A loan of $10,000 helps me to create needed infrastructure and market the launch of the space for new members.
I grew up in Kentucky, one of three children born to teachers. I was a bookish child with a big imagination. Our family was “house poor” thanks to the high mortgage rates of the 80s, so my mom made many of our clothes. Early memories include learning to embroider, watching and helping her with layout of patterns, pinning, and studying her sewing techniques. Though she tried to teach me to use the sewing machine during 5th grade and I did cut my senior prom dress, that training was NOT successful.
In college, I became a Studio Art major after an intro level class gave me the opportunity to work with my hands as well as my brain, and I began integrating hand weaving and fabrics into my art. I finally learned to sew in a costume course – on industrial equipment, at that!
My Theater advisor helped me acquire summer costume jobs and an intensive professional internship, unknowingly starting me down the road toward entrepreneurship.
My specialty became Costume Crafts – the sculptural side of costuming (hats, shoes, jewelry, surface design, dyeing and showgirls). I later learned traditional upholstery and curtain making techniques. I spent six years working with amazing costumers and designers at professional theaters from New Hampshire to California. Whether big and fancy or small and poorly tooled, the shops shared characteristics:
-Equipment was communal.
-Our brilliant, innovative, international communities shared skills, insights, and stories.
-The workload was lightened by good company, music, and laughter.
-The pay was usually not a living wage.
It was an inspiration, despite difficulties.
The Textile Arts grew to be my true passion (with the Business of Art a close second), and I travel all over the world to visit museums, study textile and fashion collections, and learn dyeing, fabrication, and manufacturing techniques.
After the 1998 economic downturn culled full-time theater jobs, I became self-employed: mostly designing and fabricating custom furnishings for homeowners with occasional costume work. Despite delivering a superior product, I struggled to create a financially sustainable business.
In 2003, I landed in Oakland, CA and started leading teams to design and build large, complex, textile-based projects, with work appearing at the SFMOMA, Berkeley Art Museum, Oakland Museum of California, and San Jose Museum of Art. I leased and customized an 1,800 square foot sewing studio to suit the scale of this work in 2013, but discovered that the timelines for such projects left the workroom idle for significant periods: a problem on several levels.
Upon consideration of that problem and my twin passions, I’ve created The CoSew: a business incubator for prototyping, small production runs, and custom textile work. We offer an affordable, communal studio in the costume shop model and a professional business support system for textile artist-entrepreneurs. I’m building the resource I needed when taking on self-employment 17 years ago.
The CoSew can accommodate large and small projects, sewing workshops, and events. We currently have four industrial sewing machines, five home machines, 19’ of modular cutting tables, commercial irons, and other specialized, industrial tools for textile work. It features a fitting area, meeting room, high speed wifi, and wholesale fabric sourcing, plus business mailboxes and storage lockers for rent. The CoSew will eventually be open 24 hours per day, but is launching with limited hours.
Memberships are tiered, and start at 10 hours per month. Members benefit from a community of skilled professionals; curated workshops and support groups to help them build better businesses; and a sewing referral service to match clients with providers.
$2200 invested in the purchase and installation of a security system with video monitoring will provide a sense of personal and business security for members, and increase their confidence in using our service.
$1500 invested in the purchase and installation of ten 15″ x 18″ x 72″ lockers, which will create additional rental revenues of $3000 per year when fully rented and allow members to secure their business property.
$3000 for professional website re-design and search engine optimization, which will contribute substantially to our visibility and allow us to book classes online.
The remaining $3300 will be allotted for working capital to cover expenses during start up while The CoSew gains traction in the marketplace.
Through this loan, I will be able to launch The CoSew for textile artists in my community, providing an important resource for artists who are finding it increasingly difficult to afford home and studio rent in the Bay Area. This business allows me to share what I have learned and help support emerging artists/entrepreneurs, while contributing to my own family and modeling entrepreneurship for my 9 year old daughter.
About The CoSew
- Social Enterprise
- Years in Operation:
- 6 months – 1 year