Quality Clothing Alterations
Altered Ego is a clothing alteration outfit on Main Street in Moscow, ID dedicated to textile sustainability and community enrichment since 2014. They offer all sorts of alterations and garment repair from zipper replacements to wedding dresses. We spoke with Sara, owner and founder of Altered Ego, to learn more about the history of this this thriving homegrown business.
All In A Day’s Work-Study
Sara grew up in Boise, ID and moved to Moscow to attend the University of Idaho, where she pursued a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Technical Theater. While there, she obtained a work-study position in the theater’s costume shop, where she started sewing every day. Many of the costumes were made from scratch, and Sara got very comfortable with doing alteration after alteration. As her skills grew, she became passionate about the work, and began to think about how she could make this passion her career.
Volunteering Builds A Business
Nearing the end of her degree, Sara befriended Chelsey through a pattern-making class, and she offered to help Chelsey with her home-based alterations business. As luck would have it, Chelsey was beginning an entrepreneurship class with another friend of hers, and the three of them began to build the business plan for what would become Altered Ego.
Business Plan Competition
Sara credits the work they did in this class, as well as the tremendous advice and tutelage they received from the Professor George Tanner and his Teaching Assistants, for setting them up for success. As part of the class, they entered a business plan competition, which they would go on to win. Sara said,
“This competition really prepared them for just about everything going forward, from feedback on our elevator pitch to providing means to address upcoming issues.”
Downtown Main Street
At the time, there were several people in the area running alteration enterprises out of their own homes, but there was not a dedicated storefront in Moscow to such services. Their mentors pushed them to consider a space in Downtown Moscow, even as they were considering a cheaper location further out of town. They decided on a bit of a compromise and signed the lease on a small space on the second floor of a building on Main Street, which was significantly less expensive than a similar space on the ground floor, where Altered Ego is still located today. Sara could not be happier with the decision, as Main Street has really blossomed in the time since Altered Ego opened, putting them at the heart of a bustling commercial district.
Business Plan Competition Winner
With lease payments rolling in on top of the other costs associated with opening a new business, Altered Ego’s initial issue was coming up with the capitol to help cover these expenses while the business got rolling. They were buoyed by the $4000 they received from winning the business plan competition, but they really wanted to avoid taking out a loan at all costs. George Tanner steered them toward the University of Idaho’s GAP Fund, which provides funds to student teams competing in the annual business plan competition to launch their businesses, from which they obtained another $4500.
Getting The Word Out
Now with some breathing room, Sara and her business partner set to work on their next major hurdle, getting the word out on their new business. Their budget was still very tight, so traditional means of advertisement like direct mail, print ads, and magazine and newspaper articles were out of their reach. Sara soon found, however, that word of mouth is the strongest force in Moscow. Altered Ego became part of the Moscow Chamber of Commerce and were featured on the Chamber Minute, which airs on local radio stations and is included with their membership fee.
As their visibility grew, Sara says it was then a matter of proving their abilities and building relationships. Altered Ego approached Macy’s directly, as she knew that they contracted out most of their alterations work. The garment manager at Macy’s would not recommend Altered Ego to anyone without first seeing the quality of work, and so she sent them a suit to test their skills. Altered Ego passed with flying colors, and the referrals began to come in. They now have similar relationships with Tri-State Outfitters, Moscow Sherriff’s Department, Idaho State Highway Patrol, and local knitting supply shop Yarn Underground.
Referral Business Grows
With their referral business growing, Altered Ego simultaneously developed a sterling reputation among individual clients. They are highly rated on Google, Facebook, and Yelp, and are the first result when one searches for anything related to textile alterations and repairs in Moscow on the Internet, where their reputation for excellent, timely work, great customer service, and passion for sustainability continue to impress.
Repairing Instead Of Replacing Clothes
In addition to the tremendously rewarding new garment and bridal alterations portion of their business, Altered Ego is dedicated to doing their part to help curb the 21 billion pounds of textile waste added to landfills every year by urging their clients to repair their clothes instead of replacing them.
Sara says, “The goal is to sustain textiles for as long as possible. You may spend more on repairing a garment than you paid originally, but it stays out of a landfill.”
Sara did countless zipper repairs on jackets this winter, as an example, as well as consistent work on rehabilitating legacy garments and thrift store finds.
The Palouse Advantage
As for her decision to put down roots on the Palouse, Sara reflects,
“Moscow is the perfect place for us to have started Altered Ego. So many people are conscientious about the environment and of supporting local businesses.”
She notes the thriving downtown, access to resources and advice through the startup process and well after launch, the growing population, and a community that really wants to see its own succeed as key factors to making Moscow such a hospitable place to start a business.
Make An Appointment Today!
If you need a pair of pants hemmed, a sweater repaired, or a wedding dress customized, make an appointment at Altered Ego and know you and your garments will be well taken care of. Altered Ego also offers sewing classes from time to time and is working on a bra-making curriculum, as well, so be sure to check out Altered Ego for more information or to schedule an appointment.