Friday, July 24, 2009

Am I insane?

Ok, advice here please. A couple of weeks ago sweet C mentioned an idea of his for my 'after census' job. I need work after the census is over. I am kid-free and capable so I should definitely do something, but I have this yard, and house and frankly want to be home when sweet C is home (don't we all!) and be able to go see my kids when the opportunity comes up so I would like to do something where I would pick my own hours. Not very many jobs like that out there. I talk about it all the time.
Anyway, his idea was about my buying a machine and doing machine quilting at home. We have been saving for years for a business of buying and fixing up homes, but the real estate market is so volatile right now, so completely out of wack, that we have been reluctant to do it. Therefore, we have that money we could put into something else.
My first thought was that I know nothing about quilting, much less machine quilting for a living. I started asking questions. I thought there would already be too many people doing such a thing in Utah, and there are, but even so the wait line is very long at any place you go. Also, not so many people do it other places, and you can ship.
Then there are the amazing varieties of machines. Mind you, all are far more expensive than I would have thought. On the absolutely low end of hobby quilting I could spend around $7000 up to say $13,000, and do small quilts by hand driving the design. I need to learn to do this part anyway, all quilts need some hand work, but it is doodling on cloth and I'm no artist. (They all say, practice, practice, practice, and do a dozen or so before you ever touch a customers quilt.) Then there are the small industry type, with longer arm (so you can do larger quilts) and longer beds. They seem to range around $10,000 to $20,000 +. Still you need to learn a ton, or add a computer. The computer will drive the cloth and make a very even design, which some people would like, and others not. (Also every computer is different and works differently. And the computer costs are about $5000 to $30,000)! And then there are the truly professional machines, running for about $30,000 to around $80,000 or more. You can guess that I wouldn't even dream of the top price, but it turns out that with all the bells and whistles, even the mid price/type come up close to $30K and the professional models are, well, professional. I can't imagine doing this on the hobby machine. They are essentially a regular sewing machine set on a quilting framework, and really have little room to work. I don't want to do only crib and wall hanging types. I think that is what most of the competition do. So, its really between the small industry and the professional. I think a successful business might even need more than one machine, since quilts can take days to do. (or hours with a computer, but I don't want to work 12 hour days all the time) However, I must start with one. So many to choose from!
Would this even work? With me knowing so little about quilting? I have peiced a few quilts but I hand quilted or tied them. I am an excellent seamstress, or used to be, but rather stopped sewing after making too many costumes where I made all the chorus. (50 of the same outfit took all the fun out of it!) I am getting the itch again to sew, but you can buy clothes cheaper than you can buy the fabric nowadays.
I have gone back and forth between: "I can't do this, I know nothing about quilting, I am no artist, and I don't know how to run a business!" to "This would be great, I could get paid for doing something I love (meaning sew) instead of feeling guilty for it. I could pick my own hours. I could really do this!" I look at a machine and get all intimidated, then I go away and think about it and get excited. I read about another machine and think, "good grief, I can't spend that kind of money" and then I think some more and realize that any business is going to take some start up funds.
That brings up another problem. I don't know where and how to learn about the business end of running a home based business. A 'cottage industry' sweet C calls it. That is almost more intimidating than the thought of learning to quilt on a machine. And there are the other start up costs, like: Thread and needles and patterns and batting and backing and most important, advertising and/or a web page. And pricing. Some places charge so much, and get it, I might add, but I think I'd need to start with some more simple designs, lower prices until I can prove myself.
At first I think I could learn anything, and then I think I'm too old and tired and can't learn things anymore. I am chicken. I tend to think I am incapable, which I never did when I was young, but often do now.
So, friends, I am asking for your opinion. Your thoughts on the matter. Would you start a business doing something you have no experience with? (Many of the quilters out there have been doing it for themselves for years.) Would you start small, with a 'cheap' machine and hope to build up to a better? Or would you buy the best you could afford and have more capability to begin with? (I'd never go with the $80,000 and up stuff) Would you start a business knowing you wouldn't be working it really for nearly a year, or would you wait to even start until the other job is done? (There is that need to learn how to run the machine, which I think I could be doing even while I am working for the census bureau)
Am I totally insane to consider this?