We’ve offered insight into the REV + Create Birmingham + MAKEbhm CO.STARTERS business development program before, but now it’s time to dig a little deeper. This past January, our second CO.STARTERS cohort was so packed with startups that we had to offer a second session to meet the demand. And the rave reviews just won’t stop coming.
Take Lillis Taylor and Christine McClean for example. As partners of a budding non-profit — The Magic City Spool Bus — these two have both launched successful startup efforts and are graduates of the first Birmingham CO.STARTERS cohort of Fall 2014.
Read more about their journey toward entrepreneurial success and how CO.STARTERS played a critical role in their startup development in the interview below!
Give us an overview of your individual businesses.
Lillis: Bib & Tucker Sew-Op is a non-profit organization with the mission of cultivating skills for those who sew or want to sew in a community-building capacity. We meet weekly in our new home in Woodlawn (across from Social Venture) and work on projects that we give back to the community. Our vision is to build a cottage industry of textile manufacturing in Woodlawn, creating jobs for those who need them in the neighborhood.
Christine: The Red Pincushion was started about two years ago when I started teaching girls to sew in my home. Sewing has always been a part of my life – having learned the skills from my mom and grandmother. I also was making my own pillows, drapes and cushions and being asked by friends if I could make some things for them. I had an opportunity to purchase a used industrial machine but needed a larger space for it. I also needed a large work table for making draperies. I decided to rent a space from a friend whose home is zoned for commercial purposed in Avondale. I teach classes weekly to girls starting at the age of 8 and some of my students have been with me for over a year. I have also developed a core business with some interior designers and produce top quality home décor, which I thoroughly enjoy because every project is different and I am able to work some gorgeous fabrics!
What stage of business development were you at upon applying for the CO.STARTERS program? (Were you experiencing any specific challenges?)
Lillis: Bib & Tucker was at the stage of entity creation when I started CO.STARTERS. One of our biggest challenges is developing self-sustaining income.
Christine: I was at the one year mark from when I decided to start renting space. I faced challenges space with space expansion. I would love to have a second worktable and a separate spaces for teaching.
So you each attended CO.STARTERS. Tell me a little bit about why you were inspired to apply for the cohort?
Lillis: I applied for the cohort because I was embarking on the path of making Bib & Tucker “real” and CO.STARTERS seemed to offer all of the tools one needs at that stage of business development: step-by-step suggestions on how to understand your client and how to bring your idea to fruition in relation to finances, marketing, etc.
Christine: Lillis and I knew each other before CO.STARTERS and decided to do the program together because we felt we had businesses that could be mutually beneficial to each other.
It seems you both entered into CO.STARTERS with separate business plans in mind. What led you to the concept of the Magic City Spool Bus?
Lillis: Christine and I have the same dream of reviving the lost art of sewing. We knew this about each other before we started CO.STARTERS. In fact, in our separate businesses, we both realized that a mobile sewing room would make the kind of impact that a brick and mortar cannot do initially. When The Big Pitch was announced, we sat down one day and realized that we both wanted the same thing and that two heads are better than one.
How was the CO.STARTERS experience helpful to you as business owners? How was this program helpful in the cultivation of your partnership?
Lillis: CO.STARTERS introduced me to a group of incredible entrepreneurs in Birmingham. Getting to sit down with this group each week to hash out some of the road blocks in my own path was extremely helpful.
Christine: It was great to hear other people with the same struggles. It was great to see Lillis each week and begin to hash out idea where we could come together.
Are there any exciting Magic City Spool Bus updates you’d like to share? Any particular passions you’d like to discuss as a Birmingham startup? We’d love to hear about them!
Lillis: We really believe in this idea and so we’re taking it slowly in order to make sure it is done right. We have a Facebook page and will update it as the idea evolves.
Christine: We have made the big decision to be a non-profit! We are in the process of setting up the entity and once that is completed we hope to have a kick starter campaign to finalize the funding.
The next installment of our nine-week business development program kicks off on April 6-June 1 in Ensley (425 19th Street Ensley). And we want you to witness first-hand how this revolutionary, collaborative process rapidly tests the assumptions you have about your startup and delivers viable business models for success.