The Sewcial Lounge

It all started with a visit to a Chicago sewing lounge.

Sara Myers, 28, was interested in advancing her sewing skills, but class offerings around Madison, in her opinion, focused more on traditional fabrics and quilting. Through a Google search, she found the Chicago lounge, attended one class, and was hooked. "It was so cool – with really modern fabrics and younger demographics. I liked that it was okay if you didn't know how to sew."

At the time, Myers was re-evaluating her future after having quit her job as an operations manager in the financial industry. "Following the stock market just wasn't super exciting for me," she admitted, and she'd always wanted to own her own business.

A creative pattern started taking shape.

She returned from that Chicago trip and enrolled in an entrepreneur class through the SBDC, then spent months researching and writing a sewing lounge business plan. With undergraduate and MBA degrees from Edgewood College, Myers was driving down Monroe Street last summer when she spotted a "for lease" sign in the window at 1809 Monroe St. It proved a perfect fit.

In rather quick fashion, Myers presented her plan to Summit Credit Union, and within a week, was approved for a $45,000 loan. It didn't hurt that she was also able to contribute "five figures" from her personal coffer.
The Sewcial Lounge, a modern fabric shop and sewing lounge, opened on Oct. 1. The small though all-encompassing space offers designer fabrics, notions, sewing supplies, patterns, and project-based sewing classes. Myers spent about $30,000 on five sewing machines and inventory, including 35 home decorator fabrics and 100 other cotton/apparel fabrics, each retailing for about $10 per yard.

Two instructors were hired on a contract basis to help teach classes on Wednesday and Thursday nights, and Saturdays. Classes are between one and three hours long, and cost between $30 and $40 each. At the end of each class, customers leave with a simple item they created that day from scratch – an envelope pillow-cover, for example, or a tote bag, or scarf. "We were very cautious to start small," Myers noted. "We can hold only one class at a time, and allow only four people per class." Experienced sewers can also rent machine time, and sewcializing with friends is encouraged.

Thus far, the business generates most of its income from fabric sales, but Myers plans to increase the number of classes offered and add embroidery classes and materials to the mix. She's targeting a younger, professional demographic, though any age group is welcome, including children – something she didn't anticipate.

"We've found people really want classes for kids," she said. In response, the Sewcial Lounge offers one-hour, after-school classes for kids aged six to 13. "They can make a pillow case," she said, "or [with their own fabric] create whatever they want."

Myers' life has changed dramatically. Her house isn't as clean anymore, she said; time management is more difficult than it was in the corporate world; and being a "people person," she often misses having someone to bounce ideas off. But is she glad she took the leap? "Yes, one hundred percent," she exclaimed. "Five years from now, if I hadn't done this, I would have regretted not trying."

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