Wednesday, December 31st, 2014
It’s been just about 75 days since we opened the doors of Sassy Sewing and as 2015 fast approaches, we take a look at what we’ve learnt in that time. And it’s a lot!
1 It’s all about the people (who help you get open in the first place)
As soon as we started telling people what we were planning, friends rallied round to help us. Times like this are when you come to love your network of friends, relations and even the people you only just met. These are the folks who find the solutions, who turn up when you need them to paint, plaster, hammer, screw or simply to wait all afternoon in an empty shop for a delivery that doesn’t turn up till 5.29pm.
These are the people who pep up your spirits when things are going badly, who turn up with a four pack of cider and a smile and who happily work till gone midnight on the night before you open to get everything just so (and then turn up nine hours later for opening day celebrations)
2 You’ll work twice as hard as you planned to
Making a business plan is simple. Making a comprehensive and realistic business plan is terrifying and the realisation that you are about to become the HR, accounts and marketing department as well as the directors and the workforce is actually (if you’re an optimist) simply a good excuse to drink more coffee and finally cut your ties with the sofa and rubbish reality TV.
And the truth is that the business plan actually turned out to be quite accurate (so far), but what we never realised was just how much of our evenings and weekends would be spent tweaking, thinking, strategizing and making sure everything is just so. Hard work? Yes. Fun? Definitely. We’ve never slept so soundly.
3 But it will all be worth it
Absolutely. We’ve never enjoyed life so much or felt so alive…
4…It’s all about the people
In the last eight weeks since Sassy sewing opened its doors we have met so many lovely people, heard so many inspiring stories and had such fun. Maybe it’s a sewing thing, but our customers are just brilliant. Some are full of it – chatty, friendly, and inquisitive. Others come in and look around, stay quiet for a while, but then open up when we ask them a few questions and in so many cases this leads to a long and lovely chat about what they make, how they’ve done it and what they will do next. If you have one of those jobs where you look at the clock and can’t believe it is only half past ten, then you need to come and work here – the days just fly by.
5 Sewing is a (very) social pastime
Running workshops was always a big part of the Sassy Sewing plan, but neither me nor Mr Sassy had any idea how much fun they would be. So far every single one has sold out and every single one has been terrific. Again, it’s all about the people. We’ve been very lucky to find Debs and Christina – our dynamic duo of instructors. Both have the knack of getting everyone through it and just about managing the endless chatter and laughter to get finished on time. We have other instructors in the pipeline too – all lovely people.
6 Everything is a learning experience
Dealing with suppliers, learning to do accounts, keeping on top of so many things and switching and swapping the shop around to make it as appealing as it can possibly be – it’s all in a day’s work.
Once more, it’s all about the people and the relationships. Looking your suppliers in the eye, making the effort to do the right thing and learning to say no when it matters. Scary stuff if you’ve always had a big company behind you, but thrilling when it all comes together.
7 Making money is almost irrelevant
Obviously we aren’t just doing Sassy Sewing’s shop for fun. But the reasons we did it were always a lot more about creating a sewing hub and a thriving little community in our town before they were about business. Sometimes there are more important things than making huge amounts of money.
8 Community matters
We live and work in a small town which has some wonderful and very individual shops. And we’ve been thrilled by the support we’ve had from the folk that run them. Customers come in having been recommended by other business owners. Everyone mucks in and helps spread the word. Thank you.
9 Accountants are interesting (and spreadsheets too)
Keeping a track on how the business is working is simpler than we imagined and the experts we’ve had to help us have made it very straightforward to get to grips with.
Obviously we started off writing things down on bits of paper and it took about three weeks before we realised just how many bits of paper we were going to end up with. Mr Sassy always said he would rather learn the violin than Microsoft Excel, but thankfully I managed to persuade him otherwise and we now have a simple record of what’s what, which he seems slightly too proud of.
10 Horncastle has a phantom balloon popper
Every day we put out our A board with some lovely, cheery balloons attached – everyone likes balloons, right? Wrong. Every day someone walks by and ceremoniously pops them – and I’m sure they’re full of glee when they do it. Glad we’re making someone happy!
11 It is all about the people
Shopping should be fun. You can go visit the biggest, brightest, best stocked shop and still not enjoy it if the people behind the counter don’t make you feel welcome. When we started this we were determined that a trip to Sassy Sewing should be different to other sewing shops. Friendly, helpful and hopefully, inspirational. We’ve been lucky to find Debs who runs the shop in the week and instructs at the weekends. She is all of the above and more. Thanks Debs.
Sunday, December 28th, 2014
New year, new challenge. Or should that be…daft challenge. Cooked up by my lovely friend Judi, we’ve decided that for 2015 we are both going to ditch shopping and make all our own clothes instead. Yes I did just say ‘ditch shopping.’ What are we thinking?
So this is the deal. We’ve both decided on a few things we won’t be able to make ourselves (bras and socks for Judi and work suits for me) but everything else we wear in 2015 has to be made by our own fair hands. I’ve already enrolled on an underwear making workshop in a bit of a panic! Knitting is also OK as is up-cycling old or second hand clothes.
I do make a lot of my own stuff, but nothing on this scale. Twelve months of boundary pushing should be a great way to progress – just think how much better dressmakers we’ll be by the end of it (hopefully!) Alternately we’ll just spend all year wearing the same eight old garments!
Judi has a challenge within a challenge here. Currently living in Turkey means access to dressmaking fabric is limited so she’s facing the joy of creating most of her clothes with knits, which is mostly all that is available where she is. Although of course I will send her fabrics from the shop if she needs me to.
So we’ve got just under a week to be ready. I’m cutting out a dress today which I hope to work on over the rest of the Christmas period – thought I’d get a head start. I’m making the new Tilly and the Buttons dress – a pattern called Francoise. It’s a sixties inspired mini dress and I’m doing the sleeveless version – might need a vest underneath it for the next few months!
I’ll be blogging every week about the challenge, so please pop back – we’ll need all the encouragement we can get!
Sunday, December 21st, 2014
I’d just like to say a big hearty Merry Christmas to my lovely customers. Thank you so much for all your support since Sassy Sewing opened it’s doors on the 18th of October. I can’t believe so much has been achieved in just a couple of months but every bit of it has been enjoyable and exciting – especially meeting you all. We are open over Christmas if you fancy popping in – would be lovely to see you. Opening times are:
24 December – 9.30am – 2pm
25 December – closed
26 December – closed
27 December – 10.00am – 3pm
28 December – Closed
29 December – Closed
30 December – 9.30am – 3pm
31 December – 9.30am – 2pm
1 January – Closed
2 January – 10.00am – 3pm
3 January – 9.30am – 3pm
Then normal service resumes.
Have a great Christmas everyone.
Saturday, December 6th, 2014
This bloke walks into the shop…Sounds like the start of a corny 1970s joke. He didn’t look like a typical Sassy customer but he needed a favour. ‘The collar is coming away from my coat, can you do anything to fix it while I wait?’ Hmm. we don’t really do repairs and this looked like a very (make that very, very) expensive coat. But he was a nice man and in need of some assistance so out came the thread and I did my best to do a strong, but professional job. And while I stitched, he talked…about what sounded like a fascinating life. How he used to work in India and still goes back there every winter until the following spring. The kind of inspirational chit-chat that makes you want to hear more and more. This year he’s running late for his travels after having some family business to deal with locally. One of those people who you just know has an interesting story inside them.
Job done, no charge, but he insisted on somehow leaving a fiver on the cutting table. The best thing about this job is the people you meet, no question.
Taj Mahal – he’s not going to need a coat there!