Posts filed under talking about

Are you joining me for #makersforfashrev?

Last year I had all these grand ideas for what I wanted to do for Fashion Revolution Week. As is the case with a lot of my grand plans, I realised that I had left it too late and there was far too much to do for me to get it happening in time. So I went for second best (or what I thought was second best at the time) and decided to run a little Instagram photo challenge. I have seen a lot of them run very successfully, and I knew it was a good way to spread the word and raise the profile of an issue, so I quickly made some daily prompts and put it on Instagram with the hashtag '#makersforfashrev' to let people know what it was all about.

Oh boy was I surprised when people started sharing it and putting the hands up to take part too! Suddenly it wasn't just me, but countless makers from all around the world, jumping on board to spread the word. As of today there are 1 378 posts with the hashtag. I was thrilled to see others thought it was an important issue to discuss too. 

I still love the idea of hosting some kind of event for Fashion Revolution (maybe next year), but I also  appreciate the incredible power of the internet. From my little studio here in Sydney I can spread the word about Fashion Revolution far further than I could by hosting a class or an event, and for now, that's exactly what I plan to do!

What is Fashion Revolution?

So if you are new around these parts, or have not come across the Fashion Revolution movement, you can check out my blog post from last year to get an overview of what it's all about.  

In short, what it's about is asking 'Who Made My clothes?' It is about questioning working conditions, work practices and the overall impact the fashion industry has on people and planet.

The reason I thought it was important for makers to get on board spreading the word about this issue is that we are the ones making our own clothes. We appreciate the time it takes to make clothing and the skill required to do so. Why should the garments handmade by us be valued, appreciated and worth more than the garments handmade in a factory in a third world country? They shouldn't be. All clothing is made by hand and this needs to be remembered and never devalued or discredited. 

We have the power to spread the word amongst our friends, and communities, to promote and acknowledge that clothes are valuable and use valuable resources to create them. We should love them, take care of them and nurture them. We should keep them out of landfill at all costs. We should also question the working conditions of those who make them for us.

#MAKERSFORFASHREV

To promote this amazing movement amongst the making community online I have decided to host another photo challenge on Instagram for the week of Fashion Revolution (24-30 April). Although some of us may not buy our clothing from retailers, there is still a lot we can do to encourage change, and I would love if you help me spread the word (and maybe even encourage more people to start making their own clothes).

WOULD YOU LIKE TO JOIN ME?

Each day during Fashion Revolution Week, I will post a prompt on Instagram to promote thoughts, discussion and inspiration related to a particular aspect of the revolution. If you would like to play along, simply use the hashtag #makersforfashrev, as well as the official Fashion Revolution hashtags - #FashRev and #whomademyclothes - this way we will all be able to find each other. I'll choose my favourites each day and do a little round-up! You can find me on Instagram @inthefolds.

If you would like to let the world know you are taking part you can post the image above on your blog, Instagram or Facebook page. The further we spread the word, the better!

WHAT CAN WE DO AS MAKERS TO INFLUENCE CHANGE?

  • Slow down! Do you really need all those clothes? Take your time to make one beautiful garment instead of five hurried makes. Spend extra time by working on beautiful finishes or decorative techniques. Use your making time to upskill rather than fill your wardrobe with more and more.
  • Make for others when you have enough in your wardrobe.
  • Use sustainable materials to create products.
  • Teach others your skills. Encourage others to make their own clothes.
  • Work out ways to reduce waste (this could be in relation to your studio / office space, the packaging you use to wrap or post your products, etc.)
  • Recycle whenever possible
  • Consider using second hand whenever you can (I use second hand fabric for the majority of what I sew)
  • Make plans. Don't buy things impulsively. Take the time to think about it and work out if you actually need it. 
  • Sew from your stash.
  • Go to clothing and fabric swaps.
  • Ask your suppliers and manufacturers about their labour practices.
  • If you have your business, consider manufacturing locally.
  • Be disruptive and embrace change.

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Posted on April 21, 2017 and filed under talking about.

Talking About: 1 year in business

I cannot believe today marks the day that exactly one year ago I launched In the Folds as well as The Rushcutter dress pattern. Part of me feels like no time has passed at all, while the other part feels like I have been steering this ship for ten years! I cannot believe how naively I took the plunge into starting my own business - and how much learning I have had to do this past year just to survive. I thought that a good way to wrap up the year would be a little reflective post about all that I have learned this first year, as a reminder to myself about how far I have come, and hopefully some tips for you if you are about to start this crazy journey too. 

1. Sometimes not having a clue is a great thing

Thank goodness for the blind faith of a beginner. It's so easy to jump blindly into something when you have absolutely no idea of what is involved. And this truly is a blessing. If I knew when I started what I know now about running a business (which is still not a great deal), I don't know if I would have been brave enough to do it at all. I see this trait in so many parts of life, sewing in particular. New sewers often jump right into projects far beyond their skills, because they have no way of judging what's involved and have no fear, or knowledge, of what could go wrong. I think this is fantastic, and something to really aspire to. I wish this was something we could control and bring into our lives more often, because fear really does stifle our potential. So see it as a bonus when you don't have a clue about something - it often will work in your favour. Step naively into the face of it, and take the challenges one by one as they come.

2. You can learn a lot from the internet

When I did start to lose my naivety and started realising the beast I was creating, I also learned that worrying about what you don't know is just pointless. Because basically there is going to be A LOT you don't know, and there's just no point dwelling on it or getting worked up about it. Soldier on and face each obstacle as it comes. It is incredible what you can teach yourself with the help of a good Google search (I learned how to draft patterns digitally by trawling the internet for blog posts and tutorials) or a podcast. If you break whatever is daunting you down into small steps, suddenly it looks much more manageable and achievable and then you can face each challenge one by one. 

3. Sometimes you're just not ready for the information

This leads me to the point that sometimes it's best not to know something. There's only so much brain real estate we have, and there's no point filling it with useless things that you may not need until a year down the track. For example, before I started In the Folds I did a small business course. The teacher harped on and on about marketing. I listened, but I just couldn't wrap my head around it. Of course I knew it was important, but it all just seemed too big and too daunting for me to think about. So I didn't. I chose to focus on more pressing issues. At the beginning the most important thing I had to do was learn how to make a great digital product (I have always been a pattern maker, but only knew how to draft patterns manually). There would have been no point spending hours working on marketing when I didn't even have a product to marker. Twelve months on, and now that I have mastered creating a PDF pattern, it's time to take the next step. I am finally realising what a huge impact marketing has on your business's success and I am ready to learn. I am ready to take it all in. I have been reading marketing books, and listening to marketing-related podcasts, and actually understanding them, and even enjoying them. Because I am ready for the information now. 

4. Having your own business can be very lonely, but that doesn't mean you have to do it alone

 Photo care of Louisa Eagleton Photography

Photo care of Louisa Eagleton Photography

While I was still at university I did work experience with a local fashion designer. I went to her studio one or two days a week to help out with anything and everything she needed help with. Early on I was struck by what a lonely working life this designer led. She spent her days in the studio with no-one around but her dog, and me when I was there. At that moment I vowed I would never have my own business - it would be far too lonely for me. I need to be around people all the time. Or so I thought. Fast-forward seven years and here I am sitting at my desk writing this post. Totally alone. And extremely happy to be doing it. What I have learned is that although you may get lonely running your own business, it doesn't mean you have to do it alone. I choose to work in a shared studio space, so that I am surrounded by others. I choose to collaborate with businesses that believe in the same things that I believe in so I can bounce ideas around with other creatives. In the past twelve months, I have met more like-minded individuals than I had met in my entire life pre-business. I may not get to see these people every day, but when I do see them, they re-fuel my energy and inspiration in a way that sustains me in the lonely times. And then of course I have my friends and family, who have been absolute troopers throughout the journey so far. 

5. People generally want to help you

And this leads me to another major lesson I have learned. People generally want to help you. There is something about "the little guy" (or gal) who has said 'Stuff you normal job / normal lifestyle' that excites and inspires people. They may not want to take the leap themselves, but they will often want to be part of the journey. I find it really difficult asking for help, but what I am slowly learning to accept is that I cannot do it alone and people do actually want to help. There are always going to be times when I'm going to need to call in a favour. And that's okay. 

6. Starting a business forces you to look internally

The biggest surprise to me this year is how much having my own business has made me look internally. If you mentioned the term 'self-help' to me a year ago, I would have actually laughed in your face. I didn't understand it, I didn't get it, and didn't believe there was any need for it in my life. Then I started a business and realised that when you pour your heart and soul into something, it becomes part of you, and any cracks or strains in the business are often reflections of some part of you that needs to be looked at a little closer. Blocks in my business often relate to personal blocks I have. For example, when I started In the Folds I wasn't too worried about how many patterns sold. Money wasn't driving me. I thought this was a good thing, it meant I could be creative and free without thinking about money. Then I realised that it wasn't liberating to work like that. Having no money doesn't give you freedom, it limits you and your potential. I wasn't worrying about money, not because I had risen above to some higher plane where money wasn't an issue, but because I felt I didn't deserve it. This was a huge revelation to me and something I must continually think about and work on. I now work on different things internally, as I realise how these things manifest externally. It is a never ended process, but a very rewarding one. 

7. Creating a routine is really important

 Photo care of Louisa Eagleton Photography

Photo care of Louisa Eagleton Photography

When I tell people I have my own business, they often remark about how great it must be 'being able to work whenever you like.' Any business owner will know that it's not like that at all. Having your own business encourages you to work ALL THE TIME - whether you like it or not. There is always a million things on the to-do list and only you to do it, so you just work and work and work and work. I definitely have work-aholic tendencies. I love to work. I have always enjoyed working, and working for myself has made me love work even more. I truly love what I do and it makes me feel incredibly happy and fulfilled. But that doesn't mean it is good for me to work all the time.

I do not want to be defined by what I do for a living. I want to be defined by my relationships with others, by what I give to the world, the stories I share, the places I go. This article from Womankind that I read recently resonated so much with me - and was a great reminder that I cannot let work absorb me, nor should anyone. This means trying to find some work-life balance.

I am definitely not going to pretend I have worked it out. I haven't. But I am getting better. And the main thing that has helped is the routine I have created for myself and my work. I try to work normal working hours. I get to work between 9am and 10am. I have lunch around 1pm, just like I would do if I worked in an office. I leave work around 6pm so that I can spend time with my partner or friends in the evenings. I work weekends when I have a deadline, but I try to refrain from  working so that I can spend time with my friends and family, and just relax and re-group. This work takes a huge mental toll on me, and I like to have the weekends to reflect and gear-up for the week ahead. I went to a great talk earlier this year and the speaker discussed the idea of our "Golden Hours." By this she meant the hours in the day where you do your best work. Realising that my "golden hours" are first thing in the morning and later in the afternoon / evening has been a great lesson. I now plan my days around these peak times. First thing in the morning I do my most important work, the things that have to be done, while I am full of energy and ready to go. After lunch, when I am feeling like crawling under my desk for a siesta, I try to do my favourite work. The work that I don't find challenging and I love to do no matter how exhausted I am - sewing and pattern making fall into this category. And then in the evening (if I have a deadline and need to work) I get back to the important stuff. 

8. Put everything into it - it's so much easier than only going halfway

I worked in London for two and a half years or so a couple of years ago. I moved there with the grand dreams of interning in the fashion industry and working out what I wanted to do with my life. I got there and realised that although it would be easy to find an internship, a paid one was almost impossible to come by, and if I wanted to eat I was going to have to find another job. After calling my parents and having a mini melt-down on the floor of a 12 bed dorm in a backpacker hostel I remembered that I had been tutoring kids for years back home, and maybe I could find some part-time nannying work. Fast forward a couple of weeks and there I was at the park with three gorgeous young children who were now my responsibility four afternoons a week. It was not ideal, but it would pay the bills and let me do what I wanted each morning (i.e. interning). A year or so later I started working on my first pattern making blog and although I loved my job as a nanny, I quickly realised how hard I was finding it to focus on the job at hand. All I could think about was working on my blog. Pushing a child on a swing, I would be thinking about the next tutorial I would write. Walking through the park with the stroller, I would be thinking about what I would sew next. Then I would finally have time to do all that I had been dreaming about and I was just too exhausted to do the work. Now that I work in my business full-time, I finally feel focussed. No longer do I catch myself (as often) day dreaming of the work I want to be doing, while eating dinner with my partner or while talking to my Mum on the phone. By being 100% in in my business it is no longer a chore to do the work. It has become a non-negotiable. I work every day. And then I rest on the weekends and evenings, and actually give my attention to the people around me that deserve it. Here is a great article that illustrates it really well. 

9. You just can't do it all

When I started In the Folds I just knew I had to do everything myself. I didn't have the budget to pay anyone for help, so I didn't even think about it. I learned how to do the things I didn't know how to do and just got on with it. Until I hit a road block. I wanted to change something on my website and I just couldn't. I trawled forum pages and blogs, trying to find the solution, wasting hours and hours and not coming up with an answer. I finally bit the bullet and decided to call an expert for help. His rates seemed astronomical at the time, but I knew I didn't have a choice. Then he did the job in no time at all and it was perfect. And suddenly I had no problem handing over my credit card details. I have learned that my time has value and can often be spent doing something far more useful than trawling the internet for a solution that may not exist. I am now learning that it is a good investment to outsource some of the work, even when my budget is very tight. I sent my last pattern for Peppermint Magazine to a pattern digitser and grader. I couldn't believe how much time and frustration that saved me. For future pattern releases I plan to hire someone to illustrate the instructions. I know that I can do all these tasks myself. But I also know that I could find someone that could do it better than I can, and I can carry on doing the things I couldn't outsource to anyone. 

10. Having a plan is great, but you've got to be flexible

When I did the small business course I mentioned earlier, we had to write a business plan. It was a tough exercise, but I found it so useful in getting my head around what I was setting out to do. I handed it in and then haven't looked at it since. How come? Things changed. I realised that I couldn't pump out the ten patterns in the first year like I had planned. Things took far longer than I thought they would. Things cost far moe than I had planned and I needed to take on an occasional freelance job just to get by. And that's okay. It is really difficult to make a plan when you have no idea of what processes you will use and how long they will take. There is no point sticking to a plan just because it's there. To me, business is about constantly pivoting and adapting to what's going on around you. I do plan to write that business plan again though. With a year's worth of experience under my belt, and finally a clue about who my "ideal customer" is, I think I am in a much better place to put pen to paper. But I will be flexible with that plan too.

11. Enjoy the process and celebrate the successes along the way

And the final lesson, and perhaps the most important. Celebrate the victories along the way - however small they are. Our definition of success is constantly changing, as we move the goal posts back each time we achieve something. So I am learning to celebrate the moments along the way. Like today when I'll be having a glass of champagne and giving myself a pat on the back and saying "Girl, you did it. You survived your first year in business."


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Posted on October 7, 2016 and filed under behind the scenes, talking about.

Talking about : Fashion revolution and how to get involved

Have you heard of Fashion Revolution? It's a brilliant organisation that has been established to get us to work together to transform the fashion industry, encouraging each one of us to ask the question 'Who made my clothes?' 

This cause is a very important one to me, and something I believe we all really need to be thinking and talking about - whether we make all our clothes ourselves or choose to buy ready to wear.

Posted on April 14, 2016 and filed under talking about.

Talking about: Getting Started

Lately I have been thinking a lot about how to get a business started. I have a couple of friends who are just starting out on their small business journeys, or are just in the pondering phase, and it has got me thinking about the kind of advice I can offer them. 

I am obviously no business guru. This is all very very new to me, as I myself, have only been officially in business for about six months (I also had a little warm up period three months before I officially launched my business). But I know, there are a few things I am very grateful that I thought to do (or was told to do) at the very beginning, and there are also many things that I have learned in the last six months, which I wish I had thought about in the beginning!

So I thought I'd share a few things with you, just in case you are thinking about taking the plunge too!

 1. Research is key

When I started researching for my business, I didn’t even know that’s what I was doing. Long before starting In the Folds, I had  stumbled upon the online sewing community (which I somehow had remained oblivious to until about three years ago) and was just completely blown away by how many people were sewing. 

I became a blog addict, following every blog I could (thanks to Bloglovin’) and soaking up all the amazing sewing goodness I could find. I hadn’t bought a sewing pattern for years (as I had learned how to draft patterns at university, and didn’t really feel the need to buy patterns), but suddenly indie patterns became very appealing. I wanted to know what all the hype was about. I bought a few patterns and gave them a whirl. I saw the incredible detail that was put into the instructions, the beauty of the packaging and the online support that was available. I suddenly understood the excitement.

And at this point, a seed was planted in my mind. What was stopping me jumping on board and producing patterns too?

This is when I realised how much research I had already done. I had been looking at sewing blogs daily by this point, so I already had a really good understanding of who was making patterns and the types of garments that were already on offer. I started taking note of what designers seemed to be the most popular, and what people liked about their patterns. I read countless blog posts about indie patterns and reviews of garments sewn with particular patterns, getting a good idea of what people expected from their pattern and what they did and didn't like.

I put my hand up to test a pattern, knowing that it would be a good way to learn how to go about testing a pattern, when I eventually got to that point. At this point I had no idea how the process worked, but by getting involved and doing it, I quickly learned the things I liked about pattern testing, as well as the things I didn’t like - and how I could iron out these creases when I was the one getting people to test my pattern. 

When I finally launched my business in October last year, I knew the world I was going into. Oh boy, there was still a tonne to learn, but my research had put me in good stead to know what to expect and to envisage (some of) the obstacles that were likely to come my way. There is an amazing group of women who made the indie pattern scene what it is today, and I think it would be crazy not to listen to them and learn from them. 

When my business started, my research did not stop. I am still constantly researching ways I could do things better, how to be more productive, more efficient and how to create a better product. I set time aside regularly to just sit down and absorb what I can. I continue to read blogs (although a wider range of blogs appeal to me now), search for interesting articles online, and listen to tonnes of podcasts (which is a great way to keep learning while you work on something else), as I think it is just so important to keep my finger on the pulse and always be questioning how things are done, and how things could improve. Once upon a time (albeit very recently) you needed to get a business degree to learn the ins and outs of starting a business, now you can find everything you need online. It is incredible. 

2. Just do it already

This is a piece of advice I have come across a lot (thank you Nike), but it does ring very true to me. After stumbling upon the online sewing community, I was busting to start a blog, but it took me months to finally do it. I didn’t know where to start, what people would think and if there were already too many blogs out there. I questioned whether there was anything new I could contribute to the conversation. I am so thankful that I pushed myself to just get the ball rolling and hit publish on that very first blog post. 

The only way to find out what's going to happen, is to go for it. The cliche of ‘you’ll never know until you try’ is just so true. Just starting a blog gave me a chance to work out how to put a tutorial together and work on my writing style. It gave me a chance to find and develop my voice. It gave me the confidence to realise that I was adding something new to the conversation, and that people were interested. Although I look back on some of my first tutorials and cringe, I know it was so important in the development of my style, and I had to work through that awkward stage, to get to where I am now (which is still continually growing and improving).

I think this quote from Ira Glass really sums this stage up very well:

Ira_Glass_quote.gif

In short, your work may (is likely to be) a little bit crap at first. But you won’t know that till you try, and you won’t be able to get it looking better if you don’t just put it out there and start ironing out the creases, developing your style, working on your process, and getting feedback from those around you. It can be scary at first, you wonder what people will say, what people will think, but all you can do is be brave and put it out there. Just do it. 

I recently watched this TED talk by Reshma Saujani about the importance of women being brave instead of being perfect, and it really struck a chord with me. And this blog post by Heather Lou form Closet Case Files, is also another great read about just biting the bullet and doing it (just in case you need a little more of a shove).

3. Practice makes perfect

No-one goes into business knowing how to do everything. No matter what they tell you. I went into my business with a lot of knowledge and skills related to my business - I have a degree in Fashion and Textiles, I knew how to create a website, I knew how to put a tutorial together, I knew I could write well. 

But that was far from the skills and knowledge I needed - I didn’t have a clue about marketing and advertising (and still don’t know much), I had no idea about book keeping for a business, and I also didn’t know all the ins and outs of drafting and grading a pattern digitally. But I didn’t let these things turn me off.

There is always going to be things we don’t know how to do (I still hit these obstacles daily), but the internet is an insane resource. We are so lucky to live at a time when finding the answer to a question is as simple as typing it into a Google search, or reaching out to a friend on Facebook or Instagram. 

One thing I found really liberating was to accept that there were things I did not know how to do, but I also knew I didn't need them right away. So I decided to file them away in a corner of my brain, labelled as 'work it out later.' By compartmentalising the tasks at hand, I could focus on what needed to be done, and learned, in the present, with the understanding that I could cope with the other things in the future. For example, when I decided to start my business, I had no idea how to grade a pattern digitally. Although I knew it was an important thing for me to learn how to do (and was crucial to me being able to launch my first product), I also knew I didn’t need that skill on the first day I started my business. There was still A LOT I had to do before I got to the point that I would need to digitise my pattern (I had to design the pattern, make up countless samples until it was just right, scan in the paper patter and build a website to house said pattern) and there was no point wasting mental real estate on it. 

When it was finally time to grade the pattern, that’s when I faced it. I started experimenting. I read everything I possibly could get my hands on on the topic. I knew how to use Adobe Illustrator, but had never tried to draft a pattern with it. I was learning from scratch. I practiced, I tried out different techniques, and I made mistakes. Lots of them. I trawled the internet for information and took snippets from many different sources, until I found a process that worked for me. My process wasn’t perfect, but nor did it need to be. It did the trick, and I knew that the next time I did it, I would be faster and more efficient.

3. Find your people

Finding your people is so important to the success of your business. I did a short small business course before I started In the Folds, and there was a lot of talk about our ‘ideal customer.’ At the time it seemed like a very abstract concept to me. I didn’t know what my ideal customer liked, didn’t like, what she did for work, what she did in her spare time (apart from sew, obviously!). None of it. I didn’t even know how I could find this information. 

Then I found Instagram. [This is not to say that Instagram will work for everyone. Your ideal customer may hangout elsewhere, they may not even be present online (although I think that is doubtful if you are taking the time to read this post), but this is just an example of working out where your ideal customers spends their time.]

Unfortunately, this was a lesson that took me a while to work out. And this is one of those lessons I wish I learned before starting my business. 

There was a three month period between my official first day of business and the day I launched my website and my first pattern (the Rushcutter). I had my head down designing my first pattern, putting it through testing, and getting my website up and running, and I had very little contact with the outside world (particularly with the outside online world). A girlfriend kindly offered to help me get some social media up and running (see point number 5 for the importance of calling on favours), as it was something I had been neglecting, and for some reason just couldn’t seem to face. She suggested I get on Instagram, as it would be a great place for me to be in touch with people who may be interested in my website or even my products. I told her it was fine, I already had an Instagram account from my previous blog (with a whole 34 posts and 226 followers) and I could just carry on with that. 

Thankfully, my dear friend knew far more than I did about the power of social media. She created an account and said she’d just have a play around with the kinds of posts she thought would work for my brand. I quickly realised the power of Instagram, as well as what all that fuss was about… Apparently sewists love Instagram (myself included). Due to the generosity of my friend, I quickly learned the kinds of posts I should be publishing, how hashtags worked, and how to use Instagram to chat to like-minded people. I quickly connected with hundreds of amazing women (and maybe a few men) who loved sewing as much as me, and wanted to see photos of all the things I was working on. Suddenly I felt part of a community. A community that is incredibly supportive and inspiring - which is worth its weight in gold, when you are knee deep in a business that you run on your own. 

Although I have now found my people, I do think it would have made launching my business and my first product much easier if I already had an online presence back then. Not only because I think I would have had customers from the get go, but also because of the huge amount of support and encouragement I get from my online friends (and some have even become offline friends now too). So, if I was going to go back and do it all over again (which I obviously can’t do, but I am writing this in the hope that it helps someone like you), I would have opened an Instagram account the moment I knew I was starting a business, and built some hype (and some friendships) in the months before my launch.

4. Plans are much better than lists

This is another one that took me a little while to learn. If you asked me a year ago which camp I was in - To-do lists or plans - I would have proudly said that I was a to-do list addict. Fortunately, in time, I learned that to-do lists just don’t cut it. I find a to-do list a really good place to start, if my mind is overflowing with information, but it really is just the first step.

I use a to-do list as a way to just clear my mind and get everything down on paper, but then I use a schedule to allocate time for each thing on that to do list. It has made me become much more realistic about what I should get (and can get) done in a day, and also allowed me to overcome that disappointing feeling at the end of the day when I haven't managed to cross off the 332 (and possibly 82 hours of work) off my To-do list, because now I don't have those crazy lists that were setting me up for disaster before I even began. If you’d like to know more about how I manage my time, take a look at this post where I go into a bit more detail.

5. Ask for help

I am notoriously bad at asking for help. I always worry that people are too busy doing their own things, and asking for help will be too big of an ask.

What I learned when I started In the Folds, was that people really do want to help. People are inspired by those who are going out on their own, and even if they don’t want to, or can’t do it themselves, often they will still want to be part of that journey.

When I told my friends and family that I was starting a business, I was surprised and heartened by the number of people who came forward to offer their time and expertise. One beautiful friend offered to get started on my branding, while another (who I mentioned earlier) got on with my social media. Help in these two areas (which were two areas I had very little confidence in my ability to do well) was just what I needed. I quickly learned that with a bit of a push and some encouragement, I did know what I wanted, and I also did have the skill to handle it, once they had got the ball rolling for me. 

So this is the moment when I say, TAKE THE HELP! Be gracious, be humble, be very very thankful, but just take the help. Who knows when you will be able to return the favour, but you can always find a way. And don’t be surprised by the people who come forward to say they’d like to help. You can find wisdom in weird and wonderful places. A friend of mine who is a computer coder offered to look over my pattern digitisation process, to see if he could streamline it at all. He showed me a shortcut that literally saved me hours! 

6. Start book keeping from the very beginning

This one is a boring one, but a very important one! Book keeping is something I neglected until about six weeks ago. Yep, seriously. It was something I just kept putting off. And putting off. And putting off. There always seemed to be something more important to be doing. But when I finally decided to bite the bullet, after a friend told me about the success she was having getting her taxes sorted on Freshbooks. I quickly realised it was nowhere near as bad as I thought it would be. Yes, I have spent far more money than I have made, but at least now I know exactly how much. And I also know where my money is going. And now I have a process.

I would suggest working out a book keeping system as soon as you can - particularly when you are right at the beginning. As this is something that can grow with you if its done right, and you will spend less time rummaging through your handbag looking for receipts!

7. Be authentically you 

Being authentically me is something I find so important in my business journey, and something I am always thinking about and continuously working on. In my offline life, I am outgoing and positive (well at least I try to be) and this is something that I wanted to shine through in my business. I know some people have their online persona, which is intentionally quite different from their offline self - and I think this can work very well. But for me, I wanted to be as much myself online as I am offline. Starting my first blog gave me a chance to develop my voice and see how it was received. The chatty way I write online, is just the way I speak offline, and people seem to respond very well to it. 

As well as being genuine and authentic, I think being as open and honest as possible is a really good thing in business. When I think about the blogs I love reading the most, they are definitely the ones where I get a realisitic idea of the life the blogger or maker lives. I love when people acknowledge that their business journey has been hard, and that their lives are not always as shiny as their Instagram feeds. It makes me feel normal, and that I may too be on the right track. 

I am not here to say it is easy being open on the internet. It is definitely not. And this is also an area I have not explored as much as I would like, but I know it is the way forward for me and my business. I have learned so much from others who have opened their lives and their businesses for me to see, and I want to be a part of the movement for more transparency in business (if you would like to know more about why I think it is important to be transparent then have a look here). 

8. Reach out

Reaching out is possibly the thing I have found the most difficult in these first months in business. I find it very hard to compose an email to a complete stranger, but I am learning that it is so crucial to success. I am also learning that people are generally nice, and will reply to you. As I said earlier, just like friends and family wanting to get involved in the amazing journey of going off on your own, even strangers get inspired to come along for the ride too!

Inspired by someone in your industry? Write them an email and tell them! They just might get back to you and say that they love what you are doing too.

I studied fashion design in an environment that I felt was was very cliquey. People kept their ideas to themselves. What I love most about the online sewing community is that it is the complete opposite to that. Designers are not competing with each other. We are working together to make our community better and greater. Because in the end, this is the most beneficial to all of us right? 

For example, I contacted Beth from Sew DIY late last year, asking if she’d be interested in reviewing the Rushcutter for me. She suggested a pattern swap. We sewed each others patterns and then blogged about it. Not only was it fun, but we both broadened our audiences, and sold some patterns too! And I made a new friend through the process. 

9. Save some money

Exactly one year ago, I moved back to my home in Sydney after spending almost three years in the UK. While I was living in London, I had really started thinking about the possibility of starting my own business in Australia, but it always seemed like quite a far fetched idea. When I moved back to Australia though, I realised it was the perfect time to do it. I didn’t have a job, and no strong desire to go and work in the mainstream fashion industry.

I was lucky enough to be in a position that I didn't need to pay rent, and I had the opportunity to apply for a government funded program to help get new enterprises get off the ground. I also had a bit of money in the bank. Not a lot, by any stretch, but enough that I could invest in a few things I needed to get me going.

Although I knew I was going to have to do all the work required to get my business off the ground, as I didn’t have the money to employ anyone, I was relieved to have enough money in the bank to get some professional help when I needed it. After days of playing with my Squarespace theme, I just could not get it to do what I wanted it to. Having some money in the bank meant that I could contact a freelancer who could do it for me. Although it was pricey, it did save me from days and days searching through Squarespace forums, for an answer that may have not even been there.

This is the moment where I say that if you are thinking about starting a business, save some money! Having the ability to get professional help when you need it, is priceless. Although I have learned so much by trying to do everything on my own, it would have really relieved some of the stress, if I could have outsourced more of the work. If you are thinking about quitting that job to get started on your own business, try and hold on and save some money first. It will really make your life easier in the long run if you have some money behind you. I listened to a great podcast recently, which happened to be an interview with a very good friend of mine, where she says exactly the same thing. If you are thinking of taking the journey, have a listen, Caitlin has some great tips!

10. Diversify

If like me, you are not really in a position to hold onto a job and save some money before taking the plunge, there are still lots of options. Diversify. Accept (and even celebrate) that you can make many from many different places. Get a part-time job - I work one day a week as a nanny, so that I know I will be able to afford to at least eat each week. It also forces me to get out of the studio every Friday and get some fresh air and to focus on something that isn't my business (try thinking about work when you are chasing a three year old around the park). I am always surprised by how many great ideas I come up with when I finally leave my desk and focus on something totally different.

You could also consider getting some freelance work.  As you know, I am a pattern maker. Although I love most to make patterns for myself, and all of you lovely people, sometimes I take on a freelance pattern making job. It is a great way to bring in some bucks, as well as develop my skills. Win win I say!

There is probably another million things I could have included in this post, but these are the things that I have found to be the most important at this early stage of starting a business.

Other resources

There are tonnes of resources out there, to get you started on your small business journey, but here are a few of my favourites:


Are you on a similar journey to me? Is there a piece of advice you have about going into business?

Posted on April 6, 2016 and filed under behind the scenes, talking about.

Talking about: Planning and goal setting

talking_about_planning_goals_inthefolds

If you have been following along with me lately you may remember that I have been talking about my desire to be little more open about the struggles as well as the little victories of my day-to-day life as a very new small business owner. Since getting all your lovely responses on the topic, I have been busting to get started, as I feel there is a huge amount of value in this exercise. For me, it will provide an opportunity to consolidate my thoughts and ideas on a topic, keeping a record of it for the future (when I will most probably read over it and cringe), and hopefully for you it will provide inspiration and food for thought - or hopefully, some encouragement for your journey. 

 

Planning + goal setting for 2016

As it's the very beginning of a new year (okay, okay, three weeks in... where did the time go?), I have been thinking a lot about planning and setting goals for 2016 - as I am sure many of you have been doing too. I think it's only natural to see the end of one year and the looming of another as a time to reflect and make some changes - in the hope of being happier, healthier, more productive etc. in the new year. But what I have finally accepted is that these changes will not happen over night and all big changes are about commitment, dedication and making these changes into a habit or ritual.

 

On my way to burn out

A little back story. If you saw me on December 22nd last year, you would have seen a pretty haggard excuse for a person. I was most probably hunched over my sewing machine or computer (or maybe even both by that stage ... There was a moment when I'd become so overwhelmed by my to-do list that I had my sewing machine set up in front of my computer, and would jump between the two) and had given up on wearing make-up or anything apart from jersey sacks, or even washing my hair. Not good. Obviously. On this particular day I spoke to a friend about how exhausted I was, how little time I had to do anything for myself (including exercise, grocery shopping, seeing friends or even washing said hair) and how burned out I was feeling. I loved my little business, but it was literally taking over my life. Yet I was persistent that I was just going to work through the holiday period, convincing myself (and no one else) that I would feel better in the new year if I just kept soldiering on and knocking things of my ever growing to-do list.

After I said it out loud, I realised how stupid it sounded. Did I think some magical New Years Fairy was going to come and sprinkle fairy dust on my head and I was going to wake up, somehow recovered from one of the biggest, scariest, craziest, most challenging years of my life, and be ready to do it all over again?

The answer is no.

No matter how much I love doing what I do every day, I have learned that, there are times that it is more beneficial to my business (and probably yours too) to step back and take a rest. This probably seems very obvious to a lot of you, but this was quite a realisation to me. Coming to the end of year, and reflecting on the awful state I was in, emotionally and physically, I realised that I was going to have to make some huge changes in my life if I wanted to create a business and a lifestyle that would be sustainable, and wouldn't have me totally washed up before I turn 28. And before any of these changes could take place, I needed to take a good long rest. I took a week off work, in which I spent my time catching up on sleep, friends and TV series. Utter bliss. Suddenly it didn't seem so daunting to wash my hair or write that email that I had been avoiding replying to. If you follow me on Instagram, you may even know that I even found the capacity to iron every garment in my wardrobe (yep. Seriously. And I mean EVERYTHING, as I had not ironed in six months!)

So after a much needed break, I was finally in a fit enough state to start looking forward again. Just in time for New Years eve!

 

New years resolutions

I always have new years resolutions, although for the life of me, I cannot remember one I have ever set, and therefore no idea if I have ever accomplished one of my goals. I guess I just thought everyone had flakey goals and setting them was more about having something to talk about over the new year period - and then forgetting them by the end of January. I must admit, this year was no different. I set some really flakey goals.

Sitting on the beach with an esky full of picnic food and drinks, a friend asked me what my resolutions were for 2016. I answered, 'To have a happier and healthier year than 2015." When I asked him what his resolution was, he told me he wanted to do an Iron Man. Bang. The moment when I realised how tangible his goal was compared to mine. At the end of 2016 he will know whether or not he has achieved his goal, with a straightforward yes or no. Me? Even if I remembered my Flaky Goal, how would I measure it? Do a happiness pie chart? A health graph? I don't think so. This is the moment I remembered what I had learned on the small business short course I did in 2015 and it was time to actually use it.

 

Goals need to be S.M.A.R.T

SMARTgoals_inthefolds

Goals need to be smart as well as S.M.A.R.T : Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Relevant and Timely. This means that instead of my Flaky Goal, 'I want to have a happier and healthier year,' I would need to consider a goal such as, 'I will schedule in at least one weekly dinner with a friend which will help me feel happier and more connected to those around me,' or 'I will go swimming twice a week to work on my fitness.' 

 

Breaking goals down

Although the S.M.A.R.T method does really help when creating the right goals (I now have a list of goals for 2016 that I will be able to reflect on at the end of the year - and they are written down this time so that I don't forget them!) I do find big goals to be very daunting. Particularly when it is really difficult to predict what will happen in the future - which is definitely the case when you have your own business.

This is when breaking down a goal into smaller pieces makes the world of difference. When I say I want to release a pattern by x date, I instantly get butterflies in my stomach, thinking about the sheer amount of work that needs to be put in to create a pattern. Suddenly the goal no longer feels achievable and I begin to stress, rather than just getting started. 

By simply breaking the goal down into steps, I have realised that the Big Scary Goal becomes much more tangible, and also allows me to work out where to start.

For example, for this goal of releasing a pattern, what is involved? First, I need to come up with the design, make the initial pattern, make a sample and fit the pattern on a fit model. I then need to continue sampling and fitting until I am happy with the pattern. Once that is done I need to scan the paper pattern into the computer and digitise it using Illustrator. When I have done that, I next need to grade the pattern to my size range, take photographs for the instructions, write the instructions and test the pattern. I need to consolidate the testing feedback, create the listing and then finally release the pattern.

Although there is a lot to do, suddenly it doesn't seem so daunting. With this list, I have a much better chance of scheduling the right amount of time for the project and setting an achievable deadline, and knowing exactly where I need to start. It also allows me to plan things in advance. I should be fitting by 'Week X', do I have a fit model organised? I should be ready to take photographs of the process by 'Week Y', do I have fabric on hand, or will I need to purchase something? Having things pencilled in, means I can avoid stressful last minute runs to the shops, and wasting days not knowing what to work on. 

I really like the Goal Pyramid by Matthew Michaelwicz, which provides a simple, yet very visual way of breaking down goals into smaller milestones. 

 

Celebrate the victories

By having smaller goals, that lead to a larger goal, there are many more chances to sit back and reflect. Am I on track? What do I need to do this week, or even just today, to achieve this goal? As well as a chance for little celebrations along the way.  I don't want to have to wait until the end of the year to give myself a pat on the back for all the hard work I have done - and this means stepping back and celebrating the small achievements that will contribute to the success in the big goal. My celebrations aren't anything extravagant, but they are a time in which I allow myself a chance to say 'Well done! Go you!' A moment to sit back and feel very proud of what I have achieved. For example, a couple of weeks ago, I sold my fiftieth Rushcutter dress, and to celebrate I danced on my bed (the 50th pattern was sold while I was asleep). It is a lonely business, having a small business, so instead of seeking a high-five or a pat on the back from others, I have really had to learn to celebrate my own achievements in my own little ways. 

 

To-do lists vs scheduling

As I mentioned, this time of year is a very obvious time to be having thoughts about goal setting and planning, which means I have been running into great pieces of advice, suggestions and blogs everywhere I turn. While somewhere in BlogLand, I came across a link to this article about millionaire's not using to-do lists, and it really encouraged a light bulb moment for me.

I have not been able to function for the last six months without my to-do list, but then, when it gets to the end of the day and I have once again not managed to get everything crossed off the list, I feel like crap. Like really crap. What I had been overlooking is that a to-do list has no concept of time or priority. Basically, I just write down everything I can think of in the order I think of them, and then work my way through (normally leaving the most painful and time consuming tasks till last) until it is time to leave work (or was time to leave work three hours ago). This advice, to schedule things in a planner is very obvious, but has already really changed the way I work through the day, and the way I feel at the end of it. By scheduling tasks into a planner that is broken up into the hours of the day, I suddenly need to be realisitic about the time a task will take, and therefore don't end up with a list of things that could never be completed in a single day.

I still have my to-do list (as it's a really great way to get everything out of my head to make room for others - as apparently we can only hold 4 things in our head at any one time!) but once I have written my list, it doesn't stop there. I take the list and work through it - scheduling in each task and allowing a realistic amount of time to complete it. If, for some reason, something doesn't get done on a particular day, I reschedule it. Allowing nothing to be left behind - and preventing those moments when I wake up in the middle of the night, realising I have forgotten to do something. This is a great episode of the Note to Self podcast, about the science behind getting organised, if you would like to hear more. 

I am currently trying out the Passion Planner, and so far it seems to be doing the trick. I love that it has a section for 'Today's Focus' as well as a 'Weekly Focus,' which is a constant reminder that I need to accomplish the small milestones in the hope of one day achieving the Big Scary Goal. A great reminder to just keep putting one foot in front of the other, and to night get caught up in the end game. 

 

The importance of rituals

I find setting goals as a great way to give me the motivation and focus I need to get through the day-to-day grind of running a business. But this year, particularly after reading this article from Seamwork Magazine, and then binge reading Sarah Starr's amazing blog. I have been thinking a lot more about the importance of rituals and how I can bring some new rituals into my routine. I am not talking about massive changes, just small things that will add to the overall experience.

One of the first things I thought about was how much time I have been spending on my phone, and how unhappy that makes me. Particularly in the evenings, I want to get better at putting my phone down and focusing on something outside of my work (as my phone is becoming more and more associated with work as this journey goes on - when an email comes through I think I have to deal with it then and there, whether I'm still in my towel after taking a shower, or already in bed), which has lead me to going to the library to borrow books and reading before I go to bed, instead of scrolling endlessly through my Instagram feed. I find this much more relaxing, as the online space tends to stimulate me much more than a book, and I end up flooding my brain with more and more ideas, instead of focusing on winding down.

Although not as enjoyable, I have created a ritual out of grocery shopping. By scheduling it in my planner at the same time each week, I no longer see it as a chore, or something that can be sacrificed if I am too busy. It needs to be done as it is important that I have access to quality food at home, so that when I'm tired or busy I don't end up skipping a meal or eating junk.

 

Accountability meetings

One final ritual that has become a highlight of my week, is my accountability meeting. When I first agreed to meet with two of the women I met on my short small business course, it just seemed like an interesting thing to try out. The shock of going from working amongst other people to working on my own day in and day out, had not yet hit, so the need for human interaction was not there. A month or so in, I realised how important it was for me to meet with these women each week. It gave me a chance to get out of the studio, see people and also truly connect to women who were on a very similar journey to me, feeling accountable to someone apart from myself.

I am so early on in this journey, but still looking back, I can see how naive I was to what it would really be like. I hadn't realised how much a journey like this is also a journey into who you are as a person, what you really want and the kind of life you are trying to create (but I will save all that for another day), and that it really helps to have understanding and supportive people around you - who you can share your doubts, fears and little victories with. Someone who knows you and your business is only a phone call away, and there is something in that which is very reassuring. And with the deadline of a meeting, there is a sense of needing to get things done on time. My meetings are very relaxed, which has been great, but I have been doing a little research this week on how we could go about creating a structure for our meetings (after half an hour free time to catch up, of course) so that is something I will continue thinking about this year. 


What about you?

As I think I have now made clear, I am no expert on this topic. It is just something I have been thinking a lot about, and reading a lot about, in the hopes that I will find a process that works for me - allowing me to get more done, with less stress.

I'd love to know how you manage your days, and if you think there's anything else I should be trying to make sure that 2016 is happier, and more productive, than 2015 (the Flaky Goal strikes again!)


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Talking about : Transparency

My working pace has slowed down as the end of the year fast approaches, and the pace of my personal life has increased as I madly get prepared for Christmas (I left it to the last minute as usual). So there will be no new tutorials until the new year. I wanted to take this opportunity to post about something a little different today, giving you a little peak at what is going on behind the scenes at In the Folds (and chat about the potential of hearing a little bit more in the future).

I am spending a lot of time at the moment thinking about transparency, and it's place in business. Specifically, its place in my business. When I had the crazy (but great) idea to go into business, transparency was something I really wanted ingrained in my practice. Transparency about my thoughts, values and processes (and maybe even more).

Though, that is much easier said than done. Six months into my business venture, and I have revealed very little about what really goes on on a daily basis (okay, there was the time I told you I was eating rice cakes for dinner on instagram). There has been no sign of the struggles (and there have been many), the thought processes or even the small wins (and thankfully there have been a few of those too) that have come along the way. 

So that is what I'd like to talk about today - transparency, why I think it's important, why I haven't been very transparent (yet) and who inspires me in this particularly conversation. 

What do I mean by 'transparency'?

When I use the term 'transparency,' I am referring to a business model in which I would be open about what is going on at In the Folds HQ, in terms of processes, practices, thoughts (and maybe even finances), in the hope that my journey could help or inspire others who are on a similar journey (or those that would like to be on a similar journey, or are just interested in other peoples stories).

Why I haven't been transparent (yet)?

I guess there is a few reasons why I haven't been as open or transparent as I initially planned:

1. Number one has to be fear. When my business was an imaginary thing, the idea of opening it up to the world for judgement and scrutiny seemed totally fine. Now that it is a thing (albeit a very small thing), exposing myself on that level terrifies me a little (okay, okay, it terrifies me a lot).

2. Time is another huge reason why I have avoided a more transparent business model. I have not had the time to think about how I would like to do it, let alone actually do it. 

3. And the last thing that has been on my mind, when debating this concept internally, is concern that it will have a negative impact on my business. Will people judge me negatively if they know what my business looks like on the inside (as surprise surprise, my world doesn't really resemble the lovely shininess of my Instagram feed)? This is not to say that my business has any dirty little secrets! Just the reality that social media feeds are curated, and life is not! Which is something we all obviously know, but it is really easy to fall in love with the fantasy.

Why I would like to be more transparent

So now that I have highlighted the cons of introducing more transparency to my business, let's talk about the pros, and why it is on my mind at the moment. 

I just love businesses that are transparent about their processes. And I have learned so much from other entrepreneurs and small business owners opening their doors. I feel it is important to share some of that love and add something to the collective learning pool and conversation. 

I am constantly energised and inspired by other peoples stories, and it is often what keeps me going, particularly at the times when I am feeling low, or totally alone on this crazy journey. It is on my mind at the moment, as fantastic examples just keep on popping up around me.

Who inspires me?

Bjork + Lindsay Ostrom - Pinch of Yum / Food Blogger Pro

Although many businesses are now embracing transparency - which is absolutely fantastic, the first business that really stood out for me in this area is Pinch of Yum. If you know of this blog, you will know that it has absolutely nothing to do with sewing. It is a cooking blog. But the way they share (Lindsay and her husband, Bjork) the ins and outs of their business is truly inspiring. They publish a monthly income report, which details the ins and outgoings of the business, but it is not a way to show how successful they are (although they are very successful) but a tangible way to see where their income and traffic comes from, and how they have managed to grow these numbers, since the very early days. I was first introduced to the blog when I heard Bjork interviewed on the 'While She Naps' podcast by Abby Glassenberg, and was instantly mesmerised by his openness and frankness about growing a business. I was also very interested in his idea of '1% to infinity,' which has definitely become my business motto since hearing it mentioned. It was such a relief to hear someone say that the steps you take don't have to be massive, for you to see progress over time. Just keep moving forward each day, even if you are only improving by 1% each day, over time the improvement grows exponentially. That to me, makes perfect sense, and is something very tangible I can use to keep my business growing. Bjork also has his own podcast now, which although mainly focuses on guests from the realm of food, I find very interesting and relevant to my life as a small business owner in the online world.

Heather Lou - Closet Case Files - 'Make Boss' series

In the sewing world, there are some bloggers who show snippets of what goes on behind the scenes. I love the 'Make Boss' series by Heather Lou of Closet Case Files. These days I have very little time to read blogs, but I must say that I always take the time to read these posts when they pop up in my Bloglovin' feed. And I literally inhale them, and find so much of the information relevant to my journey. I loved this recent post, when Heather Lou discussed all the thought (and work, of course) that went into designing the cover art of her newly released paper patterns. This is true testament to how much thought goes into decisions like this. 

Start Up podcast by Gimlet Media

Over the last couple of weeks I have become totally addicted to the Start Up podcast. I have no idea how I didn't know of this podcasts existence (because I am an avid listener of the other Gimlet Media podcasts), but somehow I missed the memo. When it was mentioned twice in one day, by two different people, I knew it was time to play catch up. And boy, did I play catch up. I finished the first season in two days. And in another two, I was totally up-to-date. Which is sad, because I was absolutely loving binging on this incredible podcast.

Okay, back to the point (I am beginning to sound like a groupie), listening to a first hand account of starting a business, was absolutely fantastic. Hearing that many of the feelings I have had, were consistent with others, made me feel a little less alone in this venture. Obviously there are many differences between starting a huge podcasting company or an online dating company, and me, starting a business from my teeny tiny studio, but I was also surprised by how many similarities there are.

Reyna Lay Designs Podcast

I also stumbled upon the Reyna Lay Designs podcast recently (what can I say, I am a podcast addict) and was so heartened to hear her interview with Elisalex from By Hand London. She was so candid and honest, really laying out the struggles of what it is like to be an independent pattern designer. I had been following Elisalex on Intagram and on the By Hand London blog, but this interview just revealed much more of the story. There are many more great interviews in the archives, but this is the one that stood out for me.


These are a few things I have been following for a while, but transparency has once again come to the forefront of mind lately for a number of reasons.

Why now?

So why, after six months of business am I talking about this now? Firstly, 2015 is coming to an end, so with that I am consolidating my thoughts about the year. What worked? What didn't? What needs improvement? And also start thinking about 2016 and what my goals are for the new year.

I think 2015 was about me just getting this business started and releasing my first pattern. Hopefully 2016 is about building on that foundation, but also bringing much more into the mix, and creating the kind of business that I dream of.

Over to you lovely people!

So, what I am wondering dear readers, are you interested in knowing what goes on back here behind the sewing machine and the screen? Or are you thinking as you read this, 'No, no, no, I just want tutorials!' (which is totally fine) I am still not sure exactly how I would like it to look, but before I put pen to paper, I'd love to know if anyone is even interested in listening?

 

 

Posted on December 23, 2015 and filed under inspiration, talking about.