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Meet Stitched with Love

Store name:  Stitched with Love

Owners:  Lynn Farestad — partner David Schmid was my silent partner at first but is becoming less “silent” as time goes by.

Store Location: 500 N. Custer Rd Ste 110, McKinney, TX  75071  (located in Custer Plaza)
Phone: (972) 540-5355
Region of the country:  Midwest: West North Central
Years in business: 6.5 years
Number of employees: 13
Website: www.stitchedwithlove.us
Facebook: facebook.com/Stitchedwithlove.us
Instagram: instagram.com/stitchedwithlovetx

Types of special services offered:  Fabric, patterns, notions, long-arm services, long-arm rentals and for purchase, classes, clubs and special events.

Stitched With Love gives their customers the full experience. From a beautifully organized store, to meaningful classes, to extra help with their longarm machines, quilters can expect solutions for a whole range of quilting expectations.

White shelves you can see over plus space to walk around displays gives the shop a light and airy feel.

What does the outside of your store look like? How do you enhance your curb appeal? Rock with lots of windows.  We utilize the windows to their fullest. From the outside we make sure you can tell it is a quilt shop – with words on the windows, barn quilts hanging in the windows – pieces of fencing with quilts hanging on them.

What do your customers see when they first arrive, both inside and out? Fabric, in rainbow order against the back wall, greets you.  Lots of natural light.  Our shelving isn’t higher than four feet so you can see the expanse of the whole shop.  Shelving is all white so the colors of the fabric really can shine.  A smile, a welcome, music playing in the background – laughing and help with whatever you need.

Did you intend for your daughter to be part of your store? YES! She is so creatively talented – I knew she would be key when I first thought about going into this venture. She knows me better than anyone, so knows what I am thinking, what I want or how I would handle a situation, even if I am not here.  If there is any questions, she will ask me what my priority is, so she can make sure she is tackling things in that order.  Because she is my daughter, she understood that she has to almost work harder than anyone else.  With her Graphic Art degree – I depend on her to make sure we stay true to our brand and that anything that gets added passes her approval.

How do you divide the workload? I do the scheduling of staff, schedule classes, the ordering, the back office stuff. I love math so that is right up my alley.  I also do the newsletter – gives my writing passion an outlet.  Lyssa on the other hand loves the creativity that comes with various areas – so helping people pick fabric is her love.  She also designs packaging headers, buttons, t-shirts for the shop, helps with the website. As a certified tech for Handi Quilter, she handles lots of those calls.  We both work on the floor – enjoy spending time with our customers. Lyssa works most mornings from 9 until 2.  Her husband works evenings and Lyssa days – so their boys are not in day care.  I work the full day.  Most of the time, if she is here, I am also here – but may be in the back working on my duties.

How do you manage the variety of classes you hold? We have tried so many different ways with classes.  At first we just tried to offer the basics.  Then the next year we decided we were going to try to do it like college courses – you know – Chemistry 101, 102, etc.  Where the following classes built on the first ones.  Well, while we thought it was a great idea to help people with the basic techniques – we found that people really didn’t want that.  They didn’t think they needed help on their basic techniques.  So we switched to Technique and Project curriculum.  That was received a tad better.  Now we offer classes on what excites us.  If there is a pattern we just love – we make up a small sample and offer a class.  Sometimes people will ask for a certain class – especially if a sample is hanging — and if enough interest, we find a teacher.  We do the basics – Sewing 101, Piecing 101, Intro to Foundation Paper Piecing. A new clutch or purse pattern hits – we jump on it.

Who teaches the classes and how do you manage them? I have several fantastic individuals I can pull on to teach.  Lots of time they will come to me and say they found a new pattern and would love to have a class – how can I refuse!  We have a period of time the teachers can come in, present what they would like to teach, give us the description, supply list and then together we pick dates for the calendar.  So far it has worked, some can’t teach on weekends, and others can only teach then – so the timing and days get spread out nicely.  We pay the teacher 80% of the class fees.  We also let our employees and teachers take the other classes for free,  if the class has at least two paying students in it.  Also, if the teacher has a full paying class, the employee/teacher may need to help if needed and they are able.  This has helped getting people to sign up for the classes.  The employees can talk about it from experience and the teachers can talk about them with their students – especially if it is a next step kind of class.

What are your most popular classes? A lot depends on what else we have going on at the moment.  Our Second Saturday Sampler has months that have Foundation Paper Piecing – so that class has been held every month since December and gets filled.  Piecing 101 has been huge – 4 sessions 3 hours a session – they leave with a quilt.  We keep the 101 classes fairly small – about 4 so people feel like they are getting the attention they need / want.  Anything that Natalie Rawlinson (Ticklegrass Designs) wants to teach – is sold out very quickly.  We have found that while we have it on the calendar months in advance, we don’t really start advertising it until about 3-4 weeks – then there is a sense of urgency and people flock.  If they see that it is repeated over and over again – we seem to have issues filling the class.

Which social media platforms do you use the most to reach customers? Instagram and Facebook.  I have a newsletter that goes out on Monday afternoons – my blog is at the top and the rest follows.  Funny how many people are reading the blog – I write about myself, my struggles, my accomplishments, my family  life.  I’m open and honest and it seems to draw people in – they can relate.

How does being a HandiQuilter dealer enhance your quilt shop? We only sell HandiQuilter machines.  When we first started SWL, I brought my HQ into the shop to quilt for others.  After a few years, someone asked why I wasn’t selling them.  Good question – so I contacted my local rep and we talked.  HQ is a fantastic company.  They really care about their reps, and their customers.  There are so many stories where they have gone above and beyond to help a customer – I knew that that was the kind of company I wanted to be associated with.

Do you have a technician on staff? Yes, my daughter Lyssa was my first technician.  Recently we have added Jenn to our list.  She came in to rent a machine and was hooked.  We sent her to training and the rest is history.  She loves quilting her quilts!  That’s another thing I do – as an employee, you can use my longarms for free.  I feel the more they understand the machines and can use them, the more comfortable they will be in telling others about them.

What kind of machine education do you offer customers? I have National Educators come in at least two times a year. This year it will be five times.  Every time someone hears someone else say something, it helps them learn something new.  One of the best events was Dinner with Adam.  Our customers are asking when the next one will be.  We catered in dinner, asked him questions and then he started showing us some new fun things on the machine — they loved it!  We also have monthly long arm club meetings.  If they purchased their machine from us – they get a full hot breakfast at 9am.  Then at 10am the others come and we have an organized club meeting.  We talk about maintenance, couching, the different feet, quilting for a quilt show, etc.  At the breakfast, I usually have to stop all the table conversations to ask questions and do show and tell.  They learn so much from each other. Plus, any of our customers can come in at any time and get a quick lesson or ask questions.  I would not want anyone to have to wait until the 3rd Saturday to get their questions answered.  Another thing we do that is different, Lyssa, Jenn and I give our long arm customers our cell numbers.  There is nothing worse than having your machine act up at 5:30pm on a Saturday evening and having to wait until Monday morning to get help.  They text us and we get back to them asap.  We would rather take 5 minutes from our evenings / weekends to help and get them quilting again, then have an upset person call Monday morning after missing their deadline.

How do you manage your longarm quilting business?  When we first started, I did it totally in house.  As we got busier and then turnaround time kept growing, I asked for help from people whose quilting I trusted and liked. Currently we work with a gentleman who has 3 HQ longarms going at once.  He provides fantastic service and a great turnaround.  There are times when customers will request me to long arm – and I will if I can – but most get picked up by Jeff.

What policies do you have in place for quilt drop off? We have a form the customer fills out.  While they are writing their contact information, choosing the batting, reading through our guidelines and the part of that it is a machine and that we will not be held liable, we measure the top and the back of what they brought in.  We request at least 4” on each side of the quilt – if not, we let them know right then.  Also, by measuring all 4 sides of the top, we can let them know ahead of time if their quilt is going to be crooked or wonky.  So many people think that their quilts are perfectly flat and square and seem surprised when we tell and show them it is not.  It helps then with the finished product if we warn them ahead of time.  We square and ease in as we can but when there is a 4-8” difference, you can only do so much.

How often do you change displays? I am so blessed with the skills of my team.  I have one who was a merchandising “queen” in her prior position.  How often do they change depends if there is a new line coming in that needs to be highlighted.  If we are pushing a line that hasn’t done well, then she will put together a display that highlights that fabric with other samples and it flies.  There was one time I came in and couldn’t find our thread after three passes of walking through the store. Got sort of panicked then!  Now they know to let me know the shop will be flipped and they make sure I know where the thread is.  We try to let the team know as a whole that changes are coming so they can walk through at the start of their shift and see where everything has landed.  Grunge, Solids, notions – they are mainstays that are in the same place — the others are free game.

Do you have strong relationships with designers, either locally or from somewhere else?  I like to think so.  Natalie Rawlinson from Ticklegrass Designs tested her first pattern at our shop.  She was a customer and teacher and then started putting down in writing her ideas.  Now she has quite a few patterns and is still a very popular teacher.  Anytime she gets a new pattern, there is a class.  I saw Eye Candy Quilts at a market – their mini line they title as “Fierce”.  So “Fierce Ladies”, etc.  On the back of the “Fierce” patterns, they have the quote, “though she be but little, she is fierce…”  That resonated with me on so many levels.  When I first started, I felt like this teeny tiny fish in the huge pond that is known as quilt stores.  I felt so out of place and doubted myself in so many areas.  Then I met these ladies and saw the quote – I bought every one of their patterns – especially the “fierce” ones.  I had them come to the shop to do a trunk and workshop and have been following them and supporting them since.  Now when she has a new pattern, she will drop me one – send me a sample to display – it works out really well.  I think when you build relationships with the designers it benefits both of you.  I really want to support local designers – I remember how it was when we first started out – want to help them as much as I can.

A wool purse is a free pattern from Emmaline Bags – The Puffy Coin Purse.

You’re adding Sue Spargo wool applique and quilting to your store. What went into making the decision to do this?  When I first started, there were two other established quilt stores in McKinney.  I really tried to not carry what they were known for, and though there was some overlap.  Two years ago, the longest running store closed their brick and mortar and then two months ago, the other one closed.  I met with my team and my vendors to figure out what was going to missing in the area with the closing.  Wool was one.  We are a bright store and Sue’s wool colors are bright and vibrant.  A great fit in my opinion.  There was also a panic about where the local wool addicts club was going to be able to meet and get their supplies so for us, it was a no brainer.  The leader of the club stopped by, shared some of her samples and we talked.  Jill is bringing her club to our shop and is helping me order and set up our wool section.  She already has classes on the calendar and people are signing up.  We showed her work and the velvet and wool at the SSS meeting – where we have 106 individuals listening to all we say and show them – and the buzz was created and is growing. We now have wool, needles, threads, patterns, books and there is still so much to get.  But it is all so very exciting.

You have an engaged Chamber of Commerce. How has their involvement enhanced your store and your recognition in the community? Yes, our Chamber is very good.  Before I even opened I went through the Chambers SCORE program where I was teamed up with a retired business owner.  He helped me with my business plan, my financials, finding a building to lease etc.  He encouraged me to take advantage of the other offerings the Chamber had.  I know I try to go through the Chamber listing when needing a service.  Anytime your name is out there – whether it is in their new resident basket, their website, or a Facebook video, it gets you and your business out where others can see it.  Still after so many years, people still say they didn’t know we were here.  Any and all publicity helps. Our Chamber included SWL in a recent video.

How has your store evolved since your first day? Lyssa officially resigned her job in July and we started working in my dining room at home.  Felix was 3 months, so now at 7, I can say he really has grown up in the shop.  We met with venders, started receiving fabric, cutting FQ’s, samples, etc until we moved into our building, officially opening in January of 2013.  I thought that everyone would love what I loved.  Why wouldn’t they?  We had a crib set up with nursery fabrics, we had bright fabrics, some batiks, very few Grunge and some 30’s fabrics.  I was trying to make my own path compared to the other existing stores.  Very quickly I learned that what I loved might not be what everyone wanted to purchase. I learned that the modern new mothers didn’t want nursery fabrics, even though the grandmothers did so that got phased out.  Learned that the name Grunge didn’t scare people away, but in fact used it as a fantastic blender – so now we carry every single Grunge that is available.  I learned that when you carry some fabrics – like Reproductions, 30’s etc., you can’t just carry 50 bolts, you need quite a few so they have choices. Over time, we evolved.  We figured out what notions people are purchasing and how to track what is still selling and what is slowing down.  It was important to me not to have anything hanging from the ceiling – wanted for people to see the whole shop so that has taken some creativity. I learned quickly to rotate and change displays. People find new things all the times.  Even the team does.  We have changed what classes and services we offer but we still make sure everyone is greeted with a smile, that they feel like they are the most important person who has walked through the shop.  We know that not everyone who comes in is really looking for fabric – but they are looking for their “safe” place, their place to escape to – and we want to be that for them.

The lag bolt wall defines fabric lines. Framed quilt blocks above add inspiration.

Do you take business classes, either online or locally? Where do you learn how to manage your business? I spent 30 years in the Human Resource field before opening my shop.  The Chamber offers classes periodically, like accounting for a nonaccountant that I took advantage of.  While my degree is in I/O Psychology, I did take business classes as part of that course work.  I thought with my experience this wouldn’t be too difficult.  Hahaha — I think I have a leg up because of my background – but nothing can prepare you for owning your own business. It is all you.  There is no CEO that makes decisions and then you work forward – you are the person making the decisions and it isn’t always easy.  There are many times I wish I could just have someone else make the decision but that isn’t the reality.

How do you balance your life? Wow, think that is a work in progress.  I take Wednesdays off and I treat them as sacred.  My father has Alzheimer’s so I spend lots of my Wednesdays taking him to appointments, errands or just spending time with him.  I can watch my three grandsons then, have my own appointments, sew, whatever needs to be done. I know I have that day that is set aside for that.I also go to Spring Market, HQ Retail Academy and try to spend time with my sister once a year.  I also try to get to Tennessee at least once a year to see my boys, and their families and my other three grandsons

Do you have a hobby that isn’t sewing related? Music, gardening, my grandsons and DIY around my house.  Trimming out my windows, putting down hardwood flooring, new baseboards, etc.  Takes me a while since my time is limited and I’m learning as I’m going – but boy, sometimes just pulling the carpet up, or using a nail gun is so freeing and relaxing in a different way.  I’m not afraid of trying new things and if something is too heavy – I call my son-in-law who is always willing to come and be muscle for me.  But seeing the finished project all pretty and shiny knowing I did it with my own two hands – so rewarding.

What are the store successes you’re most proud of? I think that I even tried it.  It was a dream that was made into a reality.  I kept telling myself that even if we don’t “make” it, I need to be proud of the fact that I tried  I have doubted so many of my decisions and my own capabilities, but did not give up.  There have been many mornings that I have started my day listening to Carrie Underwood singing The Champion or Kelly Clarkson singing Stronger.  There are so many things you really don’t know when you start your own business – such as having to pay Property Tax on your inventory.  Learning about all the tax filings and payroll filings.  Wondering if it is even worth it all. Then a customer comes in and gives you a hug because they read the blog and it hit home with them.  They realize they are not alone and they have a place they can come to de-stress and feed their hobby.  What is my biggest success?  That’s hard.  I didn’t give up, we didn’t give up and we are helping others not to either.  No matter what their “battle” is, they can come here to refocus, learn something, gain a friend, get a hug and feel loved.  I may not have the biggest profit at the end of the year but knowing we have touched people’s lives is worth more than what that report will ever show.

 

Lynn and Lyssa enjoy the fun of having a commercial photo shoot.

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Quilt Market Aftermath

Aftermath

Now that quilt market is over, how do you actually follow through with all those good ideas and big plans?

The aftermath from quilt market, all those samples, being behind at work, and figuring out how to stay inspired, is a problem we all face.

Once you catch up on sleep, organize your life, and start prioritizing and tackling your to-do list, you’ll still have to turn those big ideas into actions. Here are some tips on how to stay inspired so those non-time-sensitive tasks don’t fall by the wayside.

Staying inspired

Since inspiration is a big level idea, the ways to stay inspired are big level too. A good way to keep the motivation after quilt market alive is through your vision. What do you envision your business becoming? How do you envision getting there?

Another way to not fall in to the same rut is finding what motivates you. If that’s money, then that’s okay! Find something concrete to help measure your progress so you can see your ideas to fruition.

Stay healthy

Oddly enough, when reading what keeps other people inspired, the topic of health came up more than once. This makes sense though! If you prioritize a healthy diet and exercise, not only will you feel better, but the endorphines released during your workout last well beyond the 30 minutes of your routine.

Life often seems like a never ending to-do list. But when that to-do list has purpose behind it, it doesn’t seem as daunting. Living a balanced life while trying to accomplish our goals sometimes feels like an extreme sport, but as we entrepreneurs know, the reward is so worth it.


If you’re looking for more information to guide you in owning a retail business, subscribe to American Quilt Retailer today. Already a subscriber? No worries—join our Facebook group for insights and dialogue from industry specialists like you.

 

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Finding the Perfect Exit

Exit strategy

This topic may not be something you want to think about, but it’s something every small business owner will have to confront; what is your exit strategy?

An exit strategy is exactly what it sounds, an outline of what will happen to your business when you leave. The goal is for the transition to be as smooth as possible.

There is no right or wrong reason for wanting to leave your small business, but the best exit strategy is making the best decision for your business.

Exit strategy options

  • Lifestyle entrepreneur. Although this isn’t technically an exit strategy, reframing your business plan from growth to stability is an option if you have a steady income.
  • Give the business to a family member. This tactic, also known as having a “legacy,” is great if you have a family member who wants to do what you do. What’s even better is the extra time you have to groom your successor for the position.
  • Find an acquirer. This option is for those who don’t have a legacy, but want to take care of their employees. Remember when it comes to negotiating that your employees came to work for you, not necessarily the business.
  • Get bought out by current employees. This option typically goes a little smoother than the latter option, but don’t forget that different management can have growing pains come with it. It’s also easier to negotiate staying on and working part time if you’ve worked with your successor in the past.
  • Sell your stake. The most “business-as-usual” strategy is to sell your stake to a partner.
  • Plan an IPO. Only 7,000 out of every 1,000,000 companies go with this option, but the more you know.
  • Liquidate the business. This is the most final and no-strings attached option. The cash you make from liquidating will need to go to any debts or unpaid bills, so if making money from your exit strategy is what you want there may be better options.
  • File for bankruptcy. Although nobody wants this, it is an option during times of trouble. Remember, it’s not the end of the world.

Questions to ask yourself

How long do you want to stay in the business? Don’t get offended by this question, everyone wants to enjoy retirement eventually! This will help determine the best option for you.

What are you financial goals? When it comes to planning (and let’s be honest, running the business) this is one of the most important questions. Knowing the answer to this before consulting with your lawyer or accountant will make your choice much more clear than if you go in unprepared.

Of course American Quilt Retailer wishes you the best of luck in your retail endeavors, but we’re also here to help with whatever question you may have. Feel free to comment below what’s helped you the most with your exit strategy.

 


Have you heard the news? American Quilt Retailer is hosting the opening session at spring Quilt Market in Kansas City! Their Schoolhouse Series includes breakout sessions and an opportunity to gain firsthand knowledge from the people who make, design, or write about the products you sell. Register to attend today.

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Quilt Market Boot Camp

Boot Camp

What’s a Quilters Boot Camp? Do you want to own a quilt shop? Is that your lifetime dream? We have a must-attend event for you coming up in mid-May.

Build your retail muscle in this spring quilt market boot camp

If you’re attending spring Quilt Market in Kansas City, don’t miss your chance to learn from seasoned industry veterans Pepper Cory, Cathy McKillip, and Janice Pope in “The Power of Three – A Blueprint for Success from a Trio of Experienced Quilt Professionals” on Wednesday, May 15 from 9 AM-4 PM.

In this day-long Boot Camp, the three experts will provide insight, business advice, and guidance from their individual perspectives and cumulative knowledge. Providing a mix of corporate business background, quilt shop ownership, and a healthy dose of creative solutions to employee and customer problems, this is the place to get answers.

Receive a guide of “How to Shop at Quilt Market” plus a marketing system for successful shop owners that will grow your business by 15%! Focus sessions include hosting events in your store, improving your customers’ shopping experience, handling difficult customers and “weirdo” employees, and more. Receive a book filled with strategies that can be customized for your business’ success. Leave with a personalized blueprint for actions to take as soon as you get back home. This panel will help you navigate problems and share solutions. And by the way—there will be fabulous door prizes!

About the presenters

Pepper Cory: Longtime quilter, former shop owner, author of seven books (and counting) and present-day fabric designer and teacher, Pepper brings her knowledge to the table with a side helping of humor.

Pepper Cory-boot camp

Cathy McKillip: Daughter of a quilter and seamstress since she was a girl, Cathy McKillip left her high-power corporate job to buy a quilt shop and opened April’s Fool Day 2007. Since then she’s never looked back!

Cathy McKillip-boot camp

Janice Pope: An entrepreneur since childhood, Janice has managed a quilt store, repaired antique quilts, owns a pattern company, and is currently a fabric sales representative. Her store owner customers love her advice and assistance.

Janice Pope-boot camp


Have you heard the news? American Quilt Retailer is hosting the opening session at spring Quilt Market in Kansas City! Their Schoolhouse Series includes breakout sessions and an opportunity to gain firsthand knowledge from the people who make, design, or write about the products you sell. Register to attend today.

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Meet Back Door Quilts

Store name: The Back Door, Inc, DBA Back Door Quilts

Linda (left) and Teri in the front of the shop

Owners: Linda Hale and Teri Dougherty
Store location: 2503 Fairview Rd, Greenwood, IN 46142
Phone: (317) 882-2120

Greenwood is a suburb of Indianapolis, and we are located in a strip mall

Region of the country: North East Central. Midwest
Years in business:  46 in May 2019
Types of special services offered: Longarm Quilting, plus the usual quilt shop expertise on all things creative!

Number of employees:  19 including the two owners, mostly part time, plus Club Hostesses and teachers

Website: www.backdoorquilts.com
Facebook: backdoorquilts
Instagram: @backdoorquilts

Forty-five years is a long time to be in business! Can you give us a history of your store?  Linda lived in a neighborhood where the women would get together and do crafts.  They kept wanting her to teach them how to do things, so she started the shop in her basement with two other neighbors.  She would tell them to come to the back door, since her babies were sleeping.  After just a few months, they moved to a storefront, which was expanded several times.  The shop moved to the present location 30 years ago, and has expanded several times again.  Linda’s partners have changed as their life circumstances have changed, and her present partner, Teri, has worked at the shop for 36 years, becoming a partner 25 years ago.

How has the store evolved and changed in order to continuously stay fresh and current?  Linda was once told to watch the trends, get into the latest and get out before it became old and stale.  She has a particularly good sense of what works for us!

How do the partners split up the duties? Linda is the creative visionary force behind the shop.  She stitches and makes samples and works tirelessly to make the shop the very best it can be, one that she would love to visit.  Teri takes care of the class schedule, weekly e-mailing, and social media.  She also helps with samples, kitting, and whatever needs to be done.

You have an extensive education program. How do you decide what classes to put on your schedule? Who teaches your classes?  Most of our teachers also work at the shop.  They have a good feel for what kinds of classes the customers want.  Our best filling classes are the Beginning Quitlmaking Class and the Beginning Machine Embroidery Class.  Other popular classes include monthly bag making classes.

With the amount of shows you do, how do you keep organized so you have the correct merchandise and can get set up and taken down easily? Any tips for others who do shows?  We have a show inventory list that changes a little with each show, depending on the duration, location, and what other vendors are there.  A couple weeks before, we see what we have in the shop and what we need to order, and make notes of what has been ordered.  As we are packing, we note the number of each item we are taking, and at the end of the show, use another color to note what we have  left.  We don’t have a POS, so this works for us!

Standing at the cutting table, you see a beautiful section of batiks (we have 1000!).

What are the store successes you’re most proud of? We were really pleased to be included in the Quilt Sampler in the Spring of 2005.  We also love hearing new customers (and their husbands!) say what a nice shop we have.  We have had visitors from all over the world!

Hand Embroidery Section

What has been the most surprising part of owning a store?  After all these years, it is still fun to get up and go to work every day!  The customers have become friends, our staff are our family, and there’s something new every day.

Once you’ve exhausted the opportunities for a sample, what do you do with it? Do you create your samples to be timeless?  Some of our samples belong to the sample maker and go back to them once we’re done with them.  We usually have a sample sale before Thanksgiving and weed out samples that are no longer selling patterns and fabric.  We usually make our samples to be timeless, like using batiks that are easily substituted to keep a sample relevant for a long time.  If we use a specific fabric line, we make an easy sample that can be completed quickly.

Our best example is the Glad Creations pattern Summer Romance.  It showed up in several pictures in Quilt Sampler 2005, and was one of our most popular patterns for several years.  Batiks got brighter and clearer over the years, and we made an “anniversary” version in 2015 with brighter batiks.  Recently a customer said she had never seen it before—she thought it was brand new!

Wool supplies are a large portion of your inventory. Do you still find that area going strong? Do you buy your wool from individual dyers or rely on distributors? It’s hard for us to buy wool over the internet.  We buy some basics from fabric companies, like B. Black or Marcus or Moda, but often pick out wool for specific projects at shows from vendors like One Wing Wool and Blackberry Primitives.  Occasionally Teri will cook a batch of wool to tone down the color, and she washes all the basic wools at home.

Wool Department

Where do you do the work of the business? Is there an office in the store or off site?  Linda’s husband Jim does all our bookkeeping in his home office.  Teri does almost all the other business from her phone!

With a busy store, how do you balance your life?   We both work Monday-Saturday but there are other employees there as well.  We try to leave around 3 or so every day, spend lots of time with our grandchildren (who sometimes come to visit), and use our travel time to shows to discuss new projects and the directions in which we want to go.

What are your biggest frustrations as a business owner?  Having people come in the shop or to classes/clubs and brag about their cheaper purchases.

What does a customer see first when they come into your store?  Our Christmas Tree that changes with the seasons, and lots and lots of quilts!

Here’s our seasonal tree as you enter the shop, and a view to the back of the shop.

How have you created and maintained a store community? We have lots of different Club meetings, and often invite new customers to come and try a meeting to see if they like it.  It’s a blessing to see the friendships that have formed in the Clubs, and on our First Saturday events.

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Schoolhouse Series

Schoolhouse Series

Have you heard the news? American Quilt Retailer is hosting the premier and opening session of the Schoolhouse Series at spring Quilt Market in Kansas City.

This year’s quilt market officially runs May 17 – May 19, but the Schoolhouse Series starts May 16 at 10:00 a.m. Be sure to check in before, and breakout sessions begin immediately after.

The goal of the Schoolhouse Series is to provide quilt industry professionals opportunities for increased profitability through education.

Five business experts will help present during AQR’s session over topics including marketing, branding, social media, business coaching, and finance. The goal of this premiere session is to get you started with a mindset inspired to move to action.

Schoolhouse Experts

Here is a breakdown of the opening session presenters:

  1. Life coach Beth Montpas. Beth spent 20 years as a small business owner and now helps women regain confidence saying, “if you don’t like the part you’re playing in your life story, you can write a new script!” Certified by the John Maxwell Team, Beth is a frequent public speaker and contributor to AQR.
  2. Consumer anthropologists Rich Kizer and Georgeanne Bender. This duo has been helping businesses since 1990 while making appearances on MSNBC’s Your Business. They’ve also been named two of Retailing’s Most Influential People saying “Consumers can buy what you sell in any number of places so the experience with you has to be a stand out, every time.”
  3. CEO Leann Pressly. This self-proclaimed #bosslady is CEO of Stitchcraft Marketing and does consulting for craft companies. Leann pulls from her over 20 years of experience to give tips on both Stitchcraft’s blog and podcast and has spoke at such conferences as AFCI.
  4. Consultant Sommer Sharon. Sommer is a long-time business owner who’s company, Sleigh Consulting, specializes in search engine optimization and digital marketing.
  5. Business savvy Tom Shay. Tom offers business help and advice through a variety of platforms including through his website, podcast, speaking engagements, and articles. Tom gets more than anyone what it’s like to own a small business, so that’s why he created Profits Plus, a tool to help small business owners everywhere.

Register Today

The first 800 attendees get an exclusive article by American Quilt Retailer (available only after quilt market for purchase) and 400 blue bags stocked full of giveaways. Check out the link in the signature to register today.


Have you heard the news? American Quilt Retailer is hosting the opening session at spring Quilt Market in Kansas City! Their Schoolhouse Series includes breakout sessions and an opportunity to gain firsthand knowledge from the people who make, design, or write about the products you sell. Register to attend today.

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Declutter Your Digital Space

Declutter

It’s easy to remember to declutter your home when it’s a daily reminder, and easier to ignore one of the tools you use everyday—your computer.

Plan some time this Friday afternoon to clean up your digital space, within one day you’ll notice how less stressful your life feels.

Tips to declutter

  • Unsubscribe from emails you never read. Even notifications can be distracting and contribute to the everyday stress you feel. When you check your email you won’t even notice those subscriptions are gone.
  • Clean your desktop. That’s right, you should actually be able to see the background image on your desktop. It may have been years since you’ve been able to do this, but an organized desktop is the best time saver you can do for yourself.
  • Turn off notifications. If it really is important enough to check, you will.
  • Upgrade your systems. That’s right, the next time a reminder to upgrade pops up on your computer, don’t press ignore. Upgrading makes sure your computer has the best and safest software.
  • Download screen time monitoring apps. The nice things about these apps is they allow you to specify how much time you spend on what sorts of things, ie social media, learning, work, etc. We all know blue light isn’t good for our eyes so try to make the most of the time spent looking at it productive.

Increase digital space

  • Uninstall software. The easiest way to figure out how to do this is to Google it, this trick is more preventative as it will free space down the road.
  • Delete your downloads. Continuing on with the preventative tips, delete your download folder. This will save open up even more space and may also speed up your system.

Decluttering your digital space will make you feel more organized than you realize. Nothing is better than knowing exactly where something is, and these tips will help you get there.


Have you heard the news? American Quilt Retailer is hosting the opening session at spring Quilt Market in Kansas City! Their Schoolhouse Series includes breakout sessions and an opportunity to gain firsthand knowledge from the people who make, design, or write about the products you sell. Register to attend today.

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Think Outside the Box

Class ideas

Is it difficult for you to decide what classes your quilt shop should offer? This blog post is all about outside-the-box class ideas your community is guaranteed to love.

Class Ideas Everyone Will Love

  1. Flower arranging. There is beauty in every day things and flowers are full of that beauty. This craft is sure to attract both current creative customers and new creatives too. I remember this class being a hit back in my university days and currently with the Minneapolis Institute of Art offering a similar event with a twist. Invite your local greenhouse gardeners to help make this class a hit.
  2. Cocktail lab. With opportunities to make this class seasonal, this also provides another way to get outside community business owners involved. Have bartenders from your favorite local restaurant help attendees learn about flavors and pairings, how to make their most-sold drinks, and more.
  3. Watercolor. This craft is a great entry for those wanting to learn how to paint. This class could be a series, or a girls night out. With minimal set up and supplies needed, a quick rearrangement of your shop makes your business the perfect venue.
  4. Dancing. When was the last time you and your partner danced? After a class of movement (and remembering how to waltz), you’ll also remember how much fun it used to be for you. This course is great for all ages—consider pairing youth with elderly, or having a couple classes for different age groups.

What classes have worked for you? Share in the comments below what continues to be a hit for your shop!


Have you heard the news? American Quilt Retailer is hosting the opening session at spring Quilt Market in Kansas City! Their Schoolhouse Series includes breakout sessions and an opportunity to gain firsthand knowledge from the people who make, design, or write about the products you sell. Register to attend today.

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Why You Should Shop at Small Businesses

Small Business

I know I’m preaching to the choir here, but this post serves as a reminder to how supporting small and local businesses impacts you and your community. Feel free to share with your customers the next time the topic comes up!

Small businesses define communities

Think back to when you were a child – what stores do you remember and why do you remember them? Likely these stores were a staple of your community, that also happened to have great products. Local businesses add character to a neighborhood, and provide it’s employees freedom that large companies stifle. Thanks to this, innovation is more likely to thrive in a small business. Do you remember the last time you were sad hearing of a business that closed down? Small businesses become more than just an economic driver and add to the well-being of a community.

Small businesses have better service

Local businesses face many challenges to stay afloat in their respective marketplaces, marketplaces that are only becoming increasingly more competitive. Because of this, you’re likely to receive better and more personalized service; this means you’ll never be put on hold when you call and they’re going to know your name when you walk in. You’ll never have to worry about who’s interests are being met, whether it be stockholders, boards, or an algorithm, small businesses have your needs in mind.

According to Forbes, shopping at small businesses is a sign of respect, not only for the product but for the owners, too. It takes a lot of work and heart to get something going, and supporting that benefits all parties involved. Share your tips below on how you encourage others to support local businesses, and what small businesses have inspired you.


Have you heard the news? American Quilt Retailer is hosting the opening session at spring Quilt Market in Kansas City! Their Schoolhouse Series includes breakout sessions and an opportunity to gain firsthand knowledge from the people who make, design, or write about the products you sell. Register to attend today.

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Check Out Your Checkout

Checkout

Have you ever thought about what your checkout counter should or shouldn’t have? When you think about it, it’s the most important part of your store (aside from the window display, but that’s encouraging business from the outside in). By the time customers make it to checkout, they’re ready to spend their hard earned cash on the products you’ve provided. Here are some ideas to make the most of that space.

  • Encourage impulse buys. This is a great place to put gift cards and small, must need items. Examples include thimbles, rotary cutters, needles, and other quilting notions. Anything you can think of that would nicely round out a crafting project should be placed here.
  • Spice up the place. Adding a plant to the counter or quotes that inspire you are easy ways to do this. This is also a great place to put seasonal decorations, and to make a statement with your personal style. Having art on the counter can transform the entire room. Also make sure you have great lighting here, too.
  • Advertise. This is the one place in the store customers are static and attentive. If you’ve been thinking about adding a TV to your store, behind the checkout counter is the perfect place to do it. Have a slideshow of different store products run all day. If you’d rather skip this, then definitely put your social media handles in the vicinity to grow your social following.

What else can I add to my checkout?

If you contribute to a charitable cause, your checkout is a perfect place to display that, and to encourage others to donate. Every business has a checkout counter, so take note of what they include and what you’ve bought last second. Talking to other business owners is always a great way to get ideas. Share your thoughts by commenting below; let us know what has worked for you.


Have you heard the news? American Quilt Retailer is hosting the opening session at spring Quilt Market in Kansas City! Their Schoolhouse Series includes breakout sessions and an opportunity to gain firsthand knowledge from the people who make, design, or write about the products you sell. Register to attend today.