adventures in indiepreneurship

Thursday, December 17, 2009

In case you haven't guessed, the etsy bug has bitten me, and I've been scheming to open an etsy shop of my own for several months now. The sellers I follow make it look so effortless and fun. I thought I could throw something together in a few weeks, but it's turned into months. I had no idea it would be so involved!

First, the name. Every name I was thinking of seemed to be taken. If the name wasn't taken on etsy, then the worldwide web address was taken. I finally came up with "chirp & bloom" which had the lighthearted sound to it I was after and was vague enough to work for whatever I might want to make. So I snapped up the domain name and, on the advice of my lawyer neighbor, started the 6-month trademarking process to the tune of around $350. I also ordered custom woven labels early on knowing the process could take a month or two. $450 later, I am the proud owner of 1000 labels that have been sitting in my workroom chomping at the bit to get sewn into something.

This is what 1000 labels look like. I ordered them from, even though I thought the name was cheesy, and they handled my order very efficiently and professionally. A word of advice if you ever do a custom label- don't settle for a photo of the first sample, get it sent to you so you can have it in your hands for inspection. The old apparel training kicked in and made me insist on seeing the label before production, and I wound up doing a major adjustment to the way the background was woven (black was grinning through and making the white look dingy). I also ordered stock size tab labels from seanlabels on ebay and blank laser- printable label sheets from Creative Effex on ebay also. Label-wise, I'm ready to roll.

Meanwhile, I had to zone in on what exactly I would be making, which I decided will be primarily children's clothing, and start making it. I spent weeks browsing what other people are doing on etsy, just to make sure I didn't do something already done-to-death, then buying fabric and supplies. I'm afraid to even add up the receipts- definitely over $1000, I think. I also needed to determine my sizing, which I decided would be based on the Gap size chart for familiarity's sake, and make my patterns accordingly. Even though this is a small enterprise, my professional apparel training won't let me be slapdash about the nitty gritty parts. The stuff has to fit and be in line with people's expectations of quality and consistency. I made at least 2 trial muslins per style and fit them on my size 5 dressform as well as a real human size 5 (thank you Ellie!). The muslin-making was good practice for me using my new serger which took 9 hours of instruction to be able to operate.

I bought my 2-year old used Husqvarna Viking Huskylock 936 on ebay for $850 to give my garments a professional finish inside.

Things seemed to be coming together and finally, just this month, I cut into some of the real fabric to make my first item, a dress with an applique on it. Then KABBAM! My "trusty" 1970's Singer refused to do the blanket stitch. A trip to the repair shop found that "cam stack" was shot and unfixable according to Mr Hayes of Hayes Sewing Machine Co. Come to think of it, the poor machine was getting finicky on me with regular straight stitching as well.

R.I.P. Singer Touch and Sew 750...

Hello one year old, slightly used Babylock Crafter's Choice "sewing computer". You'd better not break, 'cause I've got some sewing to do here!

Feeling optimistic yesterday, I decided it was time to go downtown and get licensed-up for my very serious business venture which I've already invested so much in. I put 1 1/2 hours worth of quarters in the meter and marched off the the Carvel State Building to set things in motion. I wound up needing s 3 separate licenses for the state, totalling $240! At least they were fast and courteous and it was a one-stop deal. Then over to the Louis Redding City Building for my local licenses. Golly gee, the city charges double what the state charges and requires 3 different offices to process the transaction! Final approval of my doings needed to come from the infamous "L&I" (licensing and inspection) office. Since my business will be conducted from my residence, I am not allowed to do lots of stuff like warehouse merchandise or sell from the premises except for mail order. I promised my sales, if I ever got any, would be internet-only and I wouldn't have very much inventory at any one time. Then I had to promise not to ever have an employee, other than a family member living on the premises, work for me in my home. I had to suppress a grin as I imagined my husband and children toiling away for me in my basement sweatshop. No grinning allowed in L&I. The man was soberly assessing me over the top of his spectacles. He must have taken pity on me and my lame little business, because he let me get away with having only two licenses which I had to go to office #3, take a number, and pay for to the tune of $330. It's entirely likely that the costs of my licenses might exceed my gross earnings for the year! Feeling like I'd been mugged, I headed back to the car where the meter had expired and a $40 ticket was tucked under the wiper. Classic!

Last night around 10:00 after the kids were snug in their beds, I shrugged off the trials of the day and snuck down to my basement to do some completely legal serging on that same dress project that just can't seem to get finished. The stitching was coming out so professional and beautiful then... GRIIIIIND! What is that metal-on-metal sound? Why is my digital read-out flashing "overloaded" when I am just sewing with lightweight fabric? Deep breaths, deep breaths... and I'm off today to Stoneybrook Sew & Vac, the Viking dealer in town to see what the damage is. Wish me luck, apparently I need it!

1 comment:

Jenny said...

Oy! Hopefully you just had all your frustrating moments right up front, instead of spreading them out over your first year... Congratulations! I can't wait to see what's coming!

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