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1995 | 08 | 22 | Articles | The News & Observer | Business | Small Business
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The News & Observer (Raleigh, NC)
August 22, 1995
Page D1
A stitch in time means profits after a year
Sewing classes prove popular
By Stewart Ugelow

RALEIGH - Vernita Evans’ business strategy looks remarkably simple:

Keep people in stitches. Laugh all the way to the bank.

No, she’s not a comedienne. She’s a seamstress. Evans owns Sew Well Learning Center & Manufacturing, a North Raleigh company that teaches people how to sew.

"Sewing is like typing," Evans said. "If you can type, you can get a job anywhere. If you can sew, you can always make money. People always need alterations."

So a year ago, she left her job working with mentally handicapped patients to try her hand at teaching sewing full time.

Evans rented office space on Wake Forest Road, bought a van, stockpiled sewing machines and purchased bolts and bolts of fabric.

By word of mouth and some innovative publicity, she signed up 33 students at $400 apiece for her 60-hour course. After a year of teaching classes six days a week, she’s finally starting to turn a profit.

Evans began by persuading fabric stores to display her brochures. In return, she refers her students to the stores.

"I keep people sewing and they keep people coming to my classes," she said.

She built up a mailing list from people who had seen her ads and called for sewing advice. She used her 14-year-old son and 11-year-old daughter to model her clothes at events.

"My kids are a very intricate part of this business," she said, laughing. "The pay’s cheap - an ice cream cone, a soda."

It’s no coincidence that her children are involved.

As a single mother, she’s found that sewing is one of the few ways for women to make a living while staying at home with their children. She’s working on a proposal for social service agencies to train mothers on welfare and put them into jobs sewing. So far, all her students have been women, usually 25 to 40 years old, many with children.

Evans says she customizes each class, so students learn what they want to learn. She takes students on field trips to wool mills and shows them how to buy fabric.

"I teach them how to make sewing cost-effective," Evans said.

She also teaches them how to make sewing profitable.

Evans uses the course’s graduates to do contract sewing for Triangle businesses.

"There aren’t that many manufacturers here. It’s a good industry to get into," she said. "I don’t think anyone is really filling that need for church groups and small organizations."

Because the students work out of their homes, she has lower costs. She has no minimum order and promises that no job is too small- Sew Well has made everything from day care workers’ smocks and nurses uniforms to doll dresses.

In part to gain her customers’ confidence, she makes just about everything she wears.

"Your business card is what you sew. Your advertisement is what you wear," she said.

With her business only a year old and already covering its expenses, she expects her manufacturing revenue to grow as more students complete her course.

She’s even thinking about expanding into other cities in a few years.

"I have visions of Sew Wells all over, not just in Raleigh," she said. "I feel fast growth.