the business of craft

Speaking of turning your craft into your day-job, there's a story in today's Globe and Mail about the two young women who quit their jobs in finance when they were just 23 years old (!) to start up ... an apron company!

The pair, each of whom were living with their parents, kept their respective day jobs, but spent their off time researching the basics of starting a small business: how to secure funding, how to register a company, understanding different business structures and, all the while, developing their product idea. They came up with six original designs, all of which were based on fun and interesting colour combinations as well as a design, hand drawn by Wong, that would be turned into silk screens. To give their prototype aprons a professional appearance, they passed their designs on to a local manufacturer to create small batches of each of the six designs.

Four years later, Domistyle now sells their aprons in 140 stores in Canada, the U.S. and the U.K. They make aprons in a range of styles, from aprons with fun patterns, to saucy mini-skirt aprons, to aprons with a sash that look a little like a prom dress (this style is now sold out, but proceeds from this one went to the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation).

Here are some interesting figures that ran alongside the article:

Start up costs
Initial apron samples: $300
Web site: $2,000
Business cards and stationery: $500
Shopping bags and boxes: $500
Inventory: $10,000
Embroidery machine: $4,000
Laptop: $2,000
TOTAL $19,300

Monthly costs
Inventory: $7,500
Utilities: $500
Trade shows: $2,000
TOTAL $10,000

Number of $39 Funky Dot aprons they need to sell a day to break even: 12

Read the whole story on

There seem to be (at least) two different ways these kind of business stories go - either you launch big or you grow organically. These girls, for instance (at least according to this article; the real life story is always more complex) seem to have gone straight from concept to seeking out local manufacturers, getting a line of credit from the bank, and so on. The article says that they began by attending "a few local craft shows, the first of which was Toronto's National Women's Show" - though I wouldn't call that a "local craft show" seeing as it's held at the Convention Centre and a 10' x 10' booth costs a whopping $1595. The other way - the "growing organically" way - would be what most of us in the crafting bloggosphere seem to be doing: open a store on, have tables at (real!) local craft fairs... and eventually the business grows - or it doesn't. I'm not saying one approach is better than the other, and I honestly don't know what way works better.

When should you quit your day-job to concentrate on your craft business? Are you more likely to be successful if you launch right in as a "serious business" or to first earn some cred as an individual craftsperson, and grow your business that way? Would you prefer to make your products by hand or get them manufactured by others - either by hand or by machine? (I think I'd have a hard time transitioning on that front - giving up the hand-made aspect, plus the control of doing it all myself...)

What do you think? I'd love to hear some of your thoughts about starting up a craft business.

Lindsay  – (August 20, 2007)  

the apron pictured looks VERY like the one alice & ben got me one time... wonder if it's from the same place??

Siobhan  – (August 20, 2007)  

Hey Linds - I was thinking that too... :)

Lana  – (August 20, 2007)  

I wish I could be as brave as these girls - I just launched my shop and am teetering on the brink of quitting my job. I wish I knew what the right answer was!

Alice  – (August 20, 2007)  

It sure is the same company -- and that is the same apron (minus the cute saying on Linds')! The company is Toronto based and the apron was bought at the One of a Kind Show last year! :)

Janet –   – (August 21, 2007)  

I love to hear success stories like that. I think that part of the success is not letting small setbacks stop you from going forward.

Marnie  – (August 27, 2007)  

I agree, success stories are neat - and their approach is the one that business people always advise you to take - to the letter, really. Personally, i like the whole local, artisan-made, vibe myself. There's a level of connectedness that's lost once you start wholesaling, i guess. Frankly i can't afford the financial risk that that path requires. i'm starting small (as in really, really, tiny) and i love it because you get to talk to your customers and feel like you're part of the community more. But it all depends on what your goals are. It seems these gals had very definite goals, so kudos to them!

p.s. i've bought one of their aprons for a gift too!

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