Sarai Mitnick is the founder of Colette Patterns, an independent sewing pattern company focused on beautiful and timeless styles for design-oriented sewers. Her background in User Experience and design has instilled a passion for simplicity, beauty, and ease of use that is reflected throughout her company and products. She resides in Portland, OR.
Q:What kind of market research did you do before starting your business? Was it just your experience as a consumer or something else?
I actually have a background in User Experience Research, which is something like a cousin to market research, so it was really important for me to understand my potential customers' needs and context. I spoke directly to a number of sewers, designed a small survey, and read through a lot of product reviews on the web. I also relied on more traditional forms of existing market research to determine things like market size, demographics, income.
I find it really helpful to combine quantitative and qualitative research because neither can give you a complete picture by themselves. For example, market stats told me that my target market was small but growing, and what they're demographics were. From there, it became easier to find people that matched that description and actually learn about their needs in a meaningful way, and what they found lacking or missing from current offerings.
Of course, if you're working on something you're passionate about, your own experience will always be a factor. I often find that's the best starting point for research! It's very powerful to start with a problem you have, then learn more about how it might also affect others and how you could meet those needs.
Q:What has been the easiest and alternately, the most challenging part of understanding how to start a business?
The easiest and most enjoyable for me has been adapting to working for myself. I love managing my own time and I'm very independent and self-motivated, so getting things done is never really a problem. I think I'm pretty good at the whole balancing act, although there's always room for improvement.
The most challenging for me was probably figuring out where to start. There is an almost unbelievable amount of work involved in starting a small business, so much that's not apparent from the outside!There are just a lot of aspects to manage. It really helped me to write a business plan to focus my energy and come up with a coherent plan and timetable.
Q:How extensive would you eventually like your pattern line to be and what kind of timeline do you imagine for your growth?
Eventually, I'd like it to be extensive enough to cover a range of categories.I love designing, and would really like to branch out into things like outerwear, lounge wear, etc.
I'm planning for slow and steady growth. This first year is all about investing in the business and making it sustainable. My goal is not to grow the business into something huge, but to have a wonderful company that supports me and that my customers love. Right now, I'm planning for another small line for the latter part of the year, investing in some infrastructure, and seeing where it goes from there!