Summer 1985 // Volume 23 // Number 2 // Tools of the Trade // 2TOT5

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Isabel A. Jones
Clothing and Textile Specialist
Michigan State University - East Lansing

Because of high unemployment in Michigan in 1980-81, many families looked for opportunities to supplement their incomes. Michigan's Extension

Service helped by examining activities based on clothing and textiles to determine income opportunities. We found a variety of service-oriented and product businesses that could be operated profitably with a minimum investment.

We particularly realized that one service-oriented business-A.R.M. (Alterations, Repairs, & Mending of Clothing and Home Textiles)-could be rewarding if well-operated and well-managed.

Extension audiences, especially women, have been sewing for years and we wanted to help them capitalize on those skills. We worked with Extension home economists and would-be sewing businessowners throughout the state to evaluate their sewing skills, their knowledge of fabrics, and their business management skills. We found an abundance of sewing talent, but few skills to run a successful business.

We wrote an eight-page bulletin, called "Starting Your Own A.R.M. (Alterations, Repairs, and Mending) Business," to increase the effectiveness of sewing businessowners. It describes the skills and tools needed and provides suggestions for starting and managing a growing concern. And, because so many of the participants work out of their homes, we included information on managing family and friends.

The area that inhibits growth for so many businessowners is pricing-charging to receive even a minimum wage. The sections on "Your Prices" and "Suggested Price List" help them understand and justify a fair price. Participants have called to tell us how the price list has helped them set fair rates.

Since the beginning of the program, more than 208 sewing and needle trades businesses have been established. The annual gross income ranges from $2,000 to $100,000. Three statewide sew-for-profit seminars have been held. Other outgrowths of the program include a networking newsletter and sewfor-profit business clubs.