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Monday, October 24, 2011

Q&A with a Small Business Heavy-Hitter: Gussy Sews

With a heavy heart I have to announce that today marks the final day of our
Small Business Month
Heavy-Hitter Series.

But guess what?
Today we get to hear from one of the HEAVIEST Heavy-Hitters out there.
Let's just say that.....
Celebrities sport her products.
She has been featured in many a-notable magazine including, about Pregnancy and Newborn?! Or have you ever heard of OK! Magazine? Yeah, I thought so...
And oh yes! How could I forget that she just started sewing three years ago.

Now girlfriend is the head of an empire.
An empire, I say!
Who could it be?
Well! It's none other than the genius, go-getter little lady behind
Gussy Sews!

But enough from me...Let's get rollin'!
{girlfriend is now a brunette!}

At what point did you realize that your new found love of sewing could go from “hobby” to “business.” In other words, at what point did you have you “Ah-Ha!” moment?

We saw consistent growth -- both with my blog and shop sales, so seeing these numbers continually increase each month was one of my first “light bulb” moments. When you sell a product it’s important to think about it long-term: will this product or idea continue to sell six months from now? A year from now? Five years from now? And then to draw up ideas on how you can encourage the growth to actually happen. 

I think continually intertwining your story and being personable is the first step towards having these things happen.

You have written extensively about the major turning point in your life when you quit your day job in order to work on Gussy Sews full time. What advice would you give small business owners considering the same path, but are unsure about taking such a large step?

One thing my husband and I did to prepare for going full-time exclusively was save three months of my current salary as an emergency fund. We did this pretty quickly {in about 8 weeks}, and here’s how: we made a list of all outgoing expenses, all incoming funds, and then calculated the leftover balance. This leftover balance was what we used to grow the emergency fund. We know exactly what comes in and out each month, so it was pretty easy to project how long it would take to save three months of my salary, and that was SUCH an exciting time for us.

And although we used the emergency fund quicker than we expected, we are both so thankful we had it to use in the first place. It was a really great buffer during those first six months of being self-employed -- it is hard to predict how things will go and what types of expenses will come up, so I definitely encourage those considering indie biz/self-employment to do the same.

It’s also critical your significant other is 100% on-board with this plan. Because Zack is involved with all the big decisions related to Gussy Sews, and because he understands and is aware of what my daily looks like, it’s easy for him to support everything else.

Other bits of advice:
+ write down your goals and keep them nearby, in case you need a little reminder of what you’re supposed to be working on. It can be insanely difficult to stay on-task if you’re not used to self-managment
+ plan fun things to do each week and month; make sure you leave your house!
+ challenge yourself to create new products and dream up new ideas. Don’t think you can’t fall into a rut just because you work from home, you totally can!
+ have an accountant, become a DBA or LLC, have a separate checking account for your business, research your state’s tax laws // what your state says about hiring employees.

Lastly, think hard about WHY you are unsure -- what is the root of your uncertainty and can you realistically overcome it? 

Can you explain the saying, “in order to make money, you must spend money?” Often times small business owners (especially owners who work from home), are hesitant to spend funds, but you have vlogged and written about your decision to hire a small team of women to help you with not only the virtual aspect of your business, but with production as well. Would you say that outputting the monetary funds to maintain a small staff is necessary to the growth of your small business, and if so, in what ways?

My time is valuable, just like yours is. And if I’m going to do a task, regardless of how important it is, it’s still costing me my time, which is worth a specific hourly rate. So even if I do not spend any money accomplishing said task, it still took time out of my day and cost me my hourly rate. So whether I pay for someone else to do a task for me, of I complete said task, that time costs me money. 

I think no matter where you’re at with your business {start-up or 5 years in}, you’re going to spend money to keep your business moving forward. If you’re a business, you need an accountant. And sadly, most accountants won’t be interested in swapping product for their service ~ they’ll want to be paid in cash or plastic.

About two years ago, Lisa Leonard ( asked me a few questions about my business, one being:would I ever consider hiring help? Of course at that time I told her no way (!!!), I wanted to be the one doing everything for Gussy Sews. But then she shared with me that I’d only be able to maintain the same output level, aka: Gussy Sews would never grow, I would never be able to sell more product than I was currently. And of course at that time I was OK with that, but as the months passed and I saw small glimpses of what growth would mean -- and how that excited me, I changed my mindset about hiring.

There is absolutely no way I could have grown my business to what it is now {3 assistants} if I didn’t hire help. Because I essentially have two businesses {my blog and shop}, I need a lot of help to keep everything running smoothly :]

Gussy Sews is my business, it is not a hobby. And if I want it to stay a business I need to have an amazing team of help.

How important would you say networking is to your small business? In what ways networking allowed your business to grow?

Networking IS how Gussy Sews grew to what it is today. Gussy Sews is a lifestyle blog and online boutique, so attending 3-4 conferences a year {to learn and meet with current/potential customers}, using social media, and writing a blog, are the different forms of networking I’ve used to grow my business.

If you don’t network, how can you share your product with others?

Do you have any words of wisdom when it comes to balancing your small business, home life and social obligations (as so many of us do)?

I sure do! ;] First, you must keep a schedule. Writing down and knowing what’s due when, what goals you have {and when you want to accomplish them}, and other business-related tasks will help you to have a productive work day. And by having a productive work day you’re then able to have a relaxing evening with your family, once all of your work is completed. No matter how hard it is, find a method that allows you to separate work and family life. 

For example, I usually start work a little bit later in the morning. Once Zack {my husband} leaves for work I spend the next hour doing lite housework, walking our puppy, cleaning up breakfast, etc. When those things are done it’s easier for me to transition into Gussy Sews mode. I almost never do laundry or housework during the work day. And, I only do Gussy Sews work in the evening if my husband is doing something work-related, too.
I also think you need to decide what you want your schedule to be -- like what really truly will work best for your family, and then move forward with such things. Shortly after I went full-time with Gussy Sews, Leigh-Ann of Freckled Nest ( shared some great advice with me: always start & end your day the same time the rest of your family does. This makes it so much easier to have peace inside your home, because at the end of the day when Zack is tired, I’m also tired because we woke up at the same time. 

What has been the single most important piece of advice you have come across thus far in your small business journey (if you are even able to narrow it down!)?

“Do what works best for you, and do it well. Don’t dwell on what others are doing, be yourself and you will shine.”

Oh, man.
Just wonderful.
Thank you so much, Gussy, for joining us today!
SBM is so lucky to have your support, and your words are golden, that's for darn sure!

And now that we've taken a little sneak peek into Gussy's studio,
remember that tomorrow we get to do the same thing during our LINK UP CHALLENGE #7!
{Even though my "studio," if you could call it that, is slightly LESS organized/beautiful/even existent...}
But anyway!
Here is our challenge!
show off your work space!
{Yes, even with all those toys clogging up your foot room!}
{I want pictures, people, pictures galore!}

Don't forget that tomorrow marks the FIRST DAY of SBM'S SECOND
{our link up challenge and the MASSIVE giveaway will be happening simultaneously}
Here is who you will be checking out tomorrow:
Casey Leigh
The Duty Family
Faces by Frank

Grab a button!



  1. Love her AND her ruffle stuff! This is nifty biz advice. Thanks for sharing~!

  2. this is such a helpful post. thank you so much. i am working to grow my small etsy and it's always great to hear how others have made it happen.


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