Tuesday, February 11, 2014

February's Featured Customer - Rosemary Gulledge of Applique Cafe

I discovered Rosemary's blog, The Cafe Blog, in 2010.  Whimsical Fabric was just starting out at that time and I was an avid appliquer. (Is that a word?)  I was drawn to Rosemary's teaching technique and wealth of applique knowledge that she shares on her blog.  Then, I discovered her applique design website!  I immediately fell in love with the classic simplicity of her designs.  They are super easy and quick to stitch and yield perfect results every time. And, her prices are amazing!  What more could you ask for?  I was hooked!

Please help me in welcoming Rosemary Gulledge of Applique Cafe.

Where are you located Rosemary?
I am located in Montgomery, Alabama. 

What was your background prior to starting your business?
I graduated from Troy University with a degree in Elementary Education and never taught school! Following college I worked for an investment banking firm for 10 years and LOVED it, but decided to “retire” after having my 2nd child. Having 2 kids at home, I was interested in monogramming, so I talked my husband in to buying me an inexpensive embroidery machine (Brother PE700) and I taught myself how to use it. After I “mastered” monogramming and discovered applique, I started doing embroidery and applique for customers and did this for a couple of years. We (my husband and I) then decided to switch gears and try our hand at digitizing. Applique Café was started in August of 2009. At the time there were only a hand full of applique websites that out there, so it was a great time to start a website and get in to that side of the business. I have continued all these years to monogram and applique for friends, family and a few loyal customers, so technically I’m on both sides of the business! 

What got you started in your business?
After doing applique and embroidery for customers for a couple of years, designing just seemed like the next step and Applique Café was born. Like I said, at the time there weren’t that many websites out there. It’s a different story now, as a new applique website pops up every other day it seems. My husband does the actual digitizing, and he also works full time, so this is “part time” for us. We try to produce 3-5 new designs each week. Why does HE do the digitizing, you ask? At the time, I was monogramming and appliqueing for customers almost full time so when we decided to do this, he agreed to learn how to digitize because I had my hands full. I still monogram for customers and friends during the day in addition to keeping up with the website, my blog and other web business.

What choices have you made that helped your business the most?
Setting limits and realizing I don’t have to be on the computer 24/7. I try to work while the kids are at school and I try NOT to work much on the weekends. Balancing work and family is a must in owning your own business.

What mistakes have you made that others could learn from?
Thinking I had to be on the computer or sewing something 24/7 was a mistake I made early on!! It took me a while to figure out I had to organize my time and that applique wasn’t life or death. It’s also OK to sometimes say “no” to people! I also spend a lot of time on Facebook, and Facebook is a blessing and a curse. While it’s a great marketing tool, it is easy to get sucked in for an hour, or get involved with other groups and pages on Facebook. Another mistake I’ve made is worrying about what everyone else is doing (cue Facebook again). I’ve learned I have to focus on MY business and not how many fans so-and-so has. It’s a very competitive business so it’s easy to get distracted.

What do you find the most fun and rewarding about having your own business?
Flexibility!! I worked “9-5” for 10 years, so having flexibility and working when I want to is awesome! It’s still a balancing act but if I don’t want to turn my machine on for 2 days, then I don’t have to. I can be a working mom, and yet I never miss a field trip or library duty at my kids’ school. I also love being able to turn a $4 t-shirt in to something adorable! I’ve met some amazing people through this business ~ customers and also people across the US whom I’ve never met in person but talk to regularly on the computer! Helping people is also very rewarding. When I got my machine there wasn’t a lot on the internet like blogs or YouTube, so I taught myself everything and learned from trial and error A LOT. Now I try to write blog posts that are helpful and answer questions from people who are frustrated and ready to throw their embroidery machine out the window! 

Tell us a bit about your drive and purpose, your vision for your business.
What drives me is that while this very well may be the most fun “job” I could ever dream of, it’s also my family’s business. I get to work with my husband in our office in the comfort of our home (sometimes with kids spider-man-ing up the doorway in our office). I also get to make people happy with cute new designs, or by monogramming a bib for a new baby, or by helping them figure out what might be wrong with their embroidery technique or machine. I love helping people through my blog, teaching classes, or answering emails or questions about where I got such-and-such fabric. Sometimes it does get daunting and sometimes I do have to deal with unhappy customers, but overall it really is a dream job! As far as my vision, I just want to keep designing great designs and helping people. I need to blog more often, and I’ve love to experiment more with video.  

What inspires you to create?
Having 3 kids inspires me to create! Being surrounded by beautiful fabrics, amazing thread colors and all of the awesome “blanks” as we call them also inspires me to create! We’ve been digitizing for close to 5 years and I get ideas everywhere! I’m always looking around and thinking about that next batch of designs.

What do you feel makes your work unique?
Simple designs! When we started Applique Café, I had been slaving away for 2-3 years doing applique turkeys with 8 fabrics and 38 steps and 14 thread changes. I love to keep things simple and easy for our customers. As I mentioned earlier, there is so much competition out there. It’s hard to be unique! We try to come up with the cutest designs we can, and we try to make them as easy to sew as we can. When we are coming up with new designs to do each week, we also try to look around and make sure no one else has done exactly what we have in mind. I also test and sample each and every design we sell, so I’m able to make changes where needed and “know” how each design sews.

What’s your favorite design from your website? 
It might be hard to pick 1 favorite! I love our Stitch the Dog Designs. Stitch is a simple lab design that has become somewhat of a trademark for Applique Café. We currently have about 40 Stitch designs and they are all cute and great for the many seasons. 

I also love our Owl Applique Designs. Again, we’ve changed the owl for the many seasons. 

My other “favorite” design is our Elephant Applique Design which is one of the first designs we did. I see it a lot on Pinterest and Facebook and other places so I think it’s a customer favorite as well! 

I’m constantly re-sewing old designs and bringing new life to them, so my favorites change!

Where do you see your business in a year? Or where would you like to see it?
We would like to expand our customer base outside of Facebook. Applique Café is also on Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter, and of course there is my blog. I’d love to increase our newsletter subscribers and reach more people. Our goal is to stay competitive, produce as many cute designs as we can come up with and to continue our presence in the applique world! I also want to expand my blog and experiment more with video tutorials.

As a customer of Whimsical Fabric, what is your favorite thing about our store?
I love Whimsical Fabric because it’s a one stop shop for fabric, blanks, patterns (for those of you who sew) and even packaging supplies! WF carries the fabrics I love and use a lot ~ ginghams, polka dots, chevrons, etc. ~ in the brands that I love!

What is your favorite item purchased from us?
Fabric! I’m a huge fan of Michael Miller, Riley Blake and Fabric Finders fabrics, which are all fabrics sold at WF. Also, with applique you only use a small amount of fabric on each design. I like that I can buy fat quarters or fabric by the yard if I want to.
What words of wisdom do you have for readers who are considering starting their own work at home business?
I think anyone can start their own work at home business, but you have to learn to balance work and family or else you will get burned out quickly. Set a work schedule and try to stick with it. Don’t work so hard that you put your family on the back burner. My daughter was born in 2008 and we started Applique Café in 2009. She’s about to turn 6 and I realize now how much I worked when she was a baby! I should have worked less and enjoyed that time more. Other words of wisdom... remember that there is plenty of business out there for you and everyone else. Be kind and respectful even when you don’t feel like it!

Thank you so much for sharing about your business and yourself Rosemary!   

If you enjoyed reading about Rosemary and her business, please take a minute or two and let her know by leaving a message on her Facebook page.  And don't forget to check out her website, Applique Cafe.  I noticed she is having a great sale right now!

PS If you are interested in being featured in one of our future newsletters please send us an email with FEATURE in the title.

Happy creating!
Danielle Storm

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