Friday, January 24, 2014

Five and a half years ago I worked as a PA for a mortgage broker.  In late 2008 the international financial collapse economy took a massive hit, and the housing market slowed right down. My position was made redundant.  I found myself jobless and I will always remember that feeling of losing my job.  That feeling of dread and hopelessness to lose your job in a recession, and knowing that the available jobs around were going to be few and far between is not a very nice place to be.

I came home after hearing the news and sobbed, it felt at the time like my world was going to fall apart.  Not only had I lost my job but my marriage was going through a very trying time as I was suffering from depression and anxiety, and I was at an all time high with my weight.  I had gained 40kgs in a year and I didn't recognise the person starting back at me.  I felt hopeless, jobless, anxious, depressed and so uncomfortably fat that I was having trouble tying my shoe laces.  At the time I couldn't see my way out.  My husband (bless him) suggested that I should start my own business.  

Although we were going through a very tough time he was the one who believed in me more than I believed in myself.  He suggested I make clothes for people, he had seen me over years making dresses for myself for various weddings and how many people would always comment where they could get one too.  At first I thought I couldn't do it but I knew I had nothing to lose.  I had my mum's sewing machine and overlocker and I knew how to sew.  I was so anxious that I wouldn't be good enough.  With all that in mind I took the risk of not finding another job with a stable income, hoping that I could make my own income in time and in the meantime we would have to live on one wage with very little leftover.

We got a sandwich board printed by a friend and put that out on the street, in my lunchtimes I would walk the streets flyer dropping with black and white flyers that I designed myself and printed out.  Little by little I would get new clients.  It felt so demanding sewing clothing for women that were never really that happy about the clothes I made, not because of the quality, but because the risk you take when you get something custom made is huge.   Have you ever seen an outfit on a mannequin in the window of a clothing shop that you just love, only to try it on and realise it looks god damn awful on you.  Well it was much like that and although I knew many times that the garment would look like that, you can not tell women that you think that especially when you are just starting out.  

So after feeling deflated and like I didn't want to do that anymore I considered pulling out of the sewing world.  I thankfully had a businessman to my doorstep who bought fabric samples for me to look at, he asked me about what I was wanting to achieve.  He suggested that I do alterations and repairs because there's not as much risk and if you are good at it you can make good money.  I knew in my mind I was pretty good at alterations, I had lost count how many items of clothing I had pulled apart and transformed over the years.  So I headed up to Auckland and spent a week at my cousins Alteration Business in Epsom to see how this kind of business worked.  After spending many hours with the ladies and doing some alterations with them, learning how to tailor suits and dresses I realised that I could do it.  In fact I preferred it, there's a real satisfaction in fixing something and making it better.  It wasn't as "glamorous" as being a fashion designer like I had first hoped but it just made more sense.

I went home and changed the direction of my business, I phased out the custom clothing as I knew I would really start to hate sewing if I carried on with that.  I phased in the alterations and repairs and really started to enjoy it.  I did more flyer drops and waited for the phone to ring.  Gradually I started getting more people and started to make enough money to buy my first industrial sewing machine.  As the word of mouth started to work and I had more people over the next year I found myself quite a busy little bee, I was working hard and loving it.  I had to be motivated which can be tough when you are naturally a lazy person like I am.  I just kept my eye on the prize, worked hard and stayed focused.

Over the years as I made more money I bought more industrial machines to do all the different things I needed to do.  I bought a blind hemmer machine which has a curved needle to pick up a very small amount of fabric and this would save me so much time as I was doing that by hand! A cover seamer machine that could sew stretch hems, previously I had to send these hems away to Auckland to be done.  A heavy duty machine for denim so I didn't ruin my plain sewer that I used for silks and I made do with my domestic overlocker.  My database of clients grew each month and I worked longer hours and made more money.  I started to get feedback from clients saying I was the best alteration person they had ever been to and they were so happy I started my business, I was feeling the boost I needed to carry on and work hard.  I finally started to believe in myself and realised that I really was capable of so much more than I ever thought. 

Years later and countless hours spent, sometimes working nights and weekends to work with deadlines, I finally felt like I had a successful business.  When I got to tailor a suit for All Black Peri Wepu I knew that I must be doing something right!  

Currently I have 5 industrial machines and 3 domestic machines, I have a database with 1000 clients. I've upgraded from supermarket shopping bags to glossy red bags, stationery invoices to my own custom invoices, eftpos instead of only cash, It's turned into quite a successful thriving business and I love what I do! There has been many many moments throughout the last few years where I've wanted to quit, there's been tears, tiredness and doubt through it all.  I've counted dollars and cents to make ends meet and all of it has been through pure determination to make it work. None of it has been easy, but it's all been worth it.   I absolutely love my business, it's not perfect, but it's mine.  It's more than I ever thought it would be.

Counting the only money we had in my first two years of business!

When people say I'm so lucky to have such a great business I just agree with them because explaining this long story would take to much time.  Luck had nothing to do with it, all of what I've created is simply from hard work, long hours and determination to make it work.

Change is not always fun. In fact, depending on what brings you to the change, it can be down right humbling. Unfortunate events sometimes put us in very vulnerable positions where the future seems bleak. Facing the truth of the situation and reality that we are in is key, the great thing is we get to choose the path we want.  Step up to the challenge to move forward or you can sit and reminisce wishing things were different and watching the time go by…either way, the time will pass anyway.

Whether it's your job, weight, marriage, family etc..step up to the challenge of making things right. Choose to love yourself enough to make the changes.  You just need to start and believe in yourself. Your journey will not be perfect and it won't be the way it used to be, but it can be better.  You will be stronger, confident and more amazing than the old version of you ever was.  Change can happen little by little when you put in the work, stay consistent, focused and determined.  Don't get hung up on how things used to be, you might be stoping a transformation from emerging.  Years later you will look back at the time that has passed and well up with tears knowing that you have changed your life.

Transforming my health both physically and mentally, all while starting a new business! Anything is possible if you believe it can happen!


  1. Such an inspiration, this is going to sound weird but I feel we have a lot in common, same height, I am at your biggest weight now, I also worked as a PA and lost my job due to the recession, I have Anxiety, Depression amongst other mental health things and I can honestly say that since I started reading your blogs a few months ago and started eating the way you suggest as of two weeks ago, I have already lost 6lbs, I feel healthier, stronger, my stomach feels better and I am finally confident I have found a way to heal my body and mind and a lot of his has to do with you. You have kept me inspired and motivated and I am also looking into starting a business in the future, and you have inspired me with that even more also.
    So a big thank you, what you have to say really means a lot (in a non creepy stalkerish way of course lol).

    1. Wow Becki that's so awesome hear! I'm soo happy you can relate to my story and know that there is hope for you! Thank you for stopping by :-)

  2. Thank you, thank you, thank you!!
    Your blog this morning has come at such a time and I really needed this.
    I have been slowly putting into place a much better & healthier lifestyle for both me and my husband .Realising we had just became lazy and in a rut. On top of that I have been very disillusioned with everything just about in my life :( Not to say that all is not good but more to having a feeling of having to please everyone around me at the cost of my true happiness.
    I have long held a passion for photography and a desire to have my own Photography Business.And this has taken a back seat due to this pleasing of others & the laziness & needing a down time. I am sure you know what I am trying to say... Its a circle that goes round & round.
    I again thank you as I feel this blog is what I NEED to get of this circle and to follow my dreams and to have a much better Lifestyle/work balance & Health
    Kylie :)

    1. Kylie I love hearing stories like yours, I completely understand and know how hard it can all feel! You can follow your passion and put yourself first, this is your life :)

  3. Inspiring stuff, Michelle. Thank you!

  4. I love your story!! I think you are incredibly clever - I alter my own clothes and do all of my daughters and son-in-law's repairs so can appreciate just how clever you are. What a total life transformation... health, work, marriage... The total transformation :)

    1. Thank you so much Lynda! It sure is and I have to pinch myself sometimes because life feels too good to be true, sure I go through ups and downs but I am proud of the transformations I've been through and how much I've grown. Alterations aren't everyone's cup of tea but I love it, hard work but very rewarding :) x

  5. I love your blog so much! I just discovered it this afternoon and have spent about 2 hours reading your inspiring posts and recipes. I've just started my weight loss journey and have been working hard to stay on track with my new healthier lifestyle. I just wanted to congratulate you on your weight loss and on following your dreams. It sounds like your alterations business is something you have worked so hard on as is yourself, thanks for giving me so many cool ideas! Lots of love a fellow kiwi girl trying to get healthier and happier! xxx

    1. Hey Sarah-Rose, thank you so much, I'm glad you are enjoying my blog and have read a lot by the sounds of it ;) Sorry for the late reply, I only just spotted your comment now! xx

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