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Job title and company: Creator and sole proprietress of Battleaxe Custom Sewn in Ludlow. I do custom work by appointment through my email address — firstname.lastname@example.org.
Your duties: Creating custom plush toys (including Muppets), pillows and quilts along with tailoring, alterations and custom embroidery.
How did you land your job? Three years ago, I was going through a rather rough time in my life and needed some sort of creative outlet. I had recently bought a sewing machine to tailor some clothes and thought that might take my mind off things. During that summer, I found out a friend of mine was pregnant and was planning to name her son Calvin. Naturally, I thought Calvin needed a Hobbes, so I bought the materials and started building. No patterns, no guidelines, only a photo from the Web. It came together so quickly that I didn’t have time to really think about how I did it. Since then, I’ve continued to challenge myself with new projects and the business sort of created itself.
What’s most challenging about your work? Finding the time to do everything I want to do. I’ve found myself giving up a large chunk of my social life in order to work.
What do you like about your job? I make people happy. Whether I’m making a birthday gift or mending someone’s favorite jeans, I’m providing a service that brings someone happiness. I look forward to working every day.
What is your key to success? Doing what you love. Plain and simple.
How do you feel the Valley economy will fare this year? I like to compare the Valley to one of those inflatable punching clowns: If it gets knocked over, it always turns right side up again. I see a lot of that in the Valley.
Why did you choose to do business in the Valley? I was born and raised in Easthampton, so the Valley is my home. There are few businesses such as mine and I believe I have a unique skill to offer.
Who has helped mentor you professionally?: First, those who have ordered unique pieces from me. The ideas people come up with are always far more creative than anything I could come up with myself. Secondly, my father, Michael Engel, who owned/operated Cherry Picked Books in Easthampton for four years. Seeing him work hard to make a success out of his business was a great influence. Third, my current employer, Pamela Hinckley, of Custom Sewing in Ware. I’ve only been working under her for a month but it feels as though I’ve already gained an incredible amount of sewing knowledge.
Name a few of your goals for the coming year: I am forever striving to improve my skills as a seamstress, so my goals are to keep learning new techniques in order to improve the quality of my work.
Tell us a little-known fact about you: I had no intention of becoming a seamstress. It was merely a hobby at first.
What is your advice for others seeking business success? Simon Helberg, who plays Howard Wolowitz on “The Big Bang Theory,” said something during the show’s People’s Choice Award acceptance speech that really caught my attention: “Love what you do and you’ll never work a day in your life.” I think that is the key to business success. If your heart isn’t in it, how can you expect anyone else’s to be?