As my regular customers, readers and followers now, I had a baby in May 2010 and have spent the last 10 months juggling trying to be a stay at home mum with running a small but fast growing online business. It’s been a fun, crazy, rollercoaster of a ride!
When I first looked at setting up Sewbox, my husband and I had long discussions about what it would mean for our family, the kind of lifestyle we wanted, and whether it would be compatible with that. I have always known that when I start my family I would want to be a stay at home mum. I thought, rather naively!!, that running a business from home would be no more than an hour or two a day and that I would easily be able to manage both.
Sewbox has taken off in a way I never thought possible, and it has been a wonderful journey and experience: but with that success it has become increasingly difficult to juggle the business with motherhood and to lead the lifestyle me and my husband want for our fledgling family. As soon as hubby comes home from work I spend my evenings frantically putting together orders, responding to e-mails, replenishing stock, and generally keeping things afloat. Never mind getting in new stock, I haven’t had the opportunity to do new buying for a good few months now! (As my regular customers might have noticed 😉 )
NOT that I am complaining. I’ve absolutely loved running Sewbox and it’s been a brilliant experience. I’ve met so many amazing people, made some wonderful new friendships, and learnt so much along the way. But first and foremost I do need to be a mum to my baby… and when I look forward a couple of years when I hope we’ll be able to expand our family, it’s even harder to see how I could make it compatible with the kind of life I want for my family (i.e. me being the primary carer).
The first step in reclaiming some space in my life and some time to be able to breathe out and to think, was to put the fabric department on maternity leave. That took off a lot of the immediate pressure as it was the most time consuming aspect of the shop. It was a difficult and painful decision and I hated that I was disappointing so many of my wonderful customers. I got so many lovely encouraging emails and messages of support which really helped. It was hard to see how to move forward , though, and what to do with the shop: I’d put so much hard work in to getting it going and it was doing so well, I really didn’t want to just shut up shop and close it: I wanted to see it continue to flourish and grow, but I didn’t know how to go about finding a buyer either.
Then, out of one conversation with the lovely Ann from Suffolk Sewing School, came the seeds of opportunity. One of her sewing students had been going to her for lessons for over a year and they’ve developed a close friendship. This lady, Susan, was looking for something new to get stuck in to, and was considering setting up an online shop.
Suddenly an idea began to form. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if this situation could become a positive outcome for both of us? I could pass my shop on to someone who I know will look after it, give it the TLC I so feel it deserves, put in to place all those ideas I have that I never have the time to action, and who would continue my work to make Sewbox the go-to place for dressmakers online. And Susan would be able to pick up an established business and brand without having to start from scratch, and benefit from a comprehensive handover, learning in weeks what it normally takes new businesses months to learn about how to set up and run an online business.
So we talked. And talked. And then we met. And I liked her. And she liked me. And we came to an agreement.
And SO. This is all a very long winded way of me telling you that as of next week, Sewbox will have a wonderful new owner, Susan Stevenson!
I thought I would have more mixed feelings about passing the business on to new hands but I am actually really excited about it, as it will finally mean that some of the future ideas I’ve got written down for Sewbox might actually see the light of day, and it’s going to be a great thing for the business, as I just can’t give it the attention it deserves. I know Susan has some of her own ideas about the shop too, but she is just as passionate as I am about it being an online haven for stylish dressmaking, and I just know it will be passing in to good hands.
I see this as a really positive move, not just for both of us but just as importantly, a positive move for all of our customers. It means the shop will not only be restocked but over time the depth and range of Sewbox’s products will continue to grow and there’ll be lots more luscious dressmaking fabrics and stylish sewing patterns, not to mention other scrummy goodness!
The hardest part of this is that I will miss all of my customers and the buzz and cameraderie that running an online sewing shop has involved. I never could have imagined what a supportive, welcoming online crafting community there was, especially between fellow online shop owners, and it’s been an absolute pleasure to be a part of it. The support, kindness, and friendship I’ve been shown have meant so much to me, and helped keep me going during the particularly tough times. I’d like to thank you all from the bottom of my heart. You helped make Sewbox what it is today, and I know you’ll all welcome Susan with open arms.
I would love to keep in touch and have set up a new personal blog, http://www.cottonandsunshine.co.uk, where I hope to write about my crafting exploits (I am hoping that one benefit of passing the business on will be that I will finally have some time to make and sew). I also have a new personal Twitter account, @cottonandsun. Come say hi!