When Heather Winn Bowman couldn't find fabrics she loved, she came up with her own designs, bought a loom, and launched her home textiles business. Read on to find out about her company, her fave tech helpers, and more.
What was your entrepreneur moment -- when 1) you knew that you wanted to have your own business and/or 2) you knew it was going to be a success/good decision.
I started my career in fashion making wedding gowns and bridesmaid dresses. I loved the process of design and construction and seeing the finished product at an actual wedding, but it didn't excite me the way I thought it should. It was actually really stressful making a garment as important to a woman as her wedding dress. I decided after making my own wedding dress that would be the last one. After that, I was kind of lost figuring out my next move. I spent a lot of time trying to source fabrics for ready-to-wear but wasn't very excited about what I was finding at trade shows, online, and in shops, so I decided to start designing my own fabric and learn how to make it. After researching weaving techniques, I bought my first loom. Not too long after that, I had fabric swatches piling up on my work table and no idea what to do with them or how to produce yardage of these swatches. At the same time, my husband and I had just moved into a new place, and we were starting to decorate it. I thought it could be fun to turn some of those swatches I had made into pillows, and that was when I first had the idea to transform my business into home textiles. I started posting pictures of what I was making on Instagram and doing trades with other makers. I was getting great feedback, and most importantly, I was really happy with what I was doing.
What do you know now that you wish you knew when you first started?
I wish I had known that I can't do everything by myself. It's so important to understand your strengths and weakness and know when to delegate work to others in order to be most efficient with your time and skills. There are some parts of running a business that I'm just not good at. I've finally accepted that and have started to hire others to help me. My weaknesses are handling taxes and graphic design, so I have an accountant to help with finances, and I'm in the process of hiring a designer to help me with my website and logo. By doing this, I'm able to focus all of my energy and skills on the areas that I am good at, which makes me so much more productive.
What attracts you to weaving?
I began weaving because I wanted to make my own fabric, so I had to teach myself how to do it. One thing I love about it is that I'm still learning new techniques, and it challenges me. Another thing I love is how the process relaxes me. The repetitive movements are meditative and therapeutic.
Do you have a favorite app or techy business tool that helps you with your business?
My business would not exist at the level it is now without Instagram. I've been able to reach a much larger audience because of it. Also, QuickBooks App has been tremendously helpful in keeping my finances organized. Tax season used to give me so much anxiety because I never entered my expenses and income as they came in. I was always scrambling last minute to get everything done, but now I enter everything immediately on my phone and can send it to my accountant.
LOVE your Instagram. Any tips for people trying to get a following?
If you are a maker, finding another artist to do a trade with can be a huge boost to your following. That's how I initially gained some momentum with my following.
What's the secret behind two dogs, a cat, and a toddler all living happily together?
Teamwork and organization. My husband also works from home, so we created a schedule to divide up our time. We have family time in the morning and evening, and we each get a few hours to ourselves to work while the other is with our daughter. We also have a nanny come about 10-15 hours a week. My daughter adores her, and it's so nice to have them close by. I have to admit our poor animals have been a little neglected since the baby came, but they have a nice yard to play in during the times of day we can't give them all the attention they want. Plus, we go to my family's farm close to Austin almost every weekend, which they absolutely love.
What was your biggest surprise (good or bad) when you started your business?
I was most surprised by how quickly it evolved into something unexpected. I started out working in bridal, and over the course of a few years, I was doing something completely different.
Do you have a mentor?
I wish I had someone in my community who was involved in weaving or other fiber arts to mentor me, but I went into it totally alone with no guidance.
Who is your entrepreneur hero?
When I was living in Brooklyn, I shared a studio with two makers who were very inspiring to me. They both had successful careers as artists and carved their own path to get there. I moved into the studio at a time when I was feeling very unsure about the direction my career was heading, and I was a little anxious about the transition I was making from fashion to home goods. These ladies gave me a big motivational boost to move forward at full steam in this new direction.
What's the hardest part about being an entrepreneur/starting your own business?
For me, figuring out a way to grow my business while maintaining the same quality and handmade character of my products. I think what draws people to my work is that they can follow along with my process through Instagram as I make new pieces. I don't want to give this up by having my pieces produced somewhere else, but I need help with production in order to expand. The uncertainty that comes with owning your own business can cause a lot of anxiety at times, but it's also a motivation to figure it out and make it work, especially when it's your own finances at stake.
Do you miss anything from your pre-entrepreneur life?
Nothing. Working for myself is the only thing I can imagine doing, especially now that I am a mother.
What's the first thing you do in the morning?
Mornings are dedicated to my family. Aside from the much earlier wake-up calls these days, it's my favorite time of day. Each morning, usually at 7 a.m. on the dot, I wake to my daughter's sweet voice saying, "Mama, mama, baba, baba." I grab her from her nursery, and we all have breakfast and then play for a few hours. After that, either my husband or our nanny will take Lola so I can start work. My studio is set up in a spare room in our house, which I love because Lola is always close by if she needs me. I begin each day in my studio usually cleaning up the mess I made from the day before, and then I get to work on one of the many projects I have going on various looms. I usually have two or three different looms set up with works in progress, so I rotate among them throughout the day.
What's the one characteristic someone needs?
Know your strengths and weaknesses, and don't be afraid to ask for help.
Tell me about Squarespace. Do you like it?
I get totally lost with most things involving computers, but Squarespace is very user-friendly. I was able to publish my website within an hour of signing up.
How did you fund your business when you started? Did you have a business plan?
My family helped me out with finances initially. I didn't have a business plan at first, but I've developed a loose plan recently. I have goals, and I know what steps I need to take to meet those goals.