Liby Ball is tailoring for every body
Running a business

Liby Ball is tailoring for every body

In honor of Pride Month, QuickBooks is spotlighting the LGBTQ+ entrepreneurs who play a vital role in creating an inclusive and vibrant small business community.

Name: Liby Ball

Location: Bloomington, Indiana

Pronouns: She/They

Business: Bloomington Stitchery

Tell us about your business.

Bloomington Stitchery offers couture wedding gown alterations and fine tailoring for formalwear, in addition to body-positive and gender-affirming sewing services for all.

Why did you decide to start your own business?

After working in other shops for a few years, I decided to strike out on my own in order to better serve my community, and prioritize my own physical and mental wellbeing. I got tired of company policies that limited the customizations I was allowed to offer to the customers, and I no longer wanted to tolerate the abuse that tends to go hand-in-hand with working in the customer service field.

How did you get started?

I've been sewing since I was a child, and began sewing professionally in 2003. I started sewing out of my home full-time in 2013, which the business quickly outgrew, so Bloomington Stitchery opened in 2016.

What is the biggest lesson you learned in the first year? 

The first year, I learned that sewing is a hot commodity. We had customers walking in before we even unpacked the sewing machines!

What was the most surprising thing about becoming a business owner? 

The most surprising thing about owning a business is that you really can make and break all of the “rules.” We have become so busy that we have had to disconnect the phone and lock the door!

What is an aspect of running a business that you needed to learn more about when you started?

I think any small business owner would agree, but learning to have a life outside of work is a challenge. Moving the business out of my house helped to create a physical boundary, but I'm still working on allowing myself to take time off.

How did you learn? 

I just had to force myself to do it. When I started working on this year's calendar, I immediately blocked off days that were reserved for working from home, holidays, and vacations. I'm happy to say that I have mostly stuck to it.

quote image
Being the openly queer owner of the most reputable shop around is pretty dang cool.

How does running your own business make you feel?

I’m usually so caught up in the day-to-day machinations of it all that I don’t really think about it. I have to stop and remind myself, sometimes, that being the openly queer owner of the most reputable shop around is pretty dang cool.

What are some of the challenges you’ve overcome or are working to overcome as a business owner?

Keeping the business afloat during the COVID pandemic has been a humbling experience, to say the least. I lost 85% of my income in 2020, and am still trying to make up for it two years later. During recessions of the past, I always felt untouchable, because people were always getting married. It never crossed my mind that something could shut down the wedding industry. As difficult as it was to hold out hope, day by day, I am grateful that I was forced to pause and reflect on what was, and was not, working for me in this business.

What are your proudest moments? 

Any time we’re able to achieve a perfect result for a customer who was turned away by other tailors due to the difficulty of the work. Whenever I hear, “All of the other shops said it couldn’t be done…” I’m like—challenge accepted!

What are the next big plans you have for your business?

I’m currently working with a financial advisor to make changes to ensure that my staff and I are actually paid what we’re worth. It’s so easy to undervalue yourself and your skills, especially when you’re in a field that is traditionally considered “women’s work.” I firmly believe that seamstresses should be as respected and as well-paid as any skilled trade (like carpenters or mechanics).

What are three things that you feel have contributed to your success as a business owner? 

Passion, creativity, and the ability to say “no.” (I’m still working on that last one.)

What challenges do you feel are unique to small business owners in the LGBTQIA+ community? 

I know that for me, I was afraid that being visible would negatively affect business. As it turns out, it’s been overwhelmingly positive!

Have you come up against any bias? 

There have been more than a few occasions where scheduled customers have stopped short of coming inside when they see the rainbow flags and BLM signs in our front windows. We have since adopted a non-refundable deposit that is paid in advance of appointments, which seems to have solved the issue.

What advice would you give to other entrepreneurs in the community?

Don’t be afraid to ask for help! I wouldn’t be where I am today without the support of my friends, my staff, and my amazing customers.

When you’re having a tough day, who or what inspires you to keep going? 

Every once in a while, I’ll start to feel burned out, and I’ll consider shutting everything down and getting a “normal” job at Starbucks or something. Then I remind myself that there are all kinds of businesses out there, run by people with twice the confidence and half the skill that I have. If they can do it, so can I!

What’s your “power song” and why? 

Anything by Cher, to be honest! I have several of her tours on DVD, and I’ll put them on any time I’m in a creative slump (or whatever the sewist’s term for “writer’s block” is).

To learn more about Bloomington Stitchery and support the business, visit their website or them out on Instagram.

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