Welcome to Chicago North Shore Moms weekly Meet a Mom series where we feature one local mama, what they’re up to both personally and professionally. This week’s Meet a Mom feature is the lovely Glenview native, brand new mama for the first time and owner of the Ciao Bella Sewing Studio in Winnetka, Taylor Ioannou! Taylor tells us about the passion that helped form her business, and how life and her business has adapted to the pandemic. Her projects are clever and adorable and might have you craving the need to craft your very own scrunchies, fleece pj bottoms and more… from the comfort of your home! Welcome Taylor!
Hi Taylor! Please introduce yourself.
Hi, my name is Taylor Ioannou and I’m a local Chicago native. I am biased, but I do love the city and love the North Shore. I grew up in Glenview and now I live in the city on the north side.
You’re a mama! How many kiddos do you have and how old are they?
I’m a new Mama! I just had my first baby, a little girl, born on 10/10/2020. She already is filling our lives with so much love, joy and endless snuggles.
Congratulations! Such joy! Well, so far what’s your favorite thing about being a mom?
So far, being a mom is great! It’s full of new experiences and I am learning so much. I love how rewarding it is (babies are an absolute blessing). I’m sure once baby girl gets a little older, I’ll have many more favorite things about being a mom. For now, I especially love the endless snuggles and I am embracing the night time bonding hours.
What was it like to give birth during the pandemic and what’s it like having a newborn right now?
Being pregnant and giving birth during a pandemic was interesting for many reasons. Since it was my first pregnancy, I didn’t actually have anything to compare it to. There was a lot of fear and unknown factors. Leading into the birth, the Doctors were very concerned about their patients testing positive for COVID. For the entire month prior to my due date I stayed in “hibernation” to make sure I wouldn’t test positive for COVID. The hospital (Prentice/Northwestern) did a fabulous job to ensure the safety of me and baby! You were only allowed one guest at the hospital, so my husband stayed with us the entire time. Right now, having a newborn is actually wonderful because you are almost forced to lay low, relax and enjoy time with the baby in the comfort of your own home. But, it is also very challenging because the additional help is limited because of COVID (my family takes COVID safety very seriously and we all are trying to make the safest decisions for our families).
Do you take your daughter to work with you?
I only take my daughter to the Studio if I know no one else is there. Prior to COVID, I would not hesitate to take her with. However, now it’s a different story. In the future, after COVID, I am excited to take her with me and hopefully she’ll enjoy sewing as much as I do.
Any tips for staying sane during the pandemic?
Quarantine life has its challenges. I’m a big list maker and making lists during the quarantine has kept me sane & productive. It’s the only way I can track the days and tasks ahead. Otherwise, the days tend to blend together and it can get a little overwhelming.
If you have any podcasts or apps that help inspire you, calm you, help you run your business or organize your life, what are your faves?
My favorite podcast is Skimm’d from the Couch. I absolutely love every single episode. The founders (women owned) interview powerful female entrepreneurs, business leaders, managers, etc. Their podcast truly inspires me- I love listening and learning how women successfully “make it” in the working world. *Of course check out their podcast and if you don’t subscribe to their daily newsletter, The Skimm, you should! It’s my go-to for daily news.
What is one thing people would be surprised to know about you…
Many people don’t know that I have three sisters & that means I am one of four girls. Growing up, I was always surrounded by my parents & sisters. In the best way possible, they all have had a huge influence on me. As a result, I truly value family time and I am so thankful my parents & all of my sisters also live locally. It has been really challenging not seeing them as much because of the pandemic, but I am thankful for technology- especially FaceTime. It helps us stay connected!
Favorite local takeout restaurants?
I love Avli (Greek food) and Grateful Bites (pizza). Both are located in Winnetka and their food is delicious.
Please introduce Ciao Bella Sewing Studio!
I am the owner of Ciao Bella Sewing Studio located in Winnetka. At the Studio we teach children and adults the art of sewing and fashion design. We also teach sewing classes at local park districts and community centers. As a company, we are most proud of the fact that we support the arts. We strive to be a welcoming & creative presence in the community. I started Ciao Bella Sewing as a part-time passion project four or five years ago. Then, over time I continued to grow and expand the business. For the past several years, I transitioned from running Ciao Bella Sewing as a part time endeavour to my full time career. I couldn’t be more thankful for every opportunity that I have had over the years. Doing what you love requires a lot of hard work and can present many challenges but the reward is endless.
How has your business adapted to all of the changes due to COVID?
We’ve had to limit the amount of students in each class to allow for social distancing. We also are now offering a lot more private lessons and small groups. That has actually been a benefit of the pandemic. Private lessons are great for anyone really interested in sewing. We have seen a lot of really great projects lately!
Who are your influencers and/or mentors that have helped you get to where you are today and/or continue to inspire you.
My husband and family are by far the best influencers I have. They continue to motivate me and they always have encouraged me to follow my passion. Starting and running Ciao Bella Sewing is truly my passion and I am so thankful & blessed for the endless support that I have from my family.
What was your career prior to Ciao Bella?
Before Ciao Bella Sewing I worked for a local Park District and oversaw their art department and special events.
How did you muster up the guts to start your own business?
Truthfully it was something I always wanted to do. I tried a few different ideas before Ciao Bella Sewing. I thought I was going to be a private event planner or wedding planner at some point, but those ideas never developed. Ciao Bella Sewing was a good idea that patrons were actually interested in. I started it for fun and just worked endlessly to turn it into a full time career.
Has sewing always been a passion of yours?
Yes! I have always LOVED to sew. It is a true passion of mine. Even now, in my free time, I am always sewing. I love making projects for myself but really I LOVE making projects for my family and friends. Both of my grandmas sewed and they taught me how to sew. I also took several fashion design and sewing classes at the School of the Art Institute. I went to Glenbrook South High School and they also had a great fashion & sewing program. I continued to develop my skills over time and throughout the years. I am still learning new sewing skills!
What was the timeline for your business from start to finish?
I came up with the idea in Spring and started teaching classes in the Fall. This was great timing because I was able to pitch my classes to local Park Districts in the Spring and then start the classes during the Fall. After a few months of teaching classes, popularity of the classes were growing and lots of patrons were asking for private lessons. That is when I decided to open the Studio in Winnetka. I had a very small Studio at first and just upgraded a year ago to the store front location in Winnetka.
What has been your most popular sewing project?
The most popular project, by far, is PJ Pants! It is a great project for all of our students. We run at least two PJ Pants workshop per month and they are always so popular.
You have virtual classes now, what do people need at home to prepare for that?
We actually mail all of the supplies that you would need for the virtual classes. This includes, fabric, stuffing and a hand sewing kit. All of the virtual classes are hand sewing, making it easy for everyone!
What advice can you give other mamas out there who are looking to start a new business in the current climate?
The best advice I can give to other Mamas who are looking to start a new business is to actually try and start a business. It is better to try and have it not work out, than not to try at all. Often times, we (myself included) find lots of excuses as to why we can’t do something. However, more times than not we are prohibited by fear. Now might be the best time to start a new business, but you’ll never know unless you try.
What’s on the horizon for your business? Future aspirations, plans….
We are continuing to be as flexible as possible due to the Pandemic. We have expanded our class offerings to meet the needs of our customers. This year has taught us that being flexible and innovative is key to surviving and thriving during these challenging times. For now, we just have one Studio in Winnetka but we would love to open up another Studio in the future and keep growing the business. We will also try and be as innovative and trendy as possible. It is important for us to remain as a fun and creative space for our customers.