Michaelanne Hathaway - Stache Fabric & Notions
I am Michaelanne, owner of Stache Fabric & Notions. I am married to the love of my life, and I am a mom of two adult children who are building me a small army of grandchildren – I could not be any happier! I have been sewing since I was a young girl, mostly clothing and small projects. Raised by a mother who was a fibre dyer, spinner, and weaver, my love of creating with fabric and playing with colour can only be described as a lifelong adventure. I began quilting fifteen years ago while working at my local quilt shop. This part-time job and newfound hobby have most certainly defined my career path. I truly can say that I love what I do!
Tell us about your business
Stache Fabric & Notions is a small, modern fabric shop located in the heart of downtown London on King Street in the old Novacks building. At my last part-time job in another shop, my employer had decided that it was time for her to retire and close the business. This was heartbreaking news to me! I had concerns about two particularly important aspects of my life: where was I going to purchase the quality, modern fabric I had grown accustomed to working with, and where was I going to work? The answer to these questions leads me down the path of entrepreneurialism. Stache began as a small online venture with one bookcase full of fabric in my basement sewing room in July 2017. After vending at quilt shows and presenting at local quilt guilds, it became apparent that customers wanted the interactive and hands-on experience of shopping in person for their fabric and supplies. In December 2018, Stache took up residency in what was known as the “Boot Room” in the old Novack's store. This space boasted a windowless, 300 square feet of retail space accessed only by walking through another retail shop. It was small but mighty, and very much my pride and joy. Almost one year later, on January 28, 2020, the opportunity arose to expand into the front retail space. This was an exciting milestone as we were doubling our square footage, gaining windows as well as our very own door. It may not sound like much, but this gave me the feeling of independence, a sense of success and an overwhelming amount of pride. I was an entrepreneur, and I was making my plan and dream happen!
How has your business been affected by Covid-19?
March 17, 2020, was the date of the first State of Emergency and total lockdown. I had been open after renovations and expansion for a mere seven weeks. I remember that day very well; the sheer panic, overwhelming anxiety and fear almost defeated me. Immediately I furloughed my one part-time employee. The shop was boarded up to guard against break-ins and locked the doors. However, I was not willing to give up. Too much time, effort and money had gone into creating this dream that I decided that if I was going to go down, I was going down fighting. Going back to my roots and how this shop was begun is how we were going to proceed. Days were spent updating the website, which had been left to languish in the new world of the brick-and-mortar shop. Every new and current bolt of fabric, every spool of thread, every book, pattern and kit, and every notion was photographed and uploaded to the website. Another milestone of transitioning from a manual cash system to a fully integrated POS was completed. These first couple of weeks and action plans were our saviours, and we still exist today because of these decisions. Daily social media posts and videos kept customers engaged. Support from Downtown London through Downtown Dollars and grants. An incredibly supportive landlord and an amazing husband who stepped up to help with whatever, whenever things were needed. Curbside pickup and free local porch delivery during lockdowns kept us busy and afloat. This year has been a roller coaster of ups and downs, open and closed, feast and famine. This last lockdown has been the most difficult for the shop, but I am thankful that Stache is still here and will be if I have anything to say about it.
What services have you utilized at the London Small Business Centre and how have they helped?
My relationship with the SBC was forced upon me begrudgingly. If I was going to elevate the business from an online home business to a stand-alone brick-and-mortar shop, my husband and support team insisted that I write a business plan. This venture was going to take money, planning and education. I am not an entrepreneur or businessperson naturally, I am an artist, and I need to do some work. I was dragged kicking and screaming (figuratively) to the SBC to participate in the business plan writing course. Reflecting on this experience and exercise, I can now appreciate why it is so important and valuable to have this plan in place. I thought I knew everything about this industry and needed to open a successful quilt/ fabric shop. What a mistake! The business plan forced me to consider aspects that I had never considered.
The London Small Business Centre also awarded me with a grant to help fund the shop's expansion in January 2020. This grant facilitated creating a classroom and workspace that is open to anyone who has a desire to create with fabric. The London Small Business Centre has an open-door policy, and I know that when I need advice, guidance or support, they are a resource in my back pocket.
As a busy entrepreneur, what do you like to do when you take a break?
I like to be busy in my sewing room, making quilts for family and friends. We also like to go road tripping in our Jeep, visiting local beaches and hiking trails.
What’s the best business advice you’ve ever received and why?
My friend and business mentor, my previous employer who retired always shared her knowledge and experience freely. I often ask myself when faced with a decision, “What would Shirley do!?”. I think the best piece of advice she shared with me was: “You will not be able to please all the people, all of the time … just do your best!”. Sometimes, I stress over being the best and forget that I am living my dream, and even though this is a business, it should still be fun and enjoyable.
What advice would you give to an aspiring Entrepreneur today?
Congratulations! You have a dream and a plan (do your business plan!), and I am so excited for you! My piece of advice for you is to remember to be flexible and creative in your business vision. I know from experience how easy it is to get tunnel vision with what we want our business to look like and how it will function. Still, challenges and hurdles creep up on us without warning, and sometimes flexibility and having the ability to pivot can be the difference between success and failure. Adjusting and redirecting the path of our business midstream to adapt to change, tweak processes that are not working well or welcoming new opportunities as they arise is not a failure but a sign of strength and success.
What’s in the future for your business?
The future is bright for Stache Fabric & Notions! Our plans have been on hold for the past year but there is a light at the end of the tunnel. At the end of the tunnel, we see Stache as the premier shop for creators to purchase fun, modern, high-quality fabric and supplies, to be inspired by samples and new inventory offered and learn new skills and techniques through classes and workshops.
In the fall of 2021, Stache will again be offering in-person classes and workshops in our bright and open workspace. We are planning quilting workshops for all skill levels and other sewing projects that are not quilt-related but still allow students and makers to create with fabric no matter their skill level. We encourage makers of all sorts to come and enjoy the happy, creative energy that lives within our walls.
We have learned so much from our experiences through the COVID pandemic and plan to keep some of what we thought were temporary measures to get us through. Continuing with website development, online virtual workshops and local porch delivery are just things we will keep as mementos from the past year.