Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in clothing but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Ali Genevieve, Owner of ancientFUTURES, located in Cowichan Valley, BC, Canada.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
ancientFUTURES was built by my community and is made for you. I am a slow fashion designer and textile artist who creates many one-of-a-kind hand-dyed meirno wool and bamboo/cotton garments. I am inspired by texture, colour, and shape, with a desire to create comfortable, flattering, and nurturing clothing. One of my rules is if you don't LOVE it, please don't buy it as I do not want to contribute to the waste of the fashion industry.
I have under 5% garbage as I spend hours digging through cans of my scraps and use all of my offcuts to make one-of-a-kind children's clothing and my accessories line, which includes headbands, wrist warmers, leg warmers, and patchwork scarves. I offer direct sales on studio open house days, consignment, an ETSY store, and wholesale.
Tell us about yourself
When I was nine years old, my aunt came over to sew doll clothes with me, which is where my passion for sewing began. Growing up, I watched as my mother sewed me beautiful floral print dresses for church. When I was 16, I did a work experience program for a funky clothing boutique and picked up after-school work with them, and they trained me to sew on the industrial sergers. Sewing has been in my life for many years. In 2005, as a new mother and having a love of wool but not a budget for it, I began making my daughter all of her baby clothes on a $5 sewing machine a friend bought me at a garage sale. I started experimenting with techniques for dying wool.
My friends and community members started making custom orders for themselves and their children, and thus ancientFUTURES was born. As a little girl, one of my ultimate goals was to create handmade things and sell them at a market. Now, as a busy mother of three, a wife, gardener, mountain biker, and ecstatic dancer, I live my life as art, full of creativity and chasing beauty and adventure. You can feel this in my clothing and designs. Creating is what I was born to do.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
After my husband had an accident in 2011 and was off work for a year, I had three young children and had to really show up and make my business provide for us. Due to the circumstances and having just bought our first home, I dove into growing my business with my skills as a seamstress and textile artist. I was still nursing babies and wanted to be available, so I was able to work from home and successfully provide for my family and maintain our expenses. This felt like a huge accomplishment, and I was relieved when my husband was able to go back to work so we could share the financial responsibilities. Over the years, I have explored different avenues for selling my clothing. Through consignment stores, markets, and websites. Due to my lack of desire to be on screens, I would much rather be sewing, designing, and playing in nature. I shut down my websites and online presence a year before COVID with a desire to make clothing for my community and want to keep it local and full of connection. COVID required that I push myself and my business to the next level. I launched my ETSY store, and now I'm shipping clothing internationally. I also have begun a few wholesale accounts and have a team of 3 amazing women working for me. I have always strived to stay within my means and grow slow; I feel this is what has supported my success.
What's one of the hardest things that come with being a business owner?
One of my biggest challenges is having the time to work on my business. As much as I absolutely adore my family, sometimes I wish they would leave me alone so I could focus! Haha. But everyone needs mom as soon as she gets into the studio. I know I will look back and be so grateful that I have always been available for my growing family. I call my business my 4th child, and as long as the first 3 are loved, fed, and cared for, then I get to serve my 4th.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
- Align to your passion and values. Treat your business like a friend. I like to talk to my business and ask her what she needs from me, what direction she wants to grow in, and how I can serve her. If you listen closely, the guidance that comes is amazing.
- Self Discipline. Set yourself goals and work hours, enjoy the freedom of working for yourself, but also show up with accountability if you want to grow.
- Create an inspiring team. You don't have to do it all alone; having a team helps you feel supported and creates momentum.
Is there anything else you'd like to share?
I still do not have a very strong online presence; my Etsy store only represents 10% of my designs because I make so many one-of-a-kind pieces, and I love all the colours of the rainbow. I am regularly adding new bolts of colours, dying unique colours, and creating new designs. It is hard to keep up with the listings as you really need consistency. The best place to see my collection is in my studio. I struggle with the online aspect of being an artist; I'm striving to learn more ways to represent myself through screens. Cheers! Thanks for hanging out with me and my business for a few minutes.
Where can people find you and your business?
If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solo or small business entrepreneur that you'd like to share, then please answer these interview questions. We'd love to feature your journey on these pages.
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