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When Australian Evelyn Wood was introduced to a sewing machine in high school, it was love at first sight. 

“I’d never even seen a sewing machine before that,” Wood tells Thinkific. “I was 13 years old, and I loved playing with fabric and being able to make something.”

That Christmas, she was given her very own sewing machine so that she could sew at home. “Since then, I’ve always loved creating clothes,” she shares. “It’s an expression of myself. I also could never find things to fit me properly or that suited my style, so having the ability to make my own clothes appealed to me.”

After high school, Wood attended fashion college. Upon graduation, she worked in the couture bridal industry in a range of roles that opened her eyes to the business of fashion. After several years, she decided to quit her day job and start her own business. The first thing she started was a vintage reproduction clothing line. “My particular love is vintage clothing. I would reproduce clothes from the 1920s, 30s, and 40s in a way that they looked and felt really authentic,” says Wood.

On top of that, she designed and sewed individual garments and alterations for clients. She also taught sewing in-person. “So many people would ask me about the garments I would make and sell. They wanted to know how they could make them themselves,” she explains. “At that time I was really looking at my business and where it was headed. I care about sustainability, and I didn’t think another sustainable fashion label was what the world needed. I realized that the world needed someone teaching these skills so that people could make their own clothes at home.”

Upon having this realization, she completely pivoted and began focusing all of her efforts on teaching. She always knew she wanted to eventually have an online business, so she found Thinkific and launched her virtual Vintage Sewing School online program. While this business had many iterations to get to where it is presently, Wood now runs a successful membership that teaches students how to build their sewing skills to be able top sew anything they can imagine. She has over 1,000 members from around the world. 

Read more to learn about Wood’s journey to success through online course creation:

Skip ahead:

  1. She created an online membership program

Before launching her membership, Wood started by offering individual online courses. In fact, she was actually quite hesitant about offering a membership. “I wanted a ‘one and done’ kind of course, and I thought a membership would be more work,” she explains. “ decided to take a leap and change it into a membership program with a lower cost per month with the intention that people can stay long term and slowly chip away at the courses to improve their skills.”

“When I did that, that’s really what worked and took my business to the next level; having a membership was the thing for me,” she continues. “I just adore the members, and they really make the school what it is.”

Her membership now consists of a comprehensive video lesson library of over 150 pre-recorded courses. Students can access these courses anytime, anywhere and each month there are new lessons added to help people take their skills to the next level. Plus, she offers monthly Q&A sessions and a community of like-minded individuals who share the same passion for sewing high quality garments the vintage way. 

“We only have so much time in a day,” she says. “My membership helps people to incrementally improve their skills over time—and that’s what my audience was looking for and that I felt was needed.”

Now, she enjoys the consistency of having a monthly income from her membership program. “It gives me a sense of stability. Evergreen products suit me and my audience,” adds Wood.

When choosing an e-learning platform, she did trials of many different ones. “Thinkific stood out,” she says. “It had all of the things I needed to build my business, and there was so much ease and functionality in managing the back end. It ticked all the boxes to house everything that I needed, and continues to do so.”

  1. She built a successful YouTube channel

Wood’s 1,000+ audience spans the world. 

The majority of her students are located in the US and Europe, although she has some Australians in her membership as well. There are two main demographics in her audience: she has the older, 50+ empty nesters who want to sharpen their sewing skills, as well as those in their 20s and 30s who are looking to be creative and develop their own style with a sense of sustainability behind their motives. 

The main way her audience has found her and her membership is through her successful YouTube channel. With a subscriber count of 351K, she’s leveraged YouTube as her main traffic generator since she quit her day job nine years ago. 

“I decided to focus on YouTube because sewing is a practical task, and when you have a sewing question, you want to see a video of someone doing it,” explains Wood.

While her membership includes skill-based tutorial videos, her YouTube content covers a more broad view of sewing, such as good habits to practice, strategies, and tips and tricks. “It’s more of a conversation around how to get better results sewing, rather than just tutorials,” she says.

When asked how she grew such an engaged and large audience, she says it was through consistency; she published one video per week. “This allowed me to look back and see what kinds of videos were working and what got engagement,” she says.

Plus, she tried to bring in a personal touch through her YouTube content—whether through the videos themselves or through the comments.

“In my Youtube videos I aim to speak to the individual, as if we are sitting in the room together,” she says. “A lot of people say that they feel like they know me, or tell me that it feels like I’m speaking to them personally through my videos.”

  1. She created a simple customer journey

Beneath every YouTube video, she has a link to Vintage Sewing School. “That way, if they like the way that I teach and what I’m talking about, they can become a member to go more in-depth.”

She also offers a free class, called the Crash Course To Learn How To Sew, which is meant for those who want to learn how to use their very first sewing machine.

“I decided to always keep that free because I want everyone to be able to just get started on their machine,” she says. “This free class lets them get a feel for the school, the platform, and the filming style. Once they complete it, they can sign up to be a member.”

The crash course is for beginners. She’s looking at creating a second course for those with more advanced skills, as she says a lot of people who find her are looking to improve on what they already know. 

Once they become members, they can cancel their membership at any time; there is no minimum commitment required. “Many people sign up right away, but the free Crash Course works quite well in converting people,” she explains. 

  1. She priced her membership affordably

For Wood and many other course creators, pricing a course can feel like the most challenging part of the course creation process. 

 “I remember racking my brain for so long about what the price should be,” she says. “There is no magic number. Of course, you can look at other people doing similar things, but what they’re doing is never the same as what you’re doing.”

She landed on her membership fee of $19 USD a month by reflecting on what she wanted in her business.

“I wanted people to be able to stay with us, and stay for many years as they wanted to develop their skills. I wanted it to be affordable but also reflect the quality that is there; a balance.”

When she first launched her membership, she offered her founding members a reduced rate, which they still pay to this day. From that point onwards, the $19 USD fee has stayed the same. To collect payments, she integrates Stripe with Thinkific

  1. She differentiated herself from the rest

Wood’s school doesn’t just teach people how to sew by following a pattern; it teaches them sewing skills so they can create and fit any garment they have in their mind. To do so, Wood teaches the age-old skill of dressmaking. Once they learn this skill, students become confident in their ability to sew, refashion, alter, fit, and mend clothing at home.

“I teach slightly differently than other sewing schools,” she says. “Generally, when you look at online sewing schools and even in-person sewing classes, they’re focused on teaching a step-by-step pattern. It’s project-based learning. But for me, I was drawn to sewing because I wanted to make the things that I wanted to wear in my own style. These are the kinds of people who gravitate towards me.”

“I decided to make my membership a skills library rather than project-based courses,” she adds. “I wanted it to feel like an encyclopedia of garment making.”

Along with her foundational courses that teach people the basics of sewing, members have tons of specific, skill-based courses to choose from. “Vintage Sewing School is designed in a way that you go to separate courses to learn individual skills. They can go into the membership and search for what they need as they work on their own projects.”

  1. She developed a thriving community

Wood is a firm believer that community is an essential part of online learning. Despite everything being online nowadays, she still thinks that connection is a vital part of the learning process. In fact, when asked what trends she sees coming down the pipeline for 2024 and beyond, she thinks that course creators will have to build communities.

“Online learning is definitely the thing that’s working,” she shares. “But along with that, I think a community or a way to touch base is important.”

To instill this sense of connection in Vintage Sewing School, her members have the opportunity to join a private group hosted on Circle. Here, they can share their work, learn from each other, ask questions, and make new friends who share the same passion for making clothing. She describes this member group as a “thriving community.”

  1. She built a small but mighty team

Building a team is a milestone for any business owner, and for Wood, she says it was the best decision she ever made. 

This is especially true because of what Wood has experienced over the last year; after being diagnosed with breast cancer, her team has been crucial in keeping her business running as she underwent chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery. “My team has been able to take over and keep everything running when I haven’t been able to be there all the time,” she reveals.

She has a video editor who helps her edit her course videos as well as YouTube videos, a content editor who takes videos and puts them into text format for lesson descriptions, as well as someone in customer service who helps to answer questions over email. “When I first started out, I thought maybe I could have a VA help me. But now I have a small team behind me and members joining us from all over the world. It’s incredible,” says Wood.”

Now, as Wood gets back on her feet again after a positive prognosis, she is excited for the future. For anyone in a similar position as Wood, she recommends that they begin hiring a team to make their lives “infinitely easier.”

“After being sick most of the year, I now feel like myself again and am ready to take on new challenges and think about where I want to take the business,” she shares.

She’s in the process of dreaming up her future plans with Vintage Sewing School; “perhaps I’ll bring in more mentors to help in their unique sewing areas, or do more with the community. There is so much more we can do to make it the best sewing school and provide an unreal experience to learn age-old sewing techniques,” continues Wood.

  1. She remained consistent

Since launching her sewing school, Wood says her life has changed dramatically. “I never thought that my business could be what it is now—never in my wildest dreams,” she shares.

“Teaching online has given me the ability to quit all of the other things I was doing and focus on this brand full-time,” continues Wood. “Being able to teach people has given me a real sense of purpose. Seeing someone post photos of the garments that they made is the absolute best.”

She says she’s had two keys to her success: consistency and differentiating herself from other sewing schools. “The way I teach is a bit risky; many people just want a pattern and to be able to follow along. Having a more self-study type of school where they have to go in and learn things for themselves is outside of the box—but I knew that’s what drew me to sewing, and that’s what I would have loved to have had when I was learning,” says Wood.

For those who want to start an online course business and aren’t sure where to begin, Wood recommends putting the feelers out, being bold, and trying different things.

“Put a few things out there and you can then figure out what’s working and what you should hone in on,” she suggests. “My business had a lot of iterations until I got to the point of finding what worked. It took me six years before I developed my membership, and it took off.”

“By doing a lot of different things and allowing yourself to sample different ways of doing things, you’ll find out what’s working,” she adds. “Stick with the uniqueness that makes you, you—and stay true to that.”

“Just go for it,” she continues. “Don’t be scared. Start small and throw lots of little things out there to see what works. You’ll know what’s right because it will just work.”

Ready to turn your knowledge into an online course business? The time is now; sign up for Thinkific today—for free!