My latest Sewing Boss Interview was with the lovely Heather Hutchison Harris (say that three times fast!) of Handcraft Workshop, an adorable store & sewing studio just outside of Philadelphia, PA.
(Please excuse the fact that you mostly see my dopey face during this entire interview, even when heather is talking! Ugh – I’m still getting the hang of this video interview thing and I’m honestly not really sure what went wrong here. Despite the glitch – you can still hear all of Heather’s amazing insight into running her business. And maybe if you get sick of looking at me, you can put a post it note over my face 😉
Handcraft Workshop is a traditional fabric store that ALSO has studio space for holding sewing classes. I’m pretty impressed by the people who can make this type of sewing studio business model work! The inventory of fabric and notions you must need to carry in your store is mind boggling to me! The expense of the bolts and bolts of fabric and the machines and the tools and all the little sewing notions you have to sell in there makes my head spin when I think about it.
So Heather and I of course talked about all of these challenges, as well as some of the things she does to ensure she’s not working 14 hour days. This is no small feet when you need to have you’re store open regular business hours, but you also teach most nights and weekends.
In the interview we both expressed how grateful we are we teach sewing and not something like Math! Can you relate that most of the kids we teach in our sewing classes are there because they want to be and that’s REALLY nice.
Anyway – Let’s get to it! Here’s the video interview:
What a blast it was to talk with Jennifer Serr who is the owner of The Sewing Room Alameda in Alameda CA (outside of San Francisco). She’s a mover and shaker teaching people to sew and design fashion for themselves, as well as their dolls!
I found out that she loves vintage fashion (just check her instragram feed) and in her former life designed & drafted garments for the Gap. I also absolutely loved that she works hard to have a daily spiritual sewing practice! Her commitment to her sewing blog helps with this accountability. During the interview, she even committed to finishing up a challenging Chanel jacket she’s been working on for five years.
We commiserated about how people think because you teach children they assume you don’t also teach adults. And also about how (surprise, surprise) the two ways of teaching are VERY similar – HA!
My questions always start with asking about what tactics work the best to market your business. I don’t know about you but that always the thing I need help with!
She confirmed what most of us know to be true! Word of mouth is usually the number one way word is getting out about your classes. I guess this is good news because it means when people are talking with others about what you do and you’re then booking more classes because of it, you must be doing something right!
Jennifer just launched a course called Sewing Camp Power that is being sold over at Pixie Faire. Sewing Camp Power is a full 8-part video based course with a private Facebook group where Jennifer will personally coach you on your program.
This course will teach you how to start your own sewing camp program in your home town. Jennifer has grown her sewing camp business into a very successful venture over the last 8 years. Jennifer also has a line of sewing patterns being sold at Pixie Faire called Bonjour Teaspoon.
Let’s get to it! My interview with the beautiful Jennifer Serr.
In our latest Hipstitch Academy Virtual Coffee Chat with other sewing business owners and instructors we chatted about the things we do to promote our sewing classes that fall into the non-computer related category.
We had an awesome discussion about all the creative ideas we sewing business owners use to get the word out about our sewing classes that don’t involve search engines, emails and/or social media.
Here are 11 of my favorite sure fire ways to promote your sewing classes that don’t involve social media, search engines, word of mouth, or emails:
Teaching sewing classes that are free and open to the public at places like library in your town.
Local events in your town and street fairs locally.
Distributing biz cards and flyers at local events & networking opportunities where your business is.
Setting up fashion show events for the students at your sewing studio to showcase their projects.
Setting up tables, sewing machines & chairs outside of your studio (on the street, at street fairs, in park, in your backyard, etc.) and just sewing to get people interested in what you do.
Giant banners and signs outside of your studio.
Open houses are your studio to give people free classes and hopefully get them interested in sewing.
Partnering up with similar businesses to create some kind of loyalty card system that works in all your businesses to get discounts and special deals.
Reaching out and distributing flyers in schools locally (if this is allowed).
Sponsoring charity events and giving away gift certificates for fundraisers in your area.
Selling and giving away merchandise at your studio that has your logo on it (t-shirts, tote bags, sewing supplies & tools, etc.)
Like these ideas? Have more to add?
Please don’t hesitate to leave *YOUR* marketing ideas in the comments section below.
Today I had the honor of chatting with sewing business boss Laura Kasowitz to hear all about her adventures running her business Hartford Stitch in West Hartford, CT.
I learned that besides the fact that we both teaching sewing, we have loads in common including both growing up in Upstate NY (like really upstate – north of Albany – upstate) we both love collecting vintage cookbooks & craft/sewing books and our studios are painted the same color!
She chatted with me from her sewing studio on the 2nd floor of an actual house that was turned into small business spaces. From what I could see, it looks pretty adorable!
I loved hearing about how she does things to teach the kids & adult of Connecticut to sew!
Hey there! Yes you! The one covered in threads! I noticed you teach sewing like the rest of us around here. Welcome!
If you’re reading this post, I guess that means you’ve made it to our little online community we lovingly call the Hipstitch Academy. We’re still getting things off the ground over there, but were basically a corner of the internet where people who teach sewing and/or having a sewing business can connect with each other.
I’ve working hard to create tribe of like minded creative souls (like you!) and would love for you to be a part of it! We tend to chat & connect on what it’s like to run our own business, what some of our favorite techniques are for teaching sewing, how we promote our business and so many other things related to sewing & being a successful entrepreneur.
One of the things I love doing most over at HA is “Sewing Boss” video interviews with other sewing studio owners like yourself. I absolutely love getting to know other folks who do what I do in different parts of the world.
Do you think you might consider sitting down for a recorded video chat with me to share with the HA community what goes into running your awesome studio Made by Me Sewing Studio???
I promise this is totally casual & the interview should be longer than a 30-45 minutes. I’ll send you example questions before we chat. But hopefully what will come from it is an organic, connected conversation between two sewing studio business owners, chatting about doing the thing they love.
There are a few interviews up on the website already. Take a look/listen at what other studio owners have had to say. I’m not gonna lie, it’s pretty inspiring. And I’m thinking that what you’ve got to say will inspire others too!
These days, no doubt, there are a LOT of after school enrichment class opportunities at schools! It doesn’t matter which school you attend, chances are there’s some sort of after care program. Usually this involves vendors coming in to teach specialty classes for things they probably aren’t learning in their regular school day.
And if it’s not school enrichment classes, there is soccer, dance, piano lessons, choir , fencing and so many more amazing activities that your child can choose from to supplement their school day education.
So why would anyone choose after school sewing class this year, you ask?
Here are a couple reasons we feel strongly that after school sewing classes make total sense.
Learning how to sew, either using a needle & thread or using a sewing machine will get your child away from all the screens! At least for a little while. There are no screens (laptop, phone, computer, iPad or otherwise) in sewing. This is a class where kids are going to use their imaginations to create things with their hands using fabric, thread and creativity. There are few activities these days that don’t involve a computer and basically create something from nothing with your hands. Sewing is one of those precious activities and all kids need a little bit more of that in their life, don’t you think?
Taking an after school sewing class reinforces the things you learn in school! Ever heard of STEM?? Yeah we figured you had! Well, sewing is one of those activities that has a little bit of all things STEM. In sewing we talk a lot about how things are made and what makes up our clothes. What is cotton made of and where does it come from? How is fabric created? These are all science questions that we talk about often in sewing. For technology, you can’t get any more technical than having your third grader learn how to use a piece of machinery that literally makes the clothing we wear everyday. For engineering, that’s pretty much what sewing is all about. Figuring out the best method of creating an actual thing of of fabric and thread. And finally math. Yep, sewing is math, as well. How do you think we figure out how long a bag strap should be, or how big the circumference of the circle skirt pattern should be, or how big to make the beret? It’s ALL math!
Learning sewing in a class teaches you other important life skills your children wont learn in school! Sewing class will help your child flex their creative muscle. While physical strength and getting exercise are important, so is using your brain to it’s utmost creative potential. Sewing allows students to use their creativity in a way that really isn’t allowed in school anymore. The sewing projects they’ll work on in our classes will allow design opportunities that you don’t find in most school curriculum. Making decisions about how to design something is a practical skill that will help them later in life and in careers like engineering, fashion design, interior design, architecture, product design and so much more.
Arts in School is Becoming a Thing of the Past! More and more, sewing, art classes, music classes or anything to have to do with the arts in general is not taught in our schools anymore. There is such a focus on academics and test scores that the arts are getting pushed aside at alarming rates.After school sewing classes give our students a taste of creative art even if it’s after the normal school day. In a sewing class, we teach children to use their hands to create an adorable stuffed animal, a beautiful piece of clothing or a handmade birthday gift for their parent that I know will be cherished for years and years after they took the class with me. This is very special and not something you see in art class anymore!
Create Lasting Friendships & Beautiful Keepsakes – The friends you make at summer camp are never quite the same as your school friends. For some reason those “camp” friends are put into a special category unlike the friends you spend your time with 75% of the year. At sewing summer camp the friendships created are special because of the common goal, creating something handmade & beautiful. Together with your camp friends your children are going to learn how to make things that you’re going to want to keep around. The soft, adorable projects are going to be keepsakes for many years to come.
Your child will learn skill that will last a lifetime – Patience & Teamwork – Of all the things a child will learn at sewing summer camp, we believe that patience and teamwork are the two most important skills. Learning to sew is one of those things that requires a student to stay focused to get the end result, a finished, awesome project. Each project that your child will make usually requires about 2-3 hours of continuous work to finish. At sewing camp, this time flies by because are students love what they are doing and they are motivated by wanting to finish and have that awesome new toy, piece of clothing or accessory to take home with them. We see our students take their time, make mistakes, go back and fix them and slow dow to achieve the finished project they desire. If that’s not patience, we’re not sure what is. The other really important skill we see students walking away from sewing camp with is a new found appreciate for team work. Even though each child is making their own project in most cases, the process is one that requires help from the entire community. Maybe someone isn’t sure how to hand sew their button eyes, or a student requires their peers help getting the thread into the needle. Sewing camp fosters a true sense a community that you’re not going to find at all summer camps.
An Opportunity to get creative & Try Something New – Sewing summer camp is a chance to try something that is totally new. Something completely different from what you learn in school. Sewing is an art form that surrounds our day to day, yet most people don’t know how to to do it. Sewing is essential for every piece of clothing, home furnishing and accessory we wear & use every day, but it’s something most people have no clue how to do! At sewing camp your child will get back to basics and have a better understanding of where their belongings come from. Learning how to sew at camp will also foster creativity skills that maybe they are not utilizing during the school year. Learning to sew requires making design decisions about the projects you create. What should the eyes look like on the stuffed panda? Where should I place the pockets of the skirts I’m designing? Which buttons should I use for this closure? Summer camp is an opportunity unlike any other summer program.
Sewing allows for Problem Solving, Fine Motor Skills & Practical use of Math Skills – Now lets not forget about the all the technical & academic skills that kids are going to learn at a sewing camp. Yes, I said academic. If you want to find a hobby that uses math skills in a practical way they can use their whole life, sewing is that skill. Whether it’s measuring how much webbing to cut for a bag strap or how wide to make a hat opening (geometry of a circle at it’s finest!) the math they will learn is so engrained in the project your child wont even realize they’re doing math! Sewing camp is also an amazing way for your child to brush up on those fine motor skills. Does your child need extra cutting with scissors help, we’ve got that covered. How about learning how to thread a needle? We bet you’ll be asking your kids to do this for you at home when you need to replace a button for a fix a hem on your work pants.
Provides relaxed “structure” to your child’s summer plans. – And finally, even though summer camp is a structured class where your child is bound to learn valuable lessons, our camps are laid back enough that it doesn’t even come close to feeling like school. Nobody wants to attend school in the summer! But we’d all probably prefer to not have our kids laying around with nothing to do for two months. Summer camp is the perfect blend of laid back, fun creative times without the “sit at your desk and concentrate” boundaries of school.
The other day I got to interview the mega-talented Tracy McElfresh! She’s the proud owner of Tracy’s Sewing Studio in Kettering Ohio.
Her studio is a little bit custom design, a little bit alterations and a little bit teaching studio!
We chatted about her super popular “All you can eat Embroidery & Scone workshops” and I found myself considering driving to Ohio to attend one!
I especially love Tracy’s historical costume work and I just discovered her Vlog where she posts really insightful videos of some of her fantastic techniques. It was a real pleasure to finally (virtually) meet her!
This morning I drank a lot of coffee and chatted with my friend & sewing boss Jesy Anderson about her experience having her own sewing business. She’s the proud owner of Needle, Ink & Thread a sewing (and a little bit crafting) studio in Beavercreek, OH.
We talked about how she learned to sew when she was an adult, how she failed home ec in junior high for not backstitching (a woman after my own heart!), how having your own sewing business means being able to create a schedule that works for YOU, about her upcoming trip to Quilt Market in St. Louis and so many other things! I absolutely loved starting my day shooting the breeze about all things entrepreneurial with Jesy! I hope you do too!