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!
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!
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.
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?