Build Your Business:

Ask the Experts: Alexis Galloway Becoming and Embroidery Professional

By Adam Cort, Content Director

August 9, 2023

In this excerpt from the Impressions “Ask the Experts” online video series, Impressions Content Director, Adam Cort, talks with veteran embroidery coach and founder of Sew Sweet Academy, Alexis Galloway, about the importance of adopting a “business” mindset when making the jump from hobbyist to professional. To see the entire video, CLICK HERE

Sew Sweet founder Alexis Galloway specializes in helping newcomers to the embroidery business. Photo courtesy of Sew Sweet Academy

Adam Cort: As part of your conference session at the recent Impressions Expo in Atlantic City, you started off by talking about breaking away from the “hobbyist mindset” and mentioned specifically that not doing so can keep you “playing small.” Can you explain what you mean by that?

Alexis Galloway: Absolutely. So, in my opinion the hobbyist mindset is kind of like when you are doing this just for fun, and it is fun. But you’re doing it not with the end goal of selling or making money, or even making enough to purchase new equipment. And that tends to make you play small if you’re thinking, “Maybe I want to do this in the long run,” because the way you start off and the way you end is really similar in in this industry. So, playing small, in my opinion, means just not really putting yourself out there, not planning, only stitching just to replenish your supplies and not really making a big profit.

AC: Can you give us some specific examples? I know that with Sew Sweet Academy you’ve had experience with lots of newcomers to the industry. Can you maybe give us some examples of, say, an embroider who was making the transition, and you said, “Look, you need to do this differently,” or things that you’ve seen that are common out there?

AG: A prime example was during Covid. You know, we had a lot of people that started off selling masks, and they rose to thousands of dollars of success almost overnight, and then they were trying to figure out what am I going to do now? Do I keep selling these for a small amount, you know, two or three dollars, because I’m helping my community? Or do I actually move on to something else that is going to be a little more lucrative, that’s going to be a little more long-term—and then how am I going to price that?

AC: Do you work with a lot of embroiderers who already have some kind of market in place—like maybe a church group or a specific sports team, for example—and it becomes a hurdle breaking out from that initial market?

AG: Yeah, most of the [embroiderers] that I come across don’t necessarily have a niche quite yet. So, they start off with something that they like to do or that maybe a family member has asked them to do, or they get in there and [they] get “squirrel brain.” It’s like, “Oh, I can do this. I can do this. I can do that,” until there’s just too many, and you can’t narrow it down, and it’s really hard for them to get in their lane. Sometimes people don’t get into their lane until they’ve been stitching for a while. I know I started off doing baby items and bundling them up as different sweets and cupcakes and candies, and even a diaper cake. And it wasn’t until I got my first order for a logo or something besides a baby item that I decided, “Oh, I actually do like something beyond tiny onesies and tiny bibs!

AC: A lot of people talk about working on your business, not in your business. Is that an example of the professional mindset you talk about? You know, take a deep breath, think strategically in terms of where you want to go?

AG: Yeah, the biggest part of, as you just said, is kind of stopping and getting a plan. In the long run, you want to enjoy what you’re stitching. So if you’re only doing the things that are coming to you, and it’s just random and you can’t really get your footing, then that’s going to cause burnout. So start finding out, researching your industry, researching your area if you’re going to do something just local, but then also researching the U.S. altogether, because, as I tell a lot of my clients, it’s not just what you’re going to sell in your front doorstep or in your community. You could set up an Etsy shop, a website or whatever, and sell to somebody clean across the U.S. that there’s no interest for in your immediate area. So, getting that plan is 100 percent important.

AC: As part of your conference session at the at the Atlantic City, Impressions Expo you also talked about two kinds of tasks that serve as a kind of a foundation or framework for you and your business. One was “set it and forget it.” The other was “ongoing.” I wonder if you could explain that a bit.

When she was starting out, Galloway’s product offerings expanded dramatically as she found her “niche.” Photo courtesy of Sew Sweet Academy

AG: I’ll start with the set it and forget it. Those are going to be setting up a website an Etsy shop or an order form if you don’t have the complete website yet. Although with an Etsy shop or a website, you do have to go in and update your listings, the overall setup of it is a onetime shop. With ongoing tasks, that’s what’s going to come afterwards. Ongoing, you’re going to have to tell people what you do. You’re going to have to be posting to social media. You’re going to have to be making some samples. You’re going have to be talking about what you’re doing, getting out there and just kind of doing what used to be called the footwork and is now what we would call virtual footwork. Basically, those things that you have to get up every day, update your calendar and keep doing on an ongoing basis, otherwise your business will stay stagnant.

AC: In terms of social media and updates for platforms like Facebook or TikTok, what kinds of updates or posts or bits of news do you typically post to help build brand awareness? What have you found that helps grow your business?

AG: Everything that you do can be content. That’s just the day and age that we live in. A lot of times, you hear people say, they have different buckets, and that would be different topics. What are you going to post about today? So, every Monday in in my free [It’s Sew Sweet to Learn] Facebook group, I go ahead, and I do “sew and tell.” That way they can post about what they’ve worked on over the last week. They can show it off because we’re a community of stitchers, and sometimes your friends and family they don’t understand why you’re so excited about this in-the-hoop design or this this shirt that you did, because it just looks like a design. And we’re looking at it like, “Oh, my gosh, that was very complicated. Good job!”

Then also, if you have something that you are looking to put out for an upcoming holiday, you can start saying, “Coming soon!” You can say something along the lines of, like “New designs for Father’s Day.” Or if you’re planning a little further in advance—the way you should be—you can say, “What does the father in your life love?” or ask some of the guys, “What would you like to have as a Father’s Day gift?” That allows you to start planning what you’re going to stitch out. Then you’ll have more of a strategic roadmap to getting there. You can also start showing the process, showing how you’re stitching it. If the customers or your viewers get involved and get invested in it, you’re more likely to have a buyer at the end when it’s closer to that time to start really selling.

A former physical therapist assistant, veteran professional embroiderer Alexis Galloway, founded Sew Sweet Academy, a machine embroidery membership community offering a range of online courses for embroiders of all skill levels, in 2019. Alexis is also the creator of “My Pretty Perfect (Embroidery) Planner,” which helps embroiderers organize the many projects they’re involved in, and a past conference presenter for Impressions Expo. To see the complete video/interview, CLICK HERE

Updated March 15, 2024