Sewng Pattern business: bootstrapping
Martyna Pietrzak-Siepietowska loves to sew. She had seen garments that she liked and wanted to make but when she tried to locate patterns for them, nothing matched. So she taught herself how to make her own patterns.
She leveraged her local library and bought books to learn. This was before there were so many sources online – tutorials, videos, and courses that are ubiquotous now. She worked to refine her abilities and found inexpensive digital tools.
When asked how she creates her patterns, Martyna responded:
I rarely do it traditional way (on paper). I’m used to work with computer, so I’m using software for designing patterns. I don’t like to waste money, so I use free software. For drawings there’s great application Inkscape (inkscape.org), to work with photos there’s gimp (www.gimp.org/).
After I prepare some pattern, I use it the same way my customers will – print, cut out, tape and I use it to sew.
If you have a passion for something, you don’t need a big budget to bring your dreams to life. Whether your goal is making patterns or your own fashion line, you can find inexpensive tools and ways to get started.
Once you’ve grown and you have income coming in, you can decide how best to scale your business. This might include hiring helpers or upgrading to commercial digital tools that can help streamline your workflow. Regardless, when you’re starting out, you want to spend as little as possible until you’ve proven that there is demand for your ideas.
We asked Martyna about her biggest challenges:
It may not look like, but language is somewhat a problem – English is not my native language. There is a lot of specific vocabulary when writing instructions, sometimes I’m not sure if what I write is understandable. Running my own business is also new to me, all this paperwork… especially marketing is something that I have to worry about and it is big challenge for me.
There are great free tools for assisting with language translation, but the current state of technology still doesn’t get it perfect. In keeping with maintaining low costs, Martyna could leverage her existing customers for assistance with language translation. Perhaps give out free patterns to select customers who provide her with quality feedback on her instructions.
Almost everyone I have interviewed has cited marketing as one of their big challenges and I’ve written extensively about how much time we put into ModaMake for marketing. It’s 50% of your business, and there is no easy / cheap solution, but there are ways to bootstrap your marketing.
1. Schedule marketing into your day. Dedicate the first hour and last hour of your day to marketing. Spend at least 1-2 hours per week reviewing your marketing strategy to see what’s working and what isn’t as well as researching new marketing ideas.
2. If you have reached positive cash flow with you business and you can dedicate some of your revenue to hiring a marketing assistant, then leverage online platforms like Fiverr or Freelancer.com to find inexpensive help. Highschool, college, and part time helpers can be great for executing some of the more rote aspects of marketing that use up a lot of your time.
3. Reach out to existing customers for help with marketing. Nothing beats word of mouth marketing, so ask your existing customers to help spread the word. There are ways to track referrals, so you could incentive your customers with discounts or exclusives if they refer X amount of new customers to you.
4. Use contests and competitions to motivate your existing customers and bring in new ones. Make sure that with any contest you include an element of social marketing. For example, you could have a $50 prize for the best customer photo of a new pattern. The photos must be posted on (Facebook / Instagram / any social network), be tagged with your company name, and be public for everyone to view.
We wish Martyna the best of luck with her pattern business. Check out her Etsy store and Facebook link below: