Cassi-Jo Davis is a prominent textile artist from South West WA who has been sharing her love of cowgirl themed fashion through her travelling horse float gallery.
Cassie’s label “Cowgirl Blues” has been increasing in popularity both in WA and the US since she first launched her business after completing the New Enterprise Incentive Scheme in May 2016.
She started off hand-making clothing, jewellery, homewares and artwork from upcycled denim and textiles and has expanded her offerings to include ethnic embroideries, paintings, leathercraft and freehand embroidery.
When asked what motivated her to start her own business, she recalls "I was doing work as a hobbyist, and was getting orders and interest from outside friends and family. I was a single Mum living in a rural community with little to no employment in the area. My only qualification was an Art degree I never completed and sales experience. I had heard about the NEIS program 10 years previously from some artist friends who did it and decided to look into it further.
Cassi then undertook three weeks of online NEIS business training, where she gained the skills and knowledge she needed to start her business including how to build her brand, market her textile products and fulfil all the legal, tax and insurance requirements of running a clothing and jewellery business.
Since starting Cowgirl Blues, as Cassi has encountered a number of challenges that many new small business owners come across. "Learning to do account keeping and bookwork has been a big challenge to me. Also becoming more computer literate. I have had to largely teach myself how to do a webpage. Keeping up with demand has been a challenge, and realizing recently it is okay to outsource work and employ someone to help me sew one day a week.
Even after the business training finished, Cassi was determined to continue to improve her skills across all aspects of business management. Not a fan of bookkeeping, Cassie had to force herself to sit down and organise her business accounts to ensure she would be up to date with her financial records when her first tax return was due. She also bought a new Macbook Pro which has helped her to improve her computer skills, which have become an essential part of her business.
As her business has grown, Cassi has needed to build a team of people who can help her with the production side. She has employed another local Mum to come and sew with her one day a week. She has also found other local people, like a leather worker to help put studs in her cuffs and put handles on to the handmade bags with rivets. She has outsourced her new t-shirt designs to be made into silkscreens which she could possible have done herself but ended up saving lots of time.
"The wonderful thing about this whole process is I am earning my own money from my business to afford to pay these people to do this work," she says.
"It’s a very satisfying feeling."
When asked about what have been some of the highlights of operating your own business, Cassi shares: "Every single time someone loves something I have made enough to buy it, that’s the absolute highlight for me. Getting recognition and building a following of likeminded people is also thrilling. Being asked to sponsor an event, or an invitation to attend an event and being able and ready to say YES is a very satisfying feeling.
Cassi offers one piece of advice to others thinking about starting their own business: "Follow your vision for your business that you have in your head. Look at the big picture of how amazing your business will be two or five or 10 years down the track.
"Realise you will have down days and no money coming in some weeks but the sun always rises the next day with a new beginning and new opportunities. Take opportunities that fall into your lap, even if you hadn’t planned for them. Be flexible to change and trying new angles, if one thing isn’t working try it another way."
You can view some of Cassi’s fantastic cowgirl creations on her website http://www.cowgirlblues.net/