What is your purpose statement?
Live in harmony with our Earth by exchanging disposable housewares and fast fashion for more sustainable alternatives. Through the conscious process of planning a design, selecting natural and organic materials, and careful construction, My Lovely Muse provides a line of eco-conscious housewares and custom, handcrafted apparel to help make the shift to a more sustainable lifestyle easier.
What inspired you to start your business?
The quick and easy answer is that being a stay-at-home-mom inspired me to start my business. The longer answer starts just over 7 years ago when I first learned to sew. My mother-in-law, an incredible quilter, taught me how to use a basic sewing machine by sewing a table runner. That Christmas, my mother-in-law gifted me very own sewing machine. I took it home and challenged myself by creating all sorts of practical items I could use and custom making instead of having to buy. I made myself quilted handbags, wallets, pouches, rice packs, eye masks, and more. Over the years, my projects became more involved until I saw the need for the addition of a serger to help me work with the knits I had acquired to start making my own clothing. My mother-in-law had an old Toyota serger collecting dust, so I happily took it off her hands to fiddle with. Shortly after acquiring the serger, I realized that this machine was a game changer, and I bought a newer model that was easier for me to troubleshoot. In the meantime, outside of my studio, I had graduated with a bachelors and started graduate level classes as
I was working in my first career position as a special education teacher. I had given birth to our daughter and sent her to daycare during the school day while I went back to work. While on maternity leave with Addie, I had begun researching the laws and paperwork involved in potentially starting a business. It wasn’t until my fourth year in teaching, while I was pregnant with our son, that my husband and I had actually moved forward on taking the steps to officially start an apparel business. Financially, it would not make sense for me to work and send two kids to daycare and I could never see myself as a true stay-at-home-mom, I like to keep my mind occupied and keep the cogs turning intellectually and creatively, so it was a no-brainer for me to make my apparel business come to fruition. I loved to sew practical items, including clothing, for myself, so having a sewing business just made sense.
What positive change movement are you most passionate about?
I am most passionate about environmental change. My passion for environmental change really blossomed when my daughter was born and we chose to cloth diaper. The financial savings was appealing, but for me, my environmental footprint was much more meaningful. Researching cloth diapers, I found infographics visually depicting the number of diapers contributed to landfills during a single child’s life before potty training. Once we had our second child, we used the same diapers we used for our daughter; therefore, spending no money at all. I used fabric scraps as cloth wipes, so that eliminated the need for disposable wipes. My mind started considering other ways we, as a family, could shift from disposable products to reusable. From that point on we embraced a minimal waste lifestyle. We used rags or “unpaper towels” instead of paper towels, cloth napkins instead of paper napkins, a menstrual cup instead of pads and tampons, we carry reusable straws/utensils instead of using disposable, stainless steel water bottles and travel mugs to eliminate the need for plastic water bottles and to-go cups (yes, we even bring our travel mugs to the coffee shop for a drink – even the kids), family cloth instead of toilet paper (currently, I only use this. I can’t convince the rest of my family…yet), reusable food bags by My Lovely Muse (*shameless promotion*) instead of plastic baggies for kids snacks, silicone bags for other food to be frozen or needing to be airtight, using bar soap instead of liquid hand soap, buying food in bulk by bringing mason jars to the bulk food store and not using plastic produce bags to bag produce (I can literally grocery shop with zero waste. Remember, aisle shopping will make it difficult to shop zero waste. Shopping produce and bulk will help the earth - and your health), buying clothing second hand instead of brand new, I researched local places I could take unwanted, broken items to be recycled instead of simply placing in our trash bin, and so many other ways. I could go on and on about the changes you can make in your life, but I hope this long, short list will help you start your journey! If your brain is ready to think beyond the above, consider some questions before making your purchase of a product: Is the packaging made of virgin plastic/paper? Is the packaging recyclable or compostable/biodegradable? Compostable/biodegradable is ideal. It is not guaranteed that when you put something in your recycling bin, that it will be recycled and used. If the item is compostable/biodegradable, there is a very good chance that the item will be given to the earth and decompose to contribute to further nourishment for our gardens and other plants. Is the product made locally? If not, consider the contribution transportation of the product has on our environment. Are you purchasing this product from a big box store, a local store, or straight from the maker? Remember that retail receives a cut from what you pay for the product. If you’d like to support the maker movement, purchasing the product straight from the maker will benefit the creative the most. Purchasing from a local shop will help both the local shop and the local maker. My mind is constantly cycling through conscious choices I can make to make this planet a healthier place to live. I just cannot turn that part of my brain off. I guess that truly makes environmental impact a passion of mine.
What makes your business stand out from others in Grand Rapids?
My Lovely Muse is a business local to Grand Rapids, M,I with a focus on environmental sustainability, that offers reusable alternatives to the more widely used disposable, convenience commodities. My Lovely Muse also offers mending, alteration, as well as custom services, as an option to work closely with me, the sewist, to design, plan, and curate natural and organic materials for garments or other items you may see a need for, but are unable to find exactly what you want elsewhere. What do you love most about what you do? I love connecting with local people who share the same affinity for our Earth and are on a mission to leave less of a footprint to offer eco-conscious wares, services to extend the life of clothes you already have and love, and the option to custom create apparel, constructed exactly to your measurements and to your liking, in hopes of adding a lasting and sustainable staple to your current wardrobe. I love sharing knowledge and facts, in turn encouraging people to spend time consciously considering their environmental impact. Once a teacher, always a teacher - knowledge is power! Although my business is currently service and product based, I would like to add workshops in the future.
What advice would you give to someone wanting to start a business in your field?
Do your research. I spent two years researching the details to legally and compliantly start a business. It doesn’t have to take two years, but I have a heavily creative mind that doesn’t easily comprehend the logistics of starting a business. If you are manufacturing apparel, especially for children, there are many regulations and compliance laws around product testing, compliant fabric, where to place your care tag, if you need to include fabric content, where to include it, how to track your products, etc. I never imagined it would be this involved. In fact, I was hesitant to officially start accepting orders and selling product because of the fear of marking or tracking something incorrectly. My advice for this is to just do it. Jump in and do it. It will be scary. You will make mistakes and you will correct your mistakes and move on and everything will be okay. When in doubt, log EVERYTHING. I love my barcode label maker. It helps me label all of my materials so that when it is time to take inventory at the end of the year, I can just scan the label and update the status. For those who like inspirational quotes, here’s one I shared often with my students as a teacher: If you want something you’ve never had, then you’ve got to do something you’ve never done.
Do you have any resources you’d like to share for readers to get more information?
For those interested in fashion and sustainability, Fashion Revolution USA (www.fashionrevolution.org) and The Good Trade (www.thegoodtrade.com) are excellent resources to help engage in deeper thinking when making decisions on how to consciously and sustainably add to your wardrobe and where to go to help you make those conscious and sustainable choices. There are many podcasts focused on sustainable fashion. My favorite is The Spirit of 608 (www.spiritof608.com), with a focus on sustainable businesses. There’s an app called Earth911 (also a website at www.earth911.com) where you can enter your zip code and find out where you can locally recycle a variety of unwanted items you may have around your house. I’d encourage you to call the location first to see if they do actually recycle the item you are looking to recycle, and the cost of recycling – if there is one (often there are costs for recycling electronic/battery powered items, especially TVs, both flat screen and tube).
Why did you want to be part of the Ms. Merchant Movement?
I can make a difference in the world on my own, but by connecting with a band of like-minded individuals, a movement can truly ensue.
Purpose – why they exist
Mission – what an organization does