A tailor is defined as a person whose occupation is making or altering garments (such as suits, jackets, and dresses) typically to fit a particular person – Merriam Webster
If you have ever pondered on the idea of starting a tailoring or sewing business but have little to no idea how to get started, then you are in the right article.
A simple check-list of things needed to get you started on the tailoring or sewing business is as listed below:
- Write a well-defined and structured business plan covering the needed capital, the right location for your shop, and target market
- Get basic training on effectively managing a tailoring business
- Decide on the niche you would love to take care of
- Decide on the right business name to suit the niche identified.
- Get the right funding, luckily you do not need so much capital to get you started
- Cash is king – always have reserves of it to remain king
- Rent a place, or better still, start from your garage – it is one of the businesses that fit into the home businesses class
- Hire the needed staff to help you effectively start and run the business
- Buy the basic equipment – Sewing machines, Scissors, Measuring tapes, Fabric chalks, Pins, Pincushion, Thimble, Threader, Sewing Gauge, and Binder Clips
- Put the words out there using all marketing channels available to you
- Seek the right partnerships preferably with the users within your niche. (To help you choose the right partners, consider reading this post on understanding entrepreneurs.
- A simple check-list of things needed to get you started on the tailoring or sewing business is as listed below:
- Tailoring Shop Management: Key Activities
- Quick Win Tips To Help Find Your Footing On The Tailoring Value Chain
- Start a tailoring school
- Train and Outsource Skilled Tailors
- Create a Catalogue of Essential Modern Designs
- Some Quick FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)
In Africa, especially in Nigeria, the tailoring business is one of the few businesses/skills that are in very high demand. This is because more and more people now prefer to wear custom tailor-made clothes.
Aside from that, a lot of tailors have perfected their tailoring skills and now own their clothing lines. Their success stories have endeared many youths to the tailoring business as a viable income-generating venture.
So I guess you are reading this article because you want to learn how to start a tailoring business. Forget the title, Nigeria was included because this blog targets mostly Nigerians.
Though this article was written for the Nigerian audience, it is however not limited to Nigeria on the quality of the information passed across. Like every entrepreneurial endeavor, tailoring is one vocation that taps into the passion of the entrepreneur, and this article can be universally applied regardless of location.
Did you know that it would be nice to ask your customers if they have need for repairs, once in a while?
To start and run a successful tailoring or sewing business, you must have the following:
- Extreme passion for the fashion industry
- The capability to select the right niche within the entire value chain
- The right equipment
- Well thought out business and marketing plans
- And skills to effectively manage the business.
Fortunately, like every business venture, you do not necessarily need to have the skills the likes of Calvin Klein to start a tailoring business. You could hire tailors with more experience than yourself and start your tailoring business.
Like every business, what matters most is your ability to start and manage the business effectively (Read up on how to start and run businesses here); you do not need to possess to a large extent the tailoring skills.
It is a well-known fact that because you know how to sew does not give you the capability to understand how to run a tailoring outfit effectively.
To effectively run a tailoring business, ensure that you build the right systems and structures from the onset to help you with the growth of your business. You could read up on how to build structures and systems into your business here.
A simple check-list of things needed to get you started on the tailoring or sewing business is as listed below:
- Write A Well Defined And Structured Business Plan Covering The Needed Capital, The Right Location For Your Shop, And Target Market
A business plan is a strategic tool that helps entrepreneurs have a helicopter view of their businesses. It helps entrepreneurs focus on their business objectives by stating the long and short term objectives and what must be done to attain such goals.
For a tailoring business, your plan, inclusive of every other detail, you must include the niche you intend to work in and must include your proposed specialization and position on the value chain.
It should be stated here, however, that a business plan is not cast in old; it is a document that can and, in most cases, should be altered regularly to conform with the scenarios as dictated by the realities on the field.
For clarity on what a business plan is, and what it should include, please read up on writing a proper business plan.
Read up on steps to make money fast and smart online or offline in Nigeria here. The article would help you hone in on your business startup skills.
- Get Basic Training On Effectively Running A Tailoring Business
Get necessary training on how to effectively run a sewing business with specific reference to your chosen niche. It is also crucial that you learn the tips and tricks of the trade. Specific techniques could only be learned from an expert in the business, be it business training or sewing training.
One way to learn is by joining forums of other experts in the tailoring business, join unions, and by all means seek partnerships with other tailors or business owners in the sewing profession.
Even if your business model is to manage the business and have other experienced tailors work for you, it is crucial that you learn the basics of the tailoring trade. An experienced business owner equipped with the technical aspects of sewing cannot go wrong in effectively running the tailoring business.
- Decide On The Niche You Would Love To Take Care Of
A niche is a comfortable position that you chose to master and cater to. In tailoring, it could be your resolve to provide to a particular market or group of people. For example, you could choose to cater to baby girls, plus size women, etc.
Fortunately, Nigerians love to be outfitted with their local fabrics.
Creating a niche has a lot of advantages, with the major advantage being that you could choose to create a brand and a following from the expertise of your chosen niche.
Some lucrative niches in the tailoring industry are:
1. Baby clothes
2. Wedding dresses
4. Home decorations
5. School uniforms
6. You could also open a fabric shop by the side
- Decide On The Right Business Name To Suite The Niche Identified
It is important to choose a name that resonates with your chosen niche, one that your intending customers would easily identify and relate to – it could be a make or mar process, a following or otherwise of your brand. To run a successful tailoring business, especially when you have decided to focus on a particular niche
- Get The Right Funding, Luckily You Do Not Need So Much Capital To Get You Started
Funding a tailoring business can be tricky. Sincerely, you do not need much to get you started; it is actually a good practice to start small. Identify your essentials and only cater to funding the essentials – think of tools, and machines at this point of the business rather than a fancy location.
- Cash Is King – Always Have Reserves Of It To Remain King
It is extremely important to keep a buffer of cash to ensure stability, needed confidence and the capability to be able to pay for stuff when the need arises. You do not want to start a tailoring business without first having some buffers to pay for staff and buy tools and essential items as and when due.
Though most coaches will tell you that you do not need cash to start a business, that saying is never true – YOU NEED CASH TO RUN A SUCCESSFUL BUSINESS.
- Rent A Place, Or Better Still, Start From Your Garage
You do not need a fancy place to start a tailoring business, you could, however, choose to decorate your shop rightly and make it fit for purpose. There are so many decorative tips online on how to decorate a tailoring shop, feel free to browse the Internet for more tips, it sure helps to learn what others are doing. Luckily, you can easily get other tailors in Nigeria willing to share space with you.
Hire The Needed Staff To Help You Effectively Start And Run The Business Hiring is an act, one that must be learned. It is always a good practice to employ the services of an HR (Human Resources) company no matter the cost, eventually, it would pay off. Hiring through a company will ensure that if you do not get the right person, you could easily fire fast and get a better replacement.
The major thing you need to consider when hiring is that you MUST hire to fill your personal skills deficiency, do not hire with sentiments and do not hire who you would end up having to teach regularly, always hire who you can learn from, someone better than you at what you are hiring them for.
A lot of tailors actually run a home sewing business – A good idea at that.
- Buy The Basic Equipment
Do not get caught up in the frenzy of impressing anyone, or getting better than your competition by possessing more equipment than what is actually needed. It is good practice to always start small, test the waters before going all in; you may choose to outsource services that would normally require using the equipment that you do not currently have in your arsenal – start with what you can afford; start with the basics only.
- Put The Words Out There Using All Marketing Channels Available To You
You would need to have the right marketing strategy in place for your tailoring business. Your understanding of product marketing is an essential part of business success; it involves getting your products, to your market and overseeing its overall success; in this case, customers in your chosen niche.
Suggested Read: Customer Acquisition and Retention Strategy for a Tailoring Outfit
You could learn some DIY (Do It Yourself) marketing techniques or better still hire the services of a product marker.
A good product marketer will make it a duty to understand your customers and would design a strategy to get your product across to them in a way that would resonate with their buying patterns and other considerations. Such a strategy will help drive demand and usage of your end products, a good marketer could actually create a demand that may not already exist just for your product.
If you do engage such a professional, remember to make it a point of duty to explain your planned brand so he or she would easily create the right brand mantra and positioning statements that would linger in the minds of your prospective customers and as such make them come to you ultimately.
Whatever you do, however, know that word of mouth marketing is the best form of marketing for a tailoring shop, it is very important to treat your first customers right as their personal impressions may hurt or promote your business for good.
- Seek the right partnerships preferably with the other tailors within your niche.
Trade unions and professional associations are a good avenue to network with other players in the tailoring industry. Such association at first may seem like a waste of your time and other resources, but they are the very best at getting industry-specific tips, tricks, and information that you may not find easily unless through the school of hard knocks.
Why reinvent the wheel if you can easily learn the ropes from those that have gone through it and learned already?
- Get feedback from clients
Always remember that everything you do in business is all about giving value to customers and clients alike. A product’s value should, therefore, be viewed from the perspective of the customer and not from the product owner.
Most entrepreneurs do not get this; as entrepreneurs, we want to do our best to make the product as unique as possible, and in most cases, make it too complex that it loses value from the customer point of view. Yes, the product may be packed with features but could lose value due to its complexities.
It is, therefore, imperative to allow other none family and friends to interact with your product or service as an entrepreneur and make your inference from their point of view.
Have you ever noticed how difficult it is to notice your own typing errors? A fresh set of eyes with honest feedback is worth more than a barrage of consultants to help analyze your business; a review from your customers can make or mar your business.
It has now become normal practice these days to check reviews from other customers before they making buying choices.
So listening to customers and taking their feedback is very important to any business especially a young sewing business.
With that being said on customer feedback, it is important to know that some of such advice, may not actually be true to purpose and so, it is important that you have a plan to receive feedback as part of your marketing strategy.
Tailoring Shop Management: Key Activities
Managing a tailoring shop requires specific activities to stand you out from the pack. All your activities should be centered around delivering outstanding customer service and ensuring process efficiency at all levels.
Some of the major activities include the following essentials:
- Customer profiling and registration: It is essential and perceived as customer-centricity if you profile your customers and keep their records. Some customers would always pay for the best of materials and designs regardless of the cost involved while others may not be able to. It is good practice to know your customers and advice them on how to best serve them, while still maintaining top standards.
- Management of customers’ Database: It is good practice to always have the measurements of your customers, and ensure that you take the measurements for as many style combinations as possible. Your customers do not like it that you need to take measurements every single time you come around.
- Customer order processing and fulfillment: Imagine sending your customers information as you move their orders from stage to stage? Sending your customers a simple SMS notifying them of the delivery of their orders would put a smile on their faces. They would see you as efficient
- Manage an inventory of top quality essentials: Minor aspects of your tailored outputs, as minute as the quality of zippers, buttons, and thread could make or mar your relationship with your customers. Ensure to keep an inventory of the best quality of supplies available, and do not go below a set standard regardless of what the customers’ budget is.
- Build your brand gradually: Building a brand is no easy task. You need to consciously set your brand in the minds of your customers. From as little as your writing pad, your delivery package, etc. Ensure that you have a label that identifies you, and always utilize your brand identity at every opportunity with your customers. Print a business card, Do not deliver finished products unless it is neatly packed in your custom made packages – It doesn’t cost much!
Quick Win Tips To Help Find Your Footing On The Tailoring Value Chain
As a matter of fact, you could choose to be at any level within the entire tailoring value chain. Fortunately, the tailoring/sewing business has a very active value chain and you could choose to make a difference at any level of the value chain and still make a lot of returns on your investment.
Below is a list of some major levels within the entire tailoring value chain that a skilled entrepreneur could choose to stay focused on and make a successful brand with a very high ROI (Returns on investment).
Start a tailoring school
The tailoring profession has a very limited number of skilled tailors with many tailoring outfits complaining regularly about skilled related issues from inadequate hands, very expensive tailors, to tailors loyalty issues and as such most times disappoint their clients; this has made starting a tailoring business so hard.
The scenario above paints a unique advantage in starting a tailoring school as it could help solve the problems of players in the core tailoring business.
The return on investment on a well-structured tailoring school could be huge if managed properly. Clients for a tailoring school include other tailoring outfits, vocational schools, and intending tailors.
A major advantage of running a teaching school is that it establishes you as an expert in that field and you stand the chance of partnering with other players along the entire value chain
Train and Outsource Skilled Tailors
With the ever-increasing need for skilled tailors for designs and other sewing needs, having a pool of highly trained and ready to hire tailors and seamstress is a very worthy venture that requires very little take-off capital and has a very high return on investment.
Even if all you do to start tailoring business is interview and train tailors freely and make to commit to a minimum working duration with your tailor leasing outfit, it would be considered a very worthy venture. There are a number of tailoring outfits that would be glad to hire tailors from a well-structured outsourcing company. This could be a very high money spinner if done right.
Some of the best tailors in Nigeria are so called because they have an excellent workforce of highly trained and experienced tailors working for them. So, training tailors for the purpose of outsourcing them is a profitable venture.
Create a Catalogue of Essential Modern Designs
Pictures are worth a thousand words in the fashion industry. In actual fact, the fashion industry is all about designs. So, if all you do as your tailoring business is to find ways to create designs in-house, or secure the rights to certain designs from other fashion outfits, create a catalog and sell, you could be known for such a brand and make good money doing just that. You could even make designs for dropship enthusiasts and sell your products outside the country.
For a collection of some of our selected designs, click here for some beautifully tailored designs.
Some Quick FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)
Tailoring is the art of making custom made clothes. It involves a lot of measurements, cutting and sewing clothes to fit a customer need. The popular word tailor-made was coined from the act of tailoring.
As verbs the difference between sew and tailor is that sew is to use a needle to pass thread repeatedly through (pieces of fabric) in order to join them together or sew can be (obsolete|transitive) to drain, as a pond, for taking the fish while tailor is to make, repair, or alter clothes.
As a noun tailor is a person who makes, repairs, or alters clothes professionally, especially suits and men’s clothing. – Source: WikiDiff
Today, promoting a tailoring/sewing business is not so different from how you’d promote any other product or service. But unlike other products and services, promoting the tailoring business involves working on the visuals of the target.
Imagine taking a video of the processes it takes you to sew a masterpiece for a client, putting emphasis on the attention you pay to details, then publish such a video on social media or your website with the caption, “We don’t just sew, we craft masterpieces”. The use of online platforms would give you a very wide reach.
To promote your business offline in your locality, rely more on word of mouth. Imagine each of your satisfied and loyal customers introducing three new customers each, and those new customers in no time introduce three other customers each? Word of mouth is very powerful, use it wisely.
The first thing that attracts customers to you as a tailor is your sewing skills. Similar to the process used when trying to promote your tailoring business, you must do all possible to put your skills out there.
Then look for a common flaw in other tailors within your market segment, build on it and differentiate yourself. Be known to have mastered a particular style or niche and ensure to put the words out there that you are the master of your chosen niche and customers would find you.
Excellent customer service and advertisement are what you need to differentiate yourself from others. Be outstanding and stand out.
“You need to learn the basics of sewing before you can even think about sewing your first wardrobe piece! A good foundation makes for fabulous work” — Tiarra McFadden
Basically, it takes between three to six months to learn the basics. Once you master the basics, your development ultimately is dependent on your practice level. The best tailors in Nigeria did not get there by chance – it must have taken them lots of hours practising and working with modern designs and also getting knocked around by unhappy customers until they became so good.
Click here for some well-known brands in the Nigerian tailoring space – The so-called Best Tailors in Nigeria.
Tailoring business, like the food business, is one business that will always be profitable. This is because tailoring is an essential service – we will always clothe ourselves regardless of the economy.
However, profit on tailoring is highly dependent on so many factors especially brand equity. One way to maximize your chances of making profits is to specialize in a niche and become a master at it.
Take note that profitability in the tailoring business is highly dependent on season, trends, and the economic situation of your target market.
Cost varies across tailoring schools. Factors that generally determine the cost of learning tailoring are:
1. The course registered for
2. The tailoring school
3. Quality of teachers
4. Location of the tailoring school
5. Duration of course
Typically, it ranges from N40,000 NGN to N100,000 NGN for a 3 month course
Tailors are hardly paid fixed salaries, most tailors prefer to be paid a commission on the charges of their products. In some cases, they get paid a fixed amount per tailored output.
This is also not easy to give a direct answer to. It depends on a lot of factors. But if you are starting with one machine from the comfort of your house, then you could start with as little as N70,000 for the cost of a sewing machine and basic inventory.
Remember this always – No matter how good a tailor is, if the quality of consumables is low, the quality of output would always be flawed.
The cost of starting a tailoring business in Nigeria depends on so many factors, from size, location, strategy to even the number of sewing stations that you may require. For an in-depth look into the cost, consider this article on The Cost of Starting A Tailoring Business in Nigeria or click here for a free sewing business plan.
Basically, if you would start small, then you might start with about N70,000 to N300,000 depending on the number of types of machine that you intend to use.
I bet you are wondering what tailors measure for when they come to measure you with those tape rules. Well, the answer is simple, they measure different things from your sleeves, neck, hips, and even your mouth… just kidding about the mouth.
There are several measuring techniques used for different types of designs and body types.I am on the plus size, so I always ensure to ask them to add some extras in certain areas.
Click this link For an in-depth on what Nigerian tailors measure.
I get asked this question a lot about the best way to decorate a tailoring shop in Nigeria. The answer is simple- You are in it for the money and money will only come from paying customers. So, decorate in a way that would increase your customers’ satisfaction.
1. Add the necessary chairs to make them comfortable
2. Add the necessary style guides to help them make the right trending styles from photos on your wall, albums of your past jobs or even from projects done by other better tailors
3. Ensure that your sitting area is not so clumsy that they have to squeeze themselves to reach you
I believe that you get it now, right?
So tell me, was this article on How to start tailoring business of help to you in any way, what would you rather change on the article and finally have you taken the first step towards starting a tailoring business?
Suggested: Learn how to promote your sewing business by clicking here
Please put your answers in the comment section below to help me make this blog better and also help others out there.
By the way, are you a Nigerian, and have you worked with or know some highly skilled experts (Tailors, Auto mechanics, Barbers, Chefs, etc) in Nigeria? Please recommend them here to increase their online visibility and give other people the opportunity of hiring them too.