For years I toiled away sewing my little bags for children. I sacrificed every weekend and most evenings to growing my business. From the outside it looked successful and it has been profitable. Except I pushed myself to the point where I was burnt out. It was bloody hard work.
These days I sew for the pleasure of it. And I've cracked the code for working effectively.
Streamlining the production process was phase one. It takes a long time to sew one bag, from start to finish, when you complete each step in order. Cut, sew, finish. There are at least twenty or more small steps. It's much more efficient to cut several bags at a time. Then sew, a step at a time, for each bag. I usually sew the bags to a certain point, then leave them semi-completed until the sales start to roll in.
But the real secret to a successful business is finding a way to leverage your time so that you are not trading hours for dollars. In a traditional job you go to work for eight hours, you are paid for eight hours of work. It's a straight-forward trade.
When you are self-employed in a production business you may work for eight hours but it's hard to know when you will be paid for those eight hours. Payment is dependent on selling the product. It makes sense to maximise your selling as well as your production efforts.
Step one is essential: Streamline your Production - make x bags in the time it takes to make one.
Step two is also vital: Create Efficient Systems for ordering supplies, storing raw materials, packaging and shipping.
And then it comes down to marketing.
Maximise your marketing efforts to sell more. This could mean selling more units. It could also mean selling each unit for more $$.
Leverage your time so that you're not trading hours for dollars.
You could spend two hours photographing and editing pictures to sell one product. Or the same amount of time to sell one hundred of the same product.
You might devote a couple of hours to social media and other promotional tools. You could sell one but you could also sell one hundred from the same effort.
By the same token, a beautifully constructed marketing and promotional campaign could elevate your product to a higher level in the minds of the customer - they might be willing to pay more.
Sell more or sell more at a higher price - now we're talking!
Uh oh. Scary. When I started making bags, I made five. From one metre of fabric. I photographed the same bags dozens of times - in hindsight a huge waste of effort for just five bags. I could have sold five hundred of those bags by now.
But Mee a Bee was an unproven venture. I was afraid to commit to more than one metre of fabric, in case it didn't work out.
At what point was it proven? After fifty sales? After one hundred sales? After being featured on Apartment Therapy? Or picked as a fave in a hot baby magazine? Yes. To probably all of those questions.
I couldn't see the wood for the trees. I kept making new bags, new designs. I didn't truly commit. I didn't trust my instincts for picking a winning design and just going with it. It's only now, seven years on, that I see that I could have sold hundreds of my beautiful giraffe and lion bags instead of just twelve. My Little Red Riding Hood bags were made in a 'limited' run of just twenty four bags. They were so popular ...
Now I would do it differently. I wouldn't be gun shy. I would trust my great taste and commit to a much bigger production run for each design. I would edit the line to just a few really great designs. I would make up the samples, take the most gorgeous photos and then let the marketing machine take over.
Yes, it's a lot of work making the bags. But the real work is in preparing them for sale. The photos, the promo, the admin and that is where you can leverage your time.