products do you sell? How does your manufacturing process look like?
I sell a wide range of clothing, including tops, dresses, bottoms, and jumpsuits, as well as accessories such as makeup bags and hair accessories. Everything is handmade by myself from scratch (with the exception of some t-shirts and tote bags, which are hand-printed), and mostly made to order, from my small home studio in Southend, UK. With any new design, I begin by creating a pattern and first sample, and, when satisfied with the fit, I grade the pattern to sizes 6-18.
What are some challenging aspects of your business? How did you overcome them?
The main challenge is standing out amongst so many fast fashion brands, coupled with people’s misconceptions about how much work and effort goes into making clothing (particularly handmade) when they have become so accustomed to very low prices – which can usually only be achieved through unethical working practices and factory conditions. I think showing work processes, for example via social media, is a good way for myself and other handmade sellers to let buyers and followers know just how much care and effort goes into our items.
What do you enjoy most about being an entrepreneur? What’s the hardest about it?
The freedom and being my own boss is what I most enjoy. The hardest part for me is marketing, particularly as I am a little introverted and struggle at times with self-promotion, and tend to doubt myself too much when business is slow.
What are some beginner mistakes you made? What advice or words of inspiration would you like to share?
I learned from mistakes early on it is often better to start small and test the waters, before going all out with an idea, and investing a lot of time or money into it. The best advice for anyone starting out is to be patient and be prepared for a certain amount of trial and error, as well as being open to new ideas when it comes to product development.
What inspires you while designing and/or creating new products.
Unusual prints, textures, and colors inspire me. Being retro-style, a lot of my designs are also inspired by old movies, posters, and artwork.
How did you get the background and skills necessary to run this type of business?
I learned to sew at a young age, and studied Fashion where I learned more advanced sewing, garment construction, and tailoring, as well as manual pattern cutting. All the other aspects of running an online business have been self-taught over the years, and I am still learning!
What are some of the most effective ways in terms of marketing products to your customers?
Social media, in particular Instagram, has been the most effective marketing strategy and posting a variety of content, not just product shots.
What would you say are the key elements for starting and running a successful online business?
Patience is key and providing great and personalized customer service that sets you apart from the larger online retailers. Also being adaptable to change, particularly as search algorithms are always evolving
How do you personally define business success? Is it money? Freedom? Influence? Creative expression and innovation? Something else?
Creative expression freedom and making enough money to be able to focus on my business full time, without relying on a secondary income, are how I would personally define business success.
Describe your day-to-day operation. How do you manage your time?
I try to get up early, and get as much sewing done as possible whilst there is still good light (which isn’t for long in UK winters!) then work on shop listings, customer inquiries, bookkeeping, etc in the afternoon/evening.
How do you plan on growing your business? What is the biggest impact on your profitability?
I would very much like to get some of my items in physical stores, something I’d hoped to work on this year, but due to Covid-19 and lockdowns, have had to postpone until next year.