We recently caught up with Mimi G, an award-winning fashion, lifestyle, and DIY blogger (check out her blog here). She’s also a social media titan, with hundreds of thousands of followers across several social platforms. Oh, and she’s a very successful online course creator too. Well done Mimi!
We were super excited to talk to Mimi about our personal favorite of her endeavors: her thriving online course. Mimi is the creator of The Sew It Academy, a membership site hosted on Thinkific where she teaches people how to sew their own clothing.
Like most success stories, Mimi’s online course business wasn’t built overnight. In our interview with her, we asked Mimi about how she got the idea to teach people how to sew online, how she built her audience before she launched her course, what the course creation process was like for her, and about the impact that teaching online has had on her life.
Read the full case study below or watch our video interview with Mimi G here
Finding her niche with fashion sewing
In 2012, Mimi started a blog as a hobby. She needed an outlet, and always loved to sew. Starting a blog gave her the ability to share her passion for sewing and design with others. She began posting pictures of things she was sewing for herself on the blog, and at the end of the first year of consistently posting she saw an increased number of people wanting to learn how to sew. She posted a skirt tutorial on her blog at the end of her first year that went viral on Pinterest and on her blog, and she realized that many women were excited about her interest in fashion sewing.
“There were tons of home sewers out there, but not a lot who were focusing on fashion sewing”, Mimi recalls. “Because I do both fashion and sewing it became very popular because women were not just wanting to buy things – they were also wanting to learn how to make it. The demand was incredible.”
Part of the demand included people who were asking Mimi to sew skirts for them. But after taking a few orders, she realized that she didn’t like sewing for other people. “It was probably the worst experience of my life”, she told us. “I hated it. I don’t like sewing for other people. I was stressed out and it was a terrible experience.”
But Mimi still wanted to share her knowledge and help all those people who were interested in the viral skirt and fashion sewing as a whole. It was in that moment she said to herself, ‘Well, what if I teach them how to make it versus making it for them?’ And that was the very first online course that I did.”
From one-off tutorials to a thriving membership site
Mimi began her first online tutorial by filming herself making the skirt that went viral on her blog and Pinterest. To this day, that video tutorial is still one of the most viewed videos on her YouTube channel. For the next few years, Mimi continued to create and publish free video online, covering everything from how to make specific skirts, tops, and dresses similar to those seen on fashion runways.
Here’s a screenshot of her popular YouTube channel (now with over 150,000 subscribers!):
Building an audience by publishing free videos online was definitely an important step in Mimi’s journey as an online course creator. By publishing videos and tutorials on her blog, YouTube, and social media consistently, she was able to build a loyal audience that likes and trusts her. Plus, she got to hone her skills as a content creator at teacher at the same time. These were crucial steps that prepared her for the creation and launch of her online course. Today, Mimi’s Sew It Academy is one of the most thriving membership sites on Thinkific.
Creating her membership site on Thinkific
The reason Mimi decided to create an online course was because she wanted to be able to teach others how to sew in a step-by-step structure, starting with the basics. “I wanted them to learn how to sew, not by a one-off project, but to really learn from the very beginning and to build on their skill level”, Mimi told us. “So I decided to start the Sew It Academy online school.”
Once she knew that she wanted to create an online school, she started researching various online course platforms. One of the main reasons she chose Thinkific was because of our customer support. “The customer service is outstanding”, she told us. “I would send you an Excel sheet, you would upload it for me, you made the process so easy for me to navigate because it was new to me. And that was amazing.”
Mimi also told us that Thinkific has been great for her to connect with her students and keep them informed. She also likes having the ability to create an affiliate program and turn her students into ambassadors for her course. “The affiliate program is really fantastic”, says Mimi. “If you’re not doing an affiliate program and you have a really good course, you’re missing out.” Thanks for the feedback Mimi!
The Sew It Academy is a membership site, which means that students pay a subscription fee every month in order to gain access to all the training, as well as all new training and bonuses at they are created. The reason Mimi charges a monthly subscription fee instead of a higher one-time purchase price is because she didn’t want her students to have to invest a lot of money to learn a new hobby. “I wanted people to want to learn to sew, but to do it at a rate that was affordable to everybody”, she explained. “I didn’t want anybody to not be able to join the academy because they couldn’t afford it.” She also wanted people to be able to join whenever they want, do as much or as little as they want, and move at their own pace.How Mimi G Built an Award-Winning Brand & Business Teaching Sewing Online @mimigstyle Click To Tweet
Building a sense of community among her students
One of the things we most respect about Mimi’s membership site is the strong sense of community that has developed amongst its members. When someone first joins her academy, they receive a welcome email from Mimi, and an invitation to a private Facebook group where she shares additional tips, answers questions, posts live videos, and does special giveaways for her students. Her students also get discounts on materials from some of the vendors that Mimi works with. These special “extras” help Mimi retain her students and keep them engaged in her course.
Mimi also talked to us about the incredible level of engagement she is seeing in her membership community, and the relationships that have been built between students . “They become sisters, they call each other ‘sew sisters’ and they rely on each other”, she told us. “Because everyone who starts The Sew It Academy starts at different levels, they can help each other along the way. If somebody has a question, other people help them along.”
Many of Mimi’s students have utilized the Facebook group to connect with other members in the same geographic area. “If they’re in the same city, or in the same state, they create these little groups where they can meet and talk and sew and fabric shop”, said Mimi. “That sense of community is absolutely key to having a successful membership site. It helps them stay involved on a monthly basis.”
Mimi also hosts a yearly conference in Los Angeles where all her fans, students, and others in the Mimi G Style community can come and learn and visit each other. (We love this idea!). “We do a fashion show where they get to show off everything that they’ve learned”, Mimi told us. “On Day Two we hold all-day workshops, and on Day Three we go on a fabric field trip. That was the first time I noticed I was really building a community.”
The format of her online courses
Mimi teaches everything through video; she’s a very visual person and that’s how she always loved to learn. “I was a terrible student in school. I can sit in a room and listen to people talk for hours, and as soon as I leave it’s gone”, she explained. “But if you show me how to do something, I retain it forever. So that’s how I teach. All of the classes are done on video, literally step-by-step, from very beginning to the very end when you end with your project”.
In terms of creating great content, Mimi had some great advice. “I sat down when I first started creating The Sew It Academy, and I thought of all the ways that I wish I had learned to sew. I learned to sew on my own through trial and error. I didn’t go to school and I’m completely self taught”, she told us. “I think I’m able to teach people in a very easy to understand way without a whole lot of technique talk. So that’s how I sat down and listed all the courses in a way that made sense.”
We love Mimi’s advice. Before you start creating an online course on a topic that you’re now an expert on, try to recall what it was like for you to learn that skill as a beginner. What tools did you use that you found especially helpful? What resources weren’t available to you that you wish you had? Was there a format you wish you had learned in that would make retaining the knowledge easier? You can use all this information to create a better online course for your students.
Tips on creating a strong personal brand and building your tribe
Mimi doesn’t just have followers, she has Mimi G Style brand ambassadors who travel from all over the country and the world to come to her annual conference. We were curious to learn how Mimi managed to build such a loyal audience of ravings fans. Here are some tips she shared with us:
1. Post great content and post consistently
“What I think launched this part of my life and my career is that I was providing something that nobody else was really providing at the time. There were a ton of DIY-ers and there were a ton of craft sites, but no one really doing fashion sewing and then teaching other people to do it too” Mimi recalls. “Having really great content that you are able to share and doing it on a consistent basis is really what helped my audience grow.”
Mimi told us about how her audience loved the reassurance of knowing what was coming each week. “They knew I was always going to be posting something”, said Mimi. “Four days a week I was blogging and giving them new content and new tutorials.” Mimi is so organized with her content planning; she treats it like a magazine’s editorial calendar. She told us that she already has 2017 all planned out!
2. Build trust with your audience by giving content away for free
Mimi also told us that one of the main reasons her audience trusts her and believes in her is because she spent so much time sharing her content for free without asking for anything in return. “For the first year and a half I gave everything I did away for free”, she explained. “I think a lot of the time content creators are thinking ‘sell, sell, sell’, but really what helps grow your audience is that they feel like you’re not trying to sell, sell, sell them. My audience has grown to know that it’s not about the money for me it’s about creating useful information.”
Clearly, Mimi’s approach of give first, and sell later has worked out well for her. “You have to create really good and valuable content, do it on a consistent basis, and then give a lot of information away for free because then when it comes time for you to sell something, they not only do it because they don’t think they’re being sold all the time, but really because they try to support you.”
3. Be authentic online
Mimi spoke about how many teachers and online course creators aren’t necessarily public people, but that in order to have a successful online course they need to be willing to become the face of their brands. That doesn’t mean creating a persona that isn’t authentic. It means being authentic, and using platforms like YouTube and social media to be authentic and let people get to know you on a personal level.
“People don’t connect to my courses. They connect to me”, Mimi explained. “With social media people want to know you. They want to know the people behind whatever they’re supporting and so the more personal you are, the more you share, the more you let people in, the greater chance you have of connecting and really building an audience that is loyal and is really going to translate to sales at the end of the day.”
Marketing strategies for launching your courses
With thousands of students from around the world, Mimi has certainly done an excellent job of marketing her course and enrolling new students on a regular basis. We asked her to sharesome of her best online course marketing advice. Here are some tips she gave us:
1. Send out feelers to your community and ask what they want to learn
Mimi said one of the first things she did when building out her course was send out feelers to her audience. “I went into my groups and I said, ‘Hey I’m thinking of starting this course, or this academy. What would you like to see? What would you like to learn? How would you like to learn it?”, she recalls. “I think that’s one of the things that most people don’t do. Send out feelers! Ask the people what it is they want to see.”
2. It’s more about the build-up than the actual launch date
After she sent out feelers and created content based on what her audience wanted to know, Mimi did a ‘soft launch’ for her course where she opened registration for one week only then closed it again. Before the soft launch, she made sure to promote the launch date on all her social media channels, through email campaigns, and more to generate awareness and excitement.
“Every day I posted something. We did countdowns, we did live Periscopes, and answered questions”, she recalls. “And then by the time we launched we had done something every single day up to that launch date that it went crazy.” After the course’s main launch, Mimi said she teased her audience again with an email campaign with special course discounts, and by opening enrollments for a month and then shutting them down once more. “It’s really more about the build-up than it is about the actual launch date, and being able to promote to as many people as you can and focusing on the fanbase that you have.”
3. It doesn’t matter how big (or small) your audience is, it’s about how you engage with them
“I see a lot of people who have large followings but don’t have the engagement, so numbers really don’t matter”, said Mimi. “So if you have five people who support your content and who are visible, then those are the people you need to cater to. Those are the people you share to.”
It’s been almost five years since Mimi started her blog. Even though she says that’s not a long time, she’s been able to grow a really loyal audience from the small number of people based on how she’s engaged personally with them. “It doesn’t matter how many people you have, it’s more about how you connect and engage with them, and then get them to help you promo, and market and share what you’re doing.”How Mimi G Built an Award-Winning Brand & Business Teaching Sewing Online @mimigstyle Click To Tweet
Advice for first time course creators
1. Have patience and grow your audience first
Although you may think you have a wonderful idea for a successful course, it’s worth putting the time and energy in building a following and interested audience first. “You need to put the work in beforehand”, says Mimi. “Really have the patience to grow the audience, to market it, to promo it. It’s so much more beneficial than if you just think, ‘Oh I have this great course and people are going to love it and they’re going to come.’ First of all, where are they going to find you? How are they going to know?” Build an audience before you build a course. Great advice, Mimi.
2. Don’t let other people deter you
Mimi told us that when she has an idea, she keeps it to herself for a while and crafts it into a well thought out plan before she shares with anyone else. “Keep it to yourself, work on it. Don’t let other people deter you from doing something that you really want to do or that you really believe in. Most of the most successful people in the world, other people thought they were nuts, but they believed in what they were doing and they could see the end of the road.”
3. Stop planning and just do it
“Just do it”, says Mimi. “People plan and over-plan everything. They fill their time thinking of ways they’re going to do it, filling out a bunch of things, busy working themselves to death thinking that, ‘as long as I’m continuously thinking, and talking about it, I’m really doing something, but you’re not. You’re not doing anything at all. There’s planning and preparation, but then you have to put that into action.”
Thanks for sharing your insights with us Mimi!
To learn more about Mimi G or her sewing academy, visit MimiGStyle.comHow Mimi G Built an Award-Winning Brand & Business Teaching Sewing Online @mimigstyle Click To Tweet