It’s a valid question. I could have joined a number of other associations. In fact, it was easier to find those other associations in the first place! About two years after starting my business, I went looking for a sewing group to join. Of course, as a 26-year-old, the first thing I did was Google it. My search for “Indianapolis sewing group” led me to the American Sewing Guild. I went to my local chapter meeting, and realized that it wasn’t quite what I was looking for. ASG seemed to be more of a fun casual craft setting, but I wanted something that would talk about sewing as a business. That would have been the end of my search, had ASDP member Cathy Runion not introduced herself to me after the meeting, and told me about a few other sewing groups to try.
I took her advice, and the next sewing group that I visited started off better. They were even having a guest speaker who was talking about her sewing business! Perfect! But as we asked questions, I realized that this woman, who had been working on her business for years and years, did not actually pay herself for this work. Now, I definitely struggle with undervaluing my work, and I don’t think I’m alone in this. But even I could see that for the work this woman put into her business, it was really just a hobby in the end, because she never got paid for her time, and didn’t even expect to. I realized that if I’m going to succeed in my business, I need to surround myself with people who are going to really lift me up, and challenge me to ask for a fair wage for my work. So, I moved on to try out the third group. During the very first meeting I attended, I overheard one member telling another, “You need to charge more. Your work is worth more than that!” and I thought to myself: this is exactly the kind of kick in the butt I need to hear, from people who know and understand my profession. This is ASDP.
Thinking about my own journey to find ASDP has helped me to pinpoint what it is that I really want out of this organization. Realization #1: I want a sewing organization where I can meet real people in real life, in a local setting. Hence my Google searches for “Indiana Sewing Group”, which got me nowhere. Realization #2: I want a sewing group that focuses on sewing as a profession, unlike ASG. Realization #3 I want an organization that surrounds me with people who I aspire to be like, who can support me and help me to overcome my insecurities and challenges as a business owner in the sewing industry. That’s really it. In the end, it’s not about the discounts, or the helpful links (although I won’t ever turn those down!). What I really want is the business advice, the inspiration, the encouragement, a group of people who challenge me to be my best possible self, the open discussion, the friendship, the shared knowledge, and the education. And I think I’ve found it in ASDP. These are all things that I have glimpsed during my short time as a part of this organization. And I hope to see so much more of it. This group has an incredible amount of potential. There is so much that I don’t know about being a sewing and design professional, and there are so many opportunities for ASDP to evolve to help younger members like me learn all that we need to know. I would love to see live streams of the conference and more resources that encompass a wider range of professions within sewing and
designing. I would also like to see an easier way to find and participate in the discuss list, more ways to connect with other members, and a lot more focus on the business side of our industry. There is so much collective knowledge in our organization and I think we need a clearer way to share that knowledge with each other, especially new members. We have a good thing going here in our association, but a lot of what we have simply needs to be updated, organized, and simplified (the website in particular). But back to the original question: Why did I join ASDP? It’s a question that I think needs to be asked more often, and asked of more members. We each need to ask ourselves what it is that we individually want to get out of an association that we join. Without knowing this, how can we know if we are joining the right group? We need to ask each new member what it is they are looking for in ASDP. This would do three things: first, it would help us get to know the new members, second, it would help the new members to feel welcomed and included, and third, that new member could then be guided by a more senior member towards the tools and benefits of our association that would be most helpful to that individual. I also think that we must ask this question of our senior members as well. How can we grow and evolve as an association without knowing what our members value most? These answers could help guide us as an association, to become the best that we can be for each other.