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Small Business Collaboration


When you own a small business, supporting other small businesses becomes your M.O. Read on for an example of how one quilt shop put on an event with other small business.

Event Collaboration

Last December, owners Ann Van Thomme and Jenny Gruenwald of Off the Rails Quilting in Bondurant, Iowa organized a holiday sip and shop at a local brewery, Reclaimed Rails Brewing Co. The collaboration didn’t end there as Home Slice Hand Made Pies also offered miniature pies for sale.

They’re not new to collaborating with other small businesses however, promoting events with Red Dragon Herbs and Tea, carrying Molly & You gourmet baking mixes, and selling T-shirts and novelty items in the shop sourced from local suppliers.

Ann and Jenny offer some of their best collaboation tips:

  • Make it easy for businesses to work with you
  • Cross-promote different business types to expand everyone’s customer base
  • Think outside the box on ways to collaborate
  • Happy customers spend more money, and collaboration is just one way to increase everyone’s turn out

Inspiration for this post comes from “Neighborhood Swatch” by Managing Editor Millie Kehrli published in the February 2023 issue of Creative Retailer.

Free Workshop March 28

Tune in Tuesday, March 28th from 3 – 4 p.m. CST via Zoom for a workshop on The Value of Video: Education, Community, Profit.

The event hosted by Lyric Montgomery Kinard, cofounder of The Global Quilt Connection and founder of The Academy for Virtual Teaching, will answer a variety of questions including:

  • What is virtual education?
  • Where does your customer find it?
  • How does it bring customers to you?
  • How can it increase your sales?
  • How does it create a community loyal to your brand?
  • What equipment do you really need?

The event is free for all Creative Retailer subscribers. Keep an eye in your inbox for a link to the event, or email to be added to the list.

If you’re looking for more information to guide you in owning a retail business, subscribe to Creative Retailer today. Already a subscriber? No worries—join our Facebook group for insights and dialogue from industry specialists like you. And don’t forget, you can always purchase single issues if you prefer that instead.

If you still can’t get enough, register for the Creative Retailer LIVE Spring 2023 event May 2-4 in Pawhuska, Oklahoma for opportunities to learn from peers as well as network with industry professionals.

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Cloud Storage: What is it, does my business need it, and more

Cloud storage

Want to know more about cloud storage? Check out this post to find the options available to you.

What is cloud storage?

Firstly, what is it?

According to Wikipedia, cloud storage is “a model of computer data storage in which the digital data is stored in logical pools, said to be on ‘the cloud’. The physical storage spans multiple servers, and the physical environment is typically owned and managed by a hosting company.”

Secondly, does your company need it? Consider some of the below advantages.

  • Remote work: The past year highlighted the importance of this availability. Cloud storage allows all your employees secure access to company files no matter where they’re working from.
  • Protection: Cloud storage isn’t considered a true back up, but it does a great job protecting your files.
  • Security: Over half of cyber attacks target small businesses. Most storages offer robust security as one way to protect yourself against hackers.
  • Cost effective: Get the ease of paying $5-$15 a month per employee without the hassle of owning and maintaining a server.
  • Productivity: Cloud storage doesn’t shut down. Moreover, that means your employees can work in different time zones without worrying about accessibility.

Cloud Storage Options

Finally, there’s a lot of storage options available to you. Check out some of these suggestions, and after that, read more about them here.

In conclusion, the best option for your business will depend on what you’re looking for.

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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Stitchin’ Heaven Owners Named Dallas-Fort Worth Small Business Person of the Year

Stitchin' Heaven

Owners of Stitchin’ Heaven, Deb and her son Clay Luttrell, have been named the District 2020 Small Business Person of the Year by the Dallas-Fort Worth Small Business Administration.

Deb founded Stitchin’ Heaven—the largest quilt store in Texas—in 1996 and has since grown the quilt shop into a multimillion-dollar business. They’ve expanded their offerings to include online sales, projects, education, and group travel. Clay officially joined the Stitchin’ Heaven team in 2017 and facilitated the opening of a new location. The 17,500 square-foot store opened October 2019 in Quitman, TX (population 1,800).

Like many quilt retailers across the country, the pandemic has forced Stitchin’ Heaven to close its retail doors. Many factors went into the decision to close up shop before the state-mandated order. The safety of employees and customers as well as the fact that Stitchin’ Heaven is a destination attraction were among these reasons.

Stitchin’ Heaven is known for remaining relevant during ever-changing times. They’ve started hosting weekly quarantine quilt alongs on Facebook live and maintained their Block of the Month program.

What Stitchin’ Heaven is doing to help

Sewers across this nation are proving to be essential workers by providing essential supplies, like face masks. This rings true with Stitchin’ Heaven when they sent a customer going through a tough time supplies to make masks. This customers sent some of these supplies to her sister, who made 25 masks for her local health care facility. Now, her entire extended family are making masks that go as far as Arkansas and Tennessee.

“It starts as a little flicker,” Deb said. “And now we’re at bonfire level. If you have an idea, act on it, don’t wait. You never know when you act what other things will happen.”

Deb’s piece of advice during these difficult times is to remember that everything your business does should be done with the customer in mind.

And of course, Deb is grateful for everyone who helped along the way.

“Clay and I would like to thank all of our loyal customers who have been faithful to the business, our dedicated employees who work hard every day to provide exceptional service, our family who have played such a key role in the success of Stitchin’ Heaven, and the City of Quitman for their continued support. We have big plans for 2020 and beyond and can’t wait to continue growing as a household name for quilters around the country.”

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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Meet Sunshine Stitches

Store name: Sunshine Stitches Inc
Owner: Shelley Johnson
Store Location: 1490 North State Street, Belvidere, IL 61008
Phone: (815) 323-5022
Region of the Country: Midwest Central — located in Northern Illinois near Rockford, Illinois – close to the Wisconsin border

Years in business: 3 years
Types of special services offered: Retail fabric and quilting supplies, classes, sew-ins, longarm quilting services, custom/memory quilts
Number of employees: 1 full-time and 3 part-time employees

What are the store successes you’re most proud of?

Increasing groups/programs each year,  seeing our Saturday Sampler program more than doubling its size, becoming a Quilts of Valor certified shop, adding the store as a Project Linus Drop off location.

What has been the most surprising part of owning a store?

Most surprising is the business advice given to me by my customers.

Do you teach your own classes or hire teachers?

Classes are taught by me and employees.  We also make all the store samples.  Samples are then sold to customers and general public. When students attend our Sunshine Tote Bag class, they use it to receive 20% off their purchases on the first Friday and Saturday of each month.



Besides classes, what other store events do you hold?

Other events besides classes include sew-ins, lock-ins, clubs, BOMs and Saturday Sampler.

Are your in-store and online sales equal or does one outweigh the other?

Instore sales outweigh online sales – although we are working to change that.  We manage both by having one

POS system that tracks sales and inventory.


Where do you do the work of the business?

Paperwork and planning are done early in the morning before the store is open. Often it’s done on my kitchen table on Sunday evenings.

Do you have a hobby that isn’t sewing related?

My hobbies outside of quilting are painting and skydiving!


 What would your signature quilt include?

My signature quilt would be a t-shirt quilt using bright and bold colors.  This has become a favorite part of my business in that I make custom t-shirt/memory quilts for others. These quilts are a favorite to make because they are very meaningful, and I love to see the reaction of my customers when finished.

How do you get out the word about your store?

Advertising for our shop is done in a variety of ways including local publications, local quilt guild newsletters, Quilt Shop Navigator and Quilter’s Travel Companion and Facebook/Instagram.  Word of mouth from my customers is the best form of advertising overall.


What does a customer see first when they come into your store?

The first thing customers see when then walk in the front door is a smiling face waiting to help them while standing in front of the current Saturday Sampler Quilt.  All followed by bright and vibrant fabric options to choose from.

You’ll always find _________ in my sewing stash.

You will always find bright, fun colors in my stash.

What is your personal motto or mantra?

My mantra – “Jump in with both feet” and “You will never know if you do not try”.

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Meet HomeGrown HomeSewn

Store name: HomeGrown HomeSewn
Owners: Tom & Diane Schultz / Caleb & Abbey Matthews
Store location: 5761 Springdale Rd. Suite L, Cincinnati, OH 45247

HomeGrown HomeSewn is located in a small strip mall. Business at HomeGrown HomeSewn in Cincinnati, Ohio is truly a family affair. Everyone’s involved in running the store!
Continue reading Meet HomeGrown HomeSewn

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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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Let’s Talk Money

Money never seems to be easy. Not easy to talk about, not easy to understand, and especially not to get.

But whoever said there’s no such thing as free money never applied for a small business grant. Grants are a great way to give your business the extra financial push it needs to meet it’s next goal.

When it comes to setting yourself apart from the rest of the applicants it’s important to do your research well ahead of time. Make a list of the grants you could qualify for, their deadlines, and their requirements. Be sure to give yourself plenty of time to meet these steps, and begin to schedule a rough timeline to complete each task.

Make sure you don’t have to force justification for these grants; it will show in your materials if the fit doesn’t seem natural. And don’t forget to search for local or regional grants that may be better suited for your area’s economic needs (and thus a better fit for your business).

Next, seek professional help. Sometimes you have to spend money to make money. Or utilize resources that have experience in grants, like the Better Business Bureau or The American Association of Grant Professionals. If you have a friend with experience in the professional writing world or with a stellar set of skills and experience in editing, then you’ve hit the jackpot if they’re willing to give you help for free.

small biz grants

Often times these grants can seem like a pipe dream, but it doesn’t hurt to try. And with most things, persistence pays off. If you don’t get it in year one, try again. With each year you apply, the more the committee will recognize your effort and the less daunting the process will seem.

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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What’s in stock?

Inventory management. What a scary phrase, right? And when spoken as a task it can sound even worse.

But all business owners know how important inventory management can be. How is anyone supposed to know how much of a new product a business should order? Being small business owners makes these processes a little harder when time is already thin.

For those of you who don’t know, inventory management is the process of tracking assets and stock items. Inventory management follows the flow of goods from the moment you order product from a manufacturer to delivery to your local store and finally to the point of sale.

The goal is to keep as good of records as possible for each new and returned item in your store.

Inventory management

Building your own excel sheet is a good start for keeping track of your inventory. Another way to make the numbers more personal is by including the cost of the inventory in the spreadsheet as well.

Stock review is an important manual step in the inventory management process; simply analyze what’s on hand versus what you will need in the future. Of course you can always order product for a customer if they request it; but isn’t it handy for both of you when it’s already in supply?

Another plus of inventory management is that the process forces you to keep records; be sure to review these records once a year to know your best selling products during certain seasons. This can also help with new product predictions too. Keep in mind the ABC system when you’re doing this to keep you focused and organized, where

  • A equals high-value, low quantity goods,
  • B equals moderate value, moderate quantity goods, and
  • C equals low value, high quantity goods.

There are systems in place now to help with the financial side of inventory as well. Since each business owner has their own personal preference, I recommend this article that may help you make the best decision for yourself on what system to purchase.

Once you get this system in place, it can help you determine your reorder point and the amount of stock you want to keep on hand. Knowledge is power, and the more quality data you have on your inventory can save you time and money.

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.