How Is Your Labor Building a Quilt Business?

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Here in the US, Labor Day might be more accurately named “Get Serious About Work Again Day.” With the weather starting to shift and the kids back in school, it’s easy to return your attention to quilt business plans that may have lagged in the heat of summer.

It’s also a good time to look at how, when, where, and why you are laboring in your business.

Are you giving your precious time and effort to the right ideas, the right activities?

Is your labor helping your business get to where you want it to go?

Or, are you giving too much of your labor to non-focused ideas or distractions, “work” that is actually a sign of avoidance, denial, or indecision about something you need to address?

Do yourself and your business a favor in this new season of energy. Take some quiet time before you launch back into the flurry of work tasks that await you. Get away from your computer, phone, office, and sewing space. Take a notepad and pen, perhaps collage or drawing supplies, and go quiet for a while.

Then ask these two essential questions:

“What REALLY is the right work for me to do now?”

“What work can I let go?”

Wait for answers to emerge from your intuition or by brainstorming possibilities. Choose the answers that have a cough, clear energy around them and you will have the right direction for resuming the work that is truly yours to do.

What actions or practices do you use to get answers to important questions?

 

Is Now a Bad Time to Start a Quilt Business?

In recent weeks there has been much online discussion about the “shrinking” of the quilting industry. Shops are closing. Magazines are stopping publication. Quilters seem to be aging and declining in numbers. And many commentators note the quilt market seems to be flooded with way too many fabrics, patterns, and products.

Should any of this worry you?

Maybe, if your dream is to open a physical quilt shop because this segment of the industry seems to be going through some level of struggle. You'll need to do careful research to make sure a local market can sustain the type of shop you want to run.

But if your vision is for a different type of quilt business, you may not need to pay attention to all the worries. And the biggest reason why … is you.

  • Your unique creativity that comes through in your quilts, patterns, fabric designs …
  • Your unique way of serving customers with longarm quilting, teaching, or producing custom or art quilts …
  • Your unique ideas for a quilt shop, whether online or yes, even a physical store ...
  • The special expression of your styles, passions, ideas that comes through in everything you do!

All of these elements will resonate with your “tribe” of customers, as long as you keep trying to find them. And with millions of quilters around the world, I believe the market is still big enough to offer plenty of opportunity.

Also important to remember: When starting business on a small scale, you don’t need a big market of potential customers to be a success. What’s more important is that you keep your willingness to try … To put your products and services out there, promote them in the best ways you can, then learn from what happens.

That’s my plan for pursuing my own quilt business ideas. And I won’t let any hand-wringing commentary in the industry stop me from trying.

What about you?

 

 

How to Build Your Quilt Business in 10 Minutes

No, this isn’t a hype-filled post promising the magic secret of building a complete business in just 10 minutes. Instead, it’s about taking the empty minutes that appear here and there throughout the day and doing things that will help to keep your business on track and flourishing.

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Be honest with yourself. How much time are you spending each day taking any productive action toward bringing your dream quilt business to reality? A few hours? An hour? Anything?

If you’re like others with a day job, a family, a life, you may find this a slightly uncomfortable question to answer.

And if the time isn’t as much as you think it should be, don’t be hard on yourself.

Instead, set a timer for 10 minutes, right now, and do something that will help you make progress in your business.

Here are some ideas to get you started:

  • Organize your desk, sewing area, etc. so you’ll be ready to go with the next step on your project or administrative work.
  • File paperwork, cleanout and reply to emails
  • Make a decision about something that you’re NOT going to do and get the related papers, materials, etc. out of your house or studio.
  • Have a “10 minute bag” in your house, office, and car. The bag can contain a sewing project, a marketing ideas notebook, drafts of future blog posts … Any project that you can pick up at any time, work on it for a few minutes then put it down again, happy with your progress.
  • Use a phone app like Evernote to capture an idea
  • Post a marketing or business information update on one or more of your social media accounts. If you can’t think of something to say or photograph in this moment, you can probably think of future updates to cue up in a scheduling tool like Hootsuite or Buffer.

No matter what it is, no matter how small, go do it now.

What are the ways that you make progress on your business in small bits of found time? Share your ideas in the comments area below.

PS: The "Quilter at Play" travel mug shown in the photo is one of my own designs. Order this mug or other fun gift items for quilters through my Cafépress shop.

Walk. Write. Sew. 3 Techniques for Making a Good Quilt Business Decision

Is this you? When I’m having trouble making a business decision or solving a problem, my brain seems to get stuck like a washing machine on the spin cycle. Round and round it goes, with the same questions and same unsatisfactory answers swirling nonstop in my head.

Soon, I don’t even care what the answer to the problem is, I just want the spinning to stop.

That’s when I know it’s time for one of my always reliable brain-clearing, answer-delivering practices: Walk, write, sew.

Walking creates a physical release for the thoughts that have me stuck.

Writing makes my left brain happy because I can work through a problem logically, using either journaling or mind mapping.

And aah, sewing is a great stress release … if it’s the right project. This isn’t the time when I work on one of my art quilts or a complex pattern.

Instead, I take out a charity quilt in progress, one that requires only simple cutting and sewing. The meditative quality of this work, along with the spirit boost of working with fabric and color, always calms my mind and renews my outlook.

You may find that different activities work for you. The idea is to reset your thinking by engaging your brain with something else and creating an opening for a new idea or answer to emerge.

What activities or techniques do you find helpful for clearing your mind? Share your thoughts in the comments area below.

Why Passion Can Hurt Your Quilt Business

A common belief is that you should start a business only if you have a deep passion for it. The thought is that without passion, you won’t have the drive to continue, especially when the business launch takes more time and effort than you expect.

Well, maybe some people need this deep passion, but I don’t think it is essential.

Indeed, passion can get in the way of starting and running a quilt business for several reasons.

Needing to feel “passion” brings too much emotion into how you perceive your plans, decisions, and experiences. It may create an unnecessary burden of expectation for unsustainable levels of energy and effort.

You may fall too much in love with ideas that aren’t a success while at the same time closing your mind to new possibilities that might be a better fit.

Burnout, frustration, and disappointment are stronger if your business idea doesn’t work out. And when the passion starts to sag, it becomes all too easy to blame yourself, doubt your commitment, and second-guess your decision to even start a business.

All of this unhelpful drama can be avoided if you simply change your perspective from “I want a quilt business I can feel passionate about” to “I want a business I can enjoy.”

Remember, a business doesn’t need to be a grand passion. Enjoyable can be quite enough.

What do you think? Is passion essential to starting and running a business? Share your thoughts in the comments area below.

Who Not to Ask for Quilt Business Advice

Yes, Facebook groups or other online forums can be helpful sources of information and advice … But be aware that sometimes the advice may be irrelevant, misguided, or simply wrong.

For example, one member of an online group I follow asked about the registrations required to start a quilt business. This simple question generated all types of random advice about differences in specific states, incorrect information about what registrations would be required, even nostalgic ramblings about how things used to be done.

I imagine the person who asked the question was even more confused than before!

Especially when it comes to legal or financial topics, asking a question online may not lead to the answers you need. Instead, you’ll want to find trusted local sources such as:

·        Accountants, attorneys, and other professionals

·        A government-run small business center

·        Chamber of Commerce or other organization for local small business

What sources have you found be valuable for business advice? Share them in the comments area below.

How to Overcome Your Fear of Selling

“I’d like to start a business, but I don’t like having to be a salesperson.”

That’s a common excuse for not taking action on your quilt business ideas. But it’s a very poor excuse, and one to put behind you right now.

How? By realizing that becoming comfortable with sales and marketing activities isn’t as hard or unpleasant as it seems.

Consider this: How many times have you said to one of your quilting friends, “I just saw this new fabric or new tool and you’ll love it!” Guess what? You’ve just done what every effective salesperson does: Shared information that will be helpful to a customer, with a spirit of friendly enthusiasm and confidence.

Of course, if you sell a complex, expensive product or service, you’ll need more sophisticated selling skills to guide customers to the point where they say, “Yes, I will buy it.”

But if you keep a positive, helpful spirit throughout all of your customer interactions, you’ll find that sales may come more easily than you think.

Sometimes just saying “hello” makes all the difference.

Have you ever walked out of a quilt shop or away from a booth simply because the staff never greeted you?

Or have you walked into a store in “just looking” mode, but ended up buying something because the staff took time to talk about your interests, then showed something you might enjoy?

Wouldn’t that be easy enough for you to do?

Think about the greetings, icebreaker questions, and actions you could use to make selling a friendly, low-pressure experience for you and your customers. Put them into practice and you’ll likely see positive results!

What ideas or actions help you overcome sales anxiety? Share them in the comments area below.

Business Inspiration from Standing in Line

You may think that your best business ideas will come only when you sit down with your notepad or computer, put your brain in serious thinking mode, and do very serious work on a very serious business plan document.

Well, yes, that can work, but it’s not the only way.

Sometimes your best business ideas will come when you’re in the most unlikely places.

For example, at the 2015 Sisters Outdoor Quilt Show in Oregon, the woman standing in line behind me just happened to be Alex Anderson. She is friendly and down-to-earth and we chatted a bit about her current projects. She mentioned a new product she was developing and I realized it would be a good one to carry in the online store I am planning.

It was a new business idea that came just from saying hello and being willing to talk with whoever was around me.

You don’t need to be with a celebrity like Alex. An informal chat with any fellow quilter can uncover new resources to explore, a new product concept, or a new way to promote your business.

It is easy as asking an icebreaker question such as “Have you seen something you really like in the show?” Or, “What kind of quilting you do?” Then, just take a friendly interest in that person’s answers and see where the conversation goes.

Sometimes another quilter will strike up a conversation with you … that is, if you don’t have your nose stuck in your phone so that others see you as approachable.

The big lightbulb insights won’t come from every meeting, but a friendly talk will make the waiting in line experience a lot more fun!

Think about how you can be more open to finding inspiration in unexpected places…and go find another quilter to talk with -- in person -- today!

Do you have a story about discovering a business idea in a surprising way? Share it in the comments area below!

Book Review: How to Start a Quilt Shop

A comprehensive, terrific set of ebooks with advice on starting a quilting store is How to Start your Own Quilt Shop, sold directly by the author (not available on Amazon). Here's why I like it:

  • It's geared to beginners, taking you step-by-step through the planning and activities you'll need to do before opening your shop.
  • The writing is clear and easy to follow; no fancy business jargon
  • It is focused on the unique aspects running and promoting a quilting store
  • The business plan templates do a lot of the hard number-crunching for you

What's Included

The basic set of books is full of detailed tips and resources, but what you really want to order is the version with the business plan templates. Why? Because these Excel spreadsheets will save you a tremendous amount of time and math for calculating all the financial numbers you will need to know...And you can use that time to plan all of the fun products, classes, events etc. that will bring customers into your quilt and fabric store.

Limitations:

  1. This infokit doesn't cover online or pop-up shops and the marketing information is a bit dated.
  2. Don't let the hype-y website turn you off. The books in this set are filled with clear, solid, no-hype information about starting a physical quilt shop business that I haven't found anywhere else. After you click on the link below, scroll directly to the Order Now button at the bottom of the webpage. The option to order the version with the business plan templates will appear after you click the first ordering button.

Even with these limitations, this e-book set is my top choice for starting a quilt shop.

Order Now: How to Start your Own Quilt Shop

 

Support for Community Service Quilting Organizations

Quilters are terrific at giving back, with quilts that offer warmth and comfort to people who need a touch of care and encouragement.

But every community service project involves more than just quilts and volunteers. It also means administrative expenses that can be hard to cover through traditional fundraising activities.

That’s why each year I will donate a percentage of revenues from product sales on this site to community service quilting service organizations. Current eligible organizations are Project Linus and the Quilts of Valor Foundation.

If you would like to suggest another organization, enter a comment below.