A few years ago, Sarah Dressler was blogging about fashion in between homeschooling her children when a photographer-friend asked for help finding a ball-gown skirt made of tulle. Dressler couldn’t come up with one. So she thought, “I’ll just make one.”
The only problem? “I had never made anything before,” says the spouse of an Air Force officer.
A few YouTube tutorials later, she had made her first skirt. “I got excited that I had created something with my own hands. It brought me so much more joy than I had expected.”
Dressler took “do what you love” to heart and now has a successful business, Skirt Effect, designing and sewing skirts for women and girls. Last year, she sold 70 through etsy.com, exceeding her sales goal by 30 percent.
But for Dressler, Skirt Effect is about more than making fashion or even money. It’s about staying true to herself. Here are her tips for building an empire around a career and life you can love:
1. Decide Your Priorities
“I wanted to be a stay-at-home mom and I decided to throw all of my energy into being a great mom,” says Dressler, who is also devoted to seven hours of homeschooling every day. “It was very fulfilling and I never wanted to do anything else.”
But as her son and daughter grew older, Dressler felt she could be doing something productive with her free time. “I also feel it’s good for your kids to see you doing something that’s not just family, family, family. It’s good for them to see me having that creative outlet.”
2. Follow Your Passions
After the ball-gown skirt, her next turn at the sewing machine was making matching mother-daughter skirts her 4-year-old had requested.
“It came out so well, I just started doing it for fun,” she says. And when her friends began asking for skirts, Dressler knew she had something that would be fulfilling and creative, too.
3. Stay Focused
“As a military family, it is important to remember our No. 1 job is to support our service members and the overall mission,” Dressler says. “Leading a balanced and positive lifestyle often means knowing when you’re spread too thin.”
And, if you’re feeling spread too thin, then you probably are. Take time to reevaluate your priorities. Success largely depends on a positive attitude, especially when frequent moves and deployments add to life’s typical challenges.
4. Take It with You
Growing up the daughter of a service member and moving from one duty station to another throughout her childhood, Dressler married into the military and worked in retail until her son was born a few years later.
“I always wanted to work in fashion, but I also wanted to have family, and I never knew how those could be combined in an Air Force lifestyle,” she says. “And as a mom starting something new, there’s this fear, especially in the military.
“But with this opportunity, I can take it wherever we go. That freedom encourages me to continue working on it.”
5. Give It Your All
When it comes to Dressler’s feminine, flowy skirts, she wants every stitch to be perfect. But she’s also learned that her customers are looking to buy something that feels like it was made by hand.”
So even if every stitch isn’t in the right spot, it’s going to be OK,” she says. “At the same time, I do feel that if someone is giving me their hard-earned money, they deserve my all. That’s how I approach life in general. If going to do something, I’m going to do it right.”
6. Keep Learning
“I have a goal to learn at least one new thing a week about the business or sewing or a new technique, and that has helped me to stay focused,” she says. “My other goal is to continue to grow and help women feel beautiful and be a positive role model in their lives.
“And be a good mom and teacher.”
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