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Thursday, July 28, 2011

WAHM-Part 2

In July of 2010, I realized that I could start my own page on Facebook and use it as a platform for selling things I made.  I shared my excitement with my older sister, and talked her into starting this business venture with me.  It was agreed that we would each pay for half the supplies, get half the profits, and do half the work.  She had an old sewing machine that a relative had given to her, and so we set it up and got to work trying to figure out how to run it.  She had never touched a sewing machine before, and I hadn't used one since I made a wrap skirt for myself while staying with my grandma during high school.  We soon realized that the sewing machine was too old and didn't work properly anymore (thus the relative no longer wanting it).  Not to be deterred, we decided that we'd just sew everything by hand until we could afford a new sewing machine.  The first thing I made was a pillowcase dress for Princess.  It took me 2 straight days of handstitching, but it turned out pretty cute.  I made a kerchief to match and we were in business.
I opened our Facebook page in the beginning of August, 2010 and we dubbed it Annalie's Baby Boutique.  We came up with the name by combining our names together (Hannah + Leah = Annalie) and by playing around with my daughter's name a little.  Thanks to some friends who spread the word about our new venture, the page was soon gaining fans rapidly.  The most exciting moment came when I was scrolling through the list of fans and realized we had our first fan who was not an acquaintance or a relative! 

We dove into the boutique head first, making shopping trips to JoAnn Fabrics and cutting out fabric like two scissor crazed maniacs.  We started out making pillowcase dresses, baby washcloths, burp cloths, snuggle taggies, and a few other miscellaneous products.  Before we knew it, the orders were rolling in...to the tune of approximately less than 1 a week.  Hey, it was a start! 

We knew that handstitching all our products wasn't exactly time efficient so I asked around and ended up borrowing my mother-in-law's sewing machine.  It was around 50 years old, very heavy, and the bobbin winder didn't work.  I used it for several weeks, teaching myself to thread the machine by watching videos on youtube.com.  And then, I moved it from the kitchen table to a small area I'd created behind the couch in the living room to be my sewing "room".  And somehow, the wiring went out during the short 4 yard move.  It was time to go shopping for my own sewing machine.  I ended up buying a Babylock Natalie edition...a $400.00 machine that was on sale for $200.  I love it and it was worth every penny of the 50% off price.

My sister soon dropped out of the business.  She still helped me out with cutting fabric or watching my kids when I needed to get a lot of work done, but by October, it was MY boutique.  The profit was all mine and *gulp* the expenses were all mine.  I continued to add new products to the boutique and began branching out on the internet.  I opened a shop on ecrater.com because the price was right (ecrater is completely free :).   I knew several other boutique owners who used it and they seemed to be doing pretty well.  I started a Twitter account and linked it up to my Facebook page.  I started advertising on Facebook pages that specialize in helping small boutiques out (look for a complete list in WAHM-Part 3).  I ordered free business cards and other business merchandise at Vistaprint.com.  I signed up for craft shows and expos.  I worked hard at promoting my boutique and it was worth it.  I found out that you can't just sit there and expect people to find you, you have to go out and find them.

At some point, my products began changing.  As I tried out different ideas, I soon came to realize what I enjoyed making the most.  My boutique evolved from selling baby items to boutique style clothing for girls AND boys.  Most boutiques only sell girl clothing, but since I have a little boy too, I felt I needed to include boys in the picture. 

In January, I started my own website... and found out how much work that is.  I also realized that, while having your own website is a good thing, you're really on your own there.  On Ecrater and Facebook, I was one of many sellers and so people were more likely to stumble on my shop.  At this point, my website badly needs a makeover, but I just don't have 87 free hours to make it happen.

Since I started my boutique, people had been suggesting that I start a shop on Etsy.  I checked it out and was intimidated by the impressive photography and the professional feel to the shops already on Etsy.  I definitely wasn't at that level yet and didn't feel as if I could compete on Etsy.  Finally, in April, 2011, I bit the bullet and I went for it.  And I'm so glad I did.  It's been a great way to get more people to stop by my boutique, and I'm at a level professionally that it works well for me. 

So here I am today...my business is growing slowly but surely and I'm loving every minute of it (most of the time).  I was planning to put all my tips and advice in this post, but apparently I'm too longwinded, lol.  Look for all that WAHM-Part 3 which will be posted sometime in the next few days.

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