Sewn up . . . Shelley McGeown began her company, Outershell Clothing, from home when daughter Ruby McClea (7) started school in 2018. PHOTO: ASHLEY SMYTH

Behind the doors at her Weston home, Shelley McGeown is quietly working on creating her own clothing empire.

Outershell Clothing began in 2018 and offers an affordable range of comfortable, smart casual clothing for women and children.

The idea started when Ms McGeown was working at clothing store Preen in 2013 not long after her eldest child Ruby, now 7, was born.

“Ruby had not long started school [in 2018], so I thought I might as well do something with my days – and I can work at night times too,” she said.

“I wanted to do something from home and I like clothes.”

Ms McGeown started with $8000 of savings to set up packaging and equipment, and started researching fabrics and manufacturers. She found a factory in China that would accommodate the smaller quantities she required and went from there.

“The first time I ordered, I did four styles at the start – two tops and two dresses – just to see how they went. They sold, and as I sold more things, I just did more designs, and just kind of branched out a bit more.”

She now sends out about 300 orders a month across New Zealand and Australia.

Outershell has no retail store, and promotion is purely through social media. The business has more than 6000 followers on Facebook and close to 5000 on Instagram. TikTok was also a growing platform, Ms McGeown said.

Friends and family modelled the clothing for her, and they also help shared the business online.

The mother of two, who also has son Mason (5), went to a clothing expo in Melbourne in 2019, and found inspiration for designs, as well as scoping out fabrics and meeting her manufacturer. Although Covid-19 put a halt to travel there last year, she hoped to be able to head there again this November.

Covid had also caused shipping delays and doubled freight costs. But that worked in her favour time-wise, as she was able to pack orders while at home during lockdown.

Ms McGeown said the one piece of advice she would give anyone wanting to start their own similar business would be to start small.

“Don’t get too big too fast.

“I haven’t taken out any loans or anything. I just put my money in as the sales go, and then I get more money from that. And as I get bigger and bigger I just keep reinvesting.”

She intended to remain as an online business – that meant she did not have to take a cut to her bottom line to get her clothes into stores and she could work when it suited her.

The next step for Outershell was to branch out into activewear and accessories.