Business plans are the organizational backbone of a business, but not all businesses are planned. Sometimes, they form out of doing favors for friends. Kelly Wilson of Weave Gotcha Covered spent six months doing sewing work for friends before she realized she had a business.
Soon after that, Wilson enrolled in both FastTrac New Venture and FastTrac Growth Venture. Wilson said she had never owned a business before, so enrolling in these FastTrac programs got her excited to learn everything she could about starting a business.
“I can remember the very first day when I walked in,” Wilson said. “They said, ‘What is your exit plan?’ I had no idea what they meant. That has been a huge guiding force for us over the years because we now know what our exit plan is, so everything we do is aimed that way. Every other piece of the curriculum had equal importance, just in different ways.”
Wilson said she always tells people if a door opens, don’t ask questions; just walk through it. One day, while working at a local fabric store, a client walked in looking for new draperies. This client worked for a large local retailer, but the person who made their draperies smoked while doing so.
“I had just received my brand new box of business cards at lunch that day,” she said. “I’d gone home and I had them, and I brought them back to work. I walked back to my locker and I got the box, and I handed them to her. I said, ‘Here, I’d be happy to do your work for you.’”
That client became Wilson’s and her co-founder Lonnie Vanderslice’s strategical partner.
Weave Gotcha Covered, which provides custom window treatments, beddings and pillows, has been in business for 10 years, but it took some major knocking down of barriers to get where they are now. As a stay-at-home mom for 17 years, Wilson said she had only ever waited tables. Her side job of doing sewing work for people really was a necessity. Wilson said her family lost their home and everything they had from the first wave of fallout from 9/11. Rebuilding herself became critical, not just from an income standpoint, but from a personal one as well, between taking care of her family and working to provide for them.
Wilson said all of that is right below the surface of her daily work at her business. But in 2013, the business became an opportunity to help women struggling with similar issues Wilson herself went through.
The initial idea for Weave Gotcha Covered came out of a necessity for an income when she and her co-founder needed a way to make extra money. When they got to their hiring stage, which consisted mostly of women, they realized they had one thing in common with the women they were hiring – everyone was in need of nontraditional employment opportunities. The focus then turned to building a social enterprise.
“It gave [the business] an identity and it allowed us to start connecting with others that also do social work to solve society’s problems through business, and has given us more opportunities and paths to complete that work,” Wilson said.
After partnering with a local business woman who shared their mission, Weave Gotcha Covered moved from North Kansas City to the city’s urban core, closer to their employee base. This allowed the women they were hiring – individuals facing challenges such as children with disabilities or women reentering society, to name a few – a shorter commute to work.
Wilson said they are always trying to figure out the barrier that is keeping somebody from getting a job. But identifying the problem is only the first step. If they are willing to hire people without the means to make it to work, they must provide a solution. For example, in the case of not having a car, Wilson said every employee’s phone has the Uber application so they have the ability for transportation.
“We have flexible schedules because people are working around all different kinds of challenges to balance life,” Wilson said. “While they can’t just come and go as they please, they do have complete flexibility in the schedule they have set.”
To create a social enterprise, Wilson said one must resonate with the idea behind Ewing Marion Kauffman’s philosophy of giving back to the community. Outside the work she does with her own business, Wilson is also active in the community, sharing with people how they too might create a social enterprise.
Wilson said if she can plant that idea upfront, entrepreneurs can keep that in mind as they’re working to start their own business.
“People look at me and say, “Why would you do that?,’” Wilson said. “At the end of the day, it’s not about how much money I can make. As a business owner, I have responsibility, I believe, to my community to provide jobs, to provide answers where I can. That’s what Mr. K was all about. How can you make your community better? Everything else will take care of itself, but how do you make your community better?”