Careers in sewing: Starting an online fabric shop
Have you ever considered a Career in Sewing? Do you dream of ditching the 9-5 and pursuing your creative dreams? This year we will be posting interviews for a range of different sewing jobs to give you a a taste of what possibilities are out there. Today we interview Melissa Sultana, who is the owner of the new online fabric shop The Crafty Mastermind. We have interviewed Melissa to find out what it’s like to start your own online fabric shop.
I had started to sew about 4 years ago, and started my blog The Crafty Mastermindabout 2 years ago, this focused on (and still does) sewing mistakes mainly in quilting, baking errors (and some success) and music I had been listening too. The idea for the store came about a year ago, mainly for two reasons. Firstly, I am obsessed with fabric & I began to get frustrated that there was all this beautiful fabric overseas that I couldn’t buy locally, I didn’t want to spend money on shipping and import costs. The other reason was that I began to delve into the clothes making universe, but found it difficult coming from quilting galaxy. I knew I wanted to make a certain dress pattern but I had no idea what fabric went with it and what other bits I needed. I couldn’t find a lot (retail) of help out there for a complete novice and I didn’t want to do a dress making course as they were too expensive. I thought I can’t be the only person out there in the same predicament. Hence the birth of The Crafty Mastermind, a rock n roll fabric and pattern oasis.
Well I am the owner of this mothership. I’ve sourced some of the most beautiful modern fresh fabrics gems, most I had wanted to purchase myself for a long time. I’ve paired them up with some amazingly beautiful independent pattern makers. I’ll only stock patterns that I have the fabrics and haberdashery to recommend with it, so our range is always growing but also explains why sometimes I don’t carry certain patterns. The website also features handy bits and bobs such as conversion charts and the backs of packs so you are clear on how much fabric you would need to buy. We also have some fantastic modern needlepoint kits from Emily Peacock, they are brilliant for beginners, which have been quite a hit. And of course we are the first stockists of Tula Pink Hardwarein the UK which is a big hooray!
Customer Service is really important and at the core of our business. When I built the store I did it with my customer head on, what would help me out when I’m trying to look for fabrics, what is important to me when I’m looking for fabric. I also wanted to give out the vibes that people shouldn’t be shy about reaching out if they have any questions, I love talking to people!
Each day is jumbled, of course any orders and customer queries come first and that continues throughout the day. In-between it’s normally planning what is going to go up on social media for the coming week and taking photographs of the stock, (sometime this is no easy feat!), looking at new products and meeting up with various reps, writing up the blog and updating newsletters, as well as working on local projects (we are trying to start a local quilting/ sewing collective at the moment), doing a lot of social media jazz, wasting half an hour at lunchtime in front of the t.v and trying to get some work done on one of about 10 different sewing projects I’ve got on the go.
The best bits are being surrounded by so much awesome fabrics and patterns and being able to talk to anyone and everyone at great length about them. I can be quite enthusiastic about what I stock, now I can say that’s now part of my job unlike before when I was just a fabric nerd. At the same time, it’s hard to be surrounded by all this great product, but not have the time to make every single pattern.
The worst bit is that especially when starting a new business, you feel like your walking around with a megaphone trying to let the world know you have opened, but not everyone can hear you. When you have a bricks and mortar shop you can always talk directly to customers, suggest things, big things up, be enthusiastic, even pull them in from the street. But online you don’t have that luxury. It’s like watching people walk in and out of your store but you’re stuck behind a plate of glass, it can be quite frustrating. Your website needs to be the best representation of you it can possibly be. It can be very hard work trying to get your message across. The positive side of that is, being an online store, the world is your oyster and I can have customers from all over the world. It’s great talking to sewists from anywhere and everywhere!
Yes! I’m a baker, blogger, bad painter, bad at drawing and bad at acting if it wasn’t comedic. I was in a band as a bass player (I was ok at that). I’ve been a vocalist, written a script and I’ve made small films. But then I found quilting & sewing and that was my eureka moment. Luckily in most jobs I’ve had I’ve been able to harness that creative streak and use it in displays or marketing.
Well I’ve been in retail since I was 14, I have done almost every job that there is in that sector. I’ve mainly sold albums and other entertainment stuff in that time – I’ve been on the floor to being the manager, buyer, stockroom manager, trainer, cash office administrator, new development manager and opened stores all over Australia and been sent on every course going. Nowadays I focus a lot more on customer service. There isn’t a lot of difference between the entertainment sector and the craft sector other than the craft sector is alot less cut throat…which is nice.
You have to believe and have complete dedication in your idea. I stand behind my website and everything I stock, I have a great passion for all of it . You need to eat, sleep and breathe it. If you don’t have that drive and belief it’s really hard to take those risks and then, once ope,n getting through the crappy days with seemingly little interest from the world despite all the work you have put in. It can be really disheartening and can make you question why you started all of it. When that happens I put on Paul Stanleys “Live to Win” and that re-sets me. My advice is to listen to Paul Stanley.
A stand up comic…or a comic writer.
About 4 quilts, 3 which are gifts (and all late), a negroni shirtthat needs a new sleeve and the Victoria Blazerfrom By Hand London which I’m going to make in Ponte. I’m never happy working on just one thing. That has been written in every school report since I was 4!
I would start with Grainline studios The Scout teeusing Cotton and Steels Gust in Rayon. You only need the pattern, fabric, thread, a sewing machine and maybe some tracing paper and that’s it, it has great instructions and is very straight forward.
Thanks Melissa for all your tips and insight into your job! Watch out for your next GBSB themed Careers in Sewing post!