Access to cost-effective equipment can be an entrepreneur’s pain point. Could you build a new machine to help you build your product? Could you use what is available on the current market? Could you envision a time-sensitive solution based on what is available at a coworking space? Thinking differently about how to fill a gap in the market by utilizing North Forge Fabrication Lab (FabLab™) equipment is one of Audrey Beaudry’s entrepreneurial gifts.
As the Founder of Sew Perks, Audrey is a quilter with a long lineage of quilters in her family. She saw how difficult it was for professional free motion quiltmakers (similar to freehand drawing) to create their masterpieces. This newer style of quilting requires the person to stand, bend at the waist, and hover over their sewing machines to hold and guide the pieces of fabric to prevent them from binding, pulling, or ripping. Hovering like this for hours at a time puts much strain on the quilter’s lower back. Depending on the type of sewing machine, it can also limit the quilter’s creativity from working on large pieces as it puts an excessive drag on the material.
Being a member of North America’s largest non-profit publicly accessible fabrication lab since 2019, Audrey has access to the ultra precision equipment and strategized a path to solve the free motion quilters problems. Quality sewing machines with large sewing platforms can average $3,000 to $8,000 or more and are out of budget for most. She conceptualized a heavy-duty flush surface acrylic extension platform to fit around the base of the sewing machine giving the quilter more room to work, increasing accuracy, while being a budget-friendly upgrade. Utilizing the FabLab’s precision laser cutting machines, Audrey was able to create a prototype platform and quickly iterate at a fraction of the cost than if she were to purchase a laser cutter and find the space to house it on her own. This process enables her to create custom sewing machine extender platforms to fit any machine quickly and efficiently.
Being a part of the North Forge Founders Program has given her the time and ability to focus on finding the right customers by developing a lean business canvas. She learned that quilting is a $4 billion industry. Within this industry there are Menders, who use their sewing machines to mend and quickly put them away. There are Makers who quilt multiple hours per week, who were the perfect audience to drive her business. She found these customers through sewing guilds and continues to create authentic connections within the quilting community to fuel her customer base and drive her startup.
COVID-19 pushed forward Audrey’s business mindset and deep dive into entrepreneurship. “Having a new business during this pandemic has been excellent for my mental health, as I had 101 things to learn and do instead of worrying.” Audrey professed. Though at this point she still wasn’t sure if her idea was marketable, “North Forge believed in me before I did”. North Forge recognized the strength in her value proposition and was excited to bring her into the new Founders Program.
The Founders Program provided Audrey the opportunity to work with many expert Entrepreneurs-in-Residence (EIRs) (Rose Bhojani, Michael Simpson, and Stephen Pham) from diverse industries who continued to build her entrepreneurial confidence and guide her vision: advanced manufacturing, finance, marketing, accounting, business development and analysis. They gave her the ability to jump over entrepreneurial roadblocks and showed her how to do it. Audrey shared that “‘Dare to Do’ is not just a tagline, it’s the way North Forge operates!”
North Forge FabLab members also helped boost her confidence. Audrey fondly remembers Richard Venzon, Owner of Venzon Concepts and part of the FabLab Member Council since 2016, expressing to her that she had a good idea because it was repeatable. She was amazed how many similarities there were between Quilters and FabLab members. Audrey observed “maker attitudes, sharing freely, and problem solving together” were all the same.
Her startup recently went through a redesign that included a name change, new logo and website. Formerly called ‘Rehab for Sewing Machines’, she contracted John Swystun of AUXESYS whom she was referred to by her North Forge mentor, Andriy Rudnyk, Founder of Arialys eCommerce Management. She’s also composed a creative email sign off that fits perfectly with her new brand, “Happy stitching!” The rebranding put a new zip in Audrey’s step and has given her even more entrepreneurial motivation.