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How We Bootstrapped a Sewing Pattern Company

Rebecca Page Ltd creates a range of beginner-friendly, easy-to-sew, inclusive size range patterns and sewalongs with unrivalled fitting expertise. They also have a subscription offering and online courses and Sewing Summits that are popular with their customers.

Was it a gradual decision or lightbulb moment to start Rebecca Page Ltd?

Initially Rebecca started making sewing patterns when she was on maternity leave as a ‘hobby project’. She posted them on Etsy, and began to make sales. In January 2018, I mentored a group for the New Zealand Women’s Network in London, for women interested in starting their own business, and Rebecca joined the group.

RP Co-founders Rebecca and Janine

At the end of the 12 week programme we incorporated Rebecca Page Limited and started working together.

How did you validate the idea?

The 2016 Sewing in America Report outlined that 48% of US households have a sewing machine and that 26% of adults sew (a further 16% do mending only). In addition to this, Google trends indicated a consistent rise each year for sewing related searches. Market stats like these highlight the size of the market, and because almost half of our sales come from the US, we could validate the opportunity to scale. With a recent resurgence in ‘productive hobbies’ such as sewing, the target demographic is widening to include younger customers. There’s a lovely outcome to the effort involved in sewing a well-fitting, bespoke garment - and it’s also therapeutic. We are increasingly mindful of the poor record of fast fashion when it comes to sustainability. Our customer base also cares about the wastage associated with fast fashion so we are responding to this by launching our first ‘converted’ pattern in a few months time in collaboration with Kate Maguire from The Converted Closest. The pattern will transform a garment from the past into something fresh and modern.

Did you have any experience/expertise in the area?

Rebecca and I share the same values, we are both New Zealanders (Kiwis!) and we love to sew. These emotional factors are well balanced by our complementary skill set.

RP Kids sewing with Mum

Rebecca has degrees in Computer Science and Psychology and I’m a qualified accountant with a MBA and a Masters of Social Innovation from the University of Cambridge.

Have you raised any money? How much?

We raised £400K from our New Zealand network in March 2019 and £150K in a SEIS round in the UK in March 2020. We are proud that we are bucking the trend with over half of our investors being female. We also have an all-female board of four.

Who is your target demographic?

Our target demographic is women aged between 25 to 55 years, with the largest segment being 35 to 45 years old. However, a revival in taking up ‘productive hobbies’ has led to our fastest growing demographic being customers in their twenties.

How did you fund the idea initially?

We boot-strapped and self-funded for our first year of trading.

Any tips for finding first employees?

We are fortunate that we have a broad range of skilled talent within our community of 370,000+ followers. Our first three UK employees (pattern development) were all customers. We now have employees and contractors based in 11 countries and we all work remotely. Any positions we advertise to our customer base are quickly snapped up.

Did you run any companies prior?

Rebecca and I both have experience running our own companies in the past. After that, I was a university lecturer for five years and then became a business angel. I like to roll my sleeves up and be actively involved in my investments. Our children have grown up, so we moved back to live in London in 2016. Becoming the co-founder of Rebecca Page Ltd was the right opportunity at the right time and we are having a blast. Rebecca and I both enjoy being able to drive our own destinies towards a big vision.

What motivates you when things go wrong? What is the end goal?

We like to follow a ‘learn-it-all’ philosophy, as opposed to a ‘know-it-all’. When something goes wrong, it’s important to focus on the lesson learnt. The end goal is to make corrections to prevent the same mistake from happening again.

Do you have any advice for someone just starting out?

Make a conscious decision to become a life-long learner. As a business angel, I’m used to being on the ‘other side’ as the investor. This has given me an appreciation as to the importance of continuing to engage with our early investors. My advice to founders just starting out is to treat the people who supported you in the beginning with respect. Bigger hitters will come in further down the track, so be mindful of capital that comes with conditions that will disadvantage the early investors.

What has driven the most sales?

For our first two years, we have primarily used Facebook to market to our target demographic. We have now reached a stage where we are fine-tuning our branding and messaging and this means we are widening our marketing to other social platforms such as Instagram and TikTok.

What is stopping you being 3x the size you are now?

There is nothing stopping us being 3x the size we are now. We achieved this level of growth in year two and have forecast to achieve it again in year three.

How do you protect yourself from competition?

Traditionally, sewing is a brick and mortar, cottage industry and the customer, with highly specific demographics, is underserved.

RP Subscription

Rebecca Page is a global, digital disruptor - not only providing sewing patterns, but also fabric, notions, instruction and learning, to a diverse and creative community in a socially engaged way.

RP Sewing Summit

We also have a subscription offering and online courses and Sewing Summits that are popular with our customers.

Do you have any trademarks?

We have trademarked Rebecca Page in all of the countries in which we currently or intend to do business in. 45% of our revenue comes from the US, 15% from the UK, 10% from Australia and 30% from the rest of the world.

What are the top 3-5 apps your business could not run without? Why are they essential?

  • Monday
  • Slack
  • Zoom

Our team are based in 11 countries and we all work remotely. These apps help our team to engage and work together efficiently and effectively.

What are your favourite books?

  • The Lean Startup by Eric Ries
  • The Founder's Mentality: How to Overcome the Predictable Crises of Growth, by Chris Zook & James Allen
  • The Monk and the Riddle, by Randy Komisar
  • Straight Talk for Startups, by Randy Komisar and Jantoon Reigersman

What are the next products you’re working on?

We have a new product launch coming up soon that we believe is going to be a game-changer. We’re keeping it under our hat for the moment so watch this space!

Where do you see the company in 5 years?

We’ve made a very good start in selling to a number of geographies and are planning to broaden us so that we have true, global reach.

Would you ever sell?

We will be open to looking at opportunities to do what’s best for Rebecca Page and our stakeholders when the time is right.

Company Name: Rebecca Page Ltd
Founder: Janine Manning



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