If you are dreaming of turning your sewing hobby into a business but don't have tons of cash to invest, you can still make your dreams a reality with a bit of extra ingenuity. You can reduce the start-up cost of an eco-friendly tote bag business by using unconventional material sources.
If the environment is an important issue for you and the weak economy is making it hard to find a job, consider starting your own green tote bag business. Starting your own earth-friendly business is a way to be kind to the planet while earning money. Taking advantage of unconventional fabric sources lets you get started without investing a large amount of money.
Low Material Costs With Unconventional Fabric Sources
Let's start by considering ways to save money on materials. One way is to buy fabric wholesale, in bulk quantities, but when getting started, you might not want to invest in buying rolls of wholesale material. Also, using unconventional fabric sources is more eco-friendly than buying new materials at wholesale prices.
With the current popularity of recycling and up-cycling, you can cut your material costs by scouring thrift shops, auctions, and garage sales. Look for garments and other textile items that are in good condition. If you opt for garments as your fabric source, look for large and plus-sized clothes, but don't rule out smaller sizes. Smaller garments can provide unique fabrics to use for trim pieces, such as straps and pockets.
How to Prepare the Fabric
Since you are making your eco-friendly shopping totes to sell, you will need to spend a little extra time making sure the fabric is in pristine condition. Stains and weak spots in the fabric will leave you with a bad reputation and unhappy customers. Check the garment's care tag and launder according to the directions provided.
Cut the fabric right along the seam lines. Also, snip the threads holding buttons and zippers in place, unless you want to leave them for decorations. You can save the buttons and zippers for other projects, or sell them in bulk to other seamstresses. While traditional shopping totes do not have buttons or zippers, you can add them as design features as desired.
Make Some Sample Bags
Now that you have some inexpensive fabric ready to make your totes, it's time to get creative. You can buy a pattern to use for making your tote bags, but copyright laws limit your use of purchased patterns. Your best option, if you want to get started without spending a lot of money, is to design your own tote bag or enlist the help of a skilled sewing friend.
When you make up your first few tote bags, take notes on how long it takes to make each bag. Also, note any problems you run into, regarding your pattern's design and how you solved the problem. The notes will help you perfect your design and steam-line your manufacturing process. It will also help with employee training when you get ready to hire a helper.
Marketing and Selling Your Shopping Totes
You have a lot of options when you get ready to sell your bags. One option is to visit local businesses, show them your samples, and ask if they are willing to carry your tote bags for their customers. Be prepared to answer questions about:
- How much you charge per bag
- Discounts for large orders
- The number of bags you are able to deliver in a given time period
- Your willingness to sell the bags on consignment
Disclose Fabric Sources
No matter how you market and sell your totes, be very clear with potential customers about your fabric source. If you are not specific, customers will assume you are using new fabric unless you tell them otherwise, and they will feel deceived to find out the material is recycled or up-cycled after they have purchased from you.
Describe your fabric sourcing choices in a manner that stresses the eco-friendly value. You are keeping these textiles out of landfills. Water is not being wasted to grow cotton to make new material. Petroleum is not being wasted to manufacture synthetics or to ship the materials. Finally stress that recycling materials keeps your costs as a manufacturer down, and that the savings are passed along to the customer.
Using unconventional fabric sources to make green shopping totes is a win-win-win situation. You win because you can operate your business with low overhead costs. Your customers win because they get unique tote bags they can feel great about using. Finally, the earth wins because waste is practically eliminated when unconventional fabric sources are employed.
Copyright Laure Justice. Contact the author to obtain permission for republication. Originally Published on Suite101.