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Meet Quilted Ceiling

Store name: Quilted Ceiling
Who owns the store: Steven and Mary Lee Nielson.
Address and phone number: 316 Central Ave. N, Valley City, ND; 701-845-4926
Years in business: Quilted Ceiling opened its doors November 4, 2005 – 14 years in 2019.
Number of employees: The store employs one full time woman (manager/buyer), five part-time women and also have five ladies who will fill in when needed

All social media info:
Website:
quiltedceiling.com
Facebook: www.facebook.com/QuiltedCeiling — Facebook is used to show new items in the store as well as new finished quilts, or other happenings in the store.
Email: info@quiltedceiling.com

We send out an email newsletter with dates of classes and other special events.  A copy is available on our web site.

Types of special services offered: Quilted Ceiling has a web store that showcases all the fabric including, jelly rolls, charms and layer cakes.  Bridal couples are also listed on the web site with the date of the wedding and a listing with pictures of what they registered for.

Where did the name for your store come from? Our unique name came from one of our employees who said we should have quilt squares on the ceiling and call the store Quilted Ceiling.  We had 50+ people helping us paint the ceiling panels.  Each one has a different quilting pattern. A teacher brought her class of first graders and did the actual name and decorated the letters for the panels above the door when you come in.  This brought a lot of buy-in for the store as the artists brought in their families to show them their quilting square on the ceiling.

 

What do customers see first when they come into your store? When you first come into the store you are greeted across the room by beautiful sample quilts hanging from the ceiling.  As you gaze downward you will see a display of gift items.  Walking towards the back you will see rows of fabric and several walls filled with notions.  In the summer we get quite a few tourists and ask them to sign our guest book by the door.  It is so surprising to see where they all come from.  We are also supported by our local community and smaller towns around Valley City.

How do you delegate the workload among your employees? The work load is shared by all who work here.  Each employee is in charge of cutting at least one block of the month and they each have to be in charge of ordering for a category in the store.   One gal orders all the notions each week, one orders for the kitchen area, one does all the books and patterns, manager does all the giftware ordering and fabric ordering and so on.

From your social media: “Just a warning, you may laugh a lot if you come in. We have a lot of quick wits around here!”  Does your staff get along well? Many say Quilted Ceiling is the happiest store in town.  I don’t know about that but we all seem to have a good time and get along well.  One customer has said many times “if you ever need a volunteer just let me know, I love this happy place!”

How do you select teachers for your classes? Teachers are usually hard to find but we have been fortunate to have some of our employees also teach classes.  We also have about six ladies that do samples for us and some also teach classes.  We have had several teachers come in and show their new patterns and teach the technique used in their patterns.  At the present time we haven’t been doing a lot of classes as it seems it is getting harder and harder to fill the classes.

What are some of the ways your community shows support for your store? We are lucky to have three long arm quilters in our area and are happy to have their customers drop off quilts to be quilted and then pick them up when finished.  We have a list of sewers who will do alterations and give out their business cards for those in need.  We have a group of ladies who come every morning and afternoon for coffee in our break room and the best part is quite often they bring treats.  Not too long ago there were 17 ladies in our small break room, some standing and some sitting. Word of mouth is our most effective advertising.  We wouldn’t exist if quilters didn’t talk to each other!  It is amazing when folks from other states come in because they heard about us from other quilters.

How does your shop hop work? We have been in several shop hops over the years and each one has their own way of doing things.  The shop hop we will be part of this April will have around eight shops in it.  Customers draw for a 10, 15 or 20 per cent discount on their purchase, we stamp their pass port and usually give them a recipe for the treat we are serving.  We also give them a free pattern for the block our store created and show them the finished block made up.  We have kits made up for sale for those who want their block to look like ours.  Each store makes up a block and if the customer goes to each store they will have eight free block patterns for a quilt.  Those customers who have gone to all eight shops and had their passport stamped at each store turns it in at the last store.  Shop owners meet the week after the hop and throw all finished passports in a basket and draw for 1st prize and 2nd prize.

Your website says you have the largest notions supply in the area. How do you keep up with what’s new with notions as well as keeping your notions area well stocked? We are known for our large selection of notions.  Each week the gal in charge of ordering notions goes through the notions and makes a list of missing notions (this is where inventory tags are a must).  Unless it is something that has been on the wall a very long time she reorders each notion and then she goes through all the new items from each distributor and decides what would be good notions for our customers and adds those to her order.  We have slat wall throughout the store, most of our notions are easy to see and access as they are hanging.

 

 

 

 

What are your biggest frustrations and struggle as a business owner? It is most frustrating to hear a customer say “I didn’t know you were here.”  When we started we were on TV. We are on the local radio station weekly and advertise in the paper.  QC is part of a billboard on the interstate.  We are on FaceBook and have a website.  What more can you do?

How does the gifts area fit into your store? What advice can you give quilt shops who want to add gifts? When you live in a smaller town it is very hard to be a store that only sells on thing.  You have to be diversified.  We have our gift area in the front of the store, which includes an extensive kitchen area, picture frames, religious items, stoneware dishes, Oneida flatware, glassware, candles, jewelry, purses, signs and home décor.  The manager does the gift ordering as well as the fabric ordering.  We use to go to Minneapolis Gift Mart but in the past few years’ reps from different companies call on us and we order from them.  Having the gift area helps to bring in people that aren’t quilters and sometimes they end up buying something that has nothing to do with gifts.  If you are thinking of adding a gift department in your quilt store, I would start out small and see how it goes.  Remember you can’t just order what you like.  It is just like fabric; you have to order somethings that others will like.

Are there certain fabric or pattern designers you typically stock? Quilted Ceiling orders fabric from Wilmington, Moda, Riley Blake, Quilting Treasures, Hoffman, Northcott, RJR, Studio E, Free Spirit, Marcus, Shannon, Windham, Benartex, etc.  Right now Kimberbell seems to be the patterns of choice.

Open for Business is brought to you by American Quilt Retailer, a trade publication for independent quilt shop owners, and sponsored by QT Fabrics.

 

 

 

 

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How you know it’s time for expansion

Expansion - is it time?

Are you wondering if it’s time to grow your business? Check out these six signs to see if expansion is the best option for you.

  • You’re bored. Do the days feel like you’re stuck in a rut? Maybe it’s time for a challenge, and one challenge that will get you off the hamster wheel is seeing if expanding is the best option for you.
  • You’re overworked. You gotta make money to spend money, and if you’re doing work that could be delegated to someone else, think about hiring someone part time. With that extra time you could find more ways to make money.
  • You’re in high demand. Do you have to schedule orders weeks in advance? Are you having to turn customers away because you’re out of stock? This is a tell-tale sign to find ways to partner to make sure everyone leaves your store happy.
  • You’re profitable. If you’re making a profit in the hundreds (or even thousands) consistently, you are ready to expand. If your profits aren’t trending, then wait a while until they do. Read this article from Forbes to find out more.
  • You have opportunities. Has someone contacted you for a larger than usual order? Are people wanting to partner? Jump on that opportunity before it goes away (after all you never know when it will come again).
  • You have ideas. The best entrepreneurs act on market trends. Do your research first, but if you’re sure something is going to take off find a way to make a profit off it.Expansion.png

Expanding is exciting and can open doors for your business you never imagined. If you’ve been thinking about it, maybe it’s time to take the next step.

This article was inspired by The Small Business blog.


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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How to get out of that business rut

Nobody ever said being a business owner would be easy.

But nobody ever mentioned that chasing a dream would mean constantly feeling overwhelmed either. Being crunched on time seems to lead to a never-ending cycle of stress and haste.

When taking a step back is too detrimental after years of hard work, follow these steps to get your business back on track.

Reflect on past mistakes

Regret can prevent progress, so instead of asking what went wrong, transform the thought into something positive. For instance, instead of asking why you didn’t get the sale, think of how you got the customer into your store. Then reflect on what you can do differently to seal the deal the next time a potential customer comes around.

reflect

Identify the problem

If you feel you can’t get your business out of a rut, try to identify what got you there in the first place. If it’s your busy schedule, reflect on how you can make some more time for yourself. Whether you schedule time for mindfulness into your day, or contact the local high school home economics teacher to see if students would be interested in volunteering to help with projects, make a plan to give yourself some breathing room and go after it.

identify the problem

Set goals

Speaking of planning, set attainable goals for yourself. Follow the SMART outline when establishing your goals. SMART stands for specific, measurable, achievable, results focused, and time bound. For instance, instead of having the goal of “increase Instagram followers,” convert that goal to “increase Instagram followers by at least 10 a week for the next four weeks,” and create a spreadsheet to keep track of the data. At the end of the four weeks, revisit your goal, and reevaluate.

pen and paper

Keep the dream in sight

While you’re planning your way to taking your business to the next level, don’t forget to keep your dream in sight. Write down why you’re doing what you’re doing and put it in a place you will see often. Use it as motivation to plan the next goal, or to avoid getting in another rut. Remember, not everyone gets to live their dream, so make sure to keep yours enjoyable.

reach for the stars

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.