Julie Hesketh thinks she has this e-commerce thing all sewn up.
Hesketh, 33, creates patterns for embroidery machines, then sells them through her Web site, www.designsbyjuju.com.
The former nurse started her at-home business last year, when she became frustrated in her search for affordable designs to indulge her sewing hobby. Most available designs were produced by the manufacturers of the machines, and they were costly (about $100 for a set of 15 designs) -- not to mention dull, she says.
Applying her knack for technology to her old-fashioned craft skills, Hesketh streamlined the design process enough to bring the retail price down to about $20 a set. "My business is contained in my laptop," said Hesketh, who lives in Revere, Mass.
The designs start with a simple drawing. Many of Hesketh's designs are her original creations, while others are based on art she commissions. To digitize the images, she uses a software package called Origins, which she bought on eBay for about $500. She instantly generates a version in all nine of the major formats the machine manufacturers use.
The Internet also speeds up the sales process. Her customers don't have to wait for the designs to arrive in the mail -- they download them directly off the site once they pay, or she sends the pattern by e-mail, often accompanied by detailed instructions. "I sell to a lot of computer-challenged people," she said.
The toughest thing for this stay-at-home mother of three? "Trying to send out a professional-sounding e-mail while I have a 2-year-old on my head."
-- Mary Ellen Slayter