Sewing To Sell – A Guide To Starting A Sewing Business


Sewing To Sell – A Guide To Starting A Sewing Business

Recently in our Facebook group we’ve had lots of questions about turning a sewing hobby into a fully fledged business – there’s lots of things to consider and know about before embarking on that journey so we asked for the expertise of Ana from Virtual Bird.

Some of you may know Ana as one of the admins in our Facebook group as well as the tech expert for Caboodle, when she’s not making Caboodle magic happen, Ana works with small businesses to help them achieve their full potential with her services and free small business support group.

Without further ado, here’s Ana with her top tips for setting up a sewing business.

Guide To Turning Your Hobby Into A Business

It’s really exciting that you’re thinking about turning your hobby into a business but it can be overwhelming to find everything you need to begin the journey. There’s a lot of information you need to know and things to do to get set up.

So I’m really happy to be sharing this guide with you in conjunction with Caboodle Textiles.

Research Research Research 

One of the first things you need to do is establish your USP (unique selling point). The handmade market is very saturated so it pays to be different, you’ll be able to establish a customer base and differentiate yourself from your competitors. So start by looking at what’s already out there, perhaps find what is missing in the marketplace and see if you can fill the gap.

Safety First

Make sure you understand the full safety requirements of whatever it is you want to sell. Some of the safety requirements include:

  • Nightdresses must be treated so that they conform to the flammability requirements of British Standard BS 5722. In the UK only nightdresses need to be flame retardant, in the USA all nightwear needs to be flame retardant. Be sure of where you are posting to and their regulations.
    Clothing made from stretch fabrics for babies is considered nightwear as babies sleep in them. They dont need to be fire retardant but do need a permanent visible label with red KEEP AWAY FROM FIRE in the correct font and size
  • Drawstring cord length – The legislation BS EN 14682 has very specific requirements about the length and placement of drawstring cord – we haven’t outlined them all here as vary depending on child’s age, garment and placement.
  • Ensure the fabrics used are chemically safe for children – Caboodle Textiles stock Oeko-Tex fabrics which are a must have for any business selling items for children.
  • Toys or items with play value (including fancy dress, capes etc) must be CE marked. The regulations on toy and on fancy dress are different so further research will be required for your specific product. The testing on these may change after Britain’s exit from the EU as Britain defines new regulation.
  • Choking hazards such as buttons or sequins etc. must be securely fastened and be able to withstand around 70kg of force to comply with legislation.
  • Your products must be labelled in accordance with the specific rules for the product type. For more information on labelling, check out UKFT
  • If you decide to sell cloth sanitary pads or reusable nappies to the USA or Canada, you need to be registered with their health authority prior to selling.

This is not an exhuastive list of safety requirements nor is it an authority statement of the law – please check with your local trading standards for advice specific to your business and products.

Tax & Insurance 

You must register with HMRC as self employed – whether you make -£100, £1 or £10,000, you must tell them. It’s very simple and straightforward, and quick and easy to do.

The very latest you can register with HMRC is by 5 October after the end of the tax year during which you became self-employed. For example, if you started your business in June 2019, you would need to register with HMRC by 5 October 2020. It doesn’t matter how much you make or whether you’ve made a loss, you must register.

HMRC do have a £1k trading allowance which means you may not need to fill in a self assessment form if your first year is under that threshold. However, you still need to report your intention to use your trading allowance to HMRC.

You will also need insurance, the specific type of insurance you’ll need depending on what and where you want to sell. Most small businesses need at a minimum Product Liability Insurance, Public Liability Insurance and Stock Liability Insurance. The insurance is there to protect yourself as well as protecting the customer. Ian Wallace Craft Insurance is a great starting point for craft businesses however may not cover those making to specific measurements. Another popular starting point is Direct Line Home Business Insurance. Do be sure to check with your specific insurer about their posting location coverages. Many insurers have restrictions on posting to the USA for example.

The Legal Bit

When you run a business there are several policies you need in place and to comply with. The first being  terms and conditions that comply with The Consumer Contract Regulations, these are your customers basic rights when purchasing online. The second is a privacy policy that complies with GDPR, this outlines how you handle, store and process customer data such as their name and address.

Both of the requirements for these documents are comprehensive and you can find out more information about the CCR’s here and GDPR here

It’s absolutely imperative you display your trading address on your website, social media and payment portals. This is a legal requirement. If you work from home and are uncomfortable about displaying your home address, you can purchase a PO box for that purpose.

You also must adhere to copyright laws, it is illegal in the UK to sell items made with copyrighted characters including Disney, Marvel, TV characters and much more. This includes making to sell with Licensed fabric, the fabric is only Licensed for personal use. It also includes “inspired” fabrics. You can find out more about UK Copyright Law here. USA and many EU countries such as France have different copyright laws so be sure to follow UK laws not hearsay.

Know Your Numbers

A key aspect to running a business is knowing your numbers. You need to be able to understand your gross profit, net profit, expenditure costs and working capital.

One of the ways you can be sure to make a good profit is buying your fabric in bulk such as Caboodle’s wholesale bolt offers or use the multi buy options on solids rather than ordering an individual metre.

These will all ensure you make money when running your business and will aid you in completing your tax return.

Getting Out There

Once you’ve nailed all of the above, it’s time to get out there. Think of a name, pick your platform (check out Virtual Bird’s guide to Etsy here), and get selling. You can then look at things like creating a mailing list, building campaigns and much more.

Check the name you want to use isn’t protected by trademarks or used by other companies in a similar field. It is upsetting to invest in building a brand to later get a cease and desist letter from a pre-existing company. Check the availability of your chosen name on the social platforms and domain name options you might want to use going forwards. It’s frustraiting to find your website unavailable when you come to want it down the line so preparation and research is the key here.

Don’t expect it to be an immediate success, sales will be slow whilst you build your audience but with some hard graft, you can make a success of this.

I hope this post has given you food for thought and lots of action steps to set up your business, should you need further support or advice, you can check out my blog here and sign up to my newsletter here to get 25 ways to boost your business.

Thank you so much to Mel for allowing me to share this with you,  good luck and have fun!

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