Saturday, 6 December 2008

WAHMtique is here!

Well it took a bit longer due to an unexpected trip, but WAHMtique is here!

It is a boutique collaboration of store owners from WAHMania. We're working with different people to create sets, so there are a variety of things like toys with paintings or clothes with nappies. We have a different theme each month, and this month was Christmas.

There are still a couple of sets coming as well, Rudolph and some more clothes.

Wednesday, 26 November 2008

Aaargh, it's almost December!

December 1st is when we are opening the collaborative store, so I need to get a move on!
These are the fairy wings and skirt to go with the painting, the wings are double sided and it's a frilly skirt with a drawstring. I need to get some modelled photos, but convincing Widget that it's not hers and she has her own fairy outfit is the fun bit!
OK, appliqueing the minkee nappy shouldn't take too long??!!

Sunday, 23 November 2008

Real life store.

Well it took a while, but out of the blue I got a message from the IRL store saying that they'd sold my nappies and did I want to send some more :) They requested more gender neutral ones, which I found a bit hard because that's what I thought I'd given them.

But I think part of it is having things suitable for little babies, because a lot of their customers are still pregnant so they want something sweet. So here are the two tone nappies, mostly neutral but with a bit of something different. I'm really happy with the way they turned out. I think the apricot ones in particular are a bit girly, the yellow ones would have been good but someone already bought them. So we'll see how these go.

Sunday, 9 November 2008

What is success?

I've been open a bit over a year now, and I've been reflecting on what my goals were and whether I've achieved them. Trying to decide what is success?

  • Financial - I haven't broken even, there were a lot more expenses than I thought, as things changed and I discovered how addictive fabric is. It hasn't been a complete disaster, although I have to admit I haven't finished the books so I'm not really sure. It keeps being put back behind other jobs such as sewing and being a Mother. I do know where everything is but I haven't finished entering it all. I didn't expect to make a profit, I know most small businesses take several years to consistently be in the black, but it's important to me that it not become a black hole. So this one is iffy. I actually thought I was a lot further down, but things have been going well since the GDUNH and some other marketing has been paying off.
  • Advocacy - Definitely achieved. I have been doing markets, so have talked to lots of people about MCN. Being a small town it's got back to me, so I know people have noticed or discussed them. Plus I have answered a heap of questions and discussions online, and did the RNW afternoon tea.
  • Sewing skills - Huge improvement. I'm doing some fun sewing, when I get time, and my knowledge and skills are much better. This is coming out in the side snap pattern I'm doing at the moment - it will be a much more technical pattern. With the snappi pattern the challenge was to do it in such a way that it wouldn't wick onto the tabs and decorative outer, with the new pattern I'm looking at fitting and what makes a garment work in much more depth.
  • Business skills - Hmmm, some yes, some no. As mentioned I have all the receipts, but my bookwork isn't up to scratch. I have learnt a huge amount about the internet - how it works, SEO, what's out there. I have learnt some marketing tricks and how to define and look for my market. I am still hopeless at organisation and time management.
  • Enjoyment - Again a yes and no. I'm enjoying sewing, although it is frustrating when I'd like to be making myself a skirt and have 6 nappies to finish. I'm enjoying getting nappies out there, especially if they're repeat customers. I'm enjoying experimenting and trying new designs. I'm a bit hard to please - if I have lots of orders, I get stressed. If I have no orders, I get stressed. If I have lots of nappies sewn, I get stressed because I haven't sold them. If I sell them, I get stressed because then I don't have much stock.

Sometimes I love it, sometimes I really regret it because life would be much easier if I didn't have any pressure on me, and I hate the thought of having spent all that money and not getting it back. On the other hand, if I didn't have it I would probably just read in my free time and get bored. And I wouldn't have thought of my future plans without this experience. To be honest most of what's keeping me going is bloody mindedness, then I get an order and I'm enjoying it again.

Monday, 3 November 2008

More sets!

I love getting the chance to do sets and do something a bit different.

The tiger one has a fringe left along the sides to look like a fluffy tiger face. The Dad actually likes his T-shirt - all the other adult ones I've done have ended up as Mummy nighties.

This is definitely for the girls. At the top of the shirt is a woman and her coolamon, collecting the bush tucker. The nappy has something similar on the back, but a different plant. The shirt would look great with a nice brown belt.

Is it weird to want to co-ordinate with your baby's bum?

Sunday, 26 October 2008

Collaboration - How Exciting!

It's really exciting, I'm involved with a group of WAHMs who are starting a collaboration. And it's not just nappy WAHMs, we're mixing it up a bit to get new ideas.

The first one will be in December for Christmas. I'm making a minkee/bamboo velour fitted nappy to go with some clothes. I'm deciding which red minkee to use, the plain or the beautiful variegated one. It will depend which goes better with the clothes, but I'm also experimenting to see if I can applique on it, or possibly do something with other colours or fabrics.

And I'm possibly embellishing a shirt and/or bib to go with someone else's nappy, I can't wait to get photos of what they're doing so I can get creative on the shirt.

The one I'm working on now is to make a gift set for a little girl, with a fairy picture and I'm making fairy wings and a skirt. The wings will be like these, blue and purple, and the skirt will be blue with ribbons and embellishments in the purple. I've just found some cool instructions for making really nice flowers and suffolk puffs, it will be a really girly fantasy skirt.

Sunday, 19 October 2008

Re-usable Nappy Week

Along with my very supportive husband, I just ran an afternoon tea for Re-usable Nappy Week. I put up a couple of posters and DH told the pregnant women he works with, plus I put it out on a forum and playgroup and half a dozen women and one dutiful father-to-be turned up. That's pretty good for such a little town!

Widget ran around with another toddler and DH looked after them, and Midget was a great little model and let people practice putting snappis on her.

This is just about every nappy I own spread around on the floor, including the really sad one I made for the recycling challenge. That one had to go as it's the only AIO I have, plus I mentioned frugal nappying and making your own.

There were a couple of nappies I had just washed that morning, and of course the bamboo hadn't dried. But that's really just an opportunity to demonstrate how a stay-dry liner works, because it feels dry while the rest of the booster is damp.

They all had a good play with the different nappies, and I made up "Show Bags" as well. Lots of information, including web addresses, a pattern, the ANN brochure, a snappi and some cool magic cloths. So they can have a look at it at their leisure afterwards.

The minkee cover was a big hit, as was the pink chinese brocade and tiger.

I feel like I should run a little competition - how about some magic cloths for anyone who can identify the nappies in the photo :)

Saturday, 20 September 2008

My time is worth more than bamboo (even velour)

So the thing you have to understand is that I'm mean. Not nasty, and I contribute to various charities, but scrape the last smidgen out of the Homebrand margarine type of mean.

It's one reason I make OSFM nappies - I can't handle the thought of them growing out of them, and my poor little baby is in her sister's hand me downs. (Although the fact that they're going strong after 2 years is good.) She is getting some new ones now, and not only because she's a guinea pig for side snaps.

So making the most use of my fabric is important to me and I keep just about all the scraps, even the tiny ones. That's been good, because several times I've thought of something to use them for later. Unfortunately it can be a false economy too. When I make inserts I've been cutting them all to the same size and trying to overlock around them. It doesn't work, not only are there different thicknesses at different places, some of the fabrics are stretch and some are woven. I always end up with bits that overlapped wrong or bits that didn't get caught, then spend way too much time trying to fix them because I don't want to waste them. I know there is a simple solution, I just haven't brought myself to do it before.

So this time I cut the microfibre layer slightly smaller. Rather than trying to line everything up I just put that one in the middle so there was hemp and bamboo sticking out all around it. Then all I had to do was overlock around the microfibre and all the rest is trimmed. Voila! Everything is caught properly, no fiddly trying to line it all up, no having to redo bits, only one set of threads to weave back in.

Of course next time I'll cut the microfibre bigger (because it's cheaper :)) but this time it was already cut so I couldn't. But saving so much time and hassle was definitely worth a bit of double sided bamboo terry.

Wednesday, 10 September 2008


I did an interesting training session today on Search Engine Optimisation (SEO). I'd heard about it a lot, but didn't realise how exactly search engines work. Afterwards I did a search for pocket nappy, because that's what I sell. Well 12 pages later and I still hadn't come up.

I've been checking, but for the wrong things. I've been looking for things like my brand and snappi, rather than the standard searches new customers who might be interested in my nappies but who didn't know me would use. While I have Pocket Nappies on my site, the button is an image, so not searched, and it's not used in my title descriptions. Ironically I've recently been making it worse, because I stopped doing detailed descriptions of each item. I thought that seeing there is a picture right there people didn't need me to tell them that it was green, or purple, or had flowers on it. And they don't. But Mr Google does.

Luckily the store manager has a quick way to change titles so all of my products have just been renamed to reflect what they are, not just the different fabric outers. It will be interesting to see how quickly, or if, it works.

Saturday, 30 August 2008

WAHMs, professionals and dressmakers

A bit of a philosophical ramble inspired by two things I read this week. I've been writing it for a few days, finally got to finish it!

The first was an article saying that women shouldn't call themselves WAHMs if they want to be taken seriously, unless it is an important part of what they do. To explain a bit better if you are a writer, or a computer tech, or a florist, who happens to work at home and have kids, then you shoud call yourself a writer, a computer tech or a florist. I agree completely.

I have still made the decision to label myself a WAHM because it is a selling point in what I do. Who wants to buy nappies designed by someone who isn't a mother? But normally from the customer's point of view there are some disadvantages:

  • Your order taking longer because someone got chicken pox.
  • Possible sticky fingers.
  • Being down the priority list.
  • Being lost because work is being done in 10 minutes here and there.

These are problems every WAHM has to decide on, and each one will put the balance between work and family where it suits them, which is not necessarily the place the customer wants it. Personally I try to avoid most of these problems by offering mostly in stock items, not customs. I've been burnt as a customer myself having to wait weeks for orders, so that one is important to me. I do have a sticky finger problem, because Widget adores anything to do with sewing or photography and will make off with anything not nailed down. So the occasional nappy which is accidentally left within reach has to be checked very carefully. And I do occasionally forget an email, but I have a system for them and hopefully I'm catching them.

The second comment was said by a customer to a dressmaker. After ordering a custom fitted and designed dress for her daughter she complained about the price, saying "You're not a professional, you're just a dressmaker."

As someone who would one day love to own ANYTHING custom made I was shocked. How can something that is unique, something that fits perfectly and was designed to enhance one person's features possibly be not as good as something mass produced?

Obviously quality comes into it. This is the bit I worry about myself, because I'm NOT a sewer from way back. When I'm sewing 4 layers of knit fabrics together the hemp terry has a tendency to stretch, and I just can't convince myself that the snappi tab being uneven at the end is that important. I'd like it to be straight, and I have recently thought of a possible solution to that particular problem, but it's not going to stop me selling the nappy. If others disagree that could be a problem for me.

So what makes a professional? I've been musing on it, this list isn't exhaustive but applies more to me.

  • Time. There are two aspects to this

- Time to do a job uninterrupted, whether that be sewing or answering emails or uploading new stock. Because interruptions DO affect quality.

- Time to do enough that you are a serious seller. There is nothing more annoying than a shop with only 2 products and a heap of sold out signs (actually there are lots of things more annoying, but you get the idea). They may be beautiful, but it's a hobby rather than a business.

  • Quality.

For me nappies are a practical item. They have a job to do, so they have to be of a quality to stand up to it. So seams that are dodgy, fabrics that wear quickly, or snaps that won't do up properly are out. It may sound obvious, but surprisingly I have bought a few of these and it's not the sort of thing you can tell until you use them. I really should let the seller know, I'd like to know if there is that sort of problem, but somehow I've never got to it.

The next step up is having all the snaps lined up and tabs exactly even. Something I definitely aim for but worry I don't get, but it wouldn't put me personally off a nappy if it still works. It also depends on the nappy and my "problem." If I just need a fitted nappy and it doesn't have to be pretty or have a particular closure then I'll be picky. If I need something unique I'll be more forgiving. I'm also forgiving of things I have difficulty with.

Then there are other things that I think are more likes and dislikes rather than quality and have to be looked at with an open mind. For example I really like topstitching, I think it finishes the nappy beautifully. However it's not possible with my design or it would put holes in the pocket! Same with overlocked nappies - some people love the frilly look, to me it just looks unfinished.

  • Service.

This one is linked to time, because it's the time to answer emails and queries, have products ready, pack them nicely, answer queries, and do follow-up.

So am I professional?

My answer would have to be no. I aspire to it and I would like to be, but there are lots of things going against me. To get more time I would have to put my kids in care, and that's not going to happen. To get better quality I would need more time and practice. And I would have to expand the business so it's worth it to put in that time, effort and resources. And to expand I would have to look at advertising, working with other people and getting that side-snap design up and running!

On the other hand, I've always been realistic that I won't be doing this long term. It's something I enjoy and am passionate about while my kids are young, but it's also a place to learn and make my mistakes and plans before I move into the business I really want to be in.

Tuesday, 19 August 2008

You are not your market

That's what I was told at an e-marketing seminar, and it's so true.

I'm coming to the conclusion that my children and my taste are both radically different to the rest of Australia!

So, some changes - most of the markets I do are mainly kids and people wandering around on a weekend, they don't carry a lot of cash. So I'm making up little things to add to the stall that cost less than $5, selling a few of those will probably be easier than nappies and also quicker to make!

The real life shop is a different market again. Some of the feedback from them was that people wanted more neutral nappies, which confused me because I'd given them mostly gender neutral prints. But after thinking about it I realised a lot of their customers aren't parents, they're pregnant. My nappies are one-size, so I tend to look at outers that suit older babies or toddlers, because they will only be little babies for a few months. But the people shopping there are preparing for their tiny little newborn, so they want sweet prints. I think I've got a solution, I have some solid knits in mint, mauve, apricot and lemon, the traditional 'we don't know what we're having' colours, and I'm going to make the bulk of the nappy from those but with the top and cover flap in a co-ordinating print. That should make them more appealing to parents-to-be, but still work once the babies grow out of the teddybear and rattle stage. I was planning on doing some nappies with the different fabrics anyway, it's just been moved up the priority list.

I was working on a cover next, seeing as I've introduced the fitteds and am using them myself. Much easier for people to have everything in one place and know that they will work together. However I think I'm going to have to bite the bullet and admit that snappi nappies are just not popular and dust off the side snap design I was working on ages ago. Obviously other people don't have the same fitting issues we have, or have different things they look for in a nappy. I'm getting a bit sick of the "snappis are too complicated" idea. Personally I can do up a snappi in about 2 seconds flat on a wriggly bub, but getting velcro on properly or finding all the snaps takes me ages. But I don't say they're too complicated, I just accept that I'm not used to them and it will take longer. But, to quote the title, I am not my market and the customer is always right. My private opinion can remain unchanged, but as a business I'm going to have to listen, not tell people they're wrong.

Monday, 11 August 2008

To-do list

I can't believe it has taken me this long to get one of these going! So simple, but so powerful.
I started one a few days ago and have got so much done. Rather than thinking I don't have time to do anything or aimlessly surfing while feeding I have managed to get lots of the little ten minute jobs done. It's in the book with my sewing/marketing ideas and whenever I think of another thing I just add it on the end. Being able to tick things off feels really good, it makes me realise I am doing things even if I can't see them. And writing things down as I think of them means they actually get remembered and done.

I'd love to have a timetable and dedicated business time, but I can't see that happening soon, everyone else in my life is too unpredictable. So instead I'm keeping track of when I do things, even if it's 10 minutes to answer an email, and recording it. Just another way I can see that I am getting time, rather than resenting that "I never have time for my things!"

Friday, 1 August 2008

Being self-employed is backwards.

Bear with me while I try to explain what I mean. When I had a job there were deadlines and schedules, things were done as a result of something else. So for example I had a deadline to write reports, they were the result of the work done during the term. Or I'd have a deadline to get a unit finished, or if I was going for a job there would be a deadline on the application. And once the deadline had gone and the work was done it was over, sit back and relax.

WAHMing means I set my own deadline and put my own pressure, then sit back and hope. I've just spent a really intense week because I wanted to get my new fitted nappies up in my store, plus I wanted to re-open on WAHMania. So I've been working past midnight and I'm exhausted. But I don't have anything to show for it, and it isn't the end, it's the beginning. Now I have to see if any orders come out of it. Plus I can't sit back, I have to get on the advertising roundabout and tell everyone they're there. So blogging, forums, newsletters and I want to start writing articles as well.

So here's today's bit of advertising :)

The back of a painted bamboo velour fitted.
The front of one with a quilting cotton outer, showing the bamboo velour in the wet zone.
The fit of a natural velour on my toddler. She's having a ball being a model for me!
Another painted one just 'cos I like it.

Sunday, 27 July 2008

How cute is this.

Some of our friends are having their first baby. They are the sort who restore their own cars, build hot rods and Granddad is a mechanic, so we made them a family set as a present. They're originally DH's friends and the ideas are mostly his, the execution mine (although he wouldn't buy me an embroidery machine so we got that done).

Did I mention they're having a girl?

Size 00 mechanic's overalls

DH is a bit sick - yes, that is an Amorall badge on the bum.

The whole set. The front of the adult shirts say Mum and Dad, the backs have the 2 appliqued hotrods. I can just see Dad in a pink shirt!

Friday, 18 July 2008

My babies have gone ...

Well, they're gone. This is the first time my nappies have been out there for people to see without me there to explain or answer questions. I am relying on people working in a shop who have no idea about MCN to explain and sell them to future parents who also have no idea about MCN. After we left them there I was so nervous I was actually shaking. In line with my new positive spin I keep reassuring myself that they are running a business and they wouldn't have taken them if they didn't think they would sell. It definitely makes me feel like an amateur!

I spent the weekend creating packaging and I'm pretty impressed with how it worked. I didn't want to put them in plastic, that sort of defeats the purpose. This way they have all the information they need like care and materials, plus they have a little blurb like "real" (mass produced?) products, but people can still have a good look and play with them.

Front and back of the packaging.

The band is slotted to fit around the nappy.

I tried to give them a selection of different prints, mostly unisex. And hopefully the name is distinctive enough that people will look it up if they want something different.

My husband went back later (to pick up the plastic tub we forgot after browsing in the store) and they already had them up, so he got a photo of them on display for me. Now it's just time to hope ...

Sunday, 13 July 2008

So much happening

I just re-read some of these and I really am out of date, so I'm making a resolution to try to blog more often again. This is thanks to my wonderful, incredibly supportive husband. I was getting very negative because I'm basically having to start all over again after pulling back when I was pregnant. He pulled me up and has been taking the girls while I sew or do markets and has been giving me ideas. He keeps telling me to use some of the hypbirthing things I did when I was pregnant, that was all about being positive. At first I didn't want to because it's actually hard work to turn around and find positives, it's much easier to just sink down. But in the end it's exhausting to be depressed, so here are the positives happening at the moment.

There's great feedback from my testers on the fitted nappies, they are ready to go and now I just have to sew some :)

I finally found a use for this bamboo! The widget "helped" me paint it ages ago but it wasn't right for what I wanted, now it works really well as the outer of some of the fitted nappies. This isn't actually one of the new fitteds, this is a special large one I made.

That reminds me, I've had some custom work designing a nappy for an adult, it was actually a lot of fun.
I've been doing markets while we are in the city, I've only sold enough to cover costs but have given out a heap of cards and done lots of advocacy. It's funny that the people who are most impressed are the Grandmothers - obviously all those years of using old-style nappies they can see the advantages! DH insisted I use one of these photos, even though I hate photos of myself.

I've got onto WAHMania about re-opening my store on there, I really need the exposure of being on a mall.

And possibly the biggest and most exciting news - I have a real life store that's taking my pockets on consignment! The manager was very enthusiastic and they are going to take some and see how they go, if they go well the store will start to order them from me. It will pay a lot less than selling them myself, but having large orders is way better than one or two at a time. And not having to do the actual selling makes it easier as well.

Hopefully I'll be writing again soon.

Tuesday, 27 May 2008

Very slack

OK I've been very slack, but I think I have a pretty good excuse. Our new little princess has arrived and I have been learning how to be a mum of two, one of whom doesn't nap. DD adores her new sister but is your typical enthusiastic toddler, if DD2 makes it to one she will be a tough little cookie.

It has given me a chance to try out the fitted nappies I have been playing around with and I've got them to tester stage, when they've been sent off I'm going to fiddle with covers. I made some beautiful covers for DD2 which are already too small! My gorgeous blue and green minkee! And I even made the small size rather than newborn, she's grown way too fast. I'm really enjoying the challenge of sewing different things again, it's just trying to find time to actually sew. I don't know how other people manage to keep established businesses going through these times, I'm lucky I only have one or two orders to deal with at a time.

I'm also playing around with the shop design. When I originally put it together I went "cute" because it was for babies, but there aren't many of them shopping. I'm putting together a more professional looking format, mainly the buttons and text because I don't have the skill to do much with the code.

Must go, my mistress is calling.

Sunday, 24 February 2008

Pottering Along

I've had fun re-doing bits of the site, I went to a fantastic FREE workshop by the Business Enterprise Centre on e-marketing and got re-inspired to fix things up a bit. I think it's going to be a permanent work in progress, as I get an idea or some new photos to put on.

I had some annoying feedback on a forum that upset me a bit, mainly because I had no right of reply. It must be working with teenagers - I still want things to be fair! There was absolutely nothing nasty or malicious, just uninformed from my point of view, and I couldn't get on and inform them because it wouldn't let me join :) There was definitely some good from it, one of the comments made me realise that I had said something but not demonstrated it, so I went through all my photos and have put some on the site to show it better. The other comment that upset me was just plain silly, so I won't hold something said in idle conversation against someone.

I've never thought my nappies would suit everyone and haven't marketed them that way, it's just annoying if people dismiss them altogether - surely I wouldn't have gone to all the trouble of creating something unique if what was already out there was working for me! Believe me it would be much easier to just go and buy some of the popular brands, or use some of the patterns already out there.

But while that and the lack of sales had me a bit flat, I'm back to having fun. I know that no-one is buying at the moment because we're all saving for the GDUNH, and I've been having fun making special nappies and singlets. I've just appliqued the cutest little dalmation, photo added when the computer stops playing up, as well as Tiger Eyes and some little singlets.

I'm getting excited about bub as well, not long to go and I've started my hypbirthing programme. I've sewn a couple of covers but I can't bear to use up any more nice fabric until bub is here and I can see what fits! I'm also making myself liners and recycled pads for PP bleeding, but I really do need to get organised and find everything for bub. I can see this will be another time when I will go away and DH will get everything ready for me while he's here on his own.

Sunday, 3 February 2008

Playing with Fitteds

Well I've got a lot achieved this week, getting a heap of nappies cut and some sewn, plus working on the website. It's been fun using some of the new fabrics and re-organising things a bit.

I've also been playing around with fitted nappies. I thought that seeing I have a new bub on the way it would be a good opportunity to work them out and make some small ones as well. It's been a bit mixed. DH just laughs when I show them to him, they're so tiny. He keeps insisting that they must be for the doll, not even a newborn could be that small. I have to admit they are smaller than I wanted, but just to prove that they are still too big for the doll:

Part of the problem is that I was trying a different way of doing the leg elastic, but I think I'll go back to my normal way. And for some reason when I put the elastic in it makes the inner soaker bunch up in a way that must be really uncomfortable, which may be because I didn't allow enough at the sides. So the doll may have some more lovely soft bamboo velour nappies before I get any to use with bub! Either that or I stick with my gorgeous bamboo terry flats, although then I'll need some good covers ...

Friday, 25 January 2008

I'm Baaaack

Finally back at home, at least the one with all the store stuff. It's very exciting because the GDUNH is coming up again, so I am trying to get ready for that, plus my stock has been pretty much wiped out. I've been to the fabric shops while I was away (so much for breaking even!) and got lots of new ideas.

I've just done a marathon painting session that DH and DD helped with. At least DH supervised DD while she was painting, which can get a bit frustrating at times. It's rather hard to explain to a 2 year old which tabs should be which colours!

I've done a few T-shirts, I'm going to use one of them as my GDUNH prize and just have to decide which one.

Gumleaves is painted with negative images of real leaves. It's very subtle, but I love the way the colours came out.
Spirals is a small size and hopefully unisex - I'd put a little boy in purple! it's been picked out with gold thread too.
I think this is DH's favourite.
This is my favourite, the colours came out much brighter than I was expecting and the salt effects worked really well.
I painted some fabric for outers as well, so I have planned a huge number of nappies and started cutting out. I'll have to get a few sewn before re-opening, but I'm getting really excited.