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starting an online fabric business

marie_baker | Posted in The Archives on

I am a quiltmaker who has been supporting my habit by working as a flight attendant for years. I would like to bring together the things I love by having a business that meshes with the rest of my life rather than taking me away from it. I have no idea where to start!! Does anyone have any ideas how to get in contact w/ fabric suppliers; setting up accounts; making contacts to import fabric from other countries…

As you can see, any and all input would be truly appreciated.


  1. lin_hendrix | | #1

    Hello Marie,

    Good for you.

    You'll need to get a tax ID number from the IRS and/or a resale certificate from your local state office (phone book work). Many wholesalers won't do biz with you without one or both. Do this first because it can take awhile for the forms and approval and all that.

    Get a tax accountant person that knows small businesses. You don't want to do your own business taxes until you know the ropes. You'll need to file quarterly payments with the IRS and your state. You'll be doing business similar to mail order so you'll have to collect sales tax depending on which state your customer lives in. They can help with the tax ID procurement.

    There's lots of shows and expos similar to the sewing events you probably already attend. Once you get your tax ID you can get into these; they'll have good deals for the show and you'll be able to develop a wide range of contacts...

    Many wholesalers won't sell you 20 yards or even 200. Be prepared to sift thru a lot of vendors until you find the one that will sell to small businesses. You'll need to develop credit with each vendor that you deal with--they all have different criteria, C.O.D., net 15, net 30, and pay-now-no-credit. Contact the manufacturer and ask for the sales rep or distributor for your area (see Hoffman link below).

    Lastly, there are trade magazines that you should subscribe to.

    Here are some web sites to get you started poking around:
    http://www.apparelstrategist.com/threads/threads.html, http://www.hoffmanfabrics.com/index.html, http://www.craftassoc.com/ssew.html,

    let us know how it goes... I'm planning on doing some sort of web based pattern business and I'd love to hear how it goes for you...


    p.s. good luck

    1. TJ | | #2

      *A terrific book that I often gave to people starting new businesses (when I was a lawyer, back in the olden days before I made time in my life for things like sewing), is "Small Time Operator" by Bernard Kamoroff. It explains the nuts and bolts of ANY small business, from licenses to taxes to record-keeping, to whether to have a second phone line, to how to win and keep customers. It is also FUNNY! If you have any inclination to start a business, it makes you feel ready, willing, able, and eager. I just checked up on it, on Amazon.com, and find that there is a new 1999 edition for less than $14. I urge anybody who is thinking of starting a home-based or other small business to read this book; you should be able to find it in your local library if you feel you can't afford a copy. A sample of Kamoroff's attitude shows up in a comment he posted on the Amazon.com listing (responding to a comment about the cartoons in his book): "... being successful in small business has very little to do with being a man or a woman. 48% of all new businesses are started by women. Over 70% of new women-owned businesses survive and prosper through the first two years, 55% through the first five years. Small Time Operator includes several interviews with women business owners, both those who succeeded and those who failed. I chose which interviews to include in the book not by gender, but by the ideas and the wisdom the interviewed business owners expressed. The text of the book, in its many examples and real-life situations involving women and men equally, continually reminds all readers that success in business is due to three basic things: determination; satisfying your customers; and "taking care of business" (knowing the nuts and bolts of business: legal, taxes, bookkeeping, and all that fun stuff). If you lose sight of these needs, your business will not survive. It's truly up to the individual: your talent, your intelligence, your ambition, your willingness to take the time to learn the basics of business. Men and women may not have equal opportunities in many places, but starting and operating your own business is truly the one place in our country and our economy where women are just as successful, personally and financially, as men."Good luck! TJ

      1. lexi4fun30 | | #3


        Thanks so very much for the info on the book on success in the home based sewing business.  I have been sewing for the public for the past 25 years, as well as working a full time job, raising 3 children on my own and now, I am currently enrolled as a full time student at the local community college here at home.....I am doing a research project on the attributes on managing a home based sewing business.


        Thanks again for all your help...Cindy

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