What subscriptions mean to a small business.

After selling our fabric designs reasonably successfully for about 3 years, why did I decide to launch a monthly fabric subscription service last September? As a one-woman fabric business, after all it was one more complicated product offering which would take up more of my time and investment, and there is always the concern of stretching myself too thin. So why add yet another product?

The commercial rationale is there of course – regular, reoccurring monthly income is very valuable to a small business. Our preorder rounds can vary significantly in terms of success (some designs will always be more popular than others) and so our income from these fluctuates. Customers who support us by signing up as a monthly subscriber are supporting the longer-term viability and growth of 852 Fabric.

But to me what is most valuable from our subscription box business is the space it gives me to be truly creative. Every month the combined subscription fees of (at the point of writing) 46 very special and valued subscribers gives me a substantial budget to let my creativity blossom and fill the contents of our subscription box. Designing the main fabric and matching coordinate, thinking of what accessories and related goodies to include brings me much joy and real satisfaction. The combined budget allows me to source unique custom products, from sewing hardware, mousepads, washi tape, sticky notes, to even more exciting goodies which I have planned for June and July (in collaboration with another HK local business).

Whereas most other subscription box offerings are curated from various commercially available products, the 852 Fabric subscription box contents are designed by me and custom made (with only occasional externally sourced items). They are unique and not available anywhere else - like our fabric.

Every month, packing the subscription boxes is a family affair. I need all the help I can get to pack nearly 50 boxes as fast as possible in our dining room! First, we pack the cards, stickers and special goodies in our branded envelopes – here you can see my husband Peter and daughter Sadie packing on our dining table. Then we set up a mini production line of about 6 or 7 boxes (all that can fit on our table!) and pack in lots of woven of knit fabric base. As we pack, I write a personal message to each subscriber.

For May I had taken one of our early designs based on Chinese Opera, and rearranged it into cameos outlined by delicate flowers on a deep royal blue – purple base. The coordinate takes the flowers and scatters them over the same background. The floral coordinate reappears on the matching sticky notepads which are included in the box, as well as a small metal Chinese Opera charm.

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