2021: Moving into my first office

‘I realized, after working on a big project with the NBA All-Star weekend, that I really needed to move my business out of my home. I was doing all of my work in an apartment upstairs with three machines – as you can imagine, my neighbor didn't care for me very much. But, with the help of a crowdfund and a grant, I moved into a new space in October. As a result, people definitely take me more seriously. Now they see my place and know I do this for real. Last year, I begged my friend to help me redesign my website. The relaunch of the site has helped the conversion rate, because now people can really see the personality behind the brand. It looks fun! I get loads of compliments for it – and it gets me bigger contracts.’

April: Supplier shortages

‘Of course, the cost of goods went up, so I've got to communicate that with my clients. Specific colors of thread, like black and white, have been out of stock because they're the most popular. So, I've had to switch suppliers to somebody else's stuff that I don't care for – I've got to work with what I've got. I'm always running out of apparel because I don't keep much stock. Big companies have got the capital and will come in and buy all of the apparel. Small companies like mine don't have the money to buy inventory ahead of receiving orders. But the best thing about the industry I'm in is that most people are really helpful and they'll let you know if there's a supplier that can help you out.’

May: Focusing on my mental health

‘I'm diagnosed with anxiety, but I don't take medication. So, I set tough boundaries. I don't work Saturdays. You may catch me on a Sunday, but I'm mostly setting up to work for Monday. I try to leave the weekend for family. When it's just you, you know you can work to the crack of dawn if you want. But having my daughter changed how I function. Now I'm in the head space of doing what's right for the customer, but not letting them control the situation too much. Yes, you're going to need money for your business to survive, but I also feel like not all money is good money. Recently, I took an order from a customer who wanted a $35 personalized patch. Then she took it upon herself to message me constantly while I was on holiday in Costa Rica. This was the first time I'd been on holiday with just my husband since my daughter was born. So, in the end, I just told her: “Thank you for choosing me, but I don't think this is going to work.” And I refunded her.’

June: Worrying about hiring staff

‘Right now, my biggest goal is to get help, because I'm still by myself. I have friends and family to help, but day-to-day operations are just me. I had the opportunity to work with a client who works for Amazon. Now other Amazon departments can order from me because I've already crossed that threshold. Same thing with [Facebook's parent company] Meta, since I've already done two orders with them. That's given me a look at what it'd be like to have corporate contracts, which require me to hire help. But I'm scared to hire help – that means I'm in control of somebody's livelihood. People make it seem like it's so easy, but there are a lot of legal things, like taxes, that make me worried. Maybe I'll hire an intern, but I don't want to not pay the intern, either. So, I'm trying to find a way.’

Late June: Considering leaving the office

‘Figuring out money is the problem. My husband overheard that our rent may go up in our apartment building by $500. So, we're trying to see what's going to happen, because our lease isn't renewed until January. I'm thinking about what it'll look like to bring the business back home. My monthly costs are roughly $2,500 so, if I can take $1,000 off that – which is the cost of my office space – I could invest in technology and maybe have a bigger cash output. But I like being out of the house, because when I go home, I go home. I'm not living at work any more. A part of me also feels like it's a step backward. Because this space was a step forward – usually, people start here, and then you grow to a bigger warehouse.’

A version of this article was first published in Courier issue 49, September/October 2022. To purchase the issue or become a subscriber, head to our webshop.

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