By Ann Luongo
When Marci Tyldesley first took an interest in sewing as a child, she could have no idea what future lay in store for her. Now the proud owner of The Cape Cod Bag Company, she sees that, in those early years, her childhood hobby was paving the way to her becoming an entrepreneur.
“I had stopped sewing for the better part of 20 years while I pursued a career in public relations,” she says. “I’ve worked for nearly 20 years now as a publicist and event planner.”
However, fate would eventually intervene. A few years ago, during a particularly long and cold winter, she was searching for a creative hobby to help pass the time.
“I went on a scouting mission to Murray’s Fabrics in Orleans to look at sewing machines,” she says. “My impulses got the best of me, and I bought one on the spot.” She then enrolled in some classes and discovered that she really loved making bags. “I couldn’t stop, and eventually decided that I had to do something with all of them, so I started doing craft shows.”
Craft shows, she says, were a great way for her to enter and test the market. Her three years on the ‘show circuit’ allowed her to see what people liked but, even more importantly, to test her pricing model. These shows also helped Tyldesley refine the aesthetics of her line.
“I like to think it’s a little more polished now. I still love doing shows and will continue to do some. It’s a fun way to meet people and expand my geographic reach.” She adds that she’ll be doing a show in Wellesley this coming November. “That’s a demo that I probably wouldn’t reach otherwise.”
Deciding the time was finally right to choose a name for her fledgling business venture, she went from The Brewster Stitch to The Nauset Stitch Company, before finally settling on The Cape Cod Bag Company. Her product line now extends from beach bags, both large and small, to totes, cosmetic bags, wristlets, and more – all with a whimsical, coastal theme.
“I’m inspired by all things coastal,” she says. “Many of my bags are screen-printed with nautical images, like whales and anchors. The fabrics I lean towards generally have warm coastal hues. If left to my own devices, everything I made would be shades of blue, green, and tan – the colors of the beach. Luckily, my customers help me expand my color palette with their suggestions and custom orders.”
Beach bags continue to be big business for her. “I started out making beach bags and that will probably remain the core of my business. But I’ve found out that women absolutely love bags and have very specific wants, so I’ve expanded the line to include bags of varying sizes and am offering more customization. To keep my creative juices flowing, I also experiment with different items when I have time – things like Christmas stockings and pillows.”
This past January, Tyldesley was fortunate enough to move into a new home on Route 6A in Brewster that had studio space available – perfect for her very own shop. “I was able to hang a shingle and am now selling right out of my studio,” she says. “It’s been a slow and steady growth, and it’s been terrific!”
Her clientele ranges from summer visitors to the Cape to year-round residents. Her online shop offers a small selection of her products as well. “Since this is my first summer in my studio, time will tell how successful I’ll be. In the few years I’ve been doing craft shows, I’d say I’ve had a healthy mix of clients. I’ve been lucky to build up a small local clientele that’s been very loyal.”
This summer, for the first time, she’s enlisted the help of some talented local sewing friends who are helping out on freelance basis, she says. “I put a lot of care and detail into my bags, so it’s a time-consuming process. If I’m going to grow at all, I expect I’ll continue needing help, whether it’s ad hoc or on a more consistent basis.”
Not surprisingly, Tydesley’s favorite place to spend her very limited free time is at the beach, where she finds inspiration for her creative outlet.
“We have some of the most beautiful beaches here on the Cape. I’m inspired by all things coastal. The funny part about owning a small business on the Cape is that I’m not sure I’ll ever make it to the beach again!”
Tydesley still freelances and works on a part-time basis for Regan Communications/Pierce Coté Advertising. Working as a publicist and event planner while trying to grow her own business has been a challenge, she says. “I often find myself getting up at 4 a.m., doing my PR job on the computer for a few hours, and then heading into my studio to sew. Inevitably, I’ll have to head out at least a few afternoons each week for meetings and events with PR clients. It’s a constant juggling act. Fortunately, my family and friends have been hugely supportive and helpful.”
Tydesley is the proud parent to three dogs – two Bernese Mountain Dogs and a Great Pyrenees. “I’m a huge dog lover and as part of my PR gig, I work with Agway to help plan the Paw Palooza dog festival,” she says. “In my personal time, which has been scant this year, I love to relax on the beach, run, and take sewing classes.
“I really believe that the Cape, despite its seasonality, is a wonderful place to grow a small business,” she says. “We’re a tight-knit group and I’ve found that locals love to support their local businesses, and small businesses are incredibly supportive of each other. I feel a real sense of support and community, and that’s been awesome.”