The start of this month marks the second anniversary of Amanda Jane Textiles. This year I hardly noticed the date for the schools going back after the long summer holiday and although I sometimes still dream about teaching(!), I feel I have finally made the transition from teacher to entrepreneur. During these 24 months I have been running two businesses: Amanda Jane Textiles and also our holiday lets house which is listed with AirBnB as ‘Comfy 3BD house Durham‘ . Click here to see it.
I have read lots of magazine articles, studied relevant books and investigated other creative businesses on the internet. I’ve taken a couple of courses too. However, nothing quite prepares you for the reality of running your own business (or businesses!). I should have had some idea, because my sons have been running their own business, High Six Media, for the last few years (click here to see their website). Perhaps it is slightly different if you work in a partnership (as they do) but if you are a sole trader (as I am), you literally have to do everything and decide everything yourself. Doing everything includes, for me: buying marmalade, washing sheets, vacuuming carpets and rinsing sinks as well as drawing, painting, designing, stitching and writing patterns.
I feel at times like the performer who spins plates on sticks at the circus. On any given day, I have to decide what to do, in which order, so as not to let any of the plates drop (and not miss any deadlines). All the business jobs are mine: Manager, Maker, Photographer, Sales, Accounts, Marketing, Display, etc. I enjoy the freedom of choosing how and when to work but the pressure is considerable; getting ill can be disastrous! I tend to work intensively and put in a lot of hours. I am full of new ideas all the time, but each one takes time to develop, so I have to learn to be selective.
Selling has changed almost beyond recognition with developments on the internet and this works in my favour. I can design patterns for patchwork, quilting and sewing in my studio in Durham, North-East England and then post them on a website where they can be seen virtually anywhere in the world: click here if you are in the UK/in the EU and click here if you are outside the EU. There are now 75 of my fabric designs, which can all be viewed online (click here to see them). The use of social media such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram also helps me to show my work to others. This month’s challenge was to get to grips with Instagram (which has slightly knocked me off course with my blog-writing). I am posting a photo daily as part of the #100 days100 blocks Instagram challenge. At the time of writing we have reached day 35, so I’m over one-third of the way through. Here is today’s block:
I have pushed at a lot of doors over the last two years. Some have failed to open. When that has happened, I have just carried on and nudged another one. Open doors have included the opportunity to write for an online magazine and the chance of teaching in a lovely fabric shop nearby (click here for more information), both of which I find very enjoyable. Sometimes unexpected things appear, like a commission to design quilt labels. There are two sets of quilt labels by the way in my Spoonflower studio (click here to go to the studio) and I have 75 fabric designs, which can be ordered directly from Spoonflower, either from Durham USA or from Berlin, Germany and printed on a wide range of fabrics or on wallpaper or wrapping paper.
Another strand of the business is progressing well. Writing quilt patterns takes a very long time: the patchwork needs to be done, the quilt layered up, the quilting completed and the binding stitched on. Each step needs to be photographed and clear instructions written. Finally a beautiful ‘glamour’ shot is needed to show the item at its best. Then the whole pattern goes off to be proof-read. I am getting better at all of these, but none of them is a ‘quick win’. Nevertheless, at the start of year 3, I have 13 patterns on sale and 4 in development. ‘Pinstripe’ is the latest:
This is what my stand looked like at the recent Durham Quilters’ Quilt Show, with quilts, patterns and samples of my fabric designs on show:
Currently I have pinned above my desk a quotation which is attributed to Steve Jobs. I am taking it with me into year three of my venture. He said: “If you look closely, most overnight successes took a long time”