It’s amazing to think that something so simple as a fleece sweater or pair of socks can do so much good in so many ways.
When Sarah made those first thermal fleece tops for her and her family so that they could keep the furnace low in the winter and save some money, she had no idea that she would soon be an entrepreneur whose thrifty products not only benefit the people who buy them, but that she could also do something to help her financially troubled community and set a good environmental example, all at the same time.
Sarah says it was when her twin boys wore their fleece thermal tops to school and she was approached by other parents who asked her to make the same warm shirts for their kids, that she realized the opportunity to start a business.
Sarah started Sarah’s Fleeces in the winter of 2008, out of her home in England. Since then, her business has grown to employ 14 local people and she and her sewing team now hand-produce much more than just fleece tops; thermal pyjamas, sweaters and hats, blankets and pants, even welly socks to keep feet warm inside of rubber boots, as we call them in North America.
So why is Sarah’s Fleeces a great example of a Thrifty Business and how will her products help you to achieve some of your frugal living goals?
First off, when clothing is handmade, like Sarah’s, there’s a high level of quality control that goes into making sure each and every piece is durable--you just can’t get that with mass-produced clothing. Sarah says the fleece they use is top quality (read long lasting) and comes in a great selection of colours too.
Plus, and any frugal living enthusiast will appreciate this, if you’re dressed in one of Sarah’s thermal sweaters or pairs of pyjamas, you will definitely find it easier to turn the furnace down a few degrees!
“Even though one needs to spend money to get our thermal products, having bought them you can then save significant amounts of money on your fuel bill as you don’t need to have the thermostat set as high,” Sarah explains. “Just turning it from 18 to 16 degrees saves 20 per cent on your bill!”
When it comes to her own business operations, Sarah also does everything she can to save money and to keep her expenses low. She says she and the rest of her team make the most of their material and use all of the tiny bits and scraps of fleece to stuff pillows, they buy in bulk to save on gas, they use up-cycled products from local companies, and they themselves dress in the warm fleece clothing to keep heating costs low in the cooler weather.
Sarah’s business operations aren’t just frugal living friendly, however. This entrepreneur is also very committed to the environment, using fleece that is made partially from recycled water bottles, limiting waste and keeping her use of utilities and resources to a minimum when making her goods.
Giving back to and supporting her local community is also one of Sarah’s top priorities. As the business has grown, Sarah has added local mothers to her sewing team so that she can help to revive the local economy in Hastings, which has certainly experienced its share of tough times with high unemployment rates and poverty.
“I live near two council estates, I see people every day that have no jobs, very little money and often no hope, there are many examples of poor parenting, bad diets, abuse, broken relationships and hurting families,” Sarah says. “This motivates me in a way I don’t think I can put into words easily. I see awful situations around the world on tv and as much as I long to do something about them I realized that here, right on my doorstep, is a situation that I can do something about. I know it’s only relatively small at the moment but it’s making a real difference to the people involved and that’s a great feeling. It has the potential to make a really major impact.”
Sarah is right. Just like anything in life, those small actions can really add up. Whether it’s the little money saving tips that you use to shave a few dollars off of your utilities here and there, or you run a business like Sarah and you try to source your materials locally, to employ people in your community and to keep your operating costs as low as possible. All of these little efforts can mean something significant in the long run.
Sarah’s unique business model, with its local focus and all of the little things she does to save money or to help out others is far from the likes of the big-time clothing manufacturers. Businesses like Sarah’s Fleeces may be small in size, but their influence and ability to make change are anything but small.
“History shows us that big changes often start with a few determined people and that following the masses isn’t always the best way,” Sarah says.
Big change, one fleece thermal top at a time.