Let’s get ready to learn more about creating and selling your own handicrafts —NOT on Etsy— but on Instagram. I never would have thought of this, but it makes sense. Go where the eyeballs are! That’s exactly what my guest Candace Hatch did. Candace, welcome to Easy Money!
Candace, tell us the name of your company and what you sell on Instagram.
My company is called LiliLane. I was planning on only selling girls headbands. When I first started, I told my husband, I will get tired in a week, but it snowballed. After a bit, I wanted to challenge myself. So I started doing skirts for little girls and then it has just grown. Now I do all sorts of clothing including pants, swimsuits, etc.
And to prove that anyone can do this: Candace, what kind of sewing skills did you have when you got started?
I had no idea how to sew when I started! My husband had to thread the sewing machine for me for the longest time because I didn’t know how to do it. I sew in a room in my house.
OK… so, I have to ask: what possessed you to start a handcrafted sewing company when you didn’t know how to sew?!
When I started, it was more about needing to feel valued financially in our family. I felt like my husband, Cliff, was the only one to work. I felt in a rut. I have always been very self-sufficient, and I thought even if I only made $20 a month… I needed to say I was contributing money to the family. Plus being in the military and moving a lot, it can be hard to stay in one job.
I think when people think of selling handmade items online, they think of Etsy. Why Instagram?
You shouldn’t necessarily go where everyone is going. Some people have great success on Etsy but I didn’t like the fees they charge and I wanted my own website. Went on Instagram instead which has been amazing. They are awesome for small businesses. You can do sponsored ads through them and there is a huge following for small shops. It’s mostly trendy moms between 18 and 35 and they love it. I now have about 25,000 Instagram followers.
No that you’ve been at it for more than 2 years, do you find the work easy or hard?
I would say it is hard work, but if you work it the right way it is easy — and so enjoyable. It is still fun. I love doing what I do. It lets me be creative. There are days I want to throw my sewing machine at the wall but 9 out of 10 days it is still fun.
What kind of hours do you have to put in?
I work about 8 hours a day, so pretty much a full time job. But you can make it fit your lifestyle. I take the kids to the zoo or the aquarium and then stay up late at night. I sew whenever the kids are asleep. I have 2 young children. A lot of times I stay up ’til 2 am. It takes about 3 weeks from the time orders are placed to the time they ship.
Have you made any mistakes that our listeners can learn from?
Don’t over stock. I have spent too much on fabric a million times – especially holiday fabric. Fabric I use is from amazing company in Durham and they make amazing prints with all water based inks. But the fabric is $30/yard which is expensive. Definitely have to be careful. I would be embarrassed to show you my wall of fabric now.
Now tell us about some of your biggest triumphs. I understand some well-known people have purchased your kids’ clothes?
The first time it happened to me it was a reality star. They are great promoters for your brand. A very famous football player’s wife purchases my items for full price and daughter wears them. That is a real thrill. Later, I was asked to include my clothes in gift bags at the Oscars and I was featured in Glamour UK!
Wow! And now you’ve hired other seamstresses and your clothing is in some brick and mortar stores as well. How did that come about?
Need answer about how this came about and which stores!
LiliLane sounds like a smash success. So Candace, I have to ask an impolite question I ask all my guests: what kind of money are you making at it?
I think my first year I made about $12,000 which I was very excited with, considering it was just fun money. This year I made $30,000 and it is going up every month. I now make about XX a month. I did not call myself money-savvy 2 years ago but I am now!
What has this additional income meant for your family?
It is huge. We are looking at buying a new house and I will be able to pay half the mortgage. It’s done so much for us. We aren’t millionaires but the financial help it has given us is beyond anything I imagined. The other day my daughter had to tell school why mom was special and she said because I make clothes that other girls wear. That tells me she notices what I am doing for the family and that makes me proud.
Time for some advice for people who might want to do what you do. First, you say don’t take everything to heart. What do you mean?
I would say anyone going into small shop community especially in clothing or tshirts – small shops are amazing but also very catty and cliquey so make sure you don’t take everything to heart. And if you have a bad experience with a customer just grow from it. You can’t let people tear you down. Let it go off your back.
On the other hand, you say that other people can be very helpful. Tell me about the Facebook groups that have helped you.
There are tons of groups on FB of mom bosses which is what we call ourselves and they have been very helpful. I would look up You Tube videos and ‘makers and mom bosses’ on Facebook. I asked a lot of questions and learned a lot.
And, finally, you say, make sure to put money away.
It’s easy to get into situations when you are first starting out and getting a bunch of orders and making money and go out and blow it all on craziness. It’s definitely a struggle to make sure you are putting away money for taxes and paying yourself. You can’t look at it all as extra money. You need to put money away for supplies. You learn as you go.