Hello everyone! I’m Monique Joy, owner and creator of SweetlyMadebyMJ on Etsy. I’m a 36-year old wife, mother, amateur chef and former Medical Assistant living in Phoenix, Arizona (originally from Southern California). I discovered the world of sewing a few years ago while pregnant with my youngest child. I am 100% self-taught and have carefully created my own formulas for the perfect pencil skirt using professional finishes and custom labels. Each one listed in my shop has been through my tough test of trial and error to make sure it will give an amazing fit. Having been inspired by photos of my mother from the 1960’s, I was motivated to redesign the typical pencil skirt in my own way. With handpicked luxury knit fabrics in classic yet edgy patterns, it has become my passion to create these custom & ready to wear skirts.
Merging classic femininity with modern fashion, I find the simplicity to be extremely versatile. With your own flair and accessories, I love to see how others style the skirts I create with their own twist. One of my absolute favorite quotes is, “Fashion is the art and you are the canvas.” This summarizes in one simple sentence why I do what I do and continue to pursue my dream of making women of all shapes and sizes feel beautiful in a timeless pencil skirt. This is my art and I’m so excited to share it with all of you!
Tell us how you got the idea to start SweetlyMadebyMJ.
I first opened Sweetly Made by MJ in March 2013 after I decided to invest in a new sewing machine and serger. For those of you who aren’t familiar, a serger is a specialized sewing machine. It creates a more durable and professional seam on both woven and knit fabrics. I had tried using sewing patterns to make my own clothes but soon discovered it wasn’t for me. I wanted to try making my own patterns rather than following written instructions and cutting a bunch little paper pieces. In order to start becoming more familiar with clothing design I knew that I would need to change the equipment I was working with and start practicing.
At that time Etsy was a new marketplace for me. It was a great place to buy vintage sewing patterns and other handmade goods. After a while I thought I would give it a try for myself so I opened my shop. I did well at first, with about 50 sales worldwide in the first few months. My feedback was great but I decided to take a break and determine exactly what I wanted to sell. I recently re-opened my shop with a clear plan and more confidence than ever about the product I am selling. It’s an exciting time in my life and I can’t wait to see what the future holds.
What’s been the greatest reward since opening your online shop?
Meeting other inspiring women. I have made some lifelong friends along this journey and I would have to say that is easily the greatest reward so far.
What frustrations have you experienced in your business? How have you overcome the frustrations?
My biggest frustration has been finding and creating my own formula to draft my pencil skirt patterns from. Most information out there on the internet instructs you to make a simple tube. Though it functioned well enough it wasn’t ideal for all body types.
Everything in my shop is hand measured and cut to order. I wanted to develop something that I could plug in anybody’s measurements giving them an ideal fit. After much time and fabric I finally found what works best.
If you could interview a creative woman, living or dead, who would you interview and why?
Joanna Gaines from HGTV’s Fixer Upper. In her I see a powerhouse of creative ideas. Outside of fashion, she embodies all the things that interest me. Not only is she an accomplished business owner and furniture designer, but she is a loving wife and mother. There is so much to be admired about all that she does. She has fine-tuned her creative identity and been able to transfer that from television to retail and an upcoming bakery. I would love to know the person behind the camera. What has inspired her in the years leading up to her show and how she continues to maintain her individuality.
Describe your ideal work space?
I feel very fortunate that I am able to work in my ideal space every day. Over the last year and a half I have been able to set up a nice office in my home. I have one large work desk that fits both my sewing machine and serger, where I sit in an antique chair that belonged to my husband’s great grandmother. On the opposite side of the room there is a smaller desk for my all of my computer work.
When putting together my sewing studio, my top priority was having enough room to work with large amounts of fabric and sufficient storage space so I could keep it organized. I have accumulated quite the collection of colored threads and other tools, so as long as everything has a place then it’s easier for me to get orders out quickly.
Another great part about my office is that it not just a place to work but it also doubles as a hangout spot for me and my daughter. I can sit at my desk and drink my coffee in the mornings or spend time with her reading books in the evenings.
What are some hobbies you enjoy doing in your free time?
I love to cook and bake with my kids but I have to say in my free time I enjoy DIY projects around my house. I recently learned how to do tiling and put up a backsplash in my kitchen. It was a messy job and definitely tested my patience, but I am so happy that I learned something new. Next on my list, making some curtains!
What advice would you give to women hoping to start their own business?
When you find what you are good at, and the dreams that you are passionate about turning into a career…pursue it. Be prepared, you may stumble and you may fall. Not everyone will see what you see, but don’t give up. None of those things spell out “failure” in any way. It is the growth and development process that will light the way to your success.
If you are hoping to start your own business ask yourself these two questions:
1 – What is your definition of success? For example, to me it is receiving a message from someone who has bought something I made with my own two hands. It is hearing that they love what I have worked hard for and feel good in it.
2- What do sales mean to you? In my world it’s a guarantee that I get to do more of what I love every day. You may identify with my definitions of success and sales, or it may be something completely different. What’s important is that you understand where you want to go and why. One thing I found that helps me is keeping a journal. It isn’t necessarily a daily entry, but I do write down all of my trials and what the end results are. It has helped in the development of a structure that works and as I continue to build my business it is important that I maintain it to stay focused on my path.
Having been involved in business processes with my husband I have learned that you really can accomplish any amount of success you if you are willing to dust yourself off and keep moving forward. Even if that means you need to take a break to reassess your plan. A quote that I shared with him years ago was, “If you truly desire something then never let anything stop you from attaining it.” It will take hard work and dedication but the sense of accomplishment is worth every bridge you cross. Grow with the flow and your dream job can come true.
What is your favorite thing about being a creative woman?
Being inspired every day to learn and create new things. It is an amazing feeling to create something beautiful. Whether it’s a pencil skirt, a batch of homemade cupcakes or planning a party, the possibilities are endless if you have faith in yourself. I truly believe that if we put our minds to something we can learn anything.