The long awaited BIG REVEAL is finally here!!
Put the kettle on, pull up a chair and enjoy the read... I promise the journey of reading from start to finish (with no sneaky scrolling to the end) will be worth it...
I feel it is important to share the journey that I have been on in the last few years which has led me to where I am now.
In the beginning...
Back in 2011 our second son was born. I was on maternity leave and once a new routine was found around the singing of nursery rhymes, power walking with the pram and nappy changes, I decided to find myself a new hobby. There is only so much cleaning you can do when baby is sleeping, so I taught myself how to sew.
My husband bought me a Cath Kidston sewing book, which came with a project to make a purse. Made it, loved it, wanted more!
A week later I found myself in the John Lewis haberdashery department purchasing a metre of pink Clarke and Clarke spotty fabric and my very first sewing machine.
I had never used a sewing machine before. I had no idea how to use one and really had no clue where to start. I brought it home and looked at the box for some time. I took it out of the box and looked at it for a bit longer.
I got started through pure trial and error and after a few too many disasters, designed and made a doorstop. This dodgy looking one right here...
I spent a few months playing, coming up with new ideas and making things for family and friends.
After much encouragement from those around me, Sweet Williams was born and officially launched in November 2011. Sweet Williams are my favourite flowers and also my second son, who I was off on maternity leave with, is named William, so it seemed the perfect name to choose.
I returned to the day job after 9 months maternity leave in January 2012 at a local firm of Solicitors as a Legal Assistant. I loved my job and those I worked with, but welcomed the down time in the evenings and weekends, switching my mind off to focus on our two wonderful children and my new sewing business. Even though I was all fully registered and above board, looking back it was very much a hobby business, dabbling in local events, craft fairs, learning how to use social media and really just playing with fabrics to learn new skills and seeing what worked.
I spent the next couple of years building my brand, getting myself known and becoming involved in lots of community projects, volunteering my skills and public speaking, which I still find incredibly scary and right out of my comfort zone, despite being no stranger to it now. I done a lot of thinking and planning on what I wanted for the future.
I started to really build my business after going part time at the day job and concentrate on branding. My new logo was born...
I decided I wanted to share my skills with other people. Sewing wasn't something that was readily taught anymore, and I wanted to pass on my love for fabric and buttons to others wanting to learn.
I started sewing workshops. Hand sewing at first to test the water and build my confidence. They were a great success and they gradually grew and I introduced machine workshops too.
These are something I have been immensely proud of. I believe myself to be patient, kind and very generous with my time and knowledge and this has helped me greatly in working with a wide range of people, including children, in schools, after school clubs, foreign exchange students and private parties. I have worked with those who have daily struggles and challenges, including mental health, stress and depression, assisting them in refocusing on something really positive and creative. I have worked with professional people, who have busy lifestyles and family lives who crave a little bit of well deserved "me time" and have introduced complete beginners to sewing and managed to get them utterly addicted who now blame me for their very own uncontrollable fabric stash!
Here are some of the classes over the years...
The classes have allowed me to make some true friends for life... you know who you are! I am privileged to know you.
The workshops led to me organising something rather special... luxury 5* weekend cottage retreats, complete with a full itinerary. For someone who is in love with a needle and thread, can you imagine how fabulous it is to spend a whole weekend sewing with like minded people?!? I am very much looking forward to the two retreats I have booked in this year at this beautiful cottage... (just 2 spaces left for October)
I found my own unique style and was loving every minute of it.
My work was starting to travel... I began supplying shops all over the UK. Before long my products were being sent to Australia, Spain, New York and France.
Employee to becoming the boss...
I was desperate to leave my job. As much as I loved it, fabric was becoming increasingly more enjoyable than paperwork. In 2013 I received the news that all employees dread... redundancy! It was a stressful time, full of uncertainty and worry. As much as I felt it was time to move on to pastures new, after 10 years in law I was comfy, I was used to that paycheck arriving on the first of every month.
After much consideration, sleepless nights and a very understanding and encouraging husband, we agreed that I would give Sweet Williams a six months trial, going full time self employed to see if I could really make something of it. I turned down a job offered to me by the Local Authority and spent another two weeks feeling sick with worry, in case I had done the wrong thing.
Halloween 2013, I started my new journey from employee to being my own boss. I was sad to leave my old life, but excited to start a new one. The next 6 months wasn't a life line. It wasn't easy, it was bloody hard work. It was stressful and many sleepless nights were had. When you do not have that guaranteed paycheck on the first of every month and its up to you to bridge that gap, you work the hardest you have ever worked in your life. When you get up in the mornings, bundle the children off to school, you can quickly sink into a nasty routine of tea, toast and daytime telly and by the time you realise, you have wasted a day and its time to do the school run again! I quickly learnt that I needed to be dedicated, focused, organised, motivated and willing to learn. It was a really hard concept to grasp.
The last year...
This past year has seen the biggest growth in my business and a bit of a game changer.
With both children in full time school, I could really concentrate on getting myself into a proper routine and trying not to sew all unsocial hours. There have been so many occasions in the past where I have worked 20 hour days and I found out the hard way that this was just not sustainable.
I found myself with a wonderful opportunity on my hands. An opportunity which would see me vacate the dining table situated in my living room into my very own sewing studio.
A beautiful vintage style tea room and cake shop opened up in Pontardawe called Blissful Bakes. The owner, Mandy has become a really good friend and sounding board to my random ideas! A room was offered to me to sub let and I jumped at the chance. I found myself working here...
It was my special little haven. I adored it. However, my business was growing at such a rate that I was desperate for more space. I really didn't want to leave the tea room as I had become so fond of the atmosphere and the people there, as well as an addict to their coffee and the best cake I have ever tasted, so I was overwhelmed and grateful of the generosity shown to me when I was offered this amazing space to move into...
Rather quickly I made it my own and transformed it to this... isn't it wonderful?
My studio is based on the second floor, tucked away inside the tea room, but my ultimate goal has been at the forefront of my mind for a very long time, ever since I started taking Sweet Williams seriously.
The BIG announcement...
I am really sad to announce that I shall be shortly leaving this beautiful place behind. I have had the most amazing time here. The laughter which often fills this building between the tea room staff, customers and connecting beautiful clothes shop (think vintage style dresses and petticoats) is infectious and I have again made some life long friends here.
I am feeling so emotional writing this because it is the combination of having some amazing people around me, who have had faith in me from the start, who have been with me every step of the way, never doubting me for a second, all of my wonderful customers who have made this next big step possible...
As sad as I am to leave... and there will be tears...
THIS IS NOT THE END...
Its actually the start of a new exciting journey because Sweet Williams is coming to the high street!!!!!!!!!
Side note... It was rush hour, in May and I had Michael Buble's White Christmas blaring out of the car speakers when I randomly stopped the car to take this photo!! I think running your own business makes you a little crazy!! I am truly sorry to the people who witness my daily drama!!
I am so excited and nervous. These days I range from squealing with excitement, dancing on the spot, to wanting to breathe deeply for 10 minutes into a paper bag to stop myself from passing out!!
It feels like the next natural step. I feel I have grown my business in the proper channel, slowly, taking those gentle stepping stones to reach my ultimate goal.
The goal of my very own shop, with a proper shop front adorned in my branding with my name above the door.
It has been the hardest but most rewarding journey of all. I have worked the hardest I have ever worked in my life and am not ashamed to admit that I am bloody well damn proud of what I have created.
So... let me give you a little snippet of information about the biggest news I've shared to date...
The Sweet Williams Boutique will be based on Herbert Street, Pontardawe and will be opening its doors in July. The store will be divided into two parts. The back of the shop will be a creative hub, home to my workspace, where the magic happens and where a wealth of fantastic workshops will run. Not just my own sewing workshops, but I'll be bringing talented, expert tutors in to share their skills with you in the form of furniture upcycling, jewellery making, screen printing, creative writing and much much more.
The front of the shop will be a gorgeous treasure trove of Sweet Williams handmade products, where you are guaranteed to find the perfect unique and individual gift or treat for yourself.
I am stupidly excited to bring to Herbert Street the gorgeous range of Frenchic Furniture Paint. It is an amazing healthier option chalk paint, which contains zero toxins, voc, solvents, pva and odour. All of their paint including the waxes and sealent are EN:71-3 certified, meaning it is even safe for mums to be and children. Oh and it just so happens to paint like a dream!
I have been working tirelessly to build up some gorgeous stock. My home and my studio have become a bit of a warehouse! Its amazing how much stock you need to fill a shop!!
I am operating a "rent a shelf" opportunity, for a handful of other small business owners to rent a little bit of precious space within the Sweet Williams Boutique to display their gorgeous stock for sale. I already have some amazing unique businesses lined up already and am looking forward to sharing everything about them over the next few weeks. If you are reading this an are interested in getting involved yourself, you can find out more information on how to apply by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
I am sure you will agree that this is such a wonderful opportunity and can see why I have been super excited in the build up of sharing the news with you all.
I want to thank everyone so much for their support, my family, friends, customers, followers on my social media pages, students at my classes, my amazing stockists, suppliers and anyone else I have missed... its because of you that this is possible.
I very much look forward to sharing updates with you, showing you the first peek of the shop and snippets of what is to come and I can't wait to welcome you to the Sweet Williams Boutique, whether it be online or in person and sharing my new journey with you.
Much love xxx