However, she’s now the proud founder of Cheshire-based Sue Jackson Sewing Needs, using her years of experience to cater to sewing orders ranging from bespoke dog baskets and clothing alterations to repairing caravan awnings. As her motto says: “I’ll have a sew at anything.”
Sue credits the New Enterprise Allowance, a government scheme delivered in Cheshire by PeoplePlus, which offers support, mentoring and access to financial assistance, for giving her a new lease of life when the factory she was working for closed last October. Like many would-be entrepreneurs, Sue had an idea for a business, but admitted she didn’t have a clue how to start it up.
Sue said: “I knew there was a market for doing alterations for the public. I used to work with a lady who did sewing, and that gave me the incentive. But I probably wouldn’t have had the confidence to do it if the jobcentre hadn’t recommended the New Enterprise Allowance.”
Right from the start, the enterprise coach, Gaynor Leigh, was very helpful. At our first meeting, we discussed how my idea would work and how to get the business going. What was particularly useful was that Gaynor can sew herself so understood where the market was.
The town of Bollington, Cheshire, where Sue is based, was once a major centre for the cotton spinning industry, but few mills survive.
Sue recalled: “I was made redundant three times in four years. The first time was from the company where I’d worked for 18 years. I started at another firm, which made motor-home awnings, but I was made redundant again after 22 months. I went back three months later, for another 22 months, but then the factory closed. It definitely knocks you. When you’re in a job for as long as I was, you think you’ll be there for life, so it’s a big adjustment when you leave that behind.
“Gaynor gave me my confidence back. Just being able to talk about my plan and hearing about the other businesses that people have started on their own, was reassuring. If I thought of something I needed, she’d go away and look into it.
“As well as helping me with the financial side of becoming self-employed, we looked at ways that I could market the business and get new customers. I’m now on Facebook and keep it updated with new things I’m making. I also spent a lot of time selling the business, going round fabric shops and dog grooming salons and pet shops, handing out posters too.”
Sue’s company, Sue Jackson Sewing Needs, went live on 15 February.
“I’ve had a pretty fair response already, with new customers and people recommending me, and I hope to build that up,” said Sue, “I can do anything from making handkerchief squares to dog blankets.
“I also have quite a lot of experience of making caravan awnings because the company where I worked was involved in manufacturing them. My brother’s awning ripped down in a storm and someone wanted £250 to repair it so I know I can do that for a fraction of the cost. One customer wanted a wind blocker for the back of their Land Rover and I made a fabric screen divider for a local nursery, so I’m pretty versatile.”
Sue is also relishing the freedom that being self-employed gives her.
“What I like about it is the flexibility I get. I have a few health problems, plus three dogs and grandchildren running around, so I can work around them at a pace which suits me.”
To commission Sue, contact her via her Facebook page: Sue Jackson sewing needs.
Click here to find out more about setting up a business on the New Enterprise Allowance scheme.