Seamstress Sheila LeClair has been sewing for as long as she can recall. Sheila is also a bus driver for the Public Schools Branch.
She always hoped to one day start a home-based business which could combine with her bus driving hours to offer her full-time employment.
In 2015, Sheila business idea began when her father passed away and she created a memory bear called Just a Hug Away. Sheila designed a bear made out of various pieces of her father’s clothing.
In July 2017, Sheila opened her business called Just a Hug Away. People from across the country order memory bears in memory of a loved one. She receives items of clothing that once belonged to the loved one and she uses them to make the bears. Today Sheila finds herself very busy with memory bear orders, along with memory quilts and alterations.
“I do alterations on all clothing, from hemming jeans to wedding dresses. Weddings are mainly in the spring and summer months and they keep me very busy,” says Sheila. “A bride’s vision is of utmost importance, and I want to ensure she is happy on her big day,” says Sheila.
One of the biggest honors her business received was when O’Leary Hockeyville contacted her to create a custom-made jacket for Don Cherry and a matching tie for his counterpart Ron McLean.
“What an honor that was. Don Cherry even called and left me a voice message afterwards thanking me for the jacket. This was a great method of advertisement for my new business and I was happy to have been chosen as the seamstress. It really created a buzz for my business.”
Since then, she has been asked to create customized vests for staff to wear at the Ontario farmer’s market. “I never say no to a challenge,” says Sheila. “If it works and it’s profitable, I will continue to create such items.”
Her peak season for bears and other sewing projects is prior to Christmas. June to October is peak season for wedding alterations, which can include dresses for the entire wedding party.
Advice for new business owners
“If you are considering opening your own business, my best advice is to do your research and be prepared to invest a lot of time to get it off the ground,” says Sheila. “Patience is defiantly required.
“Speak with various agencies to gain information on what services, funding, and business loans are available. Research the market to understand what people are looking for and find out if there is a need for the service or products you want to sell.”
Sheila admits that the process of opening a business can be a challenge, and it was a great deal more work that she thought it would be. She credits SkillsPEI for assisting and encouraging her along the way.
She was able to access their assistance during the summer months when she was laid off from bus driving. She also accessed services from the local CBDC for a startup loan and training.
She met with David Gamble, owner of Breakthrough Business, and he was a huge help in helping develop a business plan.
With a startup loan, Sheila invested in products and supplies, along with reconstructing the upper part of her garage into a sewing loft. “I can be found up here at all hours of the night when I have orders to fill.”
She is very pleased with how her business is taking off, and she is receiving a lot of excellent feedback from satisfied customers. “I am looking forward to continuing and expanding my products and alterations.”
For more information, call 902-853-7124.
Visit facebook and search Sheila LeClair.