We are pleased to bring you a brand new business owner to the Rock Bottom T-shirts Boutique Clothing Craft Series where we recognize the accomplishments of small businesses in the clothing craft industry.
Today we are speaking to Carolyn Kyker of Carolyn’s Custom Creations.
Years in Business: 3 years
Product Description: Appliquéd & Monogrammed Children’s & Adult’s Clothing as well as Personalized Gifts
Website URL: www.CarolynsCustomCreations.net
Contact Information: CarolynsCustomCreations@gmail.com
Carolyn, What got you started in the clothing craft business? Believe it or not, I didn’t even know how to sew a straight line until 2008. I skipped home economics due to my family moving across the country and so I missed sewing class! I’d always wanted to learn to sew so I decided to take some classes. You should see the first skirt I made – I keep it to remind myself how far I’ve come!! I started with a regular sewing machine that we’d gotten at our wedding but after several moves of our own it wasn’t working properly. I decided to replace it with a combination sewing/embroidery machine. I totally taught myself how to embroider (thank goodness for Google!). I began by appliqueing clothing for my toddler son – I was so frustrated with the lack of cute boy’s clothing options. But the hobby was quickly turning into an obsession – an expensive one at that! So in December 2009 I offered several Christmas designs to just my friends. I got over 75 orders!!! I took that as a sign from God that it was time to go into business!
I cannot believe that you started out by just making things for your son!
Where did you find the inspiration to come up with these embellishments? We are lucky to have a wide variety of good quality digitizers who make fantastic embroidery designs. I mainly just scour their websites and come up with shirts based on those designs. But most of my creations come from my customer’s needs – I do a lot of birthday shirts where the customer contacts me with their child’s age and the type of birthday party they are going to have, and I create a shirt based on that. I also utilize Pinterest for new ideas!
We often look through Pinterest for ideas to put in our craft blogs!
How long does it usually take, on average, to complete a typical project? I create in shifts. I spend one day out of my week editing designs (putting names with the designs and changing thread colors in the computer if necessary), ordering shirts, and completing bookkeeping tasks. Then I spend the rest of the days actually creating the projects. My turn-around time is from 2-3 weeks. I believe it takes time and patience to come up with a quality product.
It absolutely does take time and patience for quality product, and that is what people want these days!
How do you manage to stand out from the competition? I have a really loyal customer base and I think my items speak for themselves. Most of my business comes from repeat customers – those who order shirts for every holiday & every birthday. I believe I have a special calling – it is my privilege to know the names of the children that will be wearing my shirts and I pray for them by name as I complete their creations. I feel like I know the children that are wearing my items!
Are there any “milestone moments” that you would like to share? I just had a big “A-HA” moment about a month ago. In April my Mom passed away suddenly due to leukemia (she was diagnosed on a Monday and died on that Friday). It was shocking and I couldn’t bring myself to create in the aftermath. I was stressed out and depressed and I decided to shut down my business. The customer support was amazing, everybody was truly saddened about the close of Carolyn’s Custom Creations, but I just couldn’t keep it going. I began efforts to sell my 6-needle embroidery machine (whom I lovingly call “Buffalo”). After advertising on Facebook and on Craigslist for 2 months at a very fair price I didn’t have any offers to purchase my machine. In the meantime, I was becoming more and more depressed….and missing being creative more and more! I also really missed my customers! Then it hit me: I am meant to create and I am not supposed to sell my machine! So after some business reorganization (like adding my husband to the team as my Business Manager) and some serious brainstorming about new products I re-opened at the beginning of July. I’m so happy to be back at it but I’m also glad that I took those 2 months off. Sometimes we just have to focus on ourselves for a bit in order to get re-energized for our customers!
What would you considering being your biggest challenge for your business so far? The biggest challenge is the money! I was not meant to be a bookkeeper and I also have a fabric addiction!! Those two things meant Carolyn’s Custom Creations wasn’t as profitable as it could have been. That is why I decided to add my husband to the team – he is the official bookkeeper and Business Manager. I feel much better knowing that he is overseeing those items – I can concentrate on creating.
What would you say is the biggest challenge facing clothing craft businesses? The biggest challenge facing businesses like mine is the competition. With the introduction and affordability of embroidery machines, many appliqué & monogramming small businesses are popping up. Consumers are looking for good prices which leads them to shop around. Some of them even decide to take up the craft for themselves! I always hope that the quality and durability of my items will attract and keep customers.
That is why it pays off having good customer service skills to have those repeating customers that will then go and tell their family and friends about the great quality work that you do.
What’s the one piece of advice that you would give to anyone considering taking a plunge and starting their own clothing craft business? Be patient. Be patient when you’re designing, be patient when you’re creating, and be patient as you wait for your business to grow. If you have an innate need to create like I do, a creative small business provides the stability and balance that you need in your life!
We would like to thank Carolyn with Carolyn’s Custom Creations for taking the time out of her busy day to answer a few of our questions! If you know someone that you think should be featured in Rock Bottom T-shirts Boutique Clothing Craft Series, please let us know on our Facebook page.