CityCraft Fabric Boutique and Sewing Lounge in Dallas is not your typical fabric store, and Callie Works-Leary is not your traditional hobbyist turned entrepreneur.
Works-Leary, 29, got her MBA from Southern Methodist University in Dallas in 2008 where she studied marketing and entrepreneurship with a focus on small business management. "The traditional MBA job market was completely miserable when I graduated," she says. "And I knew I wanted to start my own business, so I was constantly on the lookout for good opportunities." As a creative outlet, she taught herself how to sew while she was researching start-up ideas.
In the process, Works-Leary discovered a huge online community of sewers, particularly young sewers, who were into designer cotton fabrics made by Anna Marie Horner, Amy Butler, Kaffe Fassett, and Alexander Henry. But when she tried to buy these high-style fabrics, she found that no one was selling them in Dallas; she could only find them online. "I wanted to develop a retail store that met the needs of these existing young sewers but also encouraged new sewers through fun classes taught by young, hip teachers," says Works-Leary. "What sets me apart from most people who open fabric shops is that I came at this an entrepreneur and not a hobbyist. I started sewing just a month before starting to write the CityCraft business plan."
To build a community of sewers around CityCraft, Works-Leary created a sewing lounge at the store. She describes it as "a studio fully stocked with sewing machines, cutting tables, and all the necessary supplies and materials to create beautiful sewn creations whether in a class, workshop, or during an open sewing lounge night." On sewing lounge nights, the store serves complimentary wine and snacks and plays music. "Customers use the store like their own studio, sewing in an encouraging, relaxed group setting," says Works-Leary. CityCraft also has summer sewing camps for kids and teens.
CityCraft believes in giving back to the surrounding community. Works-Leary recently taught a sewing class for about 25 women at the Genesis Women's Shelter in association with Enchanted Makeovers. She donated sewing machines, sewing supplies, and fabrics for the class she taught. "I would rather focus my giving to a truly worthy cause versus getting my name on a donation plate," she says.
Only six months after she opened CityCraft, Works-Leary rented the store next to hers, took down a wall, and doubled her floorplan in order to meet the growing demand for sewing classes. She is looking expanding into other areas of North Texas and is weighing the options of franchising, licensing, and internal growth. This summer, CityCraft will launch an online store as part of Works-Leary's plan to establish a national brand. "When I think about CityCraft in 20 or 30 years, I'd love to be the Container Store or the Crate & Barrel of the sewing world," she says.