Where flexible working works - Jobs for mums

Career Focus - Creative and Crafty

Lizette Greco

Handmade Toys & Bags - Lizette Greco

Lizette runs her own business - www.LizetteGreco.etsy.com selling gorgeous handmade toys, bags and softies..


The Interview

Name - Lizette Greco

Location - Southern California, USA

Family - husband and two children

What inspired you to set up Lizette Greco?

Sewing personalized gifts turned into an art form and we wanted to share it with a lot of people, not only friends and family.

What is your background (previous career area?)

A few years ago, I was studying to become a school teacher. I taught summer courses for elementary school children before I had my first child. After that I decided to stay at home to be with my kids.

Did you have specialist training in sewing or designing? - if so what/where was your training?

I haven't taken any formal sewing lessons. My grandfather used to sell sewing machines and my grandmother and mother showed me the basics of sewing in one of those (now old) machines. I used to mend clothes and help make and change the slipcovers for our upholstery every Spring and Fall. I also learned about sewing by watching my aunt and uncle next door when they started designing clothing and selling them at their small boutique. They used to make patterns out of pieces of clothing they liked. They'd cut layers and layers of fabric, had several people piecing together jeans, swimming-wear, t-shirts, etc. I worked for them for a couple of summers and got a closer look at what they did. However, as I went off to college I was not thinking of sewing as a career. I took history and literature courses, but also tried some art courses. That's when I became more interested in different art techniques and designing things.

Then I bought a couple of patterns and my mother-in-law showed me how to make a dress. When my first born arrived, I made little dresses for her. Later on I tried to make purses and bags as presents for our friends. I read lots of design magazines and looked online to see what the trends were at the time, but decided to design what made sense for me, what I would like.

How did you go about setting your business up? (from a business perspective - initial funding etc) Did you have any professional help?

My husband designed a website (and bought the domain name, www.lizettegreco.com) for me in order to have a portfolio gallery and contact information online. In addition to that we opened a Flickr account (www.flickr.com/photos/lizettegreco) to regularly post pictures of our work. Later, we opened an Etsy (www.lizettegreco.etsy.com) and a Paypal account (www.paypal.com) to allow people to buy our pieces in between shows and local craft sales. The costs were minimal.

Did you carry out any research you carried out to know your business would work?

We stared reading other artists and craftspeople's blogs (online journals) and design blogs to see what all the creative people were doing with their art and resources. We wanted to see which ones were successful and if their experiences appealed to us. Our work doesn't feel like a business. We make one-of-a-kind creations and people like it when they know they are buying unique pieces from us. I decided not to worry about making things that would sell, but instead work on drawings and ideas that appeal to my children and to all of us as a family. Still I wanted to share some of our creations but didn't want to set up my own shop. I heard about Etsy the summer of 2006 and decided to give it a try. Etsy hosts a shop site for handmade creations. I sell a few pieces through Etsy, but mostly people email me, see our work at toy shows, or come to see us at holiday sales.

Where do you carry out your work now?

I have a master bedroom half of which is my storage and studio space. I also work out of my dining room and keep my sewing machine tucked under a side table. I take some hand embroidery projects with me when I'm on the move too.

Do you need lots of specialist equipment?

I started sewing accessories and dolls with an old sewing machine and the basic sewing notions, nothing fancy. Now I have a few tools that save me a little time such as long tweezers, and long needles, but the basics sewing notions (scissors, needles, thread, seem riper) will do the work.

Do you make all of your items you sell yourself?

I do all the cutting, sewing, and stuffing myself. My husband and I work on the pattern making and photography together. Our kids provide all the drawings for our projects.

What inspires your designs?

Our designs come straight out of kids' drawings.

How many hours do you work a week?

It is hard to say. I work on and off throughout the day, but I try to get up early to have a couple of hours of work before the kids are up. Many times I work late in the evening when things settled down again.

How does the job fit round your family life?

I can stop and put a project aside whenever we need to go for walks or want to do something together. Working at home makes it very flexible for us to have time together. However, I try to set time apart as "work time" without interruptions in order to get things done. The same happens with "family or home time".

How do you find customers - do you advertise?

I do not advertise. I keep a Flickr blog (www.flickr.com/photos/lizettegreco) where I regularly post pictures and stories about our work. We get lots of visitors and comments that way. Other bloggers, design blogs, and e-magazines have written articles about us and that's how people find us.

What is the earning potential?

Whatever we make goes right back into materials, gas money, business cards, etc. At this point our work is paying for itself.

Is the job/running the business rewarding?

Making toys is very rewarding, especially when I see my kids' reactions to the final 3D version of their drawings. I also love to meet people at sales and see the smile in their faces when they first encounter our work.

Do you think it is a job that fits in well with being a Mum?

It's great. I get to spend a lot to time with my kids, we talk about our projects, we come up with ideas together. I'm using their drawings in our work and I feel like I'm constantly celebrating their creativity. It is not a job but an activity we do together on a daily basis.

Any advice for a Mum or Dad wanting to set up their own business?

You have to decide if you want to make or create what other people want (supply) or what comes from your heart. If you can combine both, you'll have a good business. We create what comes from the heart and it is not necessarily what everyone wants or likes, but we are happy to share it nonetheless.

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