Years ago, my first attempt at going to into business for myself was to sew and sell reusable produce bags. I was annoyed by the fact that I brought my reusable bags with me to the farmer’s markets and grocery shopping, but I still had to use the even flimsier plastic bags to hold the handful of green beans I bought. This seemed like a waste, and a need in the reusable market I could fill!
I was unemployed at the time, having recently been laid off and had nothing better to do with my time than sew all day. I headed down to the discount fabric store to see what I could buy for fabric. Turns out a lot of the remnant fabric they have is often not fabric you would want to sew for bags or put food in.
This is when I discovered what fat quarters were! No one in my family quilted, so I was unaware that cute cotton fabric was cut down into smallish squares to be bought for cheap by quilters. I bought every one they had.
Since that day I learned many things about making your own product as a business. The biggest takeaways in this case were:
1. Sewing something as simple as a cloth bag is monotonous and not fun, and perhaps better suited for a machine to make. Especially when,
2. China makes most things cheaper, faster and better.
It’s nice to be sentimental about something that was made by hand with love, and appreciate the cute fabric it’s made of, but I was getting burnt out real fast. And I hadn’t even gotten to the ACTUAL hard part yet: getting my butt down to the farmer’s market and SELLING them.
You’re probably not surprised to learn that I never that far. The bags I was able to complete I gave away to friends and family and used myself, but the majority sat around my house, half made for five years. When I happened to be unemployed again and forced myself to finally finish them.
I had come to terms years ago that I was not going to sell them, so I shipped them off to a friend of mine who runs an amazing honest-to-goodness business in western NY: Amuse. While I was proud of myself for actually finishing something I started, I was mostly humbled by a profound appreciation for the gumption it takes to start a business.