Sole trader and second-generation dress-maker, Miriam Lloyd, set up her new venture ‘Christening Generations’ in 2016, to customise bridal gowns, making them into heirloom christening robes.
Thanks to this new on-line business, Miriam is attracting new customers from around the world. Based in a purpose-built studio beside her home in County Carlow, Miriam also provides a well-established dress-making service, under the ‘Sewing Concepts’ brand (www.christeninggenerations.ie)
Facts at a glance
|Entrepreneur: Miriam Lloyd, 'Christening Generations'||Employees: 1 full-time (Sole Trader)|
|Famous for: Transforming wedding gowns into heirloom christening robes||LEO Supports: Direct financial assistance and management development workshops|
|Set-Up: 2016||Location: Ballon Village,County Carlow|
Miriam – where did the idea for this new venture come from?
I saw an opportunity to specialise in a particular area and was also trying to find a way to reach a wider audience. My daughter and I were looking at my wedding dress a few years back and she said she would love me to redesign it into a christening gown when she has children of her own.
My own mother helped me make my wedding dress before she passed away, so it is very special. It was then that I started to think about turning this idea into a business.
The new venture started off in 2016 and is called ‘Christening Generations’; we transform wedding dresses into christening gowns, as precious family heirlooms for families all over the world.
How did you find setting up a new business venture online?
I was already running a complementary business, Sewing Concepts, which had a good online presence. So, the second time around, I knew what I was doing, and what the end goal was.
Once I had the name and branding in place, it was then a case of doing some further research. I conducted an online survey, and that helped with the initial set up.
‘Christening Generations’ is your second business venture, so tell us about your first one?
I quit my full-time job in retail in 2010 to return to my passion for sewing and to make it a viable business. I had been dressmaking all my life, and wanted to dedicate my time to sewing and to make it my full-time job. I knew nothing about setting up a business so I signed up for a ‘Start Your Own Business’ course with my Local Enterprise Office in Carlow. In 2011, I bought a Portacabin and started ‘Sewing Concepts’ to provide a dressmaking and alteration service in Ballon.
Why did you decide to branch out and start a new online venture?
The main reason for branching out was due to the fact of servicing a rural community; there is not enough footfall to keep me in full-time work.
I couldn’t provide a dressmaking and alteration service over the internet as I need to see the customer in person. Through Christening Generations, I can redesign a customer’s wedding dress into an heirloom christening gown anywhere in the country or even the world as I don’t need to see them in person. The whole process can be provided via the internet and courier, making it the perfect online business for me.
What has the feedback been like so far?
The feedback has been hugely positive. When I decided to specialise in this niche area, I felt it needed its own brand and decided to launch it under its own name with new branding and website. It was definitely worth the risk.
What’s your vision for ‘Christening Generations’?
My vision for Christening Generations is to have families all over the world with a handmade heirloom christening gown designed and made by me from their wedding dress; a gown that can be passed on through the generations in their family.
All my designs are unique to each individual customer, and the end result is based on the dress/veil that we are working with. This service is very much an emotional one and I am delighted to be able to help parents and grandparents all over the world, to pass on their legacy and make family memories.
Both of your business ventures rely heavily on your dress-making skills. Where does this passion for dress-making come from?
I was definitely born with it and I started sewing before I even started school. At the age of nine, I was making blouses whilst the other kids were making aprons. My mother made all our clothes when we were small and I loved the creativity of it. As I grew older, I loved being able to make clothes for myself and others.
Tell us about the supports you received from your Local Enterprise Office?
I don’t think I would have made it this far without the support of my Local Enterprise Office in Carlow.
I have attended numerous training sessions on accounting, social media, web development, sales and marketing, along with lots of networking events.
I also availed of one-to-one mentoring on my Sewing Concepts’ business. It was after that mentoring assistance, that I needed to find a way to reach a wider audience both nationwide and beyond.
In order to develop my business further, I needed to upgrade my studio and equipment. With the help of a priming grant from my Local Enterprise Office under the rural initiative, I was able to purchase a custom-built studio to expand.
You also did a ‘Start Your Own Business’ Programme – how did that help?
I worked in retail for eight years prior to starting my business. I knew nothing about starting a business and was delighted to find out about the ‘Start Your Own Business’ programme. I found it highly beneficial and would recommend it to anyone starting out. It helped me understand how to put together a proper business plan and also gave me all the contact information for registering a business, tax liabilities, and all the other things you might not think of.
As a small business owner, are you optimistic about the future?
I am a hard-worker and I started my first business in 2011; right in the middle of the recession. I am optimistic about the future as I have learned that as a business, I need to be able to solve other people’s problems. There is no point in me pushing forward with an idea if the customer base is not there to support it.
You take part in National Women’s Enterprise Day every year - why is it important to highlight the success stories of women in business?
I think we, as women, very often lack confidence. I know when I first started out and began to attend some of these events, I felt totally out of my depth. To hear other people’s stories, and to realise that other people have the same fears and reservations as you is great because it helps you to focus, and say to yourself “you know what?... I can do this!”
I also found it to be a great way to meet wonderful, supportive women. I always feel highly motivated and focused after attending these events.
What’s the best piece of advice you got about running a business?
Find your passion. I thought I was passionate about sewing and Sewing Concepts. However, I have now realised that I am truly passionate about Christening Generations, as it is such a special and unique service to be able to provide. I am truly grateful to have found my niche.
What advice would you give others?
There are lots of supports and training available to start up business so my advice would be to contact your Local Enterprise Office and find out what is available to you before you start. There is also ongoing training available, not just for start-ups which, is also very important.
Miriam’s Pattern for Success
- Top Tips around planning a new business venture…
Fail to plan, plan to fail. Do your research. You are not the customer so it is not about you. Find out what your customer wants, not what you think they want.
- Top Tips for keeping on top of costs and cashflow…
Keep records of everything and once a month go through them and see where money is going and where you stand. Get an accountant; it will save you time and money in the long run.
- Top Tips on multi-tasking as a Sole Trader…
Being a Sole Trader is tough sometimes as you are responsible for absolutely everything. Learn to prioritise and manage your time. Keep a diary and a three month wall planner.
Our thanks to Miriam for taking part and if you’d like to find out more about her business, visit www.christeninggenerations.ie