Friday, February 08, 2008

How To Become A Millionaire Sawing Stage Curtains

Megan Duckett, 35
Sew What? Inc.,Rancho Dominguez, California
Projected 2007 Sales: $4.6 million
Description: Manufacturer of custom theatrical draperies and distributor of flame-retardant fabrics

Finding her way: After immigrating to the U.S. at age 19, this native Australian found work as a technician for a concert production company--and started sewing in her spare time. Her first gig was sewing fabric coffin linings for a Halloween show. "I rented a [sewing machine] and lined 10 coffins," recalls Megan Duckett. "[I discovered] that I had a talent and an ability to manipulate the fabric in a craftlike way, and I really enjoyed it." Duckett worked evenings and weekends on her craft business, and in 1997 she quit her full-time job, rented a warehouse and officially incorporated.

Building Buzz: Not one to wait for the phone to ring, Duckett used every inexpensive marketing tool she could, such as mailers, fliers and handmade business cards. She also chatted up her company's services every chance she got. "Everyone was a potential customer," she says. That grass-roots marketing led to her making draperies for theater, concerts and special events worldwide.

Creative Coverings: Manufacturing the custom draperies for Rod Stewart's latest concert tour was a highlight for Duckett. "We made about 1,500 yards of the Stewart family tartan," she says. "We made it into this enormous design that would register onstage with the audience--it was totally unique." The work of Sew What? has also graced the tours of such legends as Gwen Stefani, Prince and Fleetwood Mac, to name a few. But despite a packed schedule, she still makes time to help the community: Duckett founded From Stages to Students, a program that provides free or low-cost draperies to school theater programs and community rehabilitation centers that teach sewing.

Follow Her Lead: Chat up your new business every chance you get, as you never know where leads will come from.

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