Kate Coleman’s work has been showing up in my Facebook newsfeed for a while now. People have been raving about her bags, leggings, and girl’s clothes. I am so impressed with her work ethic, she works a full-time job and still finds time to create beautiful, one of a kind, pieces. You can find her work on the Cheri by Kate Facebook page.
Describe your business:
Cheri began back in 2009 with the idea to create a handmade boutique with truly original designs. I wanted to create hand designed items that paid homage to vintage styles that modern women and girls could feel confident and unique in. That is where the tagline “sweet…chic…unique” was born.
From the get-go, it was important to use high quality and unique materials and fabrics. The majority of my items are one of a kind or very limited release. I want people to feel confident that when their wear a product from Cheri By Kate, they have something hand designed and something they won’t see in big box drafted by me 🙂 and tailored tirelessly to ensure a quality fit you won’t find anywhere else!
These aren’t designs you will find in big box stores or even other handmade boutiques which often use mass produced patterns. Fabric and materials are also chosen primarily from custom and special order stores. With so many people nowadays “crafting” it is important that Cheri stays true to having products you won’t see copied or find other products made with the same products or materials.
How long have you been doing this work:
Do you consider this a hobby or a business?
Definitely a business. I knew right away that I wanted Cheri to be something bigger than just a hobby and began selling my items pretty much from day 1…or day 2.
Do you have other work?
I work as a full-time police dispatcher. And have 3 young children. So it’s a fairly normal thing to see me in My studio until 2 or 3am working on new designs. If I get 4 hours sleep I consider it a good night!
Do you want to be full time someday?
I consider myself as full time as possible right now. I suppose if you counted all the hours I put in it would be equivalent. With a big family, I appreciate the stability my “full-time job” affords me yet have always had it in my plans that every sale and every successful launch to be bringing Cheri one step closer to independent success.
How do you work around your kids and their schedule?
What schedule? Family comes first…sleep comes last. And Cheri fills the spaces in between. I know having my own business means you get out of it only as much as you put in. I’m a night owl so when I’m not working my “real job” overnight I usually stay up until about 2am. I start around 8 when the kiddos go to bed. I try to put in a full days worth of hours.
Why have you chosen to do this work?
I am a creative person and I came to realize the joy of being a designer and passing on that joy to my customers. Every item I make I consider a work of art. From the pattern design to choosing which colors to use and fabrics and details. My work is my canvas.
Does it help you financially or creatively or both?
Both for sure. I have come to learn I NEED to be creative. I also love the art of the “sale” I love watching people choose an item based on personalities and tastes and I feel Cheri items really allow people to put a little (or a lot) of themselves into their own fashion.
What are the tools that you use to do this business?
I spend a portion of every day trying to learn something new. Whether it’s a new online sales platform or a new sewing technique. In today’s day and age small business more than ever have a multitude of outlets and opportunities at their disposal but it’s important to always be seeking to learn and grow. I am 100% self-taught. And always know there is some new way to expand or grow.
What is your greatest challenge?
Time. More time equals more inventory and more inventory equals more sales. If there were 2 of me we could take over the world! But…
What has been your biggest win?
Cheri was primarily accessories for the first few years but in the past couple of years adding on women’s and girls apparel has taken off like wildfire.
Would you suggest that other mothers do this type of business?
I was a stay at home mom for over 10 years while my husband was an active duty Marine. That was how Cheri got started. I needed a way to “work from home” but wanted do start a business I enjoyed. I was able to learn on my own time and work during naptime and while they slept. I think a creative business is a great idea for moms.
How hard is it to break into this business now?
Well with Pinterest and the internet everyone is told they can DIY just about anything these days. That being said I think it’s important to pave your own path. Come up with something unique that really speaks to you personally and allows you use your unique skills and ideas. Marketing 101 is to differentiate yourself from the competition so my biggest piece of advice is: don’t be afraid to be unique and do something different. Your customers will be able to tell the difference and appreciate the results
What tips would you give to someone who wants to be in this business?
Never stop learning. Never stop looking for ways to grow. Never settle. Don’t stop when something doesn’t sell …God knows I’ve been thru countless tries and fails and put a lot of blood, sweat, and tears (literally) into making Cheri successful. Be yourself and be unique.