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sew it sell it

A sewing and entrepreneurship program where participants have the opportunity to express their creativity, learn vocational skills and develop a sense of self-reliance by sewing and selling a product. 

Through Sew It Sell It,  students design a product and conceptualize a micro business around that product. 

The program serves children between the ages of 12 and 16. No prior sewing skills are necessary and all equipment and supplies for the program are provided to students. 

In addition to learning the basics of sewing, through a number of workshops led by business professionals and local entrepreneurs, community leaders and university faculty, students learn business and professional skills from branding and marketing, to giving a good pitch.

This year, our program also expanded its vocational offerings to include workshops on screen printing and pottery!

 

The goal of Sew It Sell It is to supplement youth in our communities with creative, practical and business management skills that they can continue to use on their own outside of the program.  

Program history

Through a 4-week camp-style initiative in the summer of 2019, Sew It Sell It served 15 children, ages 8 through 15, none of who had prior sewing experience. Students began the program by conceptualizing their business and designing products to sell after pitching their idea to a panel of judges for feedback. Then, they were assigned a particular quantity to produce as they transitioned into the production phase, where they were assigned a specific quantity to produce. Finally, they worked on branding and prepared their products for distribution.  Students also attended several workshops led by local business professionals and entrepreneurs, as well as university faculty.  

Participants concluded the program with Market Day and a closing ceremony. Students sold their products to the community at Market Day, which was sponsored by The University of Tennessee’s Haslam College of Business. Vending was followed by an award ceremony whereby each student received their own sewing machine. 

Our reach has significantly expanded since the initial launch of our program. We have provided sewing machines and sewing curriculum guidance for a program at Dogwood Elementary in South Knoxville and seek to extend this program to other elementary schools in the city. We have also realized the need for this program to serve other vulnerable populations in our community. Together with Bridge Refugee Services, we have created a quarterly intensive sewing workshop for refugee women. Upon completion of these workshops, these women also receive new sewing machines of their own. We also work with the African Women Empowerment Community of Knoxville to provide sewing classes, sewing machines, and other sewing supplies to immigrant women. Many of the women in both groups face language, childcare, skill-related, and other barriers to employment. For these women, Sewing offers an immediate economic pathway through home-based entrepreneurship and employment in sewing industries.

Sew It Sell It Successes and Media Recognition

Approximately 150 people attend our first Market Day and closing ceremony, including local media outlets, community leaders like State Representative Rick Staples, and University of Tennesse administrators and faculty members like President Randy Boyd and Vice-Chancellor Tyvi Small. 

The success of our pilot program gained the recognition of people across the country and the world. Both local and national media outlets covered our story, and we were featured on MSN’s home page. In February 2020, we were spotlighted on the Living in East Tennessee Show on Chanel 6.