Just keep stitchin’: NHS senior Delaney Shoemaker is building her new embroidery business one stitch at a time

Shoemaker poses with one of her many embroidery designs. She sold many autumn-themed products this fall.

Photo by M. Vitale

Shoemaker poses with one of her many embroidery designs. She sold many autumn-themed products this fall.

McKenzie Vitale and Maggie Hoppel

Standardized tests. College or trade school applications. In looking for the answer to that-age old question, “What’s next?” between school, home, and extracurricular obligations, senior year can be busy for many students. But Delaney Shoemaker has yet another thing on her plate: her new embroidery business.

Shoemaker, an NHS senior, started her business, called The Stitch Maker, in October of 2021, fulfilling a long-held creative passion. 

“I’ve always been really crafty with a bunch of things, but I didn’t know about embroidery machines until a week before fall break,” Shoemaker said, “Then I found out they existed, and I really wanted one.”

So, what is embroidery? It’s the application of thread onto fabric in a specific design or image. While embroidery was originally stitched by hand, many people today—including Shoemaker—use automatic embroidery machines for a more efficient process. Similar to printers, these machines receive instructions from a computer software that processes the user’s digital designs. 

“[The software] was pretty difficult to learn how to use because I’m not much into coding or anything like that, but I had to learn how to download it, update it, and get it all going,” Shoemaker said, “I learned how to sketch on there and draw my designs. Then, you upload the design onto a USB, which you plug into the machine, and then it stitches the design out.”

Shoemaker’s designs can be found on a variety of products, including t-shirts, polos, and sweatshirts.

Once Shoemaker was confident in her knowledge of how the machine worked, it didn’t take long for her to begin putting her products up for sale. 

“I started making designs for my fall orders, and so I sent out a form for a bunch of people to put in their orders,” Shoemaker said, “I had a bunch of different sweatshirts in different colors and sizes and designs that they chose.”

However, there was a small problem: although Shoemaker had familiarized herself with the software the embroidery machine required and sent out the order forms for the products, the embroidery machine hadn’t actually been delivered yet. 

“I downloaded the software before I got the machine to make sure I knew how to use it, so I didn’t just waste a bunch of money on a machine that I don’t know how to use,” Shoemaker said. 

Now, it was a matter of waiting for her machine’s arrival so that Shoemaker could deliver the orders that her new customers had already made. 

“That was very nerve-wracking, that I had a bunch of orders placed and no way to make them,” Shoemaker said.

Luckily, Shoemaker’s worries were for naught. Her new embroidery machine arrived right on time, and, just like that, The Stitch Maker was born.

“It was very exciting because I had this big idea in my head and I wasn’t sure if anybody would actually be interested in it,” Shoemaker said. 

Around NHS, word of Shoemaker’s new business spread, and she’s been busy embroidering for her customers ever since.

“For my fall orders, I did a pumpkin, a skeleton, and a couple [other designs],” Shoemaker said. 

For a more personalized experience, Shoemaker also accepts the occasional custom order.

“My friend actually just yesterday ordered a shirt for her other friend’s birthday, and she really likes the movie “Coco,” so I’m designing the dog from “Coco,” Dante,” Shoemaker said. 

And, for those who don’t see her regularly in the halls of Noblesville High School, Shoemaker has begun to sell her products online. 

“I just launched my Instagram page, and that has a few more designs on it too,” Shoemaker said. 

As for Shoemaker’s best customers? They’re her friends. As Shoemaker began to sell her embroidered products, friends like Ava Shanehsaz were eager to support her. 

“I was super excited for her. She’s literally a queen at art stuff, so I knew she would be able to start her own business if she wanted to,” Shanehsaz said. 

Shanehsaz was also one of the first to try out some of Shoemaker’s products. 

“She’s actually done mostly custom orders for me, and they are so cute,” said Shanehsaz.

However, Shoemaker isn’t just a business owner. She’s also a student, an employee at Stony Creek Elementary’s after-school program, and a future college attendee. So, once her fall break ended, she had to find a new way to keep The Stitch Maker alive while continuing to honor her other commitments. 

“To design the shirts was a lot more time consuming than I had anticipated. My more complicated designs will take a couple hours to actually design in the software, and then if they’re more complicated, they take longer to print,” Shoemaker said. 

Her solution required a slight change in the way The Stitch Maker was run. 

“I sort of transitioned from doing orders, because those you kind of had to do in bulk in order to buy the shirts in bulk cheaper, versus just one at a time, which is what I do now through my Instagram,” Shoemaker said.

This process makes for slower sales, Shoemaker reports, but it’s much more manageable with her busy lifestyle. 

Meanwhile, Shoemaker’s parents brought her attention to some additional challenges. From the machine to the products and other supplies, embroidery can consume not only time, but space.

“At first, my parents were nervous about the machine because you’re like, where are you going to put it and everything,” Shoemaker said. “So, I promised to keep all the supplies in my room and in the trunk of my car, and, so far, we’ve stayed true to that.”

Her parents were also wary of The Stitch Maker’s starting costs. 

“[Shoemaker] purchased the embroidery machine and supplies with her own earnings from her other jobs,” said Shoemaker’s parents, Tricia and Scott Shoemaker. 

A casual Google search reveals that this was no small feat. An embroidery machine alone costs hundreds of dollars. Within the Shoemaker family, the sudden purchase raised some eyebrows. 

“They wanted to make sure I was being smart with my money,” Shoemaker said. 

However, this, too, is a problem that Shoemaker approached with determination and positivity. And it’s paying off— only a few weeks into the business, she is already starting to recover the costs.

“I’ve made back almost half the money I spent,” Shoemaker said. “I’m pretty confident that I will be able to eventually turn a profit.”

Now, as Shoemaker’s business grows, her parents have a front row seat to her creativity, and they are thoroughly enjoying the view. 

“One of the coolest aspects is to see how excited she gets when she makes the designs for the shirts,” the Shoemakers said. “It’s fun to work with her on some of the business concepts as well as see her entrepreneurial spirit.”

Throughout the process of bringing The Stitch Maker to life, Shoemaker met challenge after challenge with a can-do attitude. Tyler Millbee, an NHS business teacher, says that this is a common, but nonetheless impressive, trait for successful business owners. 

“I think that starting one’s own business is an amazing and daunting endeavor,” said Millbee. “Becoming an entrepreneur is not for everyone, you have to be self driven and okay with the unknown and potential failure.”

For a new business, starting from the ground up can be one of the biggest challenges. Outside support can often mean the difference between success and failure. Luckily, according to Shoemaker, there are more ways to support businesses like hers than just forking over the moola for a t-shirt. 

“Definitely share if you can’t buy,” said Shoemaker. “One of my friends …. recently shared one of my Insta posts because she told me she wasn’t able to buy anything right now, but she was very excited for me.”

And, for her peers that aspire to someday start their own businesses, be it for embroidery or pet sitting or candle making, Shoemaker also has a message. 

“Like I said, I’ve always been really crafty, so it’s always been kind of in the back of my mind to sell the things that I make,” Shoemaker said. “But once I learned about the machine, I kind of knew what I had to do, it was just taking that first step to do it that was hard. So, I guess my advice would just be to do it, because a lot of times you know what to do, it’s just a leap of faith to actually do it.”