How to Start an Alterations Business

Every town needs a few alterations shops where customers can bring their clothing to have them repaired. Many people hire alterations experts when they purchase new clothing that doesn’t quite fit right. Others have alterations done to clothing that no longer fits because of weight gain or loss. Still others have hemlines adjusted to suit today’s standards of fashion.

If you sew well you might consider opening your own alterations business. Being able to sew from a pattern is not the same thing as doing alterations. When it comes to altering clothing you must be experienced in removing and replacing zippers, taking clothing apart only to put it back together again and knowing how to make garments large or smaller without altering the actual form of the garment. In addition, it’s imperative that you be trained in hand stitching.

Most community colleges have courses in sewing or alterations and you can also learn after years of experience – fixing your own garments and those of friends and family. Knowing how to fix and alter garments is only the beginning. It’s necessary to have quite a large list of supplies and equipment.

Different sewing machines perform different tasks. Regular machines are capable of normal stitching but other machines are needed for various repairs. For example, a man’s suit pants, needing hemmed, would require a blind stitch machine that allows the garment to be sewn without stitches showing on the outside. Inside seams require an over-lock (often called a serger) machine that will leave the garment with a finished factory look on the inside.

In addition to the proper machinery you’ll need a building or an area of your house that can be turned into an alterations shop. Ideally, a shop in a noticeable area is best, since having the shop at home can cause some problems. For one thing, if you live outside of city limits, you could be faced with customers who have trouble locating you. And, you’re likely to get more business if you’re in a shop rather than at home. Having the shop at your home has its benefits as well. You’ll save money at home by not having the overhead associated with maintaining a building.

After deciding where you will locate it’ll be necessary to get the proper licenses from your city, county or state. Check with the courthouse to see what licenses will be necessary. You’ll also need other paperwork, such as estimate sheets, receipts for services rendered, record-keeping books and more. A store which sells these types of items can help you decide what all you will need. Knowing a little something about business will help tremendously.

In the actual shop itself you’ll need your various machinery, all different types of needles and threads, disposable bobbins (unless you plan on winding your own), several different types of scissors, a cutting table, yard sticks and measuring tapes, pins, chalk, binding tape, zippers, buttons, snaps, hook-and-eye sets, linings, and all sorts of other notions.

Have cards printed and do other advertising. Run ads in phone books, local newspapers or on local radio stations. Ask if you can leave cards at related businesses such as laundry marts, dry cleaning stores or similar places.

Give a personal touch to your work. If you’re hired to lower a hemline but you notice a button is loose, fix it at no charge, and let the customer know. Things like this stick in a customer’s mind the next time they’re needing alterations work done. Offer a ten percent discount to a customer if another customer comes in and says they were referred by him or her. This will get frequent customers talking to others about your work.

Prepare yourself for long hours, dedication, difficult customers, and maybe eventually, hiring someone to help you. If you have become overloaded with work you may need an assistant. Try to find someone with some experience to cut down on the amount of training necessary. As your business grows you might even decide to open a second store, where you’ll need someone you trust to run the show. For now, though, concentrate on getting your equipment and notions in order, your shop readied, and some steady customers coming through the doors.

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