In honor of Small Business Saturday, this year we are interviewing small business owners about their experiences as entrepreneurs and finding out how they are prepping for the upcoming holiday shopping season. We hope that their advice will be useful to businesses of all sizes as they prepare for the busiest season of the year. Today we’re featuring Jaime Stepic, Owner and Founder of Gingham and Eyelet, a DIY and Sewing Store in Norcross, Georgia, that offers project-based sewing and craft workshops, camps, private lessons, and parties for absolute beginners and social sewers alike.
What does owning a business mean to you?
Owning this business has been a lifelong dream of mine. I get to wake up every day with crazy enthusiasm, a good amount of fear, and a massive to-do list. It’s just the best.
I started my business out of my converted garage in April of this year with a kids’ spring break sewing camp. From there, I grew it quickly by hosting events at restaurants and other art studios. Just before I found my brick and mortar location, I rented out space for my workshops at a collaborative workspace in downtown Norcross. I’ve loved to sew and create forever, but nothing makes me happier than making sewing accessible for others and seeing their sense of accomplishment.
What’s your work philosophy?
I’m a hard worker with a ridiculous amount of tenacity, which always makes me a good employee. Though that quality can lead to some pretty late nights and early mornings now that I’m my own boss.
What would you say are the three main ingredients to running a successful business?
A willingness to keep working until you see the results you envision, a great business plan that keeps you focused on your goals rather than potential distractions, a huge amount of belief in yourself and the product you give your customers.
What is the hardest lesson you’ve learned as an entrepreneur?
The hardest lesson I’m learning is that I can’t do everything myself. I’m a DIYer in every other facet of my life, but that doesn’t necessarily translate well to business.
I’ve found wonderful mentors in other small business women. Other successful women are my absolute heroines, and they have been more than kind in sharing their advice to grow my business.
What tips do you have for someone just starting a small business?
Keep at it. The best results I’ve gotten were usually right after a huge disappointment. Everything that can go wrong usually does, and you need to be laser-focused on getting to the good stuff to make it through. Keep pushing.
When did you realize that it was time to go into business for yourself?
I realized the time was finally right for me to go into business because my youngest child is now 2. I have four children and have been raising kids for almost 25 years (oldest is 23.) There hasn’t been much time for my personal goals until now, though my drive has always been there waiting.
Do you have any advice to other business owners looking to scale up?
Advice for scaling up: I tried to keep my risk as low as possible when starting my business by not having a brick and mortar location while I learned the ropes. There was a tipping point where the risk of staying mobile and losing business to other studios outweighed the risk of jumping in feet first to a “real business.” Take calculated risks, but take those risks!
Do you participate in Small Business Saturday or holiday shopping season? If so, what are your plans this year?
I will be participating in Small Business Saturday by collaborating with other businesses in a gift maker space. Customers, both kids and adults, can come in to make unique gifts. I’ll have several ready-to-craft kits available, as well as open studio time for those who need less supervision. I think handmade gifts will be the perfect antidote to Black Friday’s madness!
How do you plan to retain new customers after holiday shopping season?
Since my business is lesson and party-based, the more people I bring in to see my studio during the holidays the more I will retain once they get a taste of the accomplishment and fun of sewing. Though they can make gifts during the holiday season, they can come year-round for personal enrichment.
What’s next for your business?
In the next five years, I would like to continue to expand my business with after-school programs in area elementary and middle schools as well as with a mobile studio in a vintage camper which could be rented out for parties and customers’ locations or used for festivals as an advertising tool. I would love to have a few locations throughout Atlanta as well!