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Old 10th January 2011, 08:12 AM   #1
snyderkv
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Default How To Grow A Sewing Business?

SBB,

I'm trying to grow a sewing business out of my apartment.

We already have an online website advertising the custom alterations and clothes I can make, however, I'm tapped out on orders I can fullfill in a given day. My top income so far has been $2000/month with virtually no marketing besides the website and word of mouth.

I really have no idea how to grow a business like this. The issue is keeping up with demand and we don't know how to do so. My two options might be employees or better sewing machines. I currently use a Singer but I'm sure larger industral equipment can help but don't know if that is the direction I should head.

If we did hire employees, would we pay them by the hour or on a commission?

If nobody can answer these questions, maybe a consulting firm can help if anybody has one that meets our partuclar needs.

Thanks in advance.

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Old 6th February 2011, 11:36 AM   #2
Gary Barzel
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I would suggest based on the fact that you are tapped out that you should hire workers to help you out. Purchasing new and better equipment is also ideal for you but you should probably save up some money for that, and once your business starts to expand it'll be worthwhile for you to that. If you do hire workers you should pay them by the hour and not based on commission. Once you have more hands available you can take on more business, and start expanding your options as well. I don't know what your budget is in terms of marketing but you should start a referral marketing campaign which at this point would serve you well being that you have customers already. By offering customers a reward or a discount towards their next service or purchase, would serve as a good incentive to them to bring in more clients for you.

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Old 7th February 2011, 04:16 PM   #3
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Another point of view: I don't know what you charge, but I do know that it's a lot more common for business owners to charge too little than it is for them to charge too much.

If you're swamped with orders, you might want to consider raising your prices. If you're uncomfortable with a larger price increase all at once, you can phase in your price increases gradually, and offer discounts to existing customers to help them accept the change.

For the kind of custom work you're offering, a maxed out monthly income of $2,000 isn't much. Add up how many hours you work to make that $2,000 and calculate what you're making on an hourly basis. You may be (unpleasantly) surprised.

The problem with trying to expand by adding on more workers is that -- given what you've said about the money you're making already -- I'm not sure you're charging enough to pay workers a living wage and still make a profit for yourself. It's not about increasing your business volume, it's about increasing your business profit.

The thing to keep in mind is that if you raise your prices, you may lose a customer or two -- but that's not necessarily something to worry about. The ones you lose are going to be the penny-pinchers, and you didn't really want them as customers in the first place. You want customers who recognize and value the quality of your work. Those customers will be willing to pay a little more for top quality results. They will stick with you through reasonable price increases.

It may take a little experimentation to find the right balance, but generally when you charge more, you'll find you can work less and still make the same money. Maybe even more money.

And you may well find yourself attracting a whole new class of customer. (Sometimes people will reject a service provider whose prices appear to be "too good to be true" even if the provider is offering a legitimate bargain. When the price is too low, they just can't believe the quality is there.)

Besides, if your prices are higher, then you can almost definitely afford to hire additional workers -- if you decide you still want them. You may decide you prefer to charge premium prices for "boutique" services you provide by yourself, and avoid the hassles, expense and tax implications of being an employer.

It takes guts. But it can pay off for you.

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Old 10th February 2011, 03:54 PM   #4
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you are in need of SEO consultant. This staff would help you generate more traffic to your website. The higher the page rank that you could get the higher possibilities to get more profit.

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Old 10th April 2011, 02:15 AM   #5
snyderkv
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you are in need of SEO consultant. This staff would help you generate more traffic to your website. The higher the page rank that you could get the higher possibilities to get more profit.
Thanks Naturalbeauty but if you read what I wrote, I never said anything about not having enough volume, I said we can't fulfill demand. So more web site traffic will only hurt the business as we would turn people away. Thanks for your response though.

Torka, Gary,

You are correct but I think one of you tried touching on the real issue here.

That is, with one person generating 2,000/month income, another hire would have to be willing to live off less than that salary and make the business a profit.

Virtually impossible.

That is why I thought of leverageing our current work with machines, but those are tens of thousands of dollars and we would no longer be a custom shop, we would be more like a typical run of the mill sweat shop at that point.

Charging more might produce a little more profit, but still below the poverty line.

Not sure how to exploit this market.

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Old 23rd April 2011, 08:48 PM   #6
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First off, lets deal with the equipment side of the equation. You can really get industrial grade machinery for pennies on the dollar. I think what you need to do is find heritage brands that still own and operate their own factories. A lot of times these factories would be thankful to dispose of their equipment for book value, which in most cases is 5-10% of the original price. Remember, in an alteration business you are not these machines like a factory would. The reality is that these machines are often changed because new technology or automation is available. Try this route and let me know how it goes. I have worked in the apparel for some time now, so I could helped isf you get into a bind.

As far as hiring workers, I would pay by the hour. However, keep in mind others have posted here, keep your margins and volume in check. By hiring hiring help you will be able to grow your business, but if your margins remain low you will not succeed.

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Old 8th June 2011, 04:17 PM   #7
IBDesigns
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Default Fixing Order Overload Problems

Hi there,

We ran across this post and it's almost exactly the same situation as we're having. We make a handcrafted personalized item, so we can't do bulk manufacturing. We're in an apartment, and we're setting aside whether or not the lease allows running a small business. We're under the radar, so to speak.

We're running around $1,200/month in orders, with that number growing, and we started to get swamped! Our first step was to raise our prices to "slow things down." But that didn't do anything, and we're getting more orders, not fewer.

The critical component is that we run our own Web site! We don't have a big technical background, so we built it in plain HTML 1.x, using Mozilla's Nvu (free clone of DreamWeaver). It's a nice site, without all the bells and whistles, just tables and our pictures.

However...it allows us to control the site, and not have to go through some developer or management company! That gives us two ways to help slow things down.

The first is we funnel ALL our orders to a single "order" page, no matter where anyone is on the site. That page has button links taking the buyer to a third-party invoicing company (PrestoSell). We use Google Checkout for processing.

Without that order link, nobody can buy anything.

Secondly, we then put up an "Estimated Ship Time" information box at the top of the order page. As our orders increase, we increase our ship time. And we do it in business days, not calendar days. Increments are 5-7 days (when things are slower), 7-10 days when we're getting busy, and 10-14 business days when we're getting really busy.

We use an Excel spreadsheet to print a "pick list" for each order, and then a list of all current orders. The WEEKDAYS function allows easy calculations of when an order is due from a starting date, and we enter whatever number we want for "how many days." So 10 days from order date immediately provides us with 10 Business days, and our expected ship day.

All references to "how long will it take" now can be directed to the order page and our info box. On our blog, FaceBook, FAQs and anywhere else, it's a single-source point that we adjust.

We then got swamped, and had to figure another solution. Our brainstorm was to put in a sort of "voicemail" process, where we simply disable order-taking.

First we created a copy of the order page, same file name, but a different folder on our home computer (where we work on Web site pages). Then we deleted all the order buttons (links) on that copy.

We then change the info box to read something like "We're presently at our maximum capacity and can't take any new orders until.....DATE."

Our thinking is that people would freak out if they saw the site go down with a 404 Error - Page Not Found. Plus, people with orders in the pipeline would worry that we'd gone out of business.

The solution is to be VERY specific as to when we'll begin taking new orders. We place a date and time, and we absolutely hold to that date! So if we say we'll start taking new orders in seven days, we do so.

It's a simple thing to upload the "stop orders" file from whatever subfolder on our machine, to the correct location on the site server. It overwrites the existing order page and immediately disables new orders. Nicely, with a note to all new visitors.

Then, when we're ready to take new orders we upload the original file from it's own subfolder on our computer, overwriting the "stop order" file.

The URL (web address) stays exactly the same so all our indexing and search-engine locations are exactly the same. The only thing that changes is our info box and disabled order-taking.

Currently, we put only a 1-week "hold" on orders. That gives us the time to get caught up, complete existing orders, and ship everything.

If it should turn out that we're having to stop orders more and more often, then we'll raise the prices yet again. At "some point," we figure people will stop buying the product! Then we'll back it down to a price that maintains a decent flow.

Because we hand-make our item, we're a boutique business. We can't hire people, as labor costs for a high-end seamstress would be cost-prohibitive. We might be able to get some piece-work done for the most basic sewing, but that too would be a problem.

We're left with only controlling how many orders we can take, and it seems to us that the above system keeps customers in the loop, interacts with everyone, and lets everyone know that, Hey, we're only 2 people! :-)

Hope this helps.

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Old 13th June 2011, 02:25 PM   #8
Benedicta
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Quote:
Originally Posted by IBDesigns View Post
Hi there,

We ran across this post and it's almost exactly the same situation as we're having. We make a handcrafted personalized item, so we can't do bulk manufacturing. We're in an apartment, and we're setting aside whether or not the lease allows running a small business. We're under the radar, so to speak.

We're running around $1,200/month in orders, with that number growing, and we started to get swamped! Our first step was to raise our prices to "slow things down." But that didn't do anything, and we're getting more orders, not fewer.

The critical component is that we run our own Web site! We don't have a big technical background, so we built it in plain HTML 1.x, using Mozilla's Nvu (free clone of DreamWeaver). It's a nice site, without all the bells and whistles, just tables and our pictures.

However...it allows us to control the site, and not have to go through some developer or management company! That gives us two ways to help slow things down.

The first is we funnel ALL our orders to a single "order" page, no matter where anyone is on the site. That page has button links taking the buyer to a third-party invoicing company (PrestoSell). We use Google Checkout for processing.

Without that order link, nobody can buy anything.

Secondly, we then put up an "Estimated Ship Time" information box at the top of the order page. As our orders increase, we increase our ship time. And we do it in business days, not calendar days. Increments are 5-7 days (when things are slower), 7-10 days when we're getting busy, and 10-14 business days when we're getting really busy.

We use an Excel spreadsheet to print a "pick list" for each order, and then a list of all current orders. The WEEKDAYS function allows easy calculations of when an order is due from a starting date, and we enter whatever number we want for "how many days." So 10 days from order date immediately provides us with 10 Business days, and our expected ship day.

All references to "how long will it take" now can be directed to the order page and our info box. On our blog, FaceBook, FAQs and anywhere else, it's a single-source point that we adjust.

We then got swamped, and had to figure another solution. Our brainstorm was to put in a sort of "voicemail" process, where we simply disable order-taking.

First we created a copy of the order page, same file name, but a different folder on our home computer (where we work on Web site pages). Then we deleted all the order buttons (links) on that copy.

We then change the info box to read something like "We're presently at our maximum capacity and can't take any new orders until.....DATE."

Our thinking is that people would freak out if they saw the site go down with a 404 Error - Page Not Found. Plus, people with orders in the pipeline would worry that we'd gone out of business.

The solution is to be VERY specific as to when we'll begin taking new orders. We place a date and time, and we absolutely hold to that date! So if we say we'll start taking new orders in seven days, we do so.

It's a simple thing to upload the "stop orders" file from whatever subfolder on our machine, to the correct location on the site server. It overwrites the existing order page and immediately disables new orders. Nicely, with a note to all new visitors.

Then, when we're ready to take new orders we upload the original file from it's own subfolder on our computer, overwriting the "stop order" file.

The URL (web address) stays exactly the same so all our indexing and search-engine locations are exactly the same. The only thing that changes is our info box and disabled order-taking.

Currently, we put only a 1-week "hold" on orders. That gives us the time to get caught up, complete existing orders, and ship everything.

If it should turn out that we're having to stop orders more and more often, then we'll raise the prices yet again. At "some point," we figure people will stop buying the product! Then we'll back it down to a price that maintains a decent flow.

Because we hand-make our item, we're a boutique business. We can't hire people, as labor costs for a high-end seamstress would be cost-prohibitive. We might be able to get some piece-work done for the most basic sewing, but that too would be a problem.

We're left with only controlling how many orders we can take, and it seems to us that the above system keeps customers in the loop, interacts with everyone, and lets everyone know that, Hey, we're only 2 people! :-)

Hope this helps.
Productive Strategy IBDesigns, I may also add that since you have been doing this for a long time now, you will be familiar with the average time it takes to complete a certain amount of order and shipment (depending on the influx of orders of course). This can also help you create an schedule or timetable where orders are enabled when the last shipment goes. This way, your customers/clients will be familiar with your operating systems and thus build more interactivity and relationship. Just my opinion.

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Old 15th June 2011, 05:44 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by naturalbeauty View Post
you are in need of SEO consultant. This staff would help you generate more traffic to your website. The higher the page rank that you could get the higher possibilities to get more profit.
I totally agree with NaturalBeauty, you've to reach many clients ASAP & internet is the most fast & convenient way to do that, try to hire a good SEO company.

Good Luck!

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Old 20th June 2011, 02:11 AM   #10
IBDesigns
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Quote:
Originally Posted by brandonmarx View Post
I totally agree with NaturalBeauty, you've to reach many clients ASAP & internet is the most fast & convenient way to do that, try to hire a good SEO company.

Good Luck!
This is ridiculous. The original poster has TOO MANY clients, not a shortage of them. SEO "used to be" a good idea, but with Google and many other search engines now penalizing sites that over-burden their content with useless SEO text, it's not so easy to accomplish anymore. All in all, actually reading a given post is a better strategy than just dumping in advertising for old technology.

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