I "met" Jacqui through an online group of artists and artisans we both joined to learn more about selling our creations online. What stood out about her to me was that she seems to have created a niche for herself that I've seen very little (if any) competition for and the fact that it appears that she has learned to balance family and business, despite having two young children at home! I see Jacqui's updates on Facebook and Twitter and I am amazed at how much work she seems to consistently get done, and that her "Biggie" and "Little Guy" are so helpful in the process! I'm pleased that she wanted to do this interview and I'm hoping some of her productivity will rub off on me! :-)
I provided Jacqui with a list of questions and she has answered and assembled her answers into the wonderful article you can read below. Thanks, Jacqui, for making this so easy for me! ;-)
As much as being a mother is very rewarding I was always searching for something to do for myself. I am committed to being a stay at home mum but I also have limited career options here in Japan since I am an expat from New Zealand. I spent several years thinking about starting a home-based business. Shortly before the birth of my second child I discovered Etsy (via Decor8.com) and the seed was planted for my online business. I narrowed my options down to sewing, then after some online research and feedback from my blog readers
(http://bloomingnihon.blogspot.com) I decided to give it a go with bags for kids. It's been an astounding success and very much the fulfilling venture I hoped it would be. I love running my own business.
I work at home where I have a crafting space in my laundry. About 2/3 of the space is taken up with my three sewing machines, plastic bins of fabric and baskets of work-in-progress. I also have a small office where I manage dispatch - that's where my computer, bookshelves and notice boards are. My ready-to-ship stock is kept in a closet down the hall where sticky fingers won't touch them.
My youngest child is just three years old and home with all day. We start the day early by getting big brother off to school. I check emails that have come in over night and make a to-do list. Usually it's carried over from the day before.
I spend the morning doing housework and playing with my son Tyler. If we need supplies from the fabric store we do that. We make any post office or bank trips on our bicycle. After lunch if I am lucky I get a bit of time to work on Mee a Bee while Tyler is taking a nap. We need our "Quiet Time" in the early afternoon. The rest of the day is taken up with meal preparation, taking my older son to karate, calligraphy. Bath time/Bed time.
Three or four days a week I go to the gym at night. That has really helped me emotionally and physically. I have a lot more energy and mental clarity. I get home at about 9 or 10pm which is when I start sewing. I work until around midnight and am in bed by 1am. This is my routine most days. I also teach English once a week so on those mornings I get up early to bake and Tyler goes out with our baby sitter for the duration of the class.
Sunday is my day of rest - from my kids - I have more free time to sew, catch up on emails, spend more time at the gym or go fabric shopping.
I love shopping for new fabrics. The best part about making bags is choosing the fabrics, the linings and the straps. I love to see how the designs unfold. It's amazing how a piece of fabric can be transformed into something ten times cuter if you get the right combination.
I can be found online in the following places:
http://meeabee.etsy.com - Etsy Store
http://www.meeabee.com - Website
http://www.facebook.com/meeabee - Fan Page on Facebook
http://twitter.com/meeabee - Twitter
http://www.flickr.com/photos/meeabee/ - Flickr
http://bloomingnihon.blogspot.com - blog
http://tr.im/EbWR - Trifle - $AUD
I am hugely inspired by other crafters especially crafters in business. The talent on Etsy alone is just amazing. I also draw energy from people who are supporters of the handmade revolution like Brittni at PapernStitch (http://papernstitch.com/), or the folks at Moo.com (http://us.moo.com/en/), We Love Indie (http://www.weloveindie.com/), bloggers like Decor8 (http://decor8blog.com/), and fabric designers like Joel Dewberry (http://www.joeldewberry.com/).
I do have a passion for decorating so if I were to re-train I'd love to take a course in Interior Design. I have a degree in Marketing from the University of Waikato by the way.
My business bible is Craft Inc. by Meg Mateo Ilasco. Every piece of advice has helped me immensely. Although I have a business degree I always tended towards the creative side of marketing and sales rather than the nuts & bolts of how we are going to pay for this operation!
My sister is an accountant. She gave me a very good piece of advice which applies to International sellers. Convert funds into your home currency as soon as you make a sale since that is the currency all of your expenses are in (for me Japanese yen). When you have funds in various currencies (for example Etsy sales are in $US) you have no way of knowing if you are actually making any money.
Over the next year I hope to have my business grow more by adding a few more wholesale accounts and expanding to other selling venues like Artfire. My sales have been really pleasing but I would like to increase volume which will allow me to buy fabrics in bulk therefore cutting costs. Then I would like to hire an administrative assistant, a website developer and a professional photographer - as a start!"
I've so enjoyed learning about Jacqui and Mee a Bee and I hope that you all visit her shops and blogs and follow and fan her! And if you know anyone with young children, now you have another place to shop for them!