Never Underestimate the Power of a Woman with a Sewing Machine
When Kate Kamrath Sprout first entered the Anchorage SBDC in early October 2022, seeking assistance with her start-up idea, Kate knew she had stumbled upon an incredible business concept.
Only a couple months prior, during a random conversation with her brother where he described attending a sewing class in Utah, they discussed the lack of sewing machine repair companies nationwide.
“Sewing and quilting has exploded due to COVID lockdowns,” Kate remarked to her sibling, “but what happens when a quilter’s machine breaks? If the big fabric stores and other mom & pop repair shops have closed or stopped repairing machines, where do people go?”
Intrigued by this dilemma, Kate’s adventure began. After doing some quick Google searching, Kate quickly realized there were only a couple people in the Anchorage area repairing sewing machines; yet COVID had caused thousands of sewing machines to come out of their owners’ closets.
Dusty, fuzz-filled machines were being threaded for the first time in decades. But alas, no matter how excited their owners were to sew, the sewing machines coughed, sputtered, and failed to stitch no matter how much time their owners spent encouraging them along.
Only a month after the conversation with her brother, Kate got serious about her idea to start a sewing machine repair business and traveled to the Lower 48 for in-person, sewing machine repair training. After intensive, hands-on mechanical instruction, taking several online skill tests, and completing apprenticeship training, Kate became a certified sewing machine repair technician.
Shortly after completing her certification, Kate was incredibly fortunate to buy at auction all the machines, machine parts, and various pieces of equipment from a local machine repair shop that had closed several months prior. This shop was Anchorage’s main machine supplier and dealer for the last 30 years.
With the help of her Alaska SBDC Business Advisor, Misty O’Connor, they worked collaboratively on Kate’s business model. First, location? Kate and Misty began brainstorming how to turn Kate’s garage and spare room into a shop and machine storage area.
Then the two discussed logistics related to pick up and delivery. Finally, and most importantly, marketing and advertising.
When asked about the start-up process, Kate remarked, “Misty was extremely helpful working with me to generate the financials, flesh out the business and marketing plan, work through the business processes, and get ready for my late October 2022 launch.”
As every start-up business knows, a great idea takes not only a lot of time, but a lot of money. After creating a financial projection model with Misty, Kate realized she could open the business with a personal cash infusion. She bought the necessary equipment and tools needed to repair machines, bought shelving to store customer machines, and had marketing material created.
After her first very successful months in business, Kate repaired over 30 machines. She was growing so rapidly that she was already needing more equipment and space. To support her need for expansion, she needed additional funding.
“I reached out to Misty again for assistance. She helped me in applying for the Alaska Micro Enterprise Grant to add equipment such as a scissor sharpener, shed for extended machine storage, and an embroidery machine so that I could include these as services Alaska Sewing Machine Repair offers,” shared Kate about her dilemma.
Misty proofed the grant Kate wrote, and provided constructive ideas to strengthen the submission. “As an English major and classroom teacher of 20 years, I always enjoy using my education and love of grammar and mechanics when assisting my clients,” shared Misty.
In early April, 2023, Kate was awarded the Alaska Micro Enterprise grant allowing her to add equipment and items to her new repair business. Kate remarks, “It was no small feat, and I was honored to have been awarded the grant to enhance my business. The support and tools provided to me by Misty and the SBDC were invaluable. I would encourage anyone going through the process of starting a business to use their services.”
These additional services will help Alaska Sewing Machine Repair create multiple streams of revenue to support the repair services they provide. Doing so will help the business through the slower seasons and ensure that as it grows that it will survive the inevitable ebbs and flows that hit every small business.
Well into her sixth month of business, Kate’s Alaska Sewing Machine Repair offers services in Anchorage, the Mat-Su Valley, and Fairbanks (Yes, Kate travels every few months to Fairbanks). Kate services and repairs most brands of sewing machines, and a wide range of machine types, from antique machines, mechanical machines, fancy computer embroidery machines to long arm quilting machines and industrial machines.
Kate also returned to the repair training center in the Lower 48 to receive an advanced certification to enhance her skills and increase her efficiency. She is a woman on a repair mission!!
When asked for final comments, Kate said about her advisor and working with the SBDC, “Misty, you have helped me tremendously! It has been awesome to have your help, and I look forward to continuing with you as I develop and grow my business even more.”
So where is your sewing machine? Sitting buried in some dark, dusty closet or on a shelf unusable due to a broken part? As the caption at the beginning of this story reads, “Never underestimate the power of a woman with a sewing machine.” What are you waiting for? Get your machine unburied and into the hands of a powerfully passionate sewing repair woman.