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Connect at Quilt Market

American Quilt Retailer is returning with Better Homes & Gardens American Patchwork & Quilting for another Schoolhouse Series at this spring’s Quilt Market!

The Spring International Quilt Market is May 18-20 in Portland, Oregon, and the Schoolhouse Series will feature three classes on Thursday, May 17.

Editor of AQR and shop owner Heidi Kaisand will be joined by editor of American Patchwork & Quilting Jody Sanders and Roseann Kermes to feature three classes.

The first class of the Schoolhouse Series covers something we all wish we had more of; time. Owning a small business can make it difficult to reach business goals and often interferes with our personal lives. This session will cover organizing, delegating, and making essential decisions to run your business.

The second session is as dynamic as the people running it. Editors Kaisand and Sanders will cover information for consumers and shop owners alike through topics like color options and products to inspire customers.

Lastly, Heidi Kaisand is again joined by Roseann Kermes to share how to make a staff operate like a well-oiled machine. A team that works well together makes victories so much easier to obtain, and thus an even more successful business that everyone can reap the benefits from.

Finally for the part you’ve all been waiting for… AQR is happy to announce the now-legendary blue bags are back, and the first 400 people to attend the Schoolhouse Series will receive one filled with information and product in exchange for a business card.

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Just some of the product to be featured in the blue bags AQR will hand our during their Schoolhouse Series at the Spring International Quilt Market in Portland Oregon.

If you so happen to be sticking around the Quilt Market, feel free to stop by American Quilt Retailer’s booth at 839 and talk to editor Heidi Kasiand about how we can make the issue better for you.  We love feedback—and conversations with other small business owners, too.


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An Ode to Mothers

With Mother’s Day approaching this weekend, we thought we would take a moment to thank and appreciate mother’s every where.

Mothers are an integral part of the quilting industry. We work with mothers, sell to mothers, and are mothers.

Mothers walk into our stores every day with their children and grandchildren; planting the seed for a love of crafting.

They purchase our goods and create memories that will be looked back on with love, appreciation, and nostalgia. And one day, those children and grandchildren will return to our stores with their own children to create those same memories with the new loved one in their life.

Nobody ever said that motherhood would be easy; we all work with a mother and some days seem smoother than others. But I’m sure none of us would have it any other way.

Take some time this Mother’s Day to thank the mothers that come into your store. Be mindful of those whose maternal situation isn’t what it ought to be; and show them the motherly love they deserve.

No act is too small, even if you don’t have a Mother’s Day sale going on simply make a sign to display in your store. Find some product that would be good as a set, and use it as that week’s mothers day gift. Or buy some special wrapping paper and wrap any mother’s purchase in it to add just a little more color in their life.

Thanks again to mother’s everywhere, and take some time for yourself today—you’ve earned 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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The Wonderful World of Video

Social media can be intimidating enough, but the thought of video can make the task seem even more daunting. Even though it’s not easy doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it; read these tips to find out why outsourcing your videos is not always the best idea.

  1. The best way to learn something is by doing it yourself. It’s okay if your metrics on your first video post don’t compare with the rest of your social’s engagement – social media is learning by trial and error, which is something that should excite creatives!
  2. Nobody knows your brand more than you. Think of your brand as your own creation, you wouldn’t want to give someone else your hard earned curation to take a chance on, would you? Keeping videos in house means the style and voice remains consistent.
  3. Everyone feels uncomfortable in front of the camera. If I could explain why the second a camera is in front of my face I start second guessing every move I make I would, but since I can’t all I can say is practice really does make perfect. Give it some time and the process will begin to feel more natural.
  4. Outsourcing videos can often have a low return on investment. This is especially true if you’re just starting to experiment with them. Having a high quality video but not knowing what content people like to see is the easiest way to see your hard earned dollars go down the drain.
  5. If you’re struggling on content just remember that if you can’t come up with ideas, the people you hire to make a video will lack inspiration for ideas from you as well. Think about the last video you watched or searched for, then look around your store. With how much product you have, chances are there is something worth making a video about.

Like all other technology, cameras seem to get smaller and smaller. If you’re experienced, editing footage is easy, if you’re not the process may take a little longer. But if you start to learn it now, you’ll be a professional by the time every phone has the power to take high quality video (and finally ahead of the game).


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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Team Building

We spend the most time with our coworkers; but how much do we really know about them?

The best way to relate to someone is to get to know their story. Businesses often overlook the importance of understanding one’s past; not only will employees overlook pet peeves in their colleagues to ultimately work better together, but these exercises can truly change the work environment for the better.

  1. The ball. In college my advisor had a ball with things written all over it. She threw me the ball once and told me to answer the question my thumb was closest to when I caught it. Create your own ball with your own set of questions—this can be as light or as serious as you want. Ask questions like “What sort of legacy do you want to leave?”, or “If you really knew me, you would know _____,” and “Share a defining moment.” And don’t shy away from asking people to dig deeper if their responses are one word answers or seemingly superficial.
  2. Speed dating. No, this isn’t a date, but more like a rapid-fire 20 question session. Set up team members with 20 questions to ask one another, and after five minutes, switch up the partners. Do this until everyone has spent five minutes (or whatever amount of time you chose) asking questions with every coworker.
  3. Encourage play. One of the hardest things to do in a workplace is to break down the barriers of being in a professional setting to see people create things together. One of the best ways to do this is through play! Although this is the most light hearted of the three team building exercises, it can change the work environment the most. Have your team create a video about why they love their industry, task them with building a tower out of marshmallows and noodles, or have them design their own board game! The options are limitless and the more you sell the narrative of acting yourself during the sessions, the more your team will buy into showing more of themselves.

The power of creating together is more impactful than it seems (view this article on the power of play, or watch this Ted Talk). Whether that be creating moments, or creating with our hands (as most Quilt Retailers love to do!) the effects of working together can make work feel more welcoming and more like home.


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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Blue Ocean Strategy

Blue Ocean StrategyEvery business owner has that dream of becoming a trendsetter in their industry, but doesn’t quite know how to get there.

How did Mark Zuckerberg create the empire today known as Facebook? How did Steve Jobs invent device after device for Apple?

Renee Mauborgne’s book Blue Ocean Strategy can’t tell you the answer, but can tell you what questions to ask to help you get there.

Within each industry, there is something known as the “Blue Ocean.” The Blue Ocean is the idea that transforms your business from fitting into the industry to standing out from the crowd and changing the status quo.

This book shows no matter what industry you’re in, there is a Blue Ocean to be found. It provides examples of people who looked at the problems around them, then had the heart to tackle a solution.

One example is with a 17 year old in Iraq who created one of the most prominent youth orchestras in the world. She set out not with a goal to become the best youth orchestra in the world, but rather to use peace as the foundation for their music, and somehow along the way created an orchestra difficult to beat.

One piece of advice Blue Ocean Strategy has is to look outside your industry to see what has worked for other sectors. If it worked for them, what’s stopping it to being effective in your own business?

Blue Ocean Strategy motivates readers to have a “today is as good as any day” mindset. Thanks to the ever changing technology around us, what wasn’t possible ten years ago can be done today.

For more information about the author and to hear more about Blue Ocean Strategy, watch this interview with Marie Forleo, creator of Marie TV.


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Cabin Fever

bored.pngIt’s the first week of April and spring doesn’t seem to be any closer. Daydreams of warmer days and a summer to-do list seem to get longer and longer, while our work sits around us. Motivation is no where to be found.

Maybe all you need is a change of scenery. Literally. The creators of Instagram and the musical Hamilton we’re both on vacations when they incepted their two brilliant ideas.

While you don’t need to go across country to strike big on something you’ve been working on, it isn’t a bad idea to pick that project up and head to your nearest coffee shop. If noise seems to be your main source of distraction, studies show that coffee shops provide the perfect amount of noise level to productivity.

And while you’re trying to optimize that productivity, leave your cell phone in the office. Another study found that even when a phone is left in a bag, just the thought of it is still more distracting than if it were in another building.

So maybe this “whole warm weather is never coming” thing isn’t as bad as we think. Cabin fever may cause boredom, but when boredom strikes, creativity reigns according to this article.

So the next time you’re bored out of your mind, try to stay there. Let your mind wander, and see where it goes. Who knows, maybe you’ll create the next best app?


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Sew Much Fun Hong Kong

ASGIf you like to travel and you like to sew (which of course you do!) then consider attending a trip hosted by the American Sewing Guild to experience both in Hong Kong.

Sew News editor Linda Griepentrog and writer Pauline Richards will be leading the way for the week-long trip from November 27 to December 8, showing you the region’s fabrics and providing a multitude of learning opportunities. This is Linda’s 21st trip to the region and she truly knows every alley way and every bargain.

The trip will include stops to Stanley Market, Western Market, a night market, Pottinger street and the Lanes, Jade Market, Victoria, Peak, Mountain Folkcraft, Repulse Bay, and Sham Shui Po. If you’re on the fence wondering if Hong Kong is for you, click on the links to see everything these creative districts have to offer.

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Shopping district at Nathan’s Road Hong Kong.

Not only do you get to experience a completely new garment district, but order minimums are much smaller compared to U.S. companies.

The trip departs on November 27 from San Francisco with a non-stop flight to Hong Kong. The cost is $3,999 for ASG members and includes airfare, the hotel, bus transportation, and many of the sights and meals planned on the trip. Find out more details here.

By becoming a member of the American Sewing Guild, you get access to resources provided by your local chapter and an annual national conference. And like American Quilt Retailer, Sew News is a magazine you can subscribe to stay on top of all things happening in the creative world.


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Fil-Tec Rebrands Online Store

Fil-Tec has rebranded their online store from Bobbin Central to Hab+Dash.

This decision was made to better showcase Fil-Tec’s wide variety of products including backing, batting, sewing accessories, displays and more.

Fil-Tec started 15 years ago with the invention of the magnetic core bobbin. Since then the company has created new bobbins including the Glide and the Magna-Glide. They’ve also expanded their reach, and are known as a top company for embroidery, quilting, industrial thread, wire and cable, high temperature, and wicks.

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With the expansion of the company’s products meant out with the old and in with the new; instead of a website that was centralized on bobbins—all the company was known for when it started—the rebrand was designed to showcase everything Fil-Tec has to offer. Hence the name Hab+Dash, a play on the word haberdashery (defined as a shop known for selling thread and notions to sewers).

Most of what Fil-Tec’s online presence has been known for will remain the same. This means the online store will continue to be completely wholesale and the same rewards program will apply.

Fil-Tec takes pride in being a supplier to many top companies including La-Z-Boy®, Boeing®, Cintas®, Johnson & Johnson, L.L. Bean and Lands’ End. Their product can be found not only on your sewing machine in your craft room, but in the furniture of your home, the clothes that you wear, the wires that provide your internet, and the heating materials in your furnace.


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The importance of training

Good training gives your employees the tools to maximize their talents to better your business. Poor training sets your employees up for failure; nothing is worse than when a customer knows more about a product than the person getting paid to have that same knowledge (and more).

If you don’t already have a new hire orientation, that is the first thing you need to put on the top of your to-do list. The orientation should take place on the sales floor and cover all aspects of the business. The orientation should allow time for the new employee to put into practice what they’re learning. After giving them a task for an hour, go over how they’re doing and provide feedback. A simple complement can go a long way for a new employee’s confidence.

The next part of a training program should include giving your new employee a “buddy.” This buddy is another employee the new employee can go to for questions they may not feel comfortable asking the boss. Plus this buddy can give the new employee some company during their first lunch break and help them feel at home in their new role.

training

An often overlooked part of a training program is continuous training; never assume your veteran employees know everything or are doing everything correctly. Try to incentivize continuous training by paying for courses or purchasing books and videos for your employees. You can even go as far as giving bonuses or promotions for each level of continuing education your employees receive.

Last but not least, hold “jog” sessions that jog your employees memory about certain products or specials. A jog session can be given any time there is down time in a day and should be conducted at least once a week. These sessions will keep your employees on their A-game and ready for any question they may receive that day.

Not only will you benefit from solid training, but your employees will appreciate it as well. Providing a good foundation in a business begins with the people who make the team.


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Jaftex Corporation to buy FreeSpirit Fabrics

JaftexYou heard it here first folks, Jaftex Corporation has announced their intent to purchase the one and only FreeSpirit Fabrics.

Jaftex Corporation is a fourth-generation, family owned business based in New York City. Other names under the Jaftex umbrella include Henry Glass Fabrics, Studioe Fabrics, The Blank Quilting Corp., Fabric Editions, A.E. Nathan Co., Inc., and now, FreeSpirit Fabrics.

FreeSpirit Fabrics is known for their trend-setting artists including none other than Tula Pink and Anna Marie Horner, of whom you can catch at the International Quilt Market this spring in Portland, Oregon, along with the unveiling of the “new” Free Spirit. There Horner will also be hosting a schoolhouse on her new conservatory program.

Outside of Tula Pink and Horner, FreeSpirit is known for their unique collection including Kaffe Fassett Collective, The Original Morris & Co., Dena Designs, Snow Leopard Studios, Jennifer Paganelli, Heather Bailey and more. FreeSpirit was previously under the Coats family, which is known for providing services to the apparel, craft, and footwear industries.

FreeSpirit can be found in many fabric stores, and are known for providing quality fabrics that inspire young and old creatives alike. Jaftex Corporation intends on remaining true to the FreeSpirit brand and cause minimal disruption in the marketplace for what FreeSpirit customers have come to know and love.


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.