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Conversations with Samantha Gifaldi

Today we’d like to introduce you to Samantha Gifaldi. 

Hi Samantha, we’d love for you to start by introducing yourself.
After graduating from the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT), I worked in a few entry-level jobs within the fashion industry in New York City. Naturally, these positions didn’t pay well, but they provided me the opportunity to gain valuable experience and connections. In three years, I finally landed my dream job as a Manger of the Product Development Department at a watch company. I worked for that same company for 13 years and learned about production, development, designing, costs, and got to travel overseas 8 times a year. 

In 2014 I found myself a single mother in NYC with all my family living here in FL. So, I made the decision to sell everything I owned, pack up my essentials, and my infant daughter, and move to Port Saint Lucie, FL to be near my family. 

I was unemployed for the first time in many years and knew I had to do something to bring in some income. All my experience was in the fashion industry, so naturally, I wanted to explore opportunities in that field. Needless to say, there were not many fashion design positions available in Port Saint Lucie, FL. At that time, my sister was making tutus and hairbows, so I started helping her out. I thought, why are we not making matching shirts to go with these sets? So, I began to research embroidery. I knew very little about it, so I read, watched videos, and spent time in a local sewing shop. I asked questions and asked for demonstrations to the point of annoyance…but I learned. 

Soon, I decided to take the plunge. I purchased a starter single needle embroidery machine and continued my learning, experimenting with techniques until late at night. After perfecting a few designs, I listed some shirts in my sister’s shop, then soon opened my own Etsy shop. As the sales arrived, I created new designs and quickly realized I needed to upgrade my machine. After a few months, it was clear that if I was going to pursue this as a career, I would need a commercial machine. 

Alright, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall, and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
Nothing is ever a smooth road when you are first starting a business. In the beginning, it’s mostly trial and error, but with a steady focus, progress is achieved. Getting customers and a client base is difficult and takes a concerted effort. I chose to open my shop on Etsy simply because there is already an established customer base in place. That said, you still have to attract users to your shop. I tried to come up with a design every few days. I embroidered each on a shirt, and carefully photographed them for shop listings. You cross your fingers daily and hope someone will take a chance on a new shop. Once orders started to come in, decisions must be made about equipment. I progressed from an entry-level single-needle hobby machine to the three, 15 needle commercial machines I have now. To take the plunge financially on such expensive equipment is the stuff that can give you sleepless nights. 

Can you tell our readers more about what you do and what you think sets you apart from others?
I specialize in embroidery – mostly shirts and hats but can do any fabric including pajamas, towels, blankets, robes, and scarfs. Over the years, I have created many original designs and acquired several others, most of which are now featured in my Etsy shop. Most of my orders are for children’s items, but my shop also caters to adults. I make every attempt to accommodate custom requests and have honed a process that results in a quick turnaround for my customers. I welcome orders from companies and can create or digitize any company logo to embroider. I can satisfy reasonable rush order requests and can personally deliver finished product within the general vicinity, including Orlando. Since day one of opening my shop, I have included a handwritten thank you card with each order. This does takes extra time, but I feel it’s important to give my customers this personal touch. 

I am very proud of what I’ve accomplished so far and am excited about growth potential over the next few years. My plan is to have my own website up and running soon. 

I am extremely grateful for my family; I don’t think I would be where I am today without their support. I truly love what I do, and I’m very happy that I get to be home when my daughter needs me. 

Let’s talk about our city – what do you love? What do you not love?
Orlando has so many exciting things to offer – from theme parks to restaurants to various outdoor activities. Although we are land-locked here, it’s still only a short drive to the beaches on either coast. I least like the traffic here, I-4 is a nightmare, but I think we can all agree on that! 

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Image Credits
Michelle L. Furman

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