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We All Learned An Awful Lot: How Sew Happy Successfully Transitioned Through COVID-19

Sew Happy USA

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How SCORE helped.

Kim Mulcahy started her business by teaching her adult friends how to sew. This was in 2012. One thing quickly led to another, and soon Mulcahy’s company, Sew Happy, was providing sewing instruction as afterschool programming in area schools.

“We were in 50 schools when everything happened with another 45 lined up for the spring session,” Mulcahy explained. Sew Happy had been in the process of perfecting its systems, including unique custom-printed sewing project kits, when the shutdown began.

“There’s never been a more important time to know how to sew than now,” Mulcahy said. “We’ve always talked about sewing as a life skill, and this situation proved it.”

12,000 Masks: Sew Happy Steps Up

When the call for cloth masks went out, Sew Happy responded by creating a jaw-dropping 12,000 masks. It was a very busy time that Mulcahy used to contemplate her next steps. “Nobody knows what’s coming next, but it’s pretty clear we won’t be going back to how things were any time soon,” she explained. It was time to figure out what came next.

Going Online

Taking Sew Happy’s hands-on group learning experience online was a huge undertaking. “We created video tutorials for every step of the project. They’re short – only a few minutes – so the kids have lots of interaction with the instructor. This format helps them stay focused and helps keep everything fun.”

Working very quickly, the Sew Happy team created three virtual camps. “We all learned an awful lot, and it was exhausting,” Mulcahy laughed. “You have to rethink everything. For example, now we have to ship our sewing kits. My studio is now more like the post office. Throughout this, there were a couple of times when we said we just can’t do this, but now? I’d say we’re cautiously confident.”

As other businesses were impacted by COVID-19, Mulcahy took advantage of the opportunity to build her team. “The company we were getting our fabric designs from closed; we hired their artist ourselves and now she’s a key part of our team.”

How SCORE Helps: Encouraging, Realistic Support

“The money part is definitely my weakest area when it comes to running a business,” Mulcahy explained. “My SCORE mentor, Natasha Roukos, is very realistic about things like covering costs and the other expenses. She gives me a reality check but also encouragement – as the pandemic situation developed, she gave me information about some of the loans that were available. She listens – and then she steers me in the right direction.”

Sometimes that encouragement takes the form of pulling back on Kim’s enthusiasm. “For example, now that we’re online, we’re no longer limited by geography,” she explained. “But Natasha keeps me on the straight and narrow. You don’t want to do everything, you want to do the right things.”

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