So you're ready to take your sewing business out of the spare bedroom and start your own studio. Congratulations! It's a big step, and there's a lot that goes along with it. Check out these steps to picking out and setting up your new studio, from start to finish.
How do you plan to use the space?
Your needs will differ pretty dramatically depending on how you plan to use your studio. If you're holding classes, you'll need lots of space for students, their equipment, and their projects. If your main focus is on doing alterations, you'll want spaces for changing rooms, lots of garment racks, and full length mirrors. Before you start planning out your space, first, you need to work out the details of your sewing business.
Choosing a location
Once you've got an idea of what you need your space to do, it's time to start looking for a location. And you know what the realtors say: location is key! Again, the ideal location depends on what your studio does. If you rely on lots of foot traffic to bring in customers, look for a space with access to parking and crowds. If you work by appointment only, there's no need to be right downtown. Keep in mind any zoning requirements your location might have for the type of business you plan to run, and all the expenses of insurance, licensure, rent, and utilities that might be required.
To remodel or not to remodel
If your studio will include a lot of customer-facing spaces—for example, if your studio includes a bridal salon where your creations are sold—then you might want to think about creating a shop front area that's unique to your business. But for most of us makers, remodeling just isn't in the budget. The one exception would be for safety or to meet basic requirements. For example, you'll need a lot of power outlets for different equipment, and rather than running everything off an overloaded power strip, consider having a few more outlets installed. You also may need to have plumbing installed for a sink, washer, and dryer where you prepare you fabrics for sewing.
Planning your equipment
Upgrading to a studio space can make it tempting to upgrade all your equipment as well, but resist the urge—at least at first. You've already made lots of changes to your workflow just by moving into the new space. Don't give yourself the challenge of adjusting to finicky new equipment at the same time. Plus, working in the new space for a while will give you a sense of what you really need, which typically means you'll get more bang for your buck.
As always, the precise needs of your studio will depend on what you make and how you work. However, here are some basic points to consider, no matter what you plan to create in your new studio!
- Where will you set up your sewing machines and sergers? Will they need to be stored when not in use? If so, where?
- Where will you set up your ironing station? Make sure there are enough outlets nearby for your irons and steamer, and easy access to water. Where will you keep ironing tools like press cloths and your tailor's ham?
- Where will you set up your cutting table? Is it a permanent fixture, or does it fold down? Where can you keep your cutting tools nearby?
- Where will you store your materials? Think thread, fabric, and notions, as well as tools like needles, pins, measuring tapes, and thread snips. Try to coordinate items frequently used together (like storing your rivet-setting tools with the rivets rather than with other tools).
- Where will you store your patterns? Boxes, files, scanned and stored digitally? Are they kept in the studio, or in a separate office space?
- Where will you store works in progress and finished projects? Garment racks or boxes? Shelves or cabinets?
- Where will you take care of your administrative work, like ordering materials and setting appointments? Where will all your records be stored? If you opt to handle admin from your studio, try to set aside a designated space for that kind of work that's separate from your sewing tasks. That way, you won't end up hunting through the scrap fabric for missing receipts come tax time!
Marketing your studio
One of the greatest things about having your own studio is having control over how it's marketed. Of course, that's also one of the worst things, because it means you're the head marketer as well as the head of everything else. Having your own space does give you some advantages, however, especially if your studio doubles as a shop front. It gives you a fixed point of reference, a professional space to which to invite clients, and a chance to start building a local reputation, which is tricky to manage when you're working out of your home and doing most of your business at craft shows and other off-site events.
The biggest thing to remember about marketing your studio is to keep your brand consistent. Your business is the same as it was before—just bigger! So don't let this change in scenery affect your brand aesthetic or goals. Update your materials to include the location and new phone numbers, and make sure to add a map to your website if applicable. List hours of operation, or appointment schedules, and any other helpful information clients might need, like parking recommendations.
Now get the word out using your favorite platforms, as well as local media. Send a press release to local news and radio stations and pitch your grand opening. Team up with local boutiques to host a fashion show, or contact crafting groups to offer special pricing on classes. Making the most of your new location can help integrate your new spot into the local community and improve your overall outreach.