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Thursday, July 18, 2024

Sewing success: My journey as a business owner

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Twenty-seven years ago, I invited Sears to my home for an estimate on custom window treatments. I had never had custom window treatments (or custom anything) before and was shocked when I was quoted around $1,200 for (one) window. That’s a lot, even by today’s standards, but imagine how much more sticker shock that would have been in the early 90s. I had made my own wedding dress, so I thought, “Why can’t I do the same for draperies?”  I bought about $100 worth of fabric and made the draperies myself, and that year, Sheer Elegance was born.

Fast forward some months, and it’s now 1996. I run a business, make draperies, and purchase industrial sewing machines. All the while, I’m traveling to trade shows and being told by manufacturers with many more resources than my outfit that, as a small business, I should not try to do it all by myself.

They were right. They didn’t say it out of malice, it was simply the truth.

Although I wanted to see my finished product from start to finish, I knew I lacked the needed resources that larger companies had. I began subcontracting my labor and saw sales soar from $7,000 the first year to over $60,000 the second year.

That’s when I decided to focus on what I do best rather than trying to do it all: consulting with residential clients to help fulfill their visions for window treatments and consulting with commercial clients to design a comprehensive window treatment solution for their space and buildings.

After starting my business focusing primarily on residential, the housing bubble started to show signs of bursting, and I pivoted to bidding on commercial jobs. Since then, 90+ percent of Sheer Elegance’s revenue has been through commercial business. Yet, I still enjoy the creativity of working with residential clients, of which a majority are in the 60-80 year-old demographic.

When I heard that Business Equity for Indy (BEI) had an event dedicated to providing contract opportunities to Black-owned businesses, I was curious to learn more. When I learned that the BEI Procurement Roundtable has resulted in $600M spent with Black-owned businesses since 2021, that got me interested, so I pitched my business at BEI’s August Procurement Roundtable.

Having the opportunity to tell my story in front of an audience of potential commercial customers was an excellent opportunity, and it’s definitely one that I’d recommend. It’s a chance to get in front of companies you may not have otherwise ever gained access to—it truly is a foot in the door. You can sign up to present at the Roundtable here. If you’re a purchasing agent, you can sign up to attend here.

When I started Sheer Elegance, I had no idea how (and if) it would grow, and now we provide window treatment solutions to many businesses and homeowners. We ensure that they have value-added solutions—and with the help of the Procurement Roundtable, I’m looking forward to helping even more businesses and end users.

From hospitals to homeowners, we help deliver your vision. If you’re looking for cubicle curtains, blinds, shades, and more for your home or business, contact us, and we’ll make it happen!

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  1. Thank you for sharing your story. My mother taught home economics for twenty years. Most of the time she taught sewing. When I came upon your article on web, my focus went right to my mother. I instantly wished she were alive today to see the fruits of her labors as well as those of her fellow home economics teachers. Congratulations on your success.

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