Thursday, May 8, 2014
When the public is encouraged to “shop local,” they probably don’t think of shopping online where purchasing an item from across the world is as easy as a few clicks. But local merchants have been turning increasingly to online storefronts, and Summerville’s April Moffatt, 38, is just one example.
Moffatt had worked doing custom sewing for years before she started selling her designs to craft magazines. She was met with success and it made her consider opening her own store, but with no money or stamina for maintaining a brick and mortar storefront, she opened a shop on Etsy (www.etsy.com).
Her Etsy store, April Moffatt Designs, has been open since 2007. She sells patterns for sewing crafts, accessories and home textiles and has had customers from all over the world.
“I definitely would not want the responsibility of overhead. There’s definitely room for that locally, but sewing is such a unique niche, an online store means I’m not limited by area. Plus it works with my lifestyle, I homeschool my children.”
Affordability is one of the main reasons she loves her online store, Moffatt said.
Etsy, an online marketplace for buyers and sellers of handmade and vintage goods and supplies, requires sellers to pay 20 cents per item they list on the site. When she sells an item the company takes a small percentage, but there are no membership or maintenance fees. Moffatt uses PayPal to accept payments from her customers; PayPal also takes a small percentage of her sales to pay for bookkeeping.
For Moffatt the small fees are more than reasonable, and help her to run the shop exactly as she wants it: “It’s a private way to have a business.”
The sewist has taught several classes in the Summerville area, and said while there are things she would enjoy about a storefront, it would compromise her business.
“I wish I had the upfront capital you have with a store, but realistically, if I had a store I’d probably be sharing space with someone. And I would have to do more upholstery as well, we’d have to do more to stay afloat.”
Having an online business still presents challenges though.
“The hardest part by far is discipline, especially when I’m not going into an office.” She also said marketing her business can be difficult, although she has received referrals from many of her customers — local and otherwise.
Despite the challenges, Moffatt’s business has been so successful she is launching her own pattern company this summer, which will also be based online.
“I think if I had to go through one of the big pattern designers I couldn’t afford it,” she said.
The benefits of technology will be a key part of her new online business.
“The concept is teaching people how to sew. … People will purchase a design but I’ll actually be able to teach them how to sew it using a video blog. It’s like someone mentoring you.
“The internet allows me to come into someone’s living room and teach them how to sew.”