How I Built a $5k/month
Handmade Home Decor Business
Hi! Who are you and what business did you start?
Hey! I am Jill Flory, owner of Sew a Fine Seam, a business that specialises in handmade home decor that makes a home happy, cosy and inviting. I design and make pillows, wall art, and much more. Extra help is available from my family and two friends who sew for me when the piles get too high to handle!
What is your personal story and how did you come up with the idea?
I’ve been sewing since I can remember – before I was 10 years old! I’ve always been creative, loved home decor, and decorating lovely spaces. In 2008, I started a blog as a hobby and called it Sew a Fine Seam. The name was created because I was always sewing something, and I remembered the line from a nursery rhyme. I spent my spare time away from my unrelated full-time job sewing various things for other people to bring in some extra income.
In September 2011, a friend hosted a mini-market for pop-up shops in her front yard and I was one of the vendors. I spent the months following that show with setting up my business. Since that almost accidental beginning, I’ve set up at markets and shows across the Midwestern United States, sold online in an Etsy shop and now I sell on my own website. I initially bought a building and had a retail space but eventually sold it to reduce my overheads. Now I am operating from home once more and growing my online business.
What challenges did you face when creating your product/service?
Competition is fierce in the handmade business world! There is always someone ready to use your ideas or make something similar and undercut your price. However, I have learned through some tough situations that there are plenty of customers for all of us and finding your own tribe and loving them fiercely is paramount to success.
Of course, finance is always a challenge for a new business! Deciding where to spend marketing money, what supplies to buy, how to make it all fit into the budget – it’s all a grand balancing act of wits and wisdom! I would say my biggest challenge though, has been to identify my target market.
For some reason, it has taken me years to wrap my mind around all the nuances of this concept. It’s also one of the most important things to focus on in a handmade business.
Who is your target market?
My customer base majority is made up of women ages 22-55. They are mostly married with families and careers. They all share the love for a well-appointed home. These women (and a few men!) buy my products to fill their homes with happiness, or to gift to their friends and family.
I also sell wholesale to a limited number of shop owners who love to see my items mixed into their brick and mortar stores, and who know their customers will love them and purchase them too.
How do you market your business and which approaches have been the most successful?
My main platform has been Instagram, and my online shop has grown significantly this year through its use. I created some ‘promoted’ posts there and have had excellent success with them. We occasionally used Facebook promotions in the past, but none since the closure of my physical store.
I use my blog occasionally to promote my products but have not done so this year. And I recently started to use a mailing list and have become a lot more consistent with weekly updates via email. This has also had a positive impact on my sales.
Since you launched, what has worked in not only attracting but retaining customers?
My product is exceptionally well made and unique, and it keeps customers coming back. As I create new and fun products they purchase again, they share with their friends, and it snowballs from there.
What kind of culture exists in your company, and how did you establish it?
It’s mainly just me and as long as I can get along with myself everything goes smoothly! LOL! I do have a couple of freelancers who sew for me when I have particularly high demand. I tell them what I need, show them exactly what to do, and they do the work in their own homes and return the work to me when finished.
What software, services or tools do you use within your business?
I have a WordPress website that is home to my online shop. I use Microsoft Excel for accounting, Adobe Photoshop and Canva for photo editing and creating, Microsoft Word for creating documents and Microsoft Outlook for email. Somehow I keep it all organised on my own!
What are the most important lessons have you learned on your business journey?
Running your own business is HARD! If you want an easier life, a 9-5 job is a much better option! Having said that, running your own business is extremely rewarding and teaches lessons you won’t learn in a regular job. A creative business allows me to make a lot of things without overrunning my home with crafts and projects!
Selling my creations brings in an extra income for my family and allows me to reach out and help others in need of monetary help. One of the biggest mistakes I ever made in business was trusting the wrong people. I’ve learned you need to be a bit wary and learn to know people before jumping in to work with them.
What is your favourite aspect of being an entrepreneur?
My favourite aspect of being an entrepreneur is being my own boss!
What is your LEAST favourite aspect of being an entrepreneur?
The fear of the unknown and making decisions that may or may not work out.
What books, podcasts or other resources have inspired and influenced your business journey?
The E-myth Revisited by Michael Gerber, Predictably Irrational by Dan Ariely, Words That Sell by Richard Bayan are all great books for aspiring and current business owners. Renae Christine’s Handmade Titan University course for building a handmade business is worth its weight in gold. As a business coach, Renae is the best for my industry! Jenna Kutcher’s, The Goal Digger Podcast and Emily P Freeman’s ‘The Next Right Thing’ podcast have been my favourites to listen to while creating new things.
Where do you see your business 2-3 years from now?
In 2-3 years, I expect larger online presence, more product lines available all the time instead of just seasonal items. Perhaps I will even have a couple of full-time employees and a larger wholesale footprint, all housed in the new space we are currently building for the business.