Saskia lives in Cornwall with her husband and two children, Arthur (who will be 8 at Christmas) and Layla (who is just 5). She is the owner of Avocado Pear. The company was born out of a need to make clothes for her own children that fitted their skinny frames.
Where are you based?
We live in a small rural village near St Austell in Cornwall. We are lucky enough to live on the outskirts of the village overlooking livestock fields. We live in an unconventional upside down house to take full advantage of the views ☺
Tell me a bit about your business. What do you make/sell etc?
I sew children’s clothes. I make bespoke and one-off items in individual fabrics and designs. I like to use a mix of indie designer patterns as well as my own drafted patterns. I make all manner of items, ranging from appliquéd slippers to pixie-hooded capes, to pretty party dresses.
When and why did you start out?
I started making my own children’s clothes when I couldn’t buy shop clothes that would fit them. They were both on the seriously skinny side. I got so many compliments that I started making to sell. So, the business started in the first half of 2015.
Do you have any formal training?
Not in dressmaking no. But I learnt from my own mum who used to make all our clothes as children. I sewed my first dress at around age 8 completely unaided and went on from there. I learn through experience, and some of the many tutorials available to everyone on the internet. I love researching different sewing techniques and have many books on the subject. I prefer the classic, more time consuming sewing methods. I like to have clean finished items that look as neat on the inside as on the outside. A lot of my seams are enclosed, or hidden. I especially like the look of French seams that don’t show any raw edges or have the need of overlocking (for anyone who doesn’t know, if you look at the seams of many shop bought t-shirts, there are rows of triangular shaped stitches close together encasing the raw edge of the seam allowance. This is overlocking. A French seam will enclose the whole seam allowance so you only see fabric, and no stitches).
How do you fit in running a business with having a family?
I generally sew in the evenings or at the weekend. I do sometimes get the opportunity to sew during the day, but as I home educate my children, this is on the rarer side! I’ve found that as they’ve got older and they’ve finished their lessons, I can trade off some time with them, by allowing them short spells on the computer, or playing with lego in my sewing room whilst I’m sewing.
What has been the biggest challenge since starting your business?
The biggest problem I have encountered is the sheer amount of time needed for social media to get my product out there. I find it really difficult to reach out to the right audience for my clothing. Being in Cornwall is lovely and idyllic to raise children but from a business point of view we are very much stuck out on a limb.
And the best reward/achievement?
The best reward by far is receiving 5* reviews from very happy customers.
What are your business goals for 2017?
My goals for next year are to raise sales by reaching my desired audience. I’d love more children to be wearing the clothes I make!
Are there any barriers to achieving your goals?
Time is my biggest barrier, in that with home educating, and raising a family, time is in short supply. If I had a magic wand, my website would be up to date, my social media accounts would post for themselves, I’d have an in house photographer and editor, and I would have an extra 5 hours a day to sew, because the sewing bit is the bit I enjoy the most.
Have you built a support network of other mums/women in business?
I have a good friend who is very much in a similar situation to me in terms of sewing from home whilst juggling a family. Other than that, no I don’t have much of a support network in other mums in business. I bounce ideas off my own parents, my mum has been there and done that, my dad has a background in marketing, and my husband is the voice of reason!
Any tips for mum’s just starting out in business?
Unless you have unlimited funds, don’t expect your business to magically grow quickly. It can be frustratingly slow at times, but perseverance is the key.
Working from home can be extremely convenient, but is also very challenging with children at home, be that babies/toddlers or older ones that are home educated, or during school holidays.
You can find Saskia’s gorgeous creations at www.avocadopear.co.uk