Sewist overcomes burnout to stitch together a stronger business model

The Autonomous Creative Incubator

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Listen to Martha’s story in her own words:

Production sewing coach, Marty Remsen felt like no matter how much effort she put into her business, she wasn’t seeing tangible results, and started to wonder if maybe she should get a “real” job.

She already had a vision for where she wanted her business to go, but needed help getting there.

Discover how the Autonomous Creative Incubator helped Marty…

Marty Remsen was burnt out. She was part-owner of a successful bike bag company where she did production sewing, but the work was repetitive and, frankly, had gotten boring. In contrast to the exciting early days of growing the company and working through production challenges, now, she felt the energy was much more, “shut up, sit down, and sew.”

That didn’t match her goals at all. So she sold her stake in the company.

The income from that sale provided her a bit of a runway, but she wasn’t sure what to do next. She started making bags to sell at local stores, but the money wasn’t great and it didn’t feel sustainable. She wanted a creative business, but when it came to logistics—and, more importantly her financial stability — Marty was stuck with little more than scraps. 

“This was my dream, to be able to have my own business,” Marty said. “But I was getting to the point where I was like, maybe I just need a real job, whatever that means. Something to do, to have more focus, and to actually make some money.”

All she knew for sure was that something had to change. 

“This program will bridge the gap.”

Like many of our clients, Marty had tried many other things, searched for other solutions, before finding the Incubator. Out of all those experiences, she knew what didn’t work: She didn’t want to be stuck creating individual products that sold for only 20 bucks; and she didn’t want to have to go get a “real job” when owning a business was her dream.

When she found out about the Autonomous Creative Incubator (ACI), she was drawn to it instantly. “Once I saw it,” Marty says, “I pretty much knew I was gonna do it.” 

Marty knew what wasn’t working, and she had a vision for where she wanted her business to go, but she needed help.

“The things I think I might want to do…I’m here. They’re there. I don’t know how to bridge that gap. And I was like, oh my gosh, this program will bridge the gap.” 

Immediately after joining, Marty was surrounded by a community of creative people who were trying to do the same kind of things she was doing, each in their own arena.

She realized that she already had a ton of knowledge and expertise that she could build on and leverage to craft the business she had envisioned. 

“There’s a community of creative people trying to build a sustainable business, people who get where I’m coming from and what the struggles are. Every coaching call is extremely valuable to me, even though I don’t submit [questions or work to get feedback] very often. I’m like, ‘Oh yes, that’s exactly it. I’ve had that problem. Oh, that’s exactly what has happened. Oh, wow. That makes total sense.’ I’m seeing people ahead of me and people still working through other things.”

In the ACI, surrounded by like-minded creatives, Marty got support and coaching that helped her make new connections and that encouraged her to rely on the skills and strengths she already had within her.

That comprehensive and personalized support made Marty’s journey to building a profitable business that’s aligned with her creative work feel so much more attainable. 

As Marty learned how to translate the joy she felt when digging into a sewing production process challenge, she began to see a road ahead of her that could take her where she’d dreamed she could go with her business. She started to feel like she was bridging the gap between where she was and what she envisioned. Her goals felt like they were possible. More than possible: It was starting to happen. 

“It’s not me by myself.”

Several big a-ha moments came to Marty as she began to develop her business plan in the Incubator. First, she leaned into the idea that she could rely on her own strengths while seeking out support in areas where she was less experienced. 

“It’s not me by myself,” Marty explained. Sometimes she presents her ideas to the cohort for on-point feedback, but “sometimes it’s outsourcing one tiny piece so that you can move on to the next thing.” 

In her case, the “one tiny piece” that had posed a huge obstacle was designing a sales page for her website. Instead of hanging onto that task and believing that she needed to conquer the tech challenge alone, she hired an expert to craft the page for her, using her copy, guidelines, and vision. Hiring help for that one task empowered her to focus her time more efficiently and move on quickly to next steps for building her business, instead of staying stuck. (She also got a beautiful sales page!)

The line between hobby and business is clear

As a creative, translating your passion to your business sometimes makes you feel like you’re compromising on both. Marty realized it doesn’t have to be like that. 

As a result of the work Marty has done with the Incubator, she learned what she actually wanted out of her business, and defined the steps to take her there. “I can’t sew anything without thinking about how to do it more efficiently,” she said. “It’s annoying sometimes.” But now she’s able to choose when to treat her sewing as a hobby, and when to utilize her deep sewing production expertise for her business.  

Clarifying the line between sewing for business and pleasure relieved some of Marty’s creative anxiety that all her sewing projects ought to feed her business. She can still make one-off projects for fun. She can still make gifts for friends and family, without feeling pressure to monetize everything. 

“I’m able to say no to stuff. It’s clear to me what is not important and what I don’t need to be working on. I realize I can do lots of sewing projects, but it’s my hobby right now. And so I don’t have to make everything in multiples to sell. I can just make it as a gift for someone.”

“I can really see the path forward.”

Marty is still working towards her long-term business goals, she says, but she’s closer to those goals than ever, thanks to the Incubator. 

[The Incubator] was completely worth it,” she says. “I’m so much farther along than when I started, and I can really see this path forward… I have hope and a positive view that I did not have when I joined.”

Marty attributed her progress to the support and community of the Incubator, “It’s that piece, again, of not being alone. You get to be part of a group. Supported. You don’t have to do this by yourself.”

Marty recommends the Incubator to anyone trying to build a creative career, but who might be frustrated about not being able to make it by “just doing a lot of really low level things. [It’s perfect for people who can’t figure out how to break through to another level.” 

She added, the Incubator is a great fit for  “someone who maybe is starting to burn out on their creativity and needs a different way forward, using what they’ve learned, so that their creative projects can become fun again, something they do for personal fulfillment.”

Be as proud of your business as you are of your creative work

The Autonomous Creative Incubator Program

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The Incubator is the artist-centered program where self-employed creatives design a sustainable, profitable business rooted in their creative expertise.

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