Interview with Mark Creasey, Girl Charlee UK

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One of my favourite makes from Girl Charlee UK

When I decided to leave a steady job, I discovered allies and compatriots in the most unlikely of places.

Whilst packing up my office desk and handing in my security pass, I was also opening up Did You Make That to blog buttons, something I’d never done before.

One of the first people to engage with me was Mark Creasey of Girl Charlee UK. He’d re-envisioned his own career to become part of the sewing world and had some great words of wisdom for me:

It’s better to fail at something you love, than succeed at something you hate.

I wanted to interview Mark on his own new life and what he made of the sewing community. Thankfully, he agreed to indulge me!

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Gotta love a man in a Santa onesie.

Mark, may I ask what inspired you to step into the world of fabric supplies?

M: It really happened by chance, my brother Ben and I were going on a trip to Hawaii and we had a stop over in LA for a day so I contacted my life long friend Heather who lives there so we could meet up. Heather started Girl Charlee in the US several years ago and whilst we were there she showed us round her business and explained that the fabrics were very popular in the UK & Europe but customers were sometimes put off by the shipping costs, delivery times and import duties. It was clear to see her passion and excitement and it rubbed off on both of us!

We both saw the potential immediately and I remember, when Heather dropped us off at the airport, Ben saying “We have to get into this!”. Jen (Ben’s wife) had also recently picked up the sewing bug, so it was settled, a year later (with a lot of hard work) we were up and running!

Since then, our passion for fabric has grown so much, I never thought I would be reading blogs about sewing, getting excited about new fabrics, and sewing myself!

What is a typical day like for you and how does it compare to your old working life?

M: A typical day involves cutting fabrics for our customer orders, producing content for our blog and social media, dealing with customers’ questions about knit fabrics and poring through magazines, blogs etc. to gain more knowledge about the sewing community, future trends in fabrics etc.

There are three of us running the business, Ben tends to deal with the financial side, whilst Jen and I deal with the day to day running of the business. It works well as Ben is good with numbers, and Jen and I love being hands on with the fabrics!

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What were your first impressions of the home sewing community in the UK?

M: When we first started we were welcomed into the community with open arms. It really is amazing to be part of such a friendly, helpful and fun group of people, from sewists to bloggers, from pattern designers to other fabric companies! From my previous quite cutthroat world of corporate recruitment, it was a breath of fresh air to work in a community that was so friendly and welcoming. I think that is the main difference between my career now and then – we never see our customers as a “market” or “industry”, “community” is a much better word to describe where I now work.

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The sewing community is a warm and welcoming place – Mark says so!

Do you have a sense of what home buyers want most from an online fabric supplier? What does Girl Charlee UK especially bring to this market?

M: With an online fabric business, our main issue is that customers can’t touch and feel our fabrics. We offer free next day samples which I think is very important to people so they can be reassured of the quality. Quality is essential, especially with knit fabrics and we find when a sewist has bought from us once, we develop the trust that is needed to buy fabric again and again without touching it first! People often want advice when choosing knit fabrics as they may be less knowledgeable about working with stretch fabrics. We really enjoy helping educate people about knits, it makes us feel we are contributing back to the sewing community. Girl Charlee’s priorities have always been high quality fabrics and great customer service.

Any words of wisdom for readers who might be at their own professional or personal crossroads?

M: It’s such a cliché, but if you can do something you love, you’ll never work another day in your life. I never thought fabrics would be my passion, but starting Girl Charlee has been the happiest, most exciting time of my life! If you have a passion which you think you can turn into a business, do lots of research, turn your passion into hard work and go for it! You’ll regret not trying more than you’ll regret trying and failing, and if you love what you do, you’re much more likely to succeed, so you have nothing to lose!

If you do something you love, you’ll never work another day in your life.

Where can people meet you? Are you going to be at any trade fairs over the coming year?

M: We’ll be doing lots of trade fairs this year, London, Birmingham, Edinburgh, Dublin, Harrogate to name but a few! You can see all our events on our Facebook page or Pinterest page. We really love meeting everyone so please come along and say hi!

You can sign up for email updates on all our new fabrics & patterns, tutorials, interviews, giveaways, events etc. here.

Thanks so much, Mark! Readers, I hope that’s inspired you. What are you sewing today? Any fabric from Girl Charlee UK?

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36 Responses to Interview with Mark Creasey, Girl Charlee UK

  1. Jan Brown says:

    Great interview with Mark. I am definitely inspired to use Girl Charlee now. I get their newsletters but thought they were a big impersonal company as the emails look very professional. Now I know more and that it’s a family business, I’m very keen to support them so I will be placing my first order soon. Pity you didn’t negotiate a discount for your readers Karen!!

  2. Arletta says:

    Having just left myself the rather cutthroat corporate world to do what I love the most (environmental, ecological, self-sufficiency issues) this interview is so encouraging, inspiring, motivating… this post does a world of goods to me right now. “It’s better to fail at something you love…” will be my mantra from now on! There is so much wisdom in this interview also, thanks so much for sharing this with us!

  3. Michele says:

    Really good article about being brave and following your heart – once u have done your homework. Now I’ve discovered through it, they do samples -I’ll definately be contacting them -thanks.

  4. Great interview. I met Mark and Jen briefly when buying from them at the knitting and stitching show at Ally Pally last October. They were very chatty and friendly and enthusiastic about what they were doing. I haven’t bought from them online yet, but it will only be a matter of time!

  5. Tanya says:

    What a lovely, warm and inspiring interview. You can really feel his personality and passion shining through. I didn’t know they did samples so that might halt my reticence to buy!

  6. Although it has been on my mind for quite a while now, my husband and I made the decision yesterday morning that I should quit my job and start a sewing business. Whereas the thought of no steady paycheck has me fearful, not having to deal with an emotionally unstable boss any longer, has me simply giddy with joy. This morning I woke up and asked for a sign that I was doing the right thing and the third eMail in my box was this post. Thanks~

  7. Danielle says:

    That’s so awesome! I would love to own a crafting store, but just can’t do it now. Maybe someday down the road…

  8. PsychicSewerKathleen says:

    I really enjoyed reading this article too! I couldn’t agree more that to do what you love isn’t truly WORK or at least not in the sense we think of it when working for a company. I’ve not tried any of Girl Charlie Fabric line mostly because the difference in our dollar (I’m in Canada) plus shipping costs – I have to almost double the cost which is quite a risk to take but I would be more inclined to visit Girl Charlie in the UK and order from them! Believe it or not shipping from the UK to Canada is often less than from the US to us which I know is ODD but that’s the way it is 😉

  9. Jenny says:

    I have bought several times from Girl Charlee and their personal and helpful service really does pay off. They reply to emails quickly and if there is a problem Mark always tries to sort it out. Their fabrics are of a high quality and the range is growing all the time.

  10. sewandsnip says:

    Great interview. Its great to know the story behind a business, I’ve looked at their fabrics before but haven’t ordered yet. Now knowing more about them I’m sure I’ll give them a try

  11. Whoot! I never realised there was a UK ‘branch’. I’ll just have to drift on over and rummage….

  12. Just wanted to say big thanks to Karen for featuring me/us! Not sure about the Santa picture though 😉 I don’t wear that every day I hasten to add!

  13. Estliana says:

    Great article about this new world we live in that most people still do not get. It is obvious that you have a passion and will succeed. Good luck with your ventures

  14. Gosh this is so inspiring to read! Its so lovely to hear how much Mark enjoys working in this community and also not surprising as I think it would be hard not to enjoy it!
    Love that picture of us at the By Hand London party all those years ago now, such great memories!

  15. smashandme says:

    Great interview! Will have to try the sample service, buying fabric online from the bottom of the world can be a risky business!

  16. PocketC says:

    Loved the interview! I keep seeing knit dress patterns I like… I will have to check out their fabrics and keeping thinking about making the leap to knits (which scare me).

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