Sewing teepees like Jagger
Our kids no longer need to build forts with blankets and pillows for playtime, thanks to these stylish teepees from Domestic Objects.
"She literally created a job, and then grew it into a business," was how Stephen Jagger described the birth of Domestic Objects, started by his wife.
When the Jagger couple and their two children moved overseas in 2012, Sarah Jagger became a "trailing spouse" who had no job. The Vancouver mum kept herself busy with her two juniors and sewing—something which she picked up from her mother as a child.
The day Sarah sewed her first teepee for her kids to play with, was the beginning of her entrepreneurship.
On the following pages, Sarah shares with us insights behind her successful hobby-turned-business.
Where did you get the idea from?
I really enjoy making things. I wanted to make a space where my kids could play, use their imaginations and have fun. I ended up deciding on a teepee. When I made the first one, a few mummy friends of mine loved it and asked if I could make more, so I did.
What became your game plan to execute the idea?
As I made a few more teepees for friends and family, I got to thinking that there was a business potential to it.
As much as I enjoyed doing it, I would need help if I wanted to ramp up production. So I started looking around for a couple of seamstresses. I found a few husband and wife couples who were able to help. I supplied them with the tools they need to get started and trained them on how I made my teepees.
From there, I put together a marketing plan and a budget. That was how I got started.
When did you realise that the business is working out? What are your markers for success?
When I realised that I can no longer meet my orders fast enough. My team consists of myself and three other husband and wife couples working full-time; I am trying to expand it. I keep an eye on which fabric sells better in each location. I also track how long teepees made from each fabric remains in stock. I have never failed to sell every teepee that I make. I am sure that day will eventually come, but so far, people seem to like the fabric choices I make.
What were some of the challenges you faced?
Tons of challenges, and I am learning as quickly as I can. I am married to an entrepreneur, but have never been one myself.
The first challenge I came across is actually time difference. I sell my products all over the world, and with that comes issues with time zones. It is common for me to be on my phone in the middle of the night talking to someone through Etsy who is in the USA, Europe or somewhere else in the world. I have sold my teepees to more than 24 countries.
Shipping is another challenge. I keep my stocks in Manila, Singapore and Vancouver, and try to ship the product from the most cost effective location. Many times, though, someone orders a teepee which is the last piece in that particular design, and the stock is not in the most cost effective location for me to ship it from.
The search for the ideal fabrics can also be difficult. Recently, I have started printing my own fabrics, but that is a big bet as the minimum order is at least 1500 yards.
Read on to find out more about Sarah's designs.
Where do you get inspiration for your designs?
None other than from my lovely customers. From the start, they have always shared feedbacks, ideas, photos and requested colours to improve my products. I keep in mind their suggestions when I shop for fabric or when I update my designs.
The 3-by-3 teepee design was a request from a client, and so were the windows. I even made a giant teepee, as a prototype, for a startup so that they can sit inside it on beanbags with their laptops. The latest update I made was adding security loops at the bottom of each pole. It ties the poles to the mat so that it doesn’t slip—a simple suggestion, but really helpful.
I shop for fabrics in Hong Kong, Manila and Taipei, but I am always on the lookout wherever I happen to be.
What are your bestsellers? For instance, which ones do more Singaporean mums order?
My bestseller is the natural canvas—it sells well all over the world including Singapore. It is the easiest to match to any room. My customers seem to like the one with black-and-white stripes too.
Could you share with us a DIY project? Something that our readers can do at home, perhaps one that does not even require a sewing machine?
One of the most fun DIY to do is to add a chandelier to your teepee. It is actually quite simple too! Just tie a few strands of battery operated fairy lights into a knot and let it hang from the top of the tent. Let the extra cord and battery pack drape outside, on the back, out of sight. It makes for a beautiful, fun, and magical space for your kids.
Share your thoughts in the comments below!