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Sew What! Starting Small And Growing a Business on Ambergris Caye

Sew What! is an impressive business that’s been growing on Ambergris Caye over 15 years ago.

Now, with two locations, they make so much – cushions, inside and out, upholstery, window shades, awnings, boat and golf cart cushions, almost everything that can be sewed – except clothing.

Here is the office/workshop in town – with the beautiful bougainvillea plant next door.

Owner Kate Vincent agreed to answer a few of my questions…about how she made it to Ambergris Caye and how she started a sewing, upholstery, fabric business on the island.  To share what she does.

I just love to admire all the different fabrics…especially the Sunbrella.  Sew What! is the official distributor for Sunbrella – the fabric that I believe was invented with Ambergris Caye in mind.  It doesn’t fade, it cleans beautifully whether by hand or in the washing machine – it is crazy tough for pets…for kids…for all sorts of outside use.

And I’ve been meaning to bring some beautiful fabrics that I bought at the markets in Guatemala (Antigua and Chichicastenengo) to her as well.  I love how pillows can change everything in your house.

Just some of the purchases…

And taking with her made me think…about starting a business in Belize and some insights I’ve gathered over the years as I’ve watched the exponential growth of the island.

But let’s talk about Kate first.  Here she is with two of her long time employees – both for 10+ years, Letty and Sabina.

Kate first visited Belize about 20 years ago – she was working as a Headhunter in California and needed a vacation!  Some sun and adventure.   And it was love.

She made the move to Belize hoping to run her recruiting/HR business from here.  But phone and internet connections in the early 2000s were…shaky at times.  Kate spent more than a few hours at the BTL payphone in Central Park.

As she realized that working remotely wasn’t going to work – she was able to focus on sewing – a hobby for years.  Kate made cushions for a neighbor and they were impressed and suggested she open a business.  She then tried her hand at boat cushions for two local tour guides.  She pushed the vinyl through her home sewing machine and the guys agreed when they got the final product – this should be your business!

She was living at 6 miles north Ambergris Caye…15 years ago it was only reachable by boat.

Now, most days, she this is her ride.

That encouragement, from both an expat with a home down here and from the local guides, helped give Kate the push she needed.  Kate started on a much smaller scale than she operates on now.  She rented a small spot in town – Sew What! and went from there.

Last year Kate opened a large (beautiful pink) workshop up north.  Sew What Norte!

Kate and her team consult, measure, design, and deliver for people and for businesses across Belize.

Here is what I gather from Kate’s story.

Opening a business is extremely hard work – full time plus.  It doesn’t matter if you are in Belize or anywhere else, make sure it something you enjoy – in fact, you are passionate about – because it’s LOTS of hands on/best at the shop ALL THE TIME work.

Don’t assume that San Pedro needs what you think it needs.  Or what was needed or worked in your home country.  Come to Belize and see what the community could use.    There are so many different factors at work here…seasonal business, cultural differences, different costs (food, utilities, etc)…

Start smaller, more nimble where possible.

For more information on the Sew What! locations, see this location post – or just stop in the shop in town…to get some ideas.

Remember CORAL is the IT color for 2019.  

We got ours at Sew What!  Coral?  WE TOTALLY called that.

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2 thoughts on “Sew What! Starting Small And Growing a Business on Ambergris Caye

  1. Dr Mel.

    Hi Rebecca!
    What a great idea for a blog! I LOVE Sew What! Kate does beautiful work. I would highly recommend her to anyone needing anything created. We had her make two sets of curtains for our place in San Pedro. I walked into her shop with nothing more than a request for curtains and a poor sketch with measurements of our windows. In no time we had beautiful, well-made curtains. Her work is impeccable. Our curtains were done quickly – within a few days – well-made and reasonably priced.

  2. anonymooseSPmQQse

    for those who didnt know… kate also used to sing some nights, with the ”barefoot skinny show”…. she has a great voice.. and it was great to have her on stage with us.
    isnt she a sweet gal.

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