Maggie Whitley is the gal behind Gussy Sews – a ruffled shop & blog that Whitley transformed from a self-taught hobby into a fun and thriving business at a time when the recession hit her little family hard.
Having graduated from college in 2008 and married her college sweetheart, it appeared that the world was Whitley’s oyster. She picked up sewing as a hobby, teaching herself with books and YouTube videos.
But within a few months, both she and her husband, Zack, had lost their post-college jobs. Sewing continued to be a respite from the dismal economic situation in Detroit, and Maggie worked hard at defining her signature ruffle and technique.
She didn’t know it then, but the seeds of a business were forming.
After 7 months of unemployment and sagging hopes, Maggie and Zack moved from Detroit to Minneapolis for a job lead. Maggie soon found herself working almost 40 hours a week on her sewing – in addition to her day job.
In a flight of fancy, Maggie attended Blissdom in 2010. It totally changed the direction of her business.
During a Blissdom session, Maggie asked a question and was prompted by The Nester to mention her business:
As soon as I did that, I heard the room muttering my business name as my product and my face clicked in everyone’s mind.
There, in a room of 250 women, my product was known. I was known. The panelists answered my questions and yes — all of them — were speaking to me and giving me advice & encouragement. It was a priceless moment, one that I truly treasure.
In May 2010 she quit her day job to work on Gussy Sews exclusively, and a successful business was born.
As it turned out, Maggie’s blog, which she had kept since 2008, proved to be helpful to her new venture.
Having a blog has been instrumental in promoting my product and sharing my experience as an Indie Biz owner, and I attribute this to community. I’ve always shared my experience ~ learning how to sew and then custom orders, sales, and of course leading up to my announcement that I had quit my day job, so it’s been a really harmonious process.
My blog is my landing page to everything Gussy Sews. Having one place for customers (and not-quite-yet customers) to visit for updates is really important. I think having a blog makes your readers and customers feel connected to you… it’s a full-circle process and it totally allows the handmade industry to feel important, regardless of their size.
While Maggie’s story channels a bit of Cinderella, her work is not without its challenges. She humbly spoke to us about how periods of growth in her business can prove to be difficult.
Every few months, and especially during the months when I experience a lot of growth, I have to change my work flow process. At first I used to get very frustrated, telling myself at times, I just can’t do this anymore. But really, change is a necessity if you want to stay balanced, so I’ve begun to see change as a positive thing.
But Maggie continues to push on, and she has even more on the horizon for Gussy Sews.
I would love to hire more assistants (I have 2 right now) and really incorporate my ruffles and crazy amazing story of how & why I learned how to sew with more people. Over the past year I’ve been so encouraged by others/the online, handmade community. I find it a necessity to take the time to encourage others in return The friendships that have come my way are sooo fun and exciting — of course I want to maintain these for.ever! I also want to attend a few more blog conferences in 2012 and work ultra hard at accomplishing my business goals.
Maggie is a great example of how quickly a blogger can be catapulted from anonymity to visibility, and how it only takes one kind person – a person like The Nester, who wanted to pay it forward – to make that happen.