The next in our series of Upstarts case studies is Michelle Fallon founder of Michelle Made This, a craft and design start-up company, based in Roscommon.
A self confessed craftaholic, Michelle lived and worked as an IT Trainer in London and New York for over 16 years before returning to Ireland to follow her dreams.
What is Michelle Made This?
Through her company Michelle Made This, Michelle creates and makes unique gifts from her kitchen table and also runs workshops in knitting, sewing and paper crafts. Michelle has a wealth of experience in all areas of craft and has studied at Central Saint Martin’s College in London, The Students Art League in New York and Grafton Academy of Dress Design in Dublin.
Michelle has appeared as a regular “craft expert” on the Irish magazine show, Four Live and Nationwide on RTE1. As well as features in the Irish Interiors magazine House & Home and Fashion magazine Prudence.
What were you doing when you decided to set-up Michelle Made This?
I was working in New York as an IT Trainer in a Corporate Law Firm .
When did you start your business and what inspired you to do this?
The business commenced full time in August 2011 but I spent three years prior to that doing in part time whilst at college. I’ve always loved sewing, making cards and basically being creative and have spent my life attending evening classes learning all sorts. I finally got to the point where I couldn’t find the types of classes I wanted so I started to teach my own.
What were your start-up costs? How did you get the money, and what did you use it for?
I had no start-up costs. I basically ran workshops and with the money I got from them I bought supplies.
I did however receive funding from the Enterprise Board for a number of courses such as Start Your Own Business, Social Media and Website Optimisation. All of which have been invaluable in helping me ‘market’ my business on a non existent budget.
What was the biggest obstacle?
My biggest obstacle is space and time. I work from my kitchen table which I also run workshops from and bake (when I get time). I find I spend a lot of time clearing the space, time which could be used better. I hope one day to have a studio where I can leave my work, close the door and then a home to relax in.
I find because I am on my own I work 24/7. I am always thinking of work and scribbling things down. I keep saying I am going to set a day aside as a day off but never do.
Who supported you?
My family have been a huge support. My mum has spent many a late night with me at the kitchen table stitching dolls and packaging cards. My Dad always steps in to keep the fire going and feed the chickens when I’m away working and my sister is always on standby with lots of business advice. My boyfriend has even started helping out with making products too! I’ve got a great circle of friends who believe in me and my work which means a lot.
How long did it take to get your business off the ground?
I would say I am only just getting off the ground now, approx 3 years. I’ve been involved in other projects that have taken my time over the past few years but I am now 100% committed to the business and it’s really paying off. As I work on my own I have to juggle lots of hats and it’s just not possible to do part time.
What do you love most about being your own boss? What are the drawbacks?
I adore being my own boss. I hate routine so this is the perfect job for me. I can work first thing in the morning or all through the night and if I want to lie in I can. The only drawback is doing my accounts, I detest it but if that’s all I have to complain about it’s not bad.
Where do you work from and do you have employees?
I work from my cottage at my kitchen table with me myself and I.
Do you have entrepreneurial role models?
Whilst living in New York I became a huge fan of Martha Stewart. She has turned a love of craft into a huge business. I also really admire Jamie Oliver and am often quoted as saying “I want to do for Craft what Jamie Oliver did for food”. I think craft is so undervalued. It’s not just a hobby. It has huge health benefits and there have been many studies undertaken to prove this. It’s worrying that so many schools don’t even teach knitting or sewing anymore, there are so many benefits to having these basic skills.
How did you learn and acquire the skills you use to make your business successful? How do you continue to grow and learn?
I spent years travelling with my job which involved lots of hours at airports. I would spend my time in the bookshops speed reading “Start Your Own Business” books and then hours on planes scribbling notes and drawing pictures of my cottage industry. Some would say I spent a lot of time day dreaming.
I am also a huge believer in vision boards. I make one every year and so far 90% of what I put on my boards actually happens.
What is your best selling item/service?
My Sewing Machine Basics Workshop is the most popular workshop I run. I get people arriving at my door with sewing machines in unopened boxes that they received for birthday or Christmas presents. I love how everyone is so nervous about even threading the machine at the start of the workshop and by the end of it they are glowing and so proud holding a cushion or bag that they have made.
My best selling products would be my personalized baby onesies, appliquéd cushions and handmade cards.
Are you a LookWester (previously living outside the Western Region) and if so why did you decide to move home or relocate to the West?
I lived in London and New York for over 16 years and always dreamed of returning home to Roscommon eventually. Initially I asked my Dad if I could do up my Granny’s cottage as a holiday home but several years later I’m living here full time. The minute I got off the plane at Knock my whole body would just relax after the mayhem of London or New York. Each time I came it got harder and harder to leave until eventually I didn’t. My passport was always by the door with my previous job but now I couldn’t even tell you where it is.
What advice would you give to anybody Looking West?
We have it all, the scenery, the lakes, the people, the heritage, the fresh air. What more can I say? The West is Simply the Best.