Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Thank You for 8 Awesome Years!

This is the post that no business owner ever wants to write. After a year-long struggle to keep Sew L.A. going, I have decided to close the classroom & shop at the end of October 2015. Our classes are scheduled through October 31, and all of our teachers are staying to see this through. We are all hoping to go out with a bang and a party!

Before getting into the details, let’s talk gift certificates. We have taken them off the site so they are no longer available, but if you have one please use it before the end of October. If you have one and don’t plan to use it, consider donating it back to the shop (so we can track it) - this will help keep our sales up so we can exit gracefully. Reducing our liability will be a great way to do this, and you can also help by attending our Very Loud Auction after our last classes.

At our teacher meeting this past Sunday, I went over some of the key reasons for closing, both business related and personal. On the business side, our market has definitely changed and we found that out a little too late to maneuver the shift effectively. When Sew L.A. started, we were the only classroom on this side of the city that offered quality classes, and this synced up with the market willing to pay for information from professionals. Now, anything you want to search for is available on the internet (regardless of quality) and there are several online learning websites that offer a high quality experience for a fraction of what we charge for in-person classes. I started Sew L.A. in 2007 for a few reasons - one being I believe that in-person is the best way to learn, but I cannot deny that online reaches a huge audience and AS ALWAYS the market follows the demand.

There are a few other reasons I started Sew L.A. - I had been making corsets in my studio for years, and was looking for more of a community instead of working solo every day. I had discovered a love for teaching that needed to be shared. And ultimately, I was looking for work that would allow me to someday afford a family. When I was pregnant for Lux in 2012, all of that seemed possible - the shop was doing well and we were able to cover the costs of moving to our current location, along with stocking it and staffing it.

We had great years in 2012 and 2013. I had a rough time finding care for Lux that we could afford until he was 11 months old - he was my first, and I had NO IDEA what a problem quality care would turn out to be (I’ll save the Saga of the Wait Lists for another time). The shift in the market started at the end of 2013 for us, when I had one day a week of care for Lux and actually needed to be back at the shop full time. The cost of replacing myself had just gone up and no one realized it at the time.

We had to close our retail shop this past April because a fabric inventory is one of the most difficult to support in retail. Our venders know this, and even give us 60 days to pay invoices because the majority of the stock moves SO SLOWLY. I had a large sum of money tied up in the shop that was needed to pay teachers. Our classes have always done well, and our retail shop has never quite paid for itself - so the decision seemed perfect. In reality, the loss of visibility and the lack of funds for re-working the website just hastened the decision to close altogether.

The current truth is that I personally cannot devote the attention to Sew L.A. that I once could because I have a wonderful 2 1/2 year old that I’m taking care of. My passion is teaching, and because of the daycare available to me and my husband’s schedule I cannot teach evenings and weekends - which is when we have our classes. Therefore, I’m still paying people to replace me in my business even now when I have four days a week to be here and working.

This leads directly to what running Sew L.A. has cost me personally. I take great pride in being a person who does what they say they will do, and I certainly don’t use the word ‘humbled’ lightly - these past two years have humbled me on several levels. Learning that sometimes I cannot fix it, no matter how hard I work - learning that sometimes the appearance of expertise is more valued than actual expertise - not being able to honor financial commitments - juggling creditors - feeling envy and jealousy instead of happiness at the success of others - the list goes on. I was becoming a person I did not want to be.

Sew L.A. was started with a loan from the VEDC, and I took out and paid off three other loans during the course of our existence, but since I had no other source of income, much of the shop’s expenses were put on two business credit cards and this is what I’ll be carrying with me after closing (not a small amount). I could file for bankruptcy, but in that event my wonderful staff and amazing landlord (my actual priorities) would be pretty low on the list. So even after the doors close and everyone has been paid I’ll still be in debt, with a toddler, with no degree and outdated bookkeeping skills. Unfortunately, this is a very common situation for people who close businesses to be in - I am far from alone. That doesn’t make it any easier, and it doesn’t make it right. I haven't paid myself in two years, and now I need to take care of my family.

I once made the mistake of telling a friend, while childless, that owning a small business was just like having a kid (I have since apologized profusely). But I can say for sure that it is like having a kid in that no one can tell you what it’s like beforehand, and no on who hasn’t gone through it can really comment on the perks and difficulties. And even then the experience is different for everyone!

I prefer to end on a high note and think about all the lives we have touched, all the people and kids we have inspired, and all the fantastic sewing there is in the world because of our classes. It has been my privilege to work with AMAZING, TALENTED and CREATIVE people over the past 8 years, and if you’d like to continue working with these people after October here is some contact info:

Rebecca Prange, Teacher: rebeccaprange@mac.com

For my own self, I will continue to promote quality learning however I can. I’m all for mad creativity and winging it, but I really do feel that having a solid base of skills can only help you be madly creative and wing it. That’s how we have operated for our whole run, and I don’t intend to stop now. One student recently asked in one of Rebecca’s lessons “How come I learn SO much in my classes here?” and the answer is we know that learning well takes time and we have always tried to give you that time in classes and lessons to absorb the ‘why’ as well as the ‘how’. Which is actually rare in this world that gives results more weight than process.

I will be continuing the Sew L.A. website with our patterns and kits and this here blog, and even though I’ll miss all my peeps and the pretty fabric (oh, the fabric…) I am trying to be ready for the Next Thing.



Unknown said...

So sad to see you guys go. =(

Anonymous said...

Best wishes on your personal and professional journey. There is a price to be paid for wisdom. You have paid it, and no person or situation can ever take that away from you. You are so resilient, and that is why you will do well.

Leah said...

You took on a very big challenge, then you had a wonderful baby, right at the time that your business needed you. So glad you had Lux, no one can tell you how things change when you have a baby, they do and they are different for everyone. It's not easy figuring out how to move on from here, but you will. You may not have a degree - but you have incredible skills. It's not easy to go out and say - I had to close my shop, but what I learned during my 8 years is valuable to someone else. The thing is - it's not the creative businesses you need to be looking at, it's business. I know it's hard and daunting right now, and it's a whole new direction, but all of us are here supporting you. What ever happens, Lux and motherhood are worth all of this.

Anonymous said...

I loved using your space to work on my projects. Thank you for keeping the shop alive for so long, I will miss you.

Anonymous said...

Dear Shaerie - Sew LA is such a special place - both you and it have been such an inspiration. Thank YOU for eight wonderful years, and for sharing your journey along the way. I will miss you very much.

Sparky said...

So sad you'll be closing up shop, but wow, what an honest and heartfelt blog post. I'm glad I could support the shop when I could. I look forward to attending the big bang party in October, and hopefully, maybe, purchasing on the of the classroom sewing tables for my own use?

Anonymous said...

Girl, there is NO SHAME in closing a business. You are one of the wise ones; go out before the impact of a downturned industry, competition, the internet and other influences ruins your health, family and finances. I've closed my fair share of small businesses. They served me well as I ran them, and then looking down the road, no better time to get out than when we do. Yes, your clients will miss you. But Family First! Go... enjoy life. :)

Anonymous said...

Thank you for all your hard work! Your classes changed my life from "a girl who never sewed a stitch" - to - "a girl that makes awesome quilts, bags and clothes!" So many people were touched by your efforts. Taking care of yourself and your family isn't a small task either! Best wishes to you in your future endeavors! - Regina

Anonymous said...

I learned to sew because of you and I'll miss Sew LA so much! Shaerie you are amazing and strong! Congratulations on all you've accomplished. I hope you win the lottery - I felt like I won the sewing lottery when I first walked into your little shop next to Edna Hart back in the day.

Sewing With Wendy said...

I can relate to everything you have said, having closed a sewing retail store with classes a couple of years ago. We are not alone. I have continued classes from my home studio, but the time came this year to add a "real job" now that my eldest is at Uni. Life goes on and we continue to make adjustments and decisions each and every day. Best wishes for your future. Happy sewing :)
Sewing With Wendy

Caroline said...

I'm so sorry that you have to close - I was last at your store for the Amy Butler party (I live in the UK) - you are handling this with the utmost grace. I wish you well in the future!

Kelly said...

Ah Shaerie,
Many times I pressed my nose against your shop window longing to plunge into your community,
so as I read your "good-bye" a big lump in my throat welled up the tears.

I once sewed soft furnishings for film and tv sets as an independent contractor and single mother.
Got married, interests drifted, and I returned to school. I've been working as a psychotherapist for
as long as you've been in business. Now, in private practice with a part time schedule, I am about
ready to get back into sewing - starting at my roots with decorative pillows - after the landscaping,
gardening and summer parties in the garden slow down. I have gone so far as to set up my cutting
table again, and purchased some new fabric to refresh my little stock.

Being adaptable and open to change is a core characteristic of successful humans, and it's great to
see it happen all around us. Closing a business is like closing a book you just enjoyed. On to the next!

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this beautiful post and for your honesty. I'm very sorry that you'll close, I've loved SewLA and it's been such a great part of Atwater. I wish you all the best in your Next Thing.

Anonymous said...

I had a great time in my class (at the former location in Silverlake) and it was great having your shop close to home in Atwater! You will be missed!

Patty Carter Lin said...

Shaerie, I just wanted to thank you for teaching me how to sew. Every time I'm making something, I remember tidbits from your classes, hear your words explaining how to do this or that (with Bowie playing in the background). It's like you're always standing over my shoulder while I sew, and love that! I will always cherish Sew L.A. You're the best!

Anonymous said...

It's been so wonderful to have such an amazing resource within walking distance of my home. I've had a fantastic time in your classes, and learned so much. Thank you for the way you ran your business, and I wish you the greatest good luck in whatever comes next.

Melissa Mendoza said...

I'm so sorry to see the shop close Shaerie! You are such an amazing teacher, I have learned so much from you. I wish you the best of luck on your future endeavors and I will be following you :)

sewingthestash25 said...

Everything you said in your post- I know as I've been right where you are. I'm still hanging on by a thread (sorry for the pun, couldn't resist) Your studio is beautiful. I've raised my girls in the sewing classroom environment, but I've been fortunate to have family to help with childcare. I wish you the best.

The Sewin'Asylum
Sun City, AZ

Johannah said...

I'm so sad to see the shop close. It has been my main source of fabric, notion, and pattern buying since I started sewing again when I moved to Atwater. You and all of the ladies have made an impact on the sewing community and I'm thankful that Sew L.A. rekindled my love of sewing. I hope that your future endeavors will be successful. I will be looking for info on all the classes/events coming up to make sure I can participate somehow! Atwater won't be the same without Sew L.A.

freakyfrites said...

We met once or twice at the pocket park (my daughter is Naomi) and I hope I mentioned then how every time my mother came to visit we always shopped at your store. She made me a maternity dress (while pregnant with my second daughter) from your Goodnight Moon star print fabric and a dress pattern you carried. Your store was wonderful and you obviously have great vision, talent and passion that will see you through to the next great thing. We're no longer in LA but even so, we will miss Sew LA! Good luck! - Honor (Naomi and Bea's mom)

Rainpatter said...

Small business is brutal. But I selfishly am glad you did it because you taught me how to sew! I took about ten of your classes many years ago, and it gave me the foundation I needed to learn the rest (yes, sometimes from the internet). And now I can just sew things. I can grab a pattern off the shelf and sew it, and it looks like I bought it from the store. And it fits! And it all started with a tote bag. But now I have an entire room dedicated to sewing. So thank you, know that you made a difference and did indeed share your love of sewing.

QuiltTaffy said...

When it's time to move on, it's time. Good luck in the future & with the Next Thing.

janeray1940 said...

I'm a bit of a latecomer to the shop - have been taking private lessons with Rebecca and enjoying every second of it! My closet is now full of skirts made with your two wonderful beginner patterns, and I'm looking forward to the challenge of a dress next. I feel so fortunate to have found you at all, and wish you the best in your next venture.

Jeltje @ 100 rozen said...

Thank you for sharing. Being honest to yourself and staying open to learn, will help you to the next step in live. Good luck my dear lady.

Unknown said...

One of the saddest things I had to give up when moving away from LA was the sewing classes at Sew LA. Thanks for being a wonderful teacher, I learned skills in your classes that I could never learn online, and I just wish people knew what they were missing! Thanks, best wishes and hopefully much joy in your future.