A Sit-Down With Saremy Duffy of Chicken Boots
We had a captivating conversation with Saremy Duffy, the mastermind behind the renowned brands Chicken Boots and Sew Sew Live.
When you started Chicken Boots, was it just for fun or did you always envision it becoming a business?
When I started Chicken Boots, it was a little by accident. I had just wrapped up 11 years of being Freelance and while that was a busy enterprise, I needed something more creative. I had been working with a local high school mentoring a fashion program and I found it so inspiring. I loved working with the students. I had planned to start a home sewing pattern company where one could buy the pattern and it have many options inside to draft so that one pattern could have lots of variations (Fit it one time, but get many options out of just one pattern). But I had also been making my own tool cases and trying to make my ideal project bag. I decided to just have some fun and bring some of them to a local holiday fair along with some cupcake pincushions and probably some aprons. It started there (not that I made more than $300 at the fair :)
Can you tell me a little bit about your journey with Chicken Boots?
Transitioning from a service-oriented to a product-oriented business was a significant and costlier shift. I initially operated from my backyard studio, sourcing fabric from Freespirit. I recall working with Jimmy Beans, requesting they buy fabric in multiples of two for optimal utilization. Jimmy Beans was highly supportive. I handled all sewing myself with the initial goal of achieving $2k in monthly Etsy sales.
While I also engaged in some wholesale, it wasn't sufficient to cover expenses. Transitioning to direct-to-consumer sales became necessary. Wholesale offered lower profit margins, selling multiples to a single customer, while direct sales required finding and attracting individual customers, each with its pros and cons.
I was committed to manufacturing exclusively in the US and had to actively seek out those customers. My husband's job relocation provided access to potential sewists, leading to the discovery of an excellent assistant. Together, we managed production. Initially, I intended to pass off all production to her, but I continued sewing alongside her until the end.
What are some of the trends in fiber art, specifically related to project bags?
I have to admit, I was a little ignorant of what the trends were. I knew what I wanted. I do remember seeing an Etsy article about Slipped Stitch Studio and being very inspired. It was nice to see another sewing related business featured and I never thought I’d get to be busy like her but I hoped to.
For my bags, I wanted bags that stood on their own and were simple but easy to use and very functional.
It was a store owner who suggested adding vinyl to my Notions Case. Once I did that, I started working on bags that one could see inside of too. So I don’t know what the trends were at the time, but I knew what I wanted.
When you make something that isn’t out there already, you have to teach people about it. I did a lot of that with most of my products.
I also am always looking for sewn solutions. One significant achievement was when I designed a little gizmo - my Needle Keeper, a DPN accessory, which caught the attention of Clara Parkes, although I didn't initially recognize her. She featured it in a newsletter, resulting in a surge in orders. I later learned she had purchased one from me and appreciated it. (I reached out and thanked her, and we've met a few times – she's wonderful, and I value her insights.)