Small Business Saturday Spotlight: SEWN
You know the saying “third times a charm”? Well SEWN is just that for designer Jil Cappuccio. Originally from California, Jil got her start selling distinctive “One of a Kind” clothing in 1991 on Haight Street in San Francisco. She opened her first clothing shop in 1998 in Berkeley and almost immediately discovered she was pregnant. Hence her youngest son grew up in the shadow of her sewing on her Singer Featherweight machine stationed in the studio space at the back of the shop.
The early days of running a small business
Raising a kid and running a shop had its challenges, but the experience was formative and proved that she could be a mother and a working entrepreneur. In 2003, a job opportunity brought her husband to Denver, so she shut her doors and relocated.
In Denver, Jil was now raising two kids and still sewing every day. On a summer day in 2006, she spotted a quaint brick storefront for lease in the Capitol Hill neighborhood, and by fall she opened her second store. Like her shop in Berkeley, 1433 Ogden Street served once again as a studio/shop for Jil, a place all her own, featuring the retro styles, vintage fabrics and individually handmade pieces that have always set her clothing uniquely apart from the mainstream. The street was calm and the foot traffic minimal, but she gained recognition as a local designer and her store became a well-known small business.
A partnership emerges
The very first person to come in to Jil’s store on Ogden was Kirsten Coplans. This moment would prove to be not simply coincidence, but rather kismet. (4 years later Jil and Kirsten would become business partners and owners of SEWN). Kirsten prodded Jil to join her and sell clothing at craft fairs on weekends, and they started out having booths next to each other at various venues throughout Denver. Before long they were doing “double wides” (two 10′ by 10′ spaces next to each other) and mixing all of their items together.
Jil and Kirsten soon realized they had a good thing going. As their customer base grew, they began distributing postcards, advertising coming events, and creating a growing list of loyal fans. The Indie Wearable Craft Show was the first event that Jil and Kirsten hosted on their own featuring a number of local artists and designers. This event, held in a woodshop studio owned by Kirsten’s father, inspired Jil and Kirsten, and when they caught wind of a storefront being vacated by the local store Fancy Tiger, it just made sense.
SEWN is Jil’s third storefront and it is indeed a charm. Sewn is the culmination of all her experiences as a shop owner. Jil and Kirsten were able to open SEWN in a month and on a shoestring, yet people quickly remarked that it looked like they had been there forever. Jil likes to think that’s because the idea for this store had been stewing for so long.
SEWN is located along a trendy and bustling strip of shops, at 18 South Broadway in Denver, CO. It is a shopping district populated with independent retailers, great restaurants and numerous pubs. It’s where you come to shop if you want a uniquely Denver experience.
Small businesses and independents
In her journey as an independent businesswoman, designer and entrepreneur, Jil has discovered that the community of artists and creative minds in Denver is quite intimate and it provides a supportive network of people; people who share a similar vision of being able to create, market and sell distinctive items that enrich their customers and offer a wonderful alternative to mass market creations.
SEWN has also afforded her the time to pursue other ventures, like working with Craftsy. Jil just finished teaching Craftsy’s The Weekender Dress Sew-Along, which was a totally satisfying experience. She really enjoyed working with seamstresses all over the country, and being able to offer her customers at SEWN the chance to participate. She loves the idea that there is a site that can bring you indie pattern designers (like Yuki of Waffle Patterns from Amsterdam — one of her favorites) together from all over the world. The world needs more opportunities for small independent designers and makers, and Craftsy is one of the forerunners of this movement that Jil is proud to be part of.
Jil’s best advice for starting a business is start small and love what you make.
She started her business with just one item (a men’s shirt) and she only made a limited number of each one. Why? To keep her costs low: “I never invested more than I could afford. Buying 50 yards of fabric just wasn’t going to happen on my limited budget. But 6 to 8 yards? Now that I could do.” And that is how One of a Kinds, Limited Lines was born.
About Jil Cappuccio
Jil Cappuccio, designer of One of a Kinds Limited Lines, makes clothing and accessories for women, men and children. She designs and drafts her own patterns using lots of vintage fabrics. She has a discerning eye for color and unexpected pattern combinations. With over 20 years in the garment trade, she loves to sew, and all designs are made by Jil herself. She is co-owner of SEWN, a Denver boutique specializing in uniquely modern handmade clothing, accessories and gifts. Visit SEWN at www.sewndenver.com.