Hello, I’m Alisha with Ma Ma Osa, a handmade clothing brand that offers heirloom quality garments, all made with love by a mother (me). My brand celebrates the cherished craft of sewing and seeks to honor the art of slow fashion in all our practices. We also celebrate the skills and art of learning to sew, with my ability to teach others how to make their own quality sustainable garments through our recently launched Digital Sewing Course.
Each one of the garments that I make and sell on our site are stitched together one at a time right here in my hometown of St. Petersburg, FL. I’ve been sewing for 25+ years, and find my inspiration in classic silhouettes, natural fabrics of the highest quality, and the idea of embracing my clients with the same love and attention that I would offer to my own children (whom I have sewn for all their lives).
Was starting a business always in your plans or did a specific event or opportunity inspire its fruition?
Yes, I have been self employed for quite a long time and I enjoy the freedom that it has always provided. I started this company at the encouragement of my adult daughters to make and sell clothing like I was making for them. I was in the process of wanting to pivot from my successful small business on Etsy (which focused on children’s dress up), and I was filled with excitement for this new direction when it came along!
How did you determine your target audience/customer?
It was a pretty natural decision to sew for young women when I began Ma Ma Osa, because I was already sewing for my daughters who are young adults! Their personal style and that of their friends influence a lot of what I create. I think the young woman that my brand serves is also someone who cares about the world around us, and the value of slow fashion practices - so I always seek to offer her pieces that can last a lifetime and which she can style in a variety of ways.
Did you have any challenges in the early stages of your business?
The biggest challenge has been helping people realize the mindset fast fashion has developed in us as a culture. The disconnect with the story of how and who makes our clothing contributes to people not understanding the value and price of slow fashion.
However, instead of getting frustrated with this fact, I’ve chosen to continue making my own designs, while beginning to tackle this challenge from another angle - by TEACHING people to hand make their own quality and sustainable garments!
My hope is that this will help offer more budget-conscious shoppers another opportunity to connect to slow fashion, to better understand the garment-making process, and that this will open opportunities for them to make and own so many more quality pieces in their wardrobe and homes at an even more accessible price point.
What marketing tactic has been the most profitable for you revenue wise? What’s been the best driver for brand awareness?
Instagram has been our best driver for brand awareness by far. Posting consistently, sharing informational stories that teach sewing practices, and having daughters that enjoy wearing and sharing about my clothing + brand has been so helpful! I’ve also marketed my work and educational content by offering local sewing and fabric dying workshops, and now an online sewing course!
How do you create appealing imagery or videos to showcase your products?
I am lucky enough to have daughters with really creative points of view and they are always willing to collaborate with me to model and shoot images around my pieces! When we want photos or videos shot of us together, we ask my son in law to step in and he is kind, talented and gracious enough to help us. My designs are often complimented and represented best through lifestyle shots of us in nature, traveling, or enjoying spots around our city of St. Pete, FL.
Have you had to adjust your business or marketing strategy to remain competitive?
We did have a clear plan when we started Ma Ma Osa but we also did decide to shift after the first year. We decided that many of the people I wanted to reach actually want to gain the knowledge and ability to hand make these quality garments themselves. I know that the cost of paying a seamstress of 25 years to hand make these garments is outside the budget of so many of the people that I personally feel passionate about serving in the slow fashion movement. I figured why not offer them the one time course enrollment that will help them achieve their personal goals of sewing clothing for years to come!
Do you tend to put more emphasis on having a unique product or unique brand position in a market with many direct competitors?
I feel like having a unique brand position is more important to us. Although I take a lot of pride in my original designs and patterns. My silhouettes are simple, with clean lines and they are lovely and versatile but they aren’t revolutionary by any means. What I offer in personal care, attention to detail, and level of quality to my handmade products is and was the focus when we started the brand.
Now that we’ve added sewing education for those that would like to learn to hand make their garments, I think this is really what sets my brand apart. I am happy to share my knowledge with people because I am so thankful for those that helped me get started on my own sewing journey.
What has been your biggest accomplishment so far? Growth Opportunity?
Building and launching the Ma Ma Osa Digital Sewing Course has been my biggest accomplishment for sure! This has to be the hardest and coolest thing I have ever worked on next to raising our three amazing kids.
I have found so much joy and fulfillment in sewing for over 25 years and to learn how to turn my talents into teaching was such an incredible process. I worked with my daughter and her husband to put it all together in a professional and beautiful way - and the outcome has just been incredible. I am super thankful that I have an encouraging family with such a variety of talents to pull in and make this a reality.
I have learned so much about video and audio recording, marketing, and technology (not my strongest point) in the process - so it’s also been an opportunity for personal growth for myself. I've embraced things I would normally run from, and now I get to share that kind of opportunity for growth with others: learning the new skills required to sew your own pieces.
How has having the right fabric supplier made the difference in your business? Why do you love working with fabric.com and being part of the Fabric Business Program?
fabric.com is a great fabric resource and I share this as a great option for buying fabric in my digital sewing course! The check box system fabric.com has to narrow down the right fabric for the right projects is incredibly helpful especially for those that are overwhelmed by fabric options. Knowing the right fabric to use on a specific project is one of the most essential ways to elevate your garment from crafty project to high-end piece of clothing.
Any additional insight you would like to share?
If I was to give myself advice before starting my business, I would say “give yourself grace”. It’s hard work and parts can get frustrating, but the beauty is that you don’t have to be an expert in all areas of your fields to get started - you just need to have the courage to get started and the grace to accept that learning as you go is an amazing process.