“Listen, are you breathing just a little, and calling it a life?”“Have You Ever Tried to Enter the Long Black Branches”, Mary Oliver
So clearly I have been absent from blogging for the past six months. I have been sewing, and now that my big #quityourdayjob project has launched, I am going to play some blog catch-up and talk about the sewing I have done. However, today I want to introduce everyone to what has kept me busy!
If you remember back in October 2019, I had a post about choosing joy and what vocation means, and I revealed that my husband and I had come to the decision that I would return to being a “stay-at-home” wife/mom/volunteer after the school year finished at the small school where I was an administrator in charge of communications. I was also on the school board, though I had planned to continue in that volunteer role. Well, the school year ended in a very different way than was expected, but more on that later!
I grew up in a family where sewing clothes and making quilts was a normal part of life. I married into a family that fortuitously is exactly the same. In fact, both my mother AND father-in-law are expert quilters and sewists. My mother-in-law has worked at a few quilt shops over her lifetime, as well as designing and selling patterns, and working in the home-dec sewing industry. For a number of years, I have half-heartedly joked with them that they should open their own quilt shop, and I would help run the apparel fabric section. Usually these discussions came up every few months, and sometimes they involved elaborate physical stores with books, a tea shop, and anything else I personally love. When I look back now, I realize I talked about this idea of supporting “their” fabric store A LOT.
Just after I posted about my plans in October, after yet another conversation with my in-laws trying to jokingly suggest they should start a shop that sold what they were interested in, but also what I really wanted to sell, my husband looked at me and said “why don’t you just start your own shop?” Of course self-doubt immediately took over and the “I’m not capable” brain-dialogue started. I am not an entrepreneur. I do not have piles of money sitting around to put into something that may not be successful. I am terrible at sales because I might just be too honest for my own good. I don’t do “just start small” well. However, he had put the idea into my head, and I started to do some research. I was actively making joy a choice.
Of course, when I do research for a project, I have a hard time focusing on anything else. Between the end of October and the family dinner on Thanksgiving Day, I had not only come up with a business plan, but my husband and I had made the decision that when I left my job at the school (planned for June 2020), I would simultaneously launch an online fabric shop, and I would use all my free time when I was not working to find vendors, order stock, and build a website.
Around this same time, I stumbled upon a book at the library called Don’t Keep Your Day Job by Cathy Heller. The title was intriguing, but as I started reading it, I realized that a lot of her advice and the stories she shared on how to take your passion and turn it into your career were steps I had already done. That was so encouraging! I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who is toying with the idea of branching out from what in the USA is considered a typical career path into one that is based in a creative joy.
Over the winter break from school, I took the steps needed to bring my new company into being, filing all the appropriate forms, and requesting reseller certificates. I decided on specifically what I want to offer, essentially an extension of items that I would buy for myself: high quality fabric and supplies, eco-friendly where I can, and both local USA-made items, but also items from brands that have started getting notice internationally for their superior offerings. I decided on a name, Screech Owl Fine Fabrics, which is an homage to my great grandmother, because “screech owl” was my call-name as an infant over the CB radio (you can read more of this story here). We purchased the domain name, and my wonderfully tech-savvy husband started working on setting up the back-end so that “if Oprah names Screech Owl Fabrics one of her favorite things, the site will not go down.” I started learning about creating an e-commerce site, and how website design had changed since I last was involved with one almost twenty years ago.
As we moved into the new year, I felt that our plans were happening. Vendors were taking my company seriously and letting me purchase from them! Friends and family I told about the venture responded with “I think this is perfect for you.” Orders were placed, photos were taken, things were going forward. And then, I am pretty sure you all know what happened.
While we were traveling in Canada for the week of the school’s spring break, the COVID-19 pandemic expanded significantly in the USA. We actually chose to cancel our flight home, rent a car, and drive in order to avoid the multiple airports we would travel through. Over that same time period, the school board had made a decision (based on the decisions of the nearby larger districts) to close for a few weeks. To make an extremely long story that involves ethics much shorter, during that initial few weeks of closing I both became unemployed and was no longer associated with the school board. To say that an immediate weight was lifted from my shoulders would not be an understatement.
However, this put me in a position where my original plans were changing, not to mention that shipping for orders was slowing down, things that I had preordered or planned to order were not available on my timeline or got cancelled. I buckled down to focus on what I knew was coming or had already arrived, I tried very hard to keep my initial “summer collection” small and reasonable, while still having a decent variety of offerings. I started learning about all the types of fabric that are available, where I can get them from, and about things like import taxes.
Initially, back at the end of 2019, my goal was to launch the site in mid-May for my birthday. While having more time at home was helpful, I seriously underestimated the amount of work it would take to get the website to where I wanted, including all the information that needed to be input about each product. I had to keep coming back to a line from Heller’s book to remind myself to “let go of the need for perfectionism. Let go of that fear that it’s not going to be good enough.” I was lucky that both my husband and one of my best friends kept that mantra flowing as well, because without their support, I know I would have been sucked into the blackhole that is perfectionism. I ended up using the May timeline as a launch for a simple newsletter sign-up landing page, and when I pushed out the social media pages.
Finally, after months, long days and late hours of data entry (which is really not fun), I was able to see when a website launch could actually happen. I picked my father-in-law’s birthday on July 10 as when the site would go live. We did some trial orders with friends and family, practiced shipping things around the city, and fixed the few issues that came up.
Now, without further ado, I would love to introduce you all to my #dreamjob fabric store, Screech Owl Fine Fabrics. I hope you find something that speaks to you in the way that only sewists understand.
So you know, if you decide to sign up for the newsletter at the bottom of the main website page, you will receive a welcome coupon for 10% off. I have a few sales coming up over the next few months that you will get notice of as a subscriber, as well as if you decide to follow the shop on social media. I may also offer discounts in the future just for blog readers, especially if I am featuring a pattern or fabric that I have for sale!
I am definitely going to still blog here about pattern reviews, how I managed adjustments, and use this space as an intentional record of my daily work toward the choice I have made that models for my daughter the best qualities of a good human being, like love, compassion, empathy, respect, patience, gratitude, creativity, generosity, and curiosity.
**None of the links added are affiliate links, unless linking to Amazon, but used for your convenience! I am the owner of Screech Owl Fine Fabrics, and I will receive financial compensation for any purchases made there.