July 2021 I 20th anniversary
I can’t believe it has been twenty years since I came up with the idea for the SewEzi Portable Sewing Table. How time has flown. That morning I woke with the idea, I never had any inclination that it would lead to the journey Dave and I have been on.
Dave has written the following blog this month, to give you some insight into our experience.
In the beginning
I loved Catherine’s table concept from the very beginning, but I struggled for a while solving some of the design problems, mostly to do with the portability, having folding legs that were stable enough to sew on without making the table too heavy to lift. It helped that Catherine is also good with design and I’d be struggling with something and she would say well do this, “Isn’t it obvious?”
No it wasn’t obvious, but it would usually work.
July 2001 -The first drawing of SewEzi Portable Table
By 2002 we had a design that was functional and a team of locals using the prototypes. The next step was the hardest, we had an idea and prototypes but what now, the short story is I convinced Catherine to let me second mortgage the house to have the first manufacturing run done and we launched in Christchurch 2003.
I’m a total optimist, which means I always think things will go better than they do and underestimate the risks. In hind sight the risks were huge and things didn’t go as well as I expected. But, we were committed and with the support of our customer base and our growing team of international stockists, we fought through the problems, and now SewEzi is a good sustainable business.
When we launched, the acrylic inserts were cut by hand and I had no experience with working acrylic. I had no idea how many different models of sewing machines were in the market and made assumptions that it would only be a couple of machines in each brand. In 2003 we had a total of 6 different machine inserts manufactured with the first run of tables.
The following 18 years were spent finding machines and measuring them to create inserts as customers requested them. A big shout out here to our amazing Sewezi stockist’s and our customers who have helped measure machines.
Today we have over 3000 sewing machine models in the database. It’s probably lucky I didn’t know how big this task was going to be as I might have hesitated to start. The biggest break though was discovering laser cutters for the inserts, these have allowed us to cut inserts on demand and dispatch the tables and inserts quickly despite the huge range of different inserts needed.
Early on we decided we wanted to sell to the world and this meant manufacturing the tables cost effectively, New Zealand is an amazing country but our cost structure for manufacturing and exporting this type of product is quite high and we would be at completely different price points if we manufactured here and would definitely not been able to achieve the market penetration we have.
We chose Shanghai as our manufacturing center because of a friend of a friend operating there. We hadn’t been to China and we were very nervous. In the end it has been great, there have been lots of hiccups along the way, manufacturing is difficult, so many details to sort out, but we have really enjoyed our visits to the factories. The factories we work with are all small operations, just like Kiwi Mum and Dad businesses, many of the staff have been there the whole time we have been operating.
We have made great friends and watched their families grow, ( and taken ours to visit). A highlight was a family dumpling making session with our main agents, Lily and Kevin with their extended family. We consider all the people working in the factories in Shanghai to be part of the Sewezi family and we hope to be able to continue working with them for a long time.
We were always proud of the fact that our table could accommodate nearly every domestic sewing machine commercially made. But then the machines started to grow! We tweaked the portable several times, opening out the throat and creating innovative changes to the inserts to make sure they could all fit, But they kept growing! By the time there were 5 or 6 popular machines that were too big for the Portable we knew we had to make a larger table.
Developing new product
We had some very “robust” design sessions to develop the Grande, we brought a second hand Bernina 820 so we had a large machine to work with. The Grande was radically different from the Portable in many ways and the development time was very short, it normally takes about 18 months to bring a product to market, the Grande was under a year. It is always scary releasing a new product as even after lots of testing, it’s not until a product is being used widely that you learn if you have it right. The Grande has been a great success, apart from changing the cover and a small tweak to the leg position it has been our most trouble free product.
Unfortunately the sewing machines didn’t stop growing so we have had to develop the GL top for the Grande to accommodate a couple of the ‘’giants’’, who knows where the trend will end.
Thank you everyone
Besides the design elements of SewEzi the key to our success has been people.
Our customers; because without your support, loyalty, and enthusiasm, we would not be here today. The international sewing community is a large world of friendship.
Our manufacturers who have worked so hard to deliver a quality product to meet our exacting expectations.
And on a very personal note our children, who have grown up with parents who lived and breathed SewEzi everyday and every room of our house.
He aha te mea nui o te ao
(What is the most important thing in the world?)
He tangata, he tangata, he tangata.
(It is the people, the people, the people.)
Thank you for your overwhelming support through the years everyone.
SewEzi in 20 years
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Some things about me you need to know…..
I am obsessional, therefore I collect, and have collections.
I am passionate, I either love it or hate it there is no in between.
I am a perfectionist when it comes to sewing, and struggle with the just ok finish I achieve sometimes.
I garden. I collect plants too, especially deciduous magnolias.
I need colour and texture to nurture my soul.
I read, research, and study because it excites me.
I am a mum to three twenty somethings, an attendant to two cats (Luna and Tux), and partner in all things to David of more than 30 years.