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Grantham Journal Businessperson of the Year battled cancer while expanding her business

A businesswoman who beat cancer won double at this year’s Grantham Journal Business Awards.

Amanda Garrett, of Sewing by Sue, adapted and expanded her business that creates memory items for those who have lost loved ones, while she battled cancer herself.

Amanda was named Businessperson of the Year, while Sewing by Sue was commended for its deeply personal service as it won the Customer Care Award.

Amanda Garrett and mother Susan Garrett with one of their trademark memory bears. (44135239)
Amanda Garrett and mother Susan Garrett with one of their trademark memory bears. (44135239)

Sewing by Sue, run by Amanda and mother Sue Garrett, are best known for the memory bears that they create, but expanded their services during the pandemic to include face masks, among other items.

Amanda spoke about the last year and where the business is heading.

How did it feel to win the awards after a tough year?

Sewing by Sue have expanded their services to create quilts. (45476987)
Sewing by Sue have expanded their services to create quilts. (45476987)

We are extremely humbled by winning the CustomerCare award. Because of the nature of our business, it has proven to us that we are doing things right. We want our customers to feel that they are the only customers we have. I want them to feel they can ask anything from us.

As for the Businessperson of the Year, after the year I’ve had with coronavirus and my breast cancer battle, I felt that it was the start of something. I have spent months on the sofa thinking about what our business could be and how we can improve it. Winning the award gave me a feeling of ‘now it starts!’

Why do you think you stood out to the judges?

I feel that our customer care stood out because we always go one step further. We could just take the items of clothing off them and then make the bear, but we don’t.

Amanda Garrett is the 2020 winner of Businessperson of the Year. (44135236)
Amanda Garrett is the 2020 winner of Businessperson of the Year. (44135236)

We talk to our customers, we find out as much as we can about the person behind the bear. I talk to our customers every step of the way, letting them know what’s going on with their precious items.

[For Businessperson] I think it was my determination to make our little business work.

Tell us a bit about what you do as a business.

Sewing by Sue make memory items (bears, cushions, quilts) from loved ones clothing. They are full of memories and a perfect way to remember events or people.

We have launched into ‘school memories’ which takes a child’s school uniform and turns it into a bear or cushion and we also have baby range which takes baby clothes and turns them into bears or quilts.

How have you adapted since Covid?

Before Covid, I would invite people into my home and we would sit down and talk about the person behind the bear and about what they want. Now, I have to take the items from our customers and put them away for 72 hours. Then, once I’m able to handle the clothing, I will ring or Zoom them and talk about they want.

What are your plans for the next year?

We launched our website in March 2021 (sewingbysue.com). Promote our social media. We currently have 3,500 [likes] on Facebook and 2,500 [followers] on Instagram. Looking at new packaging, it has taken me such a long time to source the right kind of packaging. I have finally found it and am happy that the quality and value are right.

We now offer three different sized bears: ‘Mini’ ‘Maxi’ and of course our ‘Signature’ bear. We also offer a keyring, tote bag, four different sized quilts and three different styles of cushions. We have agreed with Robert Holland Funeral Directors to have one of their windows to have a display of all our products. We have spent the last two months completely re-branding Sewing by Sue.

We have contacted all of the funeral directors that we work with and sent them, fresh samples, leaflets to refresh the communication with them. We have also made contact with a further five funeral directors, with a further 22 on the list.

We hope to develop more items and promote our website more. When people put a post on social media asking ‘does anyone know who makes memory items?’ I want every response to be ‘Sewing by Sue’.

How have the people around you stepped up to help over the past year?

My friends and family have all stepped up, but especially my son, Callum Sutton, who was living at home when I was diagnosed and then in September, he moved to university and my younger son, Jake Sutton, then stepped up. They have both helped so much with keeping the business and our home life going. I don’t even think they realise what they have done. From small things like emptying the dishwasher, to sitting there cutting masks out.

I truly believe that if it wasn’t for them, and my mum Sue Garrett, the business would have folded while I was having treatment.

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