Mimi G: Sewing up a million-dollar business
When she was 12 years old, Mimi’s aunt taught her to sew doll clothes during a trip to Puerto Rico. Years later, sewing became both a soothing outlet and a practical necessity for Mimi, who was struggling to support herself as a teenage runaway and homeless young mother. By the time she found her feet again, Mimi was beginning to see sewing in a new way altogether — as a way out.
Mimi firmly believes that anyone can learn to sew, and that everyone deserves to feel beautiful. Starting in 2008, she started blogging and posting YouTube videos to teach people how to make their own beautiful, long-lasting clothing, regardless of size or income. They became a huge hit.
As her channel began to grow, so did Mimi’s business. About a year and a half into posting YouTube videos, a major fabric brand approached her with an offer.
“I was working with the brand, doing pattern reviews on my channel,” she recalls. “The videos were doing well, and eventually they asked about my interest in licensing.”
As she negotiated the deal, Mimi made sure that the patterns would be accompanied by tutorial videos — which would live on YouTube for easy reference.
Before long, Mimi decided to start Sew It! Academy: a subscription-based online school with more in-depth instructions for people interested in taking their skills to the next level.
“I saw that the tutorials on my YouTube channel were popular, so it gave me the idea of creating a more structured learning platform,” she says.
Mimi now has six employees, over 30,000 Sew It! Academy monthly subscribers, and multiple fabric licensing deals.
As always, Mimi made inclusivity a priority, keeping the costs much lower than a traditional training school.
“A lot of aspiring fashion designers come to Sew It! Academy because they can’t afford fashion school,” Mimi says. After taking her courses, she says proudly, “They go on to open alterations businesses or become designers or their own lines, or they work in the costume industry.”
Mimi now has six employees, over 30,000 Sew It! Academy monthly subscribers, and multiple fabric licensing deals. A creative center and fabric shop are in the works, and Melanated Fabrics, her new fabric company, is already shaping up to be a success — thanks, in large part, to the support from her YouTube and SewIt! Academy subscribers. Whenever she posts YouTube videos about her fabric hauls, Mimi says, she instantly sees an increase in traffic and revenue.
Between her various pursuits, Mimi’s businesses now bring in over $1 million a year in revenue, of which YouTube accounts for around 15-20% directly. She estimates that YouTube is indirectly responsible for another 30-40%.
“Over the last several years, my businesses have blown up and grown so much,” she says. Now that she’s posting 2-3 days a week, “it’s like subscriber, subscriber, subscriber.”
Despite the pandemic, 2020 was Mimi’s best year yet.
“Most of my business is digital, so YouTube was fantastic,” she says. “People were messaging me about making a DIY mask, so I did a video and it got around 2 million views.”
... the most rewarding thing for Mimi has been to see how her sewing skills have helped others support themselves during a difficult time — just as her aunt’s lessons did for her.
That wasn’t so surprising, she says. But she didn’t expect what happened next.
“We had so many messages from people who were not only making hundreds of masks for themselves and for frontline workers, but were selling it and making side hustles because they couldn’t work. That really helped a lot of people be able to get by money-wise,” Mimi says.
One of her students, a former police officer who was injured on the job, turned to Sew It! Academy to learn sewing skills, Mimi says. “Now she owns her own clothing label.”
While she’s proud of the businesses she’s built, the most rewarding thing for Mimi has been to see how her sewing skills have helped others support themselves during a difficult time — just as her aunt’s lessons did for her.