Penny, owner of Specialty Outdoors updated her web site a few weeks ago. We caught up with her to ask a few questions about her sewn products manufacturing business.
How did you get started in the sewn product business?
I was first exposed when I took a job with back pack company MountainSmith, run by entrepreneur Patrick Smith, in the early 80’s. The company was in his garage when I started there, doing a little bit of everything with the job title of “Sewing Supervisor”. I was with them as they moved into their first facility and into national distribution. More of Penny’s story can be seen at “How Did You Get Into This?”
Penny and her husband and two children are very involved in sports of all kinds such as road and mountain biking, snow skiing, hiking, camping, whitewater boating to name a few.
What education or training you would recommend to anyone in your type of business?
Certainly having background or training in basic business management practices, especially how they relate to small/home business is essential.
What gets you up and excited about your business each morning?
I love the people I get to meet and their stories. They are so happy that I can solve their problem for them.
What is the least favorite part of your business?
The administration involved with logging in and tracking items as they move throughout the system, plus the packing and shipping to return completed items.
What do you see as the turning point in your business when you knew you were going to be successful?
When I was able to set up pick up and drop off location in town, that really underscored that I was a local fixture for my services. Also, when I got my first factory certification from The North Face.
What is the best new product that has become available in your field recently?
Sergers that will do cover stitching have been a great innovation for small sewing businesses. They are very specific in the range of use they have, but make for a very professional finish in certain situations. Also the availability of “Sew Free” adhesives for welded seam construction has made my job easier.
What has been your biggest challenge?
My biggest challenges were these: 1. Defining my niche so that I wasn’t trying to do too many different things. 2. Valuing my skill and talent so that I was actually making money – (understanding Perceived Value for a niche specialist). 3. Setting boundaries for being a home based business (when not to work, pick up the phone, etc.)
What do you see trending today that you haven’t seen before?
There is a shortage of people to do this kind of work. Also, manufacturing techniques are getting so high tech that items are unable to be repaired cost effectively.
Any advice you would give another person starting or buying a business today? Have a really clear focus, and a clear set of boundaries. Do not try to be everything to everyone.
How much has the internet influenced the way you market yourself and your product?
The internet has absolutely influenced my business. I was online very early in the game. I learned very early about the value of online networking: by having a presence in various areas that would offer advice and direction to resources established me as a knowledgeable professional. In addition, having a website has brought in many many customers seeking my services. To this day, I get tons of referrals from specialty discussion boards (clubs, sports, special interest) that know about me and share links and referrals.
I enjoyed visiting with Penny and learning more about her business. If you have questions or need repairs or have an idea for a new design, call or email Penny.
Judith has been studying and writing about fabrics for over 50 years. Passionate about textiles, she explains that researching is like collecting clues to build the full picture of each subject. Judith always looks for the sunny side of life.