A goodie two shoes with plenty of soul

29 Apr, 2012 02:00 AM

IT started as a simple act of kindness.

Chrissy Kerin had been sewing cloth dolls as a hobby, as presents for family and friends.

But when she decided to offer a custom-made doll as a charity donation, things escalated rather rapidly.

As it turned out, there was a lot of interest and demand for Chrissy's gorgeous little dolls, dubbed Miss Goodie Two Shoes, which she lovingly crafts from the Katanning farm where she lives with husband Simon and children Oscar (3), Mathilda (20 months) and fur-baby Taylah (the 11-year-old Golden Retriever).

Within a day of creating a Facebook page to publish photos of her dolls, Chrissy had two businesses offering to wholesale them.

"Sewing became a way of enjoying my creativity while allowing myself an outlet from life as a mum," Chrissy said.

"But within hours of creating the Facebook page, I had over 100 people liking my page and a growing list of people desperate to own one of my dolls."

From there Miss Goodie Two Shoes was born, and to follow was a whirlwind year of late nights, sewing and bleary eyed days spent kid wrangling and helping on the farm.

As an avid lover of handmade clothing and accessories, Chrissy was familiar with the handmade community on Facebook, which is how she came to help out with her charity donation.

But never in her wildest dreams did Chrissy expect to have nearly 4000 followers on Facebook page in just one year.

As much as she loves creating her dolls, given the business wasn't exactly something she had set out to do, Chrissy said she was not quite prepared for just how quickly things took off.

"My burgeoning business has taken me completely by surprise," she said.

"At the outset I was so ill-prepared for the demand.

"Accepting a two-page list of custom dolls was the biggest business mistake I made.

"I had no idea how much Miss Goodie Shoes was going to take over my otherwise ordered life.

"The best decision I've made is to reinstate myself and my family as priority.

"Now sewing fits into my life rather than life fitting into my sewing."

Most of Chrissy's customers are from Australia, but she has also sent Miss Goodies on a long trek to the United States, Hawaii and the UK.

Given each doll takes more than 15 hours to create, Chrissy said juggling the work with family was extremely difficult.

But now she only sews at night, as she said life with two little ones did not exactly allow for the luxury of free time.

She said it was difficult dealing with the pressure to create such a highly sought after product on so little time, especially when spurred on with emails from people hoping to purchase a Miss Goodie of their own.

"It's incredibly hard finding the time to meet the demand without compromising on the quality of my dolls," she said.

"Each doll takes on average a week to make while demand could have me selling several a day.

"I used to sew until 3am but the strain and fatigue started affecting my health, my family and the enjoyment I gained from making dolls.

"Ultimately the challenge is to dictate how my business will run, not letting my business dictate how my life will run."

Chrissy said she had learnt that life as a mum was more than a full-time job, so sewing until 3am and trying to manage a family during the day was simply not feasible.

But, she said the biggest thing she had learnt is the importance of a business plan, of setting boundaries and knowing how and when to say no.

Realising those points has allowed her to make the business a success while still taking pleasure in creating the dolls and of course, getting some sleep at night.

"I've learnt that I can achieve things I would have never thought possible," she said.

"And I've learnt how incredibly important the support of my family is."

For those looking to start their own business, Chrissy said it was important not to underestimate the hours required for just the management side of things.

"I thought Miss Goodie Two Shoes would be about making and selling dolls, little did I know that just as much time is spent responding to messages, emails and interacting with likers on my Facebook page," she said.

"The social side of a handmade business is incredibly important.

"People like to know the person behind the product, they like to see the love you have for what you do."

She also recommends being realistic about what you can achieve in the time you have and make sure you know your product.

Miss Goodie Two Shoes currently has a custom list that stretches to the end of 2013, despite not accepting any new customs since June last year.

She said when she started, she had no idea how long it would take to custom make a doll, from the initial email communication to the final wrapping and posting.

So while building the business has been incredibly easy, Chrissy said maintaining it had been a huge learning curve.

It's been challenging so far, but Chrissy said having the business had instilled a sense of confidence and independence in her.

"To this day I am still incredibly humbled by the following my dolls have and the amazing feedback I get from people who've purchased them," she said.

"My favourite part about Miss Goodie Two Shoes is the incredible friendships I have formed with fellow work-at-home mums, as well as earning money from something I am so passionate about and thoroughly enjoy doing.

"I love that I can share my talent.

"My creativity has steered me towards making heirloom quality dolls and as such my dolls will be cherished by generations of children.

"What I love most is that I can do all this while being at home with my own children."

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30/04/2012 10:33:40 PM, on Farm Weekly

This is very inspiring. I've just begun a blog page called the REmissionary. My goal is to make new things from old - give them a *new* mission in life (hence the 'RE' part of the name). I want to eventually be able to sell some of these things, tithing 90% to our missions (hence the 'missionary' part) and keeping 10% to cover costs. Thank you for this inspiration and good advice!


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