Taking the Leap
Q&A With Newly Minted Entrepreneur: Eve Minehan
Eve Minehan, recently quit her day job to crank up her start up, Cecelia Stitch. She designs and handcrafts weather-resistant totes and bags in a small studio space in her apartment. Overlooking downtown Seattle and the Puget Sound, she molds, shapes, and sews waxed canvas into utilitarian yet stylish products. Eve shares how she took the plunge and successfully launched her brand on Etsy, six months into her entrepreneurial journey.
What did you do for a living before you started your business?
I was working in architecture in downtown Seattle. I was the office manager for a small design studio. Then I was headhunted for a position in a larger corporate type of firm and I absolutely just did not like it. But, it pushed me to explore my creative side a lot more because I was so not liking my job.
What made you decide to start Cecelia Stitch?
The gifts I give have always been handmade and people just started to request certain things. I decided to start an Etsy last December and people actually started buying things. The more reviews I got, the more people I did not know started buying things. For the first three or four months of 2017 I was working my full-time job and working another kind of full time job doing my online shop. I would go to work, come home and start working. It got to the point where I was making enough sales I was like, ‘I am going to take the leap’. I decided to go with what feels good over what makes money, which was a very scary thing. I can’t say it isn’t still scary because there are a lot of variables in being your own boss, but the work is really rewarding.
What skills have you taken with you on your entrepreneurial journey from previous experiences?
As an office manager in the past I managed other people’s businesses. Everything from payroll, financing, vendor accounts and invoicing was my responsibility. Those have been the most applicable skills because I still have to do all that stuff. That and client relations, communicating with people, knowing how to keep it professional and being non-reactive to people that might be difficult. Learning how to be a people-person is another skill that I use. I learned a lot about that from just being a barista in my 20’s.
What is the most challenging part about operating your new business?
I would say the most challenging part is finding joy in repetition. I think that is what most of us struggle with at work. Office work for example can be extremely detailed and repetitive and that is what I didn’t like. Then coming to this new job, which is “creative” there is still the same aspect of repetition. You make a pattern people like and then you have to make it 100 times; it loses that initial really fun creative energy. Learning how to relax. Letting it be a little more meditative and making repetition part of the process has been a really big challenge.
What influenced your product lines and designs?
I live in the Pacific Northwest and it is a place that has a bad rep for being rainy; and it is rainy, but not to the extent people think. My products represent a connection to the outdoors. They are utilitarian and designed to be taken wherever you go because they are made from water resistant waxed canvas. Waxed canvas is one of my favorite materials to work with because of how you can form it, fold it and it will stay. Also, it will get a weathered look overtime as it gets more use, which is great. Some of them have Pendleton accents, which is a famous mill here in Oregon. My surrounding area and my relationship with the environment I live in have influenced my designs.
Who taught you to sew?
Growing up and going to the Albany Free School (an independent alternative school), Conney Hood was our sewing teacher. I was like eight or nine when we had her classes and she is an amazing seamstress. She would have us create our own clothes and use patterns. We had a fashion show one year and made our own outfits. I made the most hideous thing ever. It was a jumpsuit and oh God it was bad, but it was the ’90s. I could probably learn a lot from her now even.
Where did the name Cecelia Stitch come from?
My middle name is Cecelia, and I am named after my grandmother. I feel like it is me, but it is also my grandmother. My brother gave me the idea for the name, but it didn’t feel like it fit until four years later, which was this past December when I started the Etsy store again.
This is something you have been thinking about for a while?
I used to make soft children’s toys and I had a different name, but it didn’t stick or feel right. I was doing that for a little while, but then I gave up. I went back into the professional world and I just didn’t create; I felt disheartened. But, I am innately a creative person, so I just kept on getting called back to it naturally.
What is your vision for Cecelia Stitch?
Ideally it would be to have a place that was a shop where people could buy my items and other people’s items. Also, to have the shop be a classroom where people could come and share ideas, hold classes and meet up with other crafters. I am realizing there is a huge community of crafters here in Seattle and having a place where people could meet and learn from each other would be awesome. A long-term goal would be a place like that; a store front slash classroom where people could be making together.
Why do you think the launch of Cecelia Stitch has been successful?
A lot of it is having a supportive community back in New York and in Seattle. I have a lot of friends that have wanted to support me and helped me by making those first purchases. I am so thankful for the fact that I grew up in a really supportive community and I am still in contact with some of those people. Social media alone is where 100% of my success has come from. It’s amazing what your community can do. The power of one person sharing something that they like to their friends becomes a ripple effect. That’s why I have been successful.
Any advice for others looking to take the leap?
I had a professor tell me once, ‘You don’t need to create the wheel. You just need to look around and see what has been done and do it in your own way.’ I think that was great advice. For creative people waiting for it to really hit you when you should launch a business is part of it. However, another big aspect is totally just doing it and not thinking too much. Keep up momentum, they say it takes 10,000 hours to become an expert at something. Be consistent and learn from other people.
Follow Cecelia Stitch on social media and check out her Etsy store.