Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?
Hello! My name is Lisa Miller-Mecham. I’m a creative mom of 4 who runs a craft/sewing website called CreativeFashionBlog.com. I started out as an accessory designer, turned award-winning fashion designer, turned DIY blogger… and now a profitable sewing pattern maker.
Creative Fashion Blog maintains several streams of passive income where I can set my own hours, be present for my family, and share my creativity, projects, and tutorials.
My best month so far in 2020 has generated slightly over $15,000 while working part-time. I’m actually launching a course next month to show other creative women how to do the same!
What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?
Truth be told, I wasn’t always creative. In fact, I had never sewn anything until I was pregnant with my oldest. If we’re being completely transparent, I only learned to sew because I was so flat broke there was no way I could afford bedding for my baby’s hand-me-down crib. My mom came over and showed me how to make a basic baby blanket for his little bedroom and when she left, I had the most incredible feeling of pride. For the first time in a long time, I felt like I had complete control over my surroundings, my home, and my future with my new baby ahead.
I would have started building my email list before I felt “ready” and cared less about vanity metrics and social media followers.
With my newfound curiosity about sewing, I decided to make myself a diaper bag. Since I couldn’t afford to go to a fabric store, I actually went dumpster diving in nearby print shops looking for billboard canvas scraps. Twice I was mistaken for a homeless person and chased out!
Once I had retrieved enough billboard vinyl, I sat my big, pregnant-self back down at my sewing machine and somehow made an incredibly cool looking diaper bag. That diaper bag was a huge deal to me. I received a few compliments on it and decided that even though I was an inexperienced sewist (at best) and had absolutely no idea how to run a business, I would develop my skills to create a work-from-home income and quit my call-center job. This would be my ticket to create a life where I could stay home after my baby was born.
When I decided to create a small business, I still couldn’t afford materials whatsoever so scavenged junkyards for old seat belts, convinced bike repair shops to save their popped inner tubes for me and filled my garage with “fabrics” I could use. I worked harder than I’ve ever worked before and a few years later, had a full line of handmade accessories that were carried in stores across America and sold worldwide.
My little sewing business went on to ship over 1,000 packages from Etsy alone, get picked up by over 20 boutiques across the US and Australia, and participated in hundreds of markets, festivals, and craft fairs.
My products were featured in Time Out New York Magazine, the Huffington Post, The Examiner, and nearly every local publication in town.
Sewing each piece myself was exhausting (and very messy) but I loved how much I learned. Creating things, learning to work with my hands, and constantly expressing my creativity shaped my little family’s lives in ways I could never imagine.
Making things I love proved to be the fastest way that I could literally transform my entire life experience. From the clothes I wore, the decor I enjoyed, and the accessories I carried.
Since then, a lot has changed. I got married and was blessed with 2 adorable step-daughters and another baby that completed our family in the most perfect way.
I went back to college for fashion design, launched a small clothing label, and was awarded Fashion Designer Of The Year for my state the following year.
Running a fashion label is incredibly hard work and difficult to be profitable, so while my kids are still small, I decided to bench my clothing line and blog full-time. Now, I get to create DIY projects that everyone can do! I love sharing my sewing patterns and ideas, helping others start their creative journeys, and hopefully inspire a few more women to live more inspired lives.
Now, my website generates daily income through affiliate marketing, ads, sponsorships with brands, and through my own printable sewing pattern sales.
Take us through the process of designing, prototyping, and manufacturing your first product.
Before I started changing for sewing patterns, I made several simple, free templates and patterns that I used as email opt-ins on my website. It gave me incredible insight to see what converted well, which resulted in the most page views, etc. It also built up my confidence to see that people really liked my projects and I could actually charge for them!
Creating my digital products (sewing patterns) generates about half of my overall revenue. Most of my readers are very similar to myself and love creative projects without high up-front investment in materials. As a result, I create lots of recycled tutorials and low-cost, printable templates/sewing patterns.
To come up with new ideas and products, I like to do a mix of SEO keyword research to see what projects will grow my exposure, follow trends, and go with my own gut. Often, the products that do the best are ones I’m organically working on at home and I just document and share them.
After packaging and shipping soooo many handmade products over the last decade, I avoid creating physical products for Creative Fashion Blog at all costs. Each sewing pattern that I create comes in a digital file that is automatically delivered to a customer’s email address where they can print, assemble, and make it.
As an example, here’s a collaboration I did this month with Singer that included a printable sewing pattern:
I create new digital products at least once a month and make sure to take into account what physical products sold best when I owned a fashion label, how easy the tutorial will be for my customers, and how quickly I can make and release it. After all, time is money and I have 4 kids at home!
Describe the process of launching the business.
When I started Creative Fashion Blog, it cost just a few hundred dollars to “launch” but took months before I started reaching any audience at all. It was years before I made real money with it. It really wasn’t until I began implementing consistent social media strategies and branded myself well that I started to stand out. Having a brand board to reference and narrowing my reader down to a single person (rather than trying to appeal to everybody) really helped.
I also started batching my content so I was creating lots of tutorials at a time. It allowed my website to constantly be updating even while I wasn’t working and helped me see what my readers really liked and what they didn’t. Using the blog to build relationships with my readers made creating products so much easier!
A few things I tried that absolutely DIDN’T work were commenting on other people’s blog posts to build backlinks, scheduling social media posts in advance (most platforms penalize scheduling tools so your content doesn’t show up for your followers in the first place) and wasting time switching hosting platforms, tweaking my website, and making more graphics.
Really to start out, I recommend going deep into one social media platform (mine is Pinterest) and avoid stressing about the rest too much. Start building your email list before you feel ready with free opt-ins and send helpful newsletters instead of constantly asking for money and sales. I also recommend doing keyword research and building blog posts around those topics... especially when you sell any kind of digital or physical product.
You can legitimately make money doing anything. Seriously. Anything. Make sure it’s something you love doing without the paycheck.
Having a blog gives you a chance to rank in google over and over again with new keywords and phrases, gives your customers a reason to share and stumble on your website, and builds authenticity.
Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?
Right now, my top 3 traffic sources are Pinterest, Google, and my email list. I spend lots of time tweaking my strategy on Pinterest, optimizing new content to perform it’s best on Google and send out newsletters each week to over 15,500 creative women. The open rate to my email list is over 20% each week and I consistently reach several million women each month on Pinterest. Google also creates about 20% of my page views.
All of my traffic comes organically without paying for ads of any kind. It keeps my overhead low and feels simple. The costs to run my business have always stayed below $1,000 a month - even with a part-time virtual assistant who helps manage social media.
Here’s what it costs to run my business each month:
- $179.00 Convertkit
- $26.81 Quickbooks
- $12.92 Dropbox
- $25.90 Canva
- $47.19 Shopify
- $40.85 SEO Keyword Research Tools
- $550 Virtual Assistant
Total Monthly Expenses: $883.37
When it comes to competition, I really don’t worry about that at all. I live by the belief that there is more than enough room for everyone. As long as you are not directly ripping off somebody else’s idea or criticizing another company, go for it! There’s plenty of room for us all to be successful. Just be yourself and don’t build a brand by imitating a “competitor”. Your audience will feel your lack of authenticity and your company won’t last. Besides, it’s boring and you’ll get burnt out.
How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
Today I’m very happy with the growth and income Creative Fashion Blog brings in and I’m excited to see how it grows. I have some incredible long-term brand deals that are just beginning and plan to release more and more patterns.
Another HUGE project I’m working on is finishing up a course to show other creative women how to build their own businesses like mine. I’ll walk them through the process of setting up their Shopify store the right way and the exact steps and systems I use to create consistent traffic through Google and Pinterest, create professional video and graphics for free and end with a profitable business. My course launches next month but you can learn more here.
Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
I would have started building my email list before I felt “ready” and cared less about vanity metrics and social media followers. Instead, I would have opted for more authentic readers who replied to my newsletter, shared my projects, and even made their own.
I also would have cared less about appearing professional and having beautifully done photos and graphics. When I think about how few projects I actually posted in the beginning because they weren’t “pretty enough” it makes me cringe. They still could have inspired and helped people.
Last, I would have taken my business finances more seriously from the start. It can feel intimidating as a creative person to calculate profits, expenses, and all the boring business stuff, but it’s crazy important.
What platform/tools do you use for your business?
For my website as a whole, I recommend having a self-hosted site on Wordpress.org. Wordpress.com is easier to set up, but much more limiting and doesn’t give you the monetization options you may want down the road.
For eCommerce, I found that using Shopify is the easiest to manage but I wish Woocommerce was more intuitive so readers could checkout products without having to leave the page. Since everything I sell is digital, I fulfill all of my orders automatically through my email provider.
What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?
I don’t even know where to start!
I loved the book, Content INC. and can’t recommend it enough. Using the content marketing approach to business has avoided so many pitfalls and really grown a brand that is sustainable. You can check it out here.
I also love listening to the Earn Your Happy Podcast by Lori Harder.
And Online Marketing Made Easy by Amy Porterfield.
And The Champagne Diet Podcast for inspirational self-development.
I also loved taking the course, Pattern Workshop to get started creating my own digital products with Adobe InDesign and Illustrator.
Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?
You can legitimately make money doing anything. Seriously. Anything. Make sure it’s something you love doing without the paycheck. That drive will carry you through the not-profitable months/ years and fuel you when you feel like giving up- because everybody hits a wall at some point.
Also, start a blog. It gives you a chance to find your voice, get used to putting yourself out there, and gives you some insight to see what you are good at and where your natural strengths are.
Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?
Honestly, right now I’m not looking for any more employees. I just hired my virtual assistant last month and plan on increasing her responsibilities before hiring more.
It took me years to build Creative Fashion Blog and I wish I had somebody to hold my hand and show me what I was wasting time on, how to streamline the whole process, and how to get real, consistent traffic to my new products. So next month, I’m launching an inexpensive course to walk left-brained entrepreneurs through my whole process. You can learn more here and keep in touch with me.
Where can we go to learn more?
If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!
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