Blue Cup Shop with Laquana Drayton

Laquana’s Blue Cup Shop is on Etsy,  Instagram

That Black Chic

Laquana mentions a couture sewing class with Brooks Ann Camper with Workroom Social

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Episode Summary

Laquana Drayton is a previous fashion blogger, a sewist, and now the owner of Blue Cup Shop, a PDF pattern printing company that serves high-quality solutions for customers. Laquana is joining the Stitch Please podcast to share her unique sewing journey and how she uses her extraordinary skills to enhance her life. This opened up the conversation as we talked about finding clothes that fit her body, being delivered from fast fashion, and why she decided to stop outsourcing her alterations and learn to do it herself. We also touch on how Hancock’s going-out-of-business sale launched her into the sewing world and how she went from newbie to winning a Pattern Review contest and getting featured in a magazine. She also expanded on how Blue Cup Shop started, why she embraces the boutique service model and uses her customer-focused business to help the sewing community. This episode is a beautiful conversation around evolution, growth, and opportunities that come if you’re open and willing to receive.

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Episode Notes

Laquana’s Blue Cup Shop is on Etsy,  Instagram

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Lisa Woolfork  0:14  

Hello stitchers. Welcome to Stitch Please, the official podcast of Black Women Stitch, the sewing group where Black lives matter. I'm your host, Lisa Woolfork. I'm a fourth generation sewing enthusiast with more than 20 years of sewing experience. I am looking forward to today's conversation. So sit back, relax, and get ready to get your stitch together. 

Hello, everyone, and welcome to the Stitch Please podcast. I am your host, Lisa Woolfork. And as I say every week, this is a very special episode, because we are talking today with none other than Miss Made by Laquana, Laquana Drayton, who is a blogger, a sewist and now the owner of a PDF printing company. And so I am so delighted to welcome Laquana to the program. Welcome Laquana, thank you so much for joining us today on the Stitch Please podcast.

Laquana  1:16  

Thank you for having me, Lisa. Hello, everyone. 

Lisa Woolfork  1:19  

Yay. Okay. So, I want to get started with your sewing story. I ask everybody, What is your sewing story? How would you describe the origin story of your sewing journey? What's your sewing story, how did you get started? Have you been sewing forever and ever, amen? Have you been sewing for, like, the last two years, and now you're like, Now I want to have a company? Like, how did you get going?

Laquana  1:42  

So, you know, I have not been sewing since I was a kid. My family did not sew. I actually started sewing because I went back into the workforce after being home with the kids for a while. My husband's in our military so we moved around a lot. And my pants didn't fit. And in my mind, I just needed to put a dart on the side to stop them from falling down. And so one of my coworkers was like, Q - because everybody calls me Q - she was like, Q, what's going on with your pants? And I was like, Oh, I just kind of, you know, I put a little safety pin on the side. She says, Oh, no, no. She says, No ma'am, that's not how you do things. And so the origin story for me was actually alterations. I got into sewing to teach myself how to alter clothes. Because I first started out as a fashion blogger. My handle - you might see some stuff on Pinterest - I was the Accidental Military Wife. And at one point, when I was trying to figure out my style aesthetic, I started blogging. But then I realized that a lot of the clothes that I was getting ready to wear needed to be altered, and I had no clue how to do it. And it just kept getting expensive to go to the cleaners to get it altered. So a friend of mine said, You know, if you get a sewing machine, I'll show you how to just kind of, you know, take your pants in. Just, you can't just put one dart, Q, you got to put two, and you got to separate it. Because in my mind, it didn't make sense how to alter clothes, because I never constructed them. I had never constructed anything, and I didn't come from a family who sewed. So you know, even though now it makes sense how to approach construction, it never occurred to me how to do it. So that's actually how I started, was to learn how to alter clothes. So I've never come into sewing as a means of never shopping ready-to-wear, or, you know, that's never my thing. That was never my story. I never perceived to kind of be one who only wore my own clothes, because I like clothes. I like going to stores. Plus size fashion has come a long way. So when I came in, it was really - I started out to alter. And then as I started to alter, I started to see when I was going to pick up threads and things like that, I was like, What are these patterns? And so that was the evolution of, Oh, I can make that straight skirt. You know, all it is is those two things. Well, I've been sewing those two sides, because I've been altering my clothes. How hard would it be? So obviously, you know, it's a lot harder than that because I was picking out quilt and cotton and just the same stuff because I had no clue about garment stuff, right? I had no clue about it. So my origin story, actually, you know, I haven't been sewing since I was five, six. You know, my parents didn't sew, nobody I knew - actually, I'm from New York City and a lot of people sew, and a lot of people were designers, but none that I knew and no one was making garments for me. And it's funny, because I'm from Brooklyn, New York and the Garment District is uptown, it's not far. I'd never been. It was a whole 'nother world that I knew nothing about. So it's been about 10 years when we came back from Germany. It's been about 10 years. 10, 11 years that I've been sewing.

Lisa Woolfork  4:37  

I absolutely love that the Accidental Military Wife became a deliberate sewer. And what's great about your story, Q, is that, other than, like, when I started to sew, my mother and grandmother sew and I'm a fourth generation sewist, though I was not sewing as a young woman or as a kid. And so when I went to learn, I went through the basic "now you must sit in this class and make a tote bag, even if you don't want a tote bag." You started making sewing, you started your sewing journey, and you started sewing because you knew you wanted clothes to fit your body. Rather than, like, trying to figure out how to read patterns and slash and spread, and all of these things that folks have had to do to adapt ready-to-wear patterns, you know, with the Big Four Patterns, you said, You know what? I like clothes. And I like my body. I want the clothes that I like on the body I love to work. And so, like, your sewing, not to make curtains or to make baby clothes or maternity clothes, which I know I certainly did, you said, I'm going to take these things that I already like and already have, and make it work. 

Laquana  5:53  

That's exactly what it is. 

Lisa Woolfork  5:55  

And so I can already see, like, the journey, it feels like, from your very origin, from the beginning, that you claimed sewing as a way to enhance your life.

Laquana  6:07  

Yes. It has always been something that has given me what I needed at the time. And that's where we'll talk about how the business comes in too. Like you said, it was a natural evolution, but it wasn't the same origin story as everyone else. And I think what's so unique about mine is that that's how people can get into something new, is: what do you need? Every business starts out, What problem are you trying to solve? And so with this, this was a solving problem. You can call it cheap or frugal, but a part of it is like, there's got to be a cheaper way. And then, I didn't always like the way the lady at the alteration shop did it. Like, I'm just like, there's got to be a way, and then I was looking at what she did. I was like, There's got to be a way to get this done. So a part of me was just, you know, trying to problem-solve, that's just kind of where I am. I was like, There's got to be a way. So I do like my approach to this whole thing has never been one of just, generational. It actually started just with me, and what I needed for me, and I was okay with that. 

Lisa Woolfork  7:09  

And I really do find that when we make things or create things in a very singular vision, you find that because it's based on a need, you find that other people needed it too. That's how I often feel about Black Women Stitch as a platform, period. I built what I needed, and I found that so many Black women were like, Oh, that's what's up. Okay! You know, that's nothing to feel bad about. That's not selfish. That's market research, call it whatever you want. You know, it's like there is an unaddressed community here who deserves to be addressed. Now what I'm interested in is how do you go from altering clothes that you bought ready-to-wear, right? You bought these clothes, they don't fit right, you've been paying the tailor at the dry cleaners to alter them. They made them workable. The alterations from the cleaners were definitely better than two safety pins. But how did you get from: I'm not going to pay them to alter my clothes, I am going to learn to alter my own clothes. Like, how did you get there? Like, what was one of the first things that, you know, that you did? If you can remember, when you said, You know what, I'm going to try it my way. 

Laquana  8:28  

I will tell you. Exposure, right? So, when I'm looking for thread - this is a Hancock Fabric story for those who know Hancock fabrics, okay?

Lisa Woolfork  8:40  

RIP Hancock Fabrics. Let's pour one out for the homie Hancock Fabrics. Didn't they have the great knits? Jo-Ann's would often disappoint with knits and I said You know what, I won't even worry about it. Don't worry about me, I'm going across the street to Hancock, because they have ITY knits, I'm going to be okay.

Laquana  8:56  

So where I was there wasn't a Jo-Ann's, I was in San Antonio, Texas at the time. And how I got there was, I would just go and look for some thread, or looking for something to alter. And I was exposed to all this fabric and I started touching. I was like, This is nice. I just kept going, got my thread, got whatever I needed. And my husband actually helped me because his mom was a seamstress. But my mother-in-law lives in Barbados, right? So she taught him how to sew, so he showed me on his machine. He said, Well, you need to get this thread, and you know, you need to get this color, because - mind you, I was using whatever color, we're doing whatever, because in my mind, okay? So I was exposed in Hancock's to, I think it was a Berta or McCall sale. And it said "easy" on it. And I was like, so we know it "easy." Easy's not necessarily easy. So I was in Hancock's and they, I think it was at the point where they were starting to shut down cause they had a lot of sales going on. They didn't have any classes. So I just started buying all of these patterns that were like $1.99, $1. And then they had fabric on sale, and I was like, Oh, I see this person on this envelope, I can make that? And so it started to click, like, because I'm a shopper by nature. And I was like, Oh, well, you know, I like this. So basically, the evolution came, I stumbled into it because I was in Hancock's looking for thread to taper some pants. And I was like, Oh, and this is not too expensive. So I'm going to let you know, I'm doing a breakeven analysis in my head. If I buy this, how much is it going to cost? Okay, I don't lose anything, $2.99, I can do this. Right? And so I got some suiting, I got some fabrics, and then I began to treat it as a puzzle. I love puzzles. And I was like, okay, I can do this. And so that's how I started. I started with the basic things of - I will tell you, I was into fast fashion, too. I've been delivered. But I was into fast fashion, I was into the Forever 21, I was into all that because it was, like, fast. And Zara, right? Cause I was into fashion. And none of that stuff fit me. So I would thrift a lot, and then I would alter those, and then as I started seeing these fast fashion. And so this is the market end, the parent companies was kind of in line with the fast fashion. So I was like, Okay, that doesn't fit, but I can make this. So that was the evolution of Hancock going out of business, and all their stuff being on sale. So I was just buying all the knits, all the suitings, all of the threads with no clue as to what I was going to do with it. But I saw this image on this pattern envelope that was like, Well, you know, you can do this. And I was like, there was a lot of people, and I was like, They can do this. And I'm the type of person, if someone else can do it, I can do it. So I see all these people look through the book. I was like, Okay, they can do it. I was like, My dress was made in Guatemala. I was like, I got a sewing machine. Now I know that obviously they are professionals. But in my mind, I was like, I can do this. So the evolution came just by happenstance with Hancock clothes and everything going on sale.

Lisa Woolfork  11:56  

That is such an amazing story. Because what it really, honestly makes me think of is a phoenix rising from the ashes. So you are at Hancock Fabrics - Hancock Fabrics, for those who might not know, was another fabric retailer, similar to Jo-Ann's, just a big department store that concentrated in fabrics. They had home dec, they had crafts, they had all sorts of things and they went out of business, I can't remember, was it 10 years ago? 

Laquana  12:33  

Well, where I was, they went out of business about 2012, 2013? Around there. 

Lisa Woolfork  12:34  

And it was sad for quite a few apparel sewists, including myself, because it's always nice to have more than one option. It just is. It's nice to have more than one option. And now with Hancock's being gone, there's just pretty much, in my mind, the one option of Jo-Ann's because I do not set foot in Hobby Lobby. And so, what I'm so excited about is as Hancock's is closing, which seems to me to reflect people aren't interested in garment sewing anymore, like the sewing and the crafts and stuff are declining, you pick up those things. And you're like, then you start on this whole new fantastic journey based on that, you know, that you were able to begin your sewing life as Hancock's was closing, you know. And now you've unleashed so much of your creativity. I think that's really exciting, and also as part of your delivery from fast fashion. You know, because you learn to, like, make it yourself, and your style, it's so - I find it so elegant, and put together in such a way that also functions well for how people live. You know, like, there she goes again, there she goes again. And so, what have been some of your favorite things that you have made in your time? Do you remember garments, like some of your first garments? If you could mark the distance between the first thing you sold from scratch to the most recent thing you sewed that you'd loved, how do you measure that distance?

Laquana  13:41  

Well, I have a lot of things that I really enjoyed sewing, but I would say the first thing I made was a basic pencil skirt. Well, maybe it was more like A-line, cause I think it had an elastic waist, right? That was the first thing I sewed. I didn't sew pajama pants because I don't wear pajama pants, right? I don't wear them. I wear them now, but at the time I didn't really wear them. But I would say from my first skirt to, I would say - a pivotal point was I made a blazer, and Michelle from That Black Chic had a sew-along, the only sew-along she did. It was a couple of years ago. If you go on Pinterest, you can still find the sew-along out there. It was a blazer sew-along, we sewed a Simplicity blazer, and she actually had a sew-along and I love everything about Michelle. And I think this had to be about three or four years into me sewing, and she did this blazer and a sew-along, and I felt like at that point - because I'd kind of been fiddling around with sewing, but I still hadn't gotten good because I hadn't been formally training, right? I hadn't taken classes, everything was trying to just, you know, trial and error. But this was the first opportunity for me to actually systematically go through the process of sewing something, picking fabrics. Because at this point, I was just like, whatever, right. You know, just picking up stuff, wrong stuff, together. Because I, you know, even though the origin story was, you know, it started well, I didn't have a foundation to really know what was right and wrong. So this is the good thing, I kind of just went with it. So about three to four years into me sewing she had this sew-along, and I was so excited to do this sew-along. And I actually have to send you an image of the blazer, and I love that blazer with my life, because that was the first time I had did, like, binding on the inside. And I actually first did a jacket, because up to then I had done, like, the Sorbetto tops and free stuff, cause I was also into free stuff at that time. And you know, the Simplicity. So I would say the pivotal part was the pencil skirt, because I was working, and so that made sense for me to wear that. And then the blazer with That Black Chic, Michelle, now it's about three to four years, I would say that was about 2013, 2014. Don't give me the line. From then, I won a plus size challenge. So I would say a year or two after that, I won a Pattern Review, I won the plus size challenge when Pattern Review was doing all these plus size challenges. I did this striped knit maxi dress. 

Lisa Woolfork  15:59  

That you can certainly send me a photo of, please. 

Laquana  16:29  

So that was like, working the blazer and building the confidence of how to approach something right. And then I think when I was in South Carolina, had to be about 2015...I don't want to lie, it was 2014, 2015. I won the Pattern Review plus size challenge when they were doing the challenge, because I was always into the challenges. And I'm telling you, Michelle was winning all the challenges. That's why I was like, When you're going to get out of the challenges so the rest of us can win?

Lisa Woolfork  16:53  

Don't you want to go start a magazine or something?

Laquana  16:55  

Right! More than winning every challenge, I was like... But anyway, I won the plus size challenge, and that was the first time that I had pattern matched the stripes, and I had them in a chevron. What I learned, you know, with the blazers, and what I learned over the course of seeing what looked good, and what was in high fashion with things matching up and how do I approach getting this right. And then I put myself out there, and there was some stiff competition. I think, I don't know if Jenny Rushmore was in this. This was before Cashmerette. I don't know if she was in this challenge. It was a bunch of people who are now still doing very well. And that was the point, when I won that Pattern Review challenge, that I was like, Okay, all right. What do you got? You won something. And not that it was that I won, it was that I could have something that was so well put together - actually I was in South Carolina at the time - that I was appreciative of it. The color was great, it was a maxi, I styled it well. And so that was where I saw my fashion blogger come in, and I knew what I wanted. But at that point, I had to figure out how to execute it. And so those were the two pivotal times, I would say two to three years in, I take the sew-along with Michelle, and that was before sew-alongs became a thing on YouTube, right? Because it was on our website. And then I won this Pattern Review. And then, now Michelle's into the magazine. And then I'm featured in the magazine a few times, I think two or three times. And I'm going to tell you what, I can't explain how it feels to be a part of something like that, where not only as a Black and plus size sewist, it just meant a lot to be where I was in those spaces, as we would say. Those spaces were different for me, because I wasn't working towards the goal of trying to get there. I stumbled into it, like anything I do. And we're going to hear about the Blue Cup Shop. You know, I didn't have this long, drawn-out plan of this is what I'm going to do, and I'm going to take over to where I'm at. It was just like, I found opportunities. I guess I would say I'm an opportunist, right. Wherever there was opportunity, I figured it out, and I was like, Well, I'm a plus size sewer, I guess I can do it. I never win because Michelle always wins. But...

Lisa Woolfork  19:02  

"But one day, she's going to go start a magazine, it'll be my turn!"

Laquana  19:05  

And then if she starts, if she sews herself, I'm done. Right. But that's how it started. And I think those were the integral parts for me, is to be a part of that sew-along and actually connect. I think that's probably the first time I really connected with a sewist. And I think that was before, right as Instagram was starting to become important to me. And so it was that challenge, and then it was won in the Pattern Review, and then it was being in the magazine, which to me was - I was like, I'm not worthy. I'm not worthy. Like, I'm not what people will see as - I don't consider myself as creative in the traditional sense, where I don't see myself as a visionary. I definitely am somebody who can recreate. I see what I like, and I will recreate that. But I'm not going to just sit back, and this vision comes of something beautiful; but I know what I like if I see it, and I'll recreate it for myself. So that was tough for me with the magazine to be able to - that was one where I was challenged to try something new, and to have a fresh idea, which is not something I was accustomed to, because I'm pretty, you know, like I said, I see what I want, and I'll recreate that. But if I had to pinpoint certain times on my sewing journey up until opening the business, those would be the critical ones, which was Pattern Review, it was being in the sewing magazine, and then that sew-along with Michelle, those were the pivotal parts for me.

Lisa Woolfork  20:25  

I absolutely love this. I'm just going to say, you better stop playing with us, because you're like, "Well, I don't have these big ideas. I just try it." And it's like, listen, sis, people don't just stumble into excellence. Okay? Are you going to sit here and tell me that you just decided, "You know what? I like Pattern Review. I'm going to go ahead into this contest and just see what happens. Michelle always wins. Maybe one day." Amazing. Okay?

Laquana  20:53  

Well, thank you.

Lisa Woolfork  20:54  

You are amazing. You know, opportunist is usually a term that has such negative connotations. But anybody can stumble into opportunity; that does not mean that they will reach such a full and remarkable fruition. Okay, I'm here to tell you and give you way more credit than you are currently giving yourself, okay? 

Laquana  21:18  

Well, thank you. 

Lisa Woolfork  21:19  

No, no, no, no. You are fierce. You are creative. You are deeply and robustly talented. That is how you got to where you are. And the idea that you began this journey from alterations, and self-alterations, not I'm going to go study so I can learn to alter everybody's clothes. I just want things that are going to fit me and my personal style and reflect who I am. And then you carry that through your sewing journey. I think that's fantastic. It's really something to celebrate. So, yay. Now, tell me about Blue Cup Printing. How do you go from not using patterns at all, to using and altering patterns, the Big Four, and then getting into PDFs? How did that happen? How did PDF patterns become something that you became interested in? Have you sewed a lot with them? 

Hey, friends, hey. What are you doing on Thursday around 3pm or so? You got 30 minutes to hang out with Black Women Stitch? You got 60? If so, come through for 30 Minute Thursdays, Thursdays 3pm Eastern Standard Time. You can chill with Black Women Stitch on Instagram Live, or talk with us through the two-way audio on Clubhouse at 3:30pm Eastern Standard Time. That's Thursdays for 30 minutes. Come hang out, chill, and have fun with us. See you Thursday.

Laquana  22:57  

So, I'll go back just a little bit. But as I started to sew, and as I started to figure out my body, and as it was changing and growing, I wanted to learn how to draft. So I took a class with Brooks Ann Camper and she is a couture wedding dressmaker. 

Lisa Woolfork  23:12  

Yes, I know who that is. Doesn't she do Workroom Social? 

Laquana  23:15  

Yes, she does Workroom Social. She is Team handsewing. 

Lisa Woolfork  23:22  

My Nana was like that, she loved the hand. I'm like, Oh, Lord, please put the needles away. 

Laquana  23:27  

Yes, ain't nobody got time for that. 

Lisa Woolfork  23:29  

Can we shove this under some sewing machine? I can find one. Should I go buy one real quick so we could do it on a sewing machine? Is that why you don't have one?

Laquana  23:37  

So when I wanted to learn how to draft - because that was the evolution for me, right? Because now I'm like, I'm doing all this work with these patterns, why don't I just learn how to draft them myself? So here's my evolution. But I never had ideas of creating patterns or developing them, because this has always been selfish for me. This has always been about me. This is not about me making a pattern for you. I don't care to make a pattern for anybody. I don't sew for anybody. So this was all for me about a pattern, so as I started to draft with Brooks Ann, after that, then I found out there was a world of creating patterns digitally. And so that was my next evolution, which was some software. So, then I got the software while I was drafting patterns, and the software kept printing out these patterns because that's what it does, right? It says you can print these out in a plotter. So as I started to draft, I started printing out things that I wanted to design for myself. And it took me all day to piece some things together. I was like okay, so this is what we're not going to do.

Lisa Woolfork  24:27  

Oh no. I will tell anybody, and have told anybody and everybody, that I have a condition that prevents me from taping patterns together. And that condition, which is quite serious - I did not say it was a medical condition, I said it was a condition - that condition is that taping PDF patterns reduces my will to live. So I am unable to tape. I cannot. I have yet to this day to do anything with all those free mood patterns. They could be free. They could even pay me. And I could not. Because, oh, no, no, no, no, no, no, I cannot. You like puzzles. Puzzles is alright. Even you like puzzles. So I think you would like taping.

Laquana  25:13  

No, I do not. So puzzles is another thing. You know, figuring out something is one thing, but taping patterns together - so then I'm trying to look at the cost. So that's how I got there. So it wasn't even Indie Patterns, because I could do without an indie pattern, right? Because now I know how to draft and I got 600 plus patterns in my drawer from all these sales, right? So I don't really necessarily need an independent pattern company. So you know, pattern. So as I started to draft, every time I drafted something and made a correction, it spit out 80 pages. I was like, Okay, we're done. How do I get a plotter? That is how I actually got it, I was like, Baby, how much is the plotter? He was like, because my husband's in manufacturing and business development, he said, What you want? I said, Well, I'm kind of cheap, so can I get some $200? He says no. He didn't even look, he said no. So then we started looking at the different types. And I was like, Okay, so if I buy this plotter, how long is the useful life of this thing? What was the cost? In my mind, costing. Okay, I'm going to PDF plotting, I'm all done paying $7 for hemming. And so I'm trying to calculate how to do all this. 

Lisa Woolfork  26:16  

Is that what they call a cost-benefit analysis? 

Laquana  26:19  

ROI, possibly my return on investment? Okay, my ROI. I was like, Okay, I'm a business mind. That's what I do. I was like, Okay. Then I said, Okay, well, if I get this one, and I get a few people to buy, then I can still have my pattern. So that's how I said the Blue Cup Shop didn't come out as this thing like, Oh, there's a need in the community. This was purely selfish. I'm like, Look, ain't nobody got time to be taping these patterns together. But then I did see a need in the community for the customer service. So that's how I figured I wanted to get a plotter. But how I started to get in business was: the cost that was costing to get it, the customer service associated with providing it, and then just demystifying how to go about getting it printed, and people just had lots of questions. And so as I started to - so I got the plotter, and I said, Okay, I'm going to do this as a business. My husband and I are empty nesters, but I have a full time job. I work for the government, right? So I was like, How do I do this? Right? Because I don't have the time. But I also don't want to go half-assed, excuse my language, in doing something. So how do I go about doing this? And then I get to step back and say, What's my vision? What's my mission? And so then I started to develop, okay, if I do this, what my vision and mission will be, what's my cause. How can I reduce the cost to the customer while also reaping the benefits, because y'all know, this is all about me not taping 89 pages together. And so that's how the Blue Cup Shop - and I kept looking, and I was like, There's got to be a plotter. I was like, who else is plotting? So first, I said, who else is plotting? Are there any plotters that I can use besides just the commercial PDF plotters? There was none local. I'm outside of Raleigh, there was none in Raleigh that I could find that weren't, like, for blueprints, that really wanted to cater to the sewer. And so, I won't say there were no plotters that cater to the sewer; there were no local to me. So there's some out there, right, but there were none local to me. So I was like, Well, this is what I can do. I was like, but do I want, like, do I want to do Shopify? Do I want to - what do I want to do? How do I get this to people, and are they willing to pay? Cause made in America costs more than made elsewhere, and folks have to be okay with paying for made in America, right?

Lisa Woolfork  28:28  

Yes. And small business. Like, you know, I'm always telling these folks that are like, Oh, no, I want to make sure when I do my crafts that I don't charge much more than Walmart does. And I was like, But what? You are not Walmart. You are one human being, not a machine, not a conglomerate that underpays its employees, you can't charge the same. And you see that all the time on Etsy, folks underselling things and everything. So you have got to account for not just made in America made locally, but made by a human being who has a home and family and responsibilities and a life.

Laquana  29:01  

And a livable wage. And so, when I think of the services that I provide, if I had to sum it up, it's boutique services, right? This is not for everybody. If you don't want my prices, then you got to go to Walmart. But it's a boutique service, if you want somebody that's going to - I literally have a conversation with most people, not over the phone unless they really want to. But most people are like, Hey...I've had people who email me a file saying, I don't know what is in this file, can you look at it? And the boutique service that I provide is I look at it, I'll say, Okay, this is what it is. This is how much it's going to cost. Let me know what you want to do with it. And people miss that customer service side of things. Not everybody wants to go on a website. I'm the eldest millennial or Xennial. I prefer to be on a website, but I also see the value in folks being able to contact someone about a service they want, and get their questions answered that's not by a bot. See, we think that that's the evolution of everything, but people actually - even younger people, they want a conversation. And so that's how Blue Cup Shop came about. I was like, okay, I can provide this boutique service, it's not going to be bargain prices, because I want to get high quality materials. I have my own time, which to me is valuable. And then I'm providing a service that you can get locally. But even when you purchase from me, it's cheaper than going to your local print shop. And so that's what I think of the Blue Cup Shop, it is a boutique service that definitely is helping the sewing community. If I had to say my vision to create things that matter to them, because I create things that matter to me. And then I want to provide it, a good high quality product, at a reasonable price. And so I have my husband looking at, you know, manufacturers, like, can we get them to get us this paper, we get it in bulk so I can get it cheaper, so your per page cost is less. So, you know with running the business, you're doing marketing, you're doing analysis, you're doing fulfillment, you're doing customer service. So a lot of that. So it goes into what we do. If you really want to treat this as a business, which I do, right? This is not a hobby, and I don't want people to treat it as a hobby. They were like, Well, you have another job, I was like, That has nothing to do with this here. Right? And so really trying to find competitive prices for materials, try to make in America whatever I can, so that's how that evolution of Blue Cup Shop came about. It was, you know, a customer-focused, customer-centric, PDF printing wide format. And I didn't realize that this was available, right? I thought this was big printing companies that were doing all this, I didn't realize that there was printing and, you know, equipment that you can purchase to provide the service. So that's how the evolution of it started; it started because I got tired of taping together things that I was doing for me. And so by default, I then said, Well, I could recoup the cost of this machine, right? And then by providing that service, and so now as my business has picked up, now I'm thinking, How do I get a bigger, faster machine? And what's the cause of that, right? Because now I'm doing it, might as well do better at it, right? I mean, that's why we have to go, and we got to find HP, who can, like, who has the best machine? Who's going to come, who's going to set me up, right? And so that's kind of how the evolution of Blue Cup Shop, and I wanted that boutique service to come to something even as simple as printing, that folks can call me and say, I don't know what this is, can you help me? And at least 90% of the people who come to me are like, I don't know what this is, they emailed me this pattern and I don't know what to do with it.

Lisa Woolfork  32:24  

Yes, yes. And that's what I love. So part of the boutique service that you provide is empowerment and education. Because I know when I first started with PDF patterns, I had to go to all these Facebook groups and ask, and wait for someone. And like, I didn't understand what layers were, I didn't understand, like, oh, it was just so confusing. I didn't know what the terms meant. It was hard to find someone who would have done for free: Here's the basics of PDF printing. Here's what it means when, you know, be sure to look for a pattern that says that they do A0 size, otherwise you'll have to tape it. These are things I didn't know. And especially now that it seems to me that the PDF patterns have become a better resource for plus size sewists for size inclusivity than the Big Four, more people are leaning into PDF patterns. And that's why I think the Big Four is kind of scrambling a bit. That's why the patterns are almost always on sale, that's why they now offer PDF as well, because of the benefits. But you are giving people the opportunity to kind of guide them along as they go, right? None of us are born knowing all there is to know about any particular interest or field or discipline, and you're, like, coaching people, in addition to printing and providing this service. I think that's really wonderful.

Laquana  33:50  

That's exactly what it is. I'm here to help. And that's the thing. Like I said, most people just don't know what's going on. They'll send me, it was like, This is 27 pages, I have to pay for that. And the first thing I say is No, send me the files, that's the wrong one. Most designers will send you multiple files, let me know, and a lot of the patterns - because I'm a sewist, and this is another thing. This is a business by another sewist. I have had people who sent me, like, you sent me two fronts. There's got to be a back because this is a top. And I was like, Oh, thank you. Like, because there's certain, you know, pattern companies will give you each page as a different file. And so people will send me the wrong thing. And I look at them, I look at them. And I'd be like, Okay, I've made this before, you know, do we have everything? And so you know, it's more of, you know, not just printing out. I had someone who went to, you know, one of the big, I don't know if it was like FedEx or something, to get something printed. And instead of doing it landscape, they did it portrait, and it got cut off on the bottom. And so she didn't know until she got home. And I was like, That's that kind of, you know, just a little attention to detail to say, you know, hey, this file doesn't look right. And if it doesn't look right, or you're not happy with it, I tell you what it's going to be up front, and you make the decision as to what you want to do. Because I'm here to help you sew what you want And then layers are another thing. I said, I can print any layer, any color, anything that you want to help you. Because some people, especially my plus size people, are really uncomfortable with printing all the smaller sizes for some reason. It's like, Hey, can you get rid of all those? I don't need those sizes. I say, Sure. And I don't even - that's not even additional charge, because I just unclick. And I said, Sure, I can do whatever works for you. I even had some quilters come to me and say, I want this big applique - I had a lady who was doing his big poodle applique on a printer. She was like, Is there any way you can print this for me? And I was like, Send me the file. And I said, Let's work through it. Because I said, I don't do PDF work. I don't work in Adobe. So I'm not going to change your files at all, I'm only going to print them. So we were able to come to a solution where someone helped her. And she was like, Thank you. Because no one was able to help her just - even if I wasn't able to print it for her, just the fact that someone actually having a conversation with her about what she needed to do was super helpful. It didn't cost me any time. But you know, I'm not into production. You know, I don't have a clock that I'm clicking. Nobody's over my shoulder like at Amazon, trying to make sure - no machine telling me that I'm not moving fast enough. So I have the ability to take time to help an individual because they come back. They come back. And even if I told you, even if you go somewhere else, tell them this is what you want. And that's fine. And so I really appreciate that. And I appreciate the people who trust me enough to say, you know, Hey, can you do this for me? I'm even looking at lighter paper for those who want it; I have lighter paper for those who want it. I have thicker paper for people who want it. So as people are telling me what they want, I'm creating. And I created a sewing planner for those who want it. And I give away little things and say, You try this and let me know. My market research. Try this and let me know how you like it. And if you're not completely satisfied, I'm here for you. That's the center of the boutique service, just bringing the customer service piece back to any business. Because anybody can go anywhere and get this service, right. They can get anything printed. But I treat them with respect. And I'm a sewer, so I always say - or sewist/sewer - I always say, Are you sure this is what you want? Only because you sent me two back pieces. Typically what a bodice is a front and back. Where are the sleeves? Ask questions like that. 

Lisa Woolfork  37:10  

Yeah. Is there a lining. 

Laquana  37:11  

They'd be like, Oh, thank you, I sent you the wrong files. Now I could just print it the way it is, and send you what it isn't. And I wouldn't be wrong, but I wouldn't be right either. So I get a lot of that. I have, you know, my clientele is. I have a lot of elderly who come and be like, I really want this pattern. I don't know how to work this on my iPad. Okay, send it to me, email it to me, get someone to email it to me, and we'll talk through it. I do a lot of that.

Lisa Woolfork  37:37  

Yes. And that, again, is service. That, again, is education. That, again, is building trust and community, right? I am here to help and support you. You know, Kinkos, FedEx or whatever, or Staples or Office whatever, you can kind of - they don't know. They take the file, if they take the file at all, you know, and you're giving them that special Q touch. You're the only person that can do that. And so I'm so thankful to you for that. I'm going to ask you one last question. Something that I'm asking folks on the podcast. The slogan of the Stitch Please podcast is, we will help you get your stitch together. If you were to offer someone advice on that topic, if someone were to say to you, as I'm about to right now: Q, how can you help the Stitch Please podcast listeners get their stitch together? What would you say?

Laquana  38:31  

I don't know, I would say just by getting your stuff together. Just get yourself out there, try new things, get exposure to stuff, do what you're doing now, listening to the podcast and getting exposure to other makers. Exposure is the biggest thing in my opinion, because it opens your mind. It wouldn't even be very centered on sewing, but it would definitely be opening your mind to different products, different services, different people and getting exposure to those things and support those things. Because you know, you got to support your folks who are out there making things and doing things so the community grows. I would say the one thing I can give is to help grow, is that if you see a need, try to meet the need. Try. If you can't, do support.

Lisa Woolfork  39:11  

Beautiful. And on that note, I am so grateful to you, Q, for talking with me today.

Laquana  39:18  

 Thank you. 

Lisa Woolfork  39:18  

And tell us how we can find you on the socials.

Laquana  39:21  

So on Instagram at Blue Cup Shop, and that's really the only social that I can handle at this point. I cannot handle Facebook. But it's on Instagram on @blue_cup_shop, and then on my email it's Blue Cup Shop, it's bluecupshop7@gmail.com. 

Lisa Woolfork  39:34  

Excellent. Thank you so much for being with us today. We're talking with Laquana Drayton of a Blue Cup Shop and we are so happy to have done so, thank you for being with us today. 

Laquana  39:46  

Thank you. 

Lisa Woolfork  39:49  

You've been listening to the Stitch Please podcast, the official podcast of Black Women Stitch, the sewing group where Black lives matter. We appreciate you supporting us by listening to the podcast. If you'd like to reach out to us with questions, you can contact us at Blackwomenstitch@gmail.com. If you'd like to support us financially, you can do that by supporting us on Patreon, and you can find Black Women Stitch there in the Patreon directory. And for as little as $2 a month, you can help support the project with things like editing transcripts and other things to strengthen the podcast. And finally, if financial support is not something you can do right now, you can really really help the podcast by rating it and reviewing it anywhere you listen to podcasts that allows you to review them. So I know that not all podcast directories or services allow for reviews. But for those who do, for those that have like a star rating or just ask for a few comments, if you could share those comments and say nice things about us at the Stitch Please podcast, that is incredibly helpful. Thank you so much. Come back next week and we'll help you get your stitch together.

Hosted by Lisa Woolfork

Lisa is a fourth-generation sewing enthusiast who learned to sew while earning a PhD in African American literature and culture. She has been sewing for more than twenty years while also teaching, researching, and publishing in Black American literature and culture.

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