Quilted Cottage, opening in October 2007, was never meant to be simply a quilt shop, selling fabric, notions, patterns and books, our vision was much larger than that. It is situated in Saginaw Township, just outside the city limits, centered in Saginaw County. The county has an estimated population of over 200,000 covering over 800 square miles, and our township with an estimated population of over 40,000 people, covering over 24 square mile. With these statistics in mind four women sat down, planned a place where women and men could come together to work and share as they created the designs of their heart. The times have necessitated that many women need to work outside the home, and many grandparents are in the role of caregiver. This has isolated many people. In the past we talked across the fence and worked out our worries, now many are alone and miss companionship. With this thought in mind we planned a business where our customers could shop for supplies, attend classes, and enjoy the friendship of others. Our plan was to divide our space into retail, class, and office space. The original shop was approximately 2500 square feet with retail in front and classroom in back. Five years later its size has doubled, with classroom, office, and repair room taking half and retail the rest.
Our mission focuses on service; to help, educate and connect. We make it a goal to learn the names of all our customers, greeting them as they enter, helping them find what they need, then utilizing a POS system for check out. This keeps a history of each of their purchases for future reference. Our cutting table is a central area with stools, for seating. It is reminiscent of the “everybody knows your name” era. If we do not have what they need we custom order, or find another store in the area that does. Our monthly staff meetings are filled with discussion on how to better serve those who come through our door, as well as personal staff development. Educating the customer is a top priority, that is why we set up a 40 table classroom, and invite local, and national teachers to come and teach. With several clubs, groups and classes to choose from each person has the opportunity for growth and personal development. Providing opportunities for customers to gather and work together takes planning and effort, in order to be successful. Each week we have open sew, free to anyone who wants to attend, each month’s activities include a “Sleep At Home” event, and once a year we plan an off site retreat. Our “Sleep At Home” retreats are unique and a customer favorite, they spend 4 days, 35 hours, making new friends, finishing projects, and having FUN!
Community involvement can be as small as one or as many as a nation. Part of our mission is to serve the individual customer, as well as provide an environment for them to serve others on a local, national and international level. From the moment we opened our doors we have encouraged service through fundraising, group activities, take home projects and public awareness. One of our clubs, Sisterhood of Quilters, provided opportunities to gather and sew over 400 pillowcases for children in hospitals, over 300 dresses for girls in Haiti, and adult bibs for hospice patients, to name a few. We kept a notebook recording 1000’s of hours of personal service. Each year our shop along with a neighboring corset shop, has raised money for a special mammography fund set aside by a local hospital to help uninsured women. One of our events recorded in local media, included over 1000 pink mini quilts made by individual women as a memorial or expression of love, which were hung in front of several stores in our strip mall. Through fundraising events and sales, we support “The Pinkie Fund”, which raises money for breast cancer patients, helping pay for medications and daily needs when their stream of income is exhausted. We have hosted two Valentine Dances “Sammy’s Sweetheart Ball”, to raise money for the cardiomyopathy fund. Part of our service efforts include public awareness and education. Two of our favorite activities include self defense training, where staff from a local hospital came dressed in a padded suit, taught self defense moves and then simulated an attack, allowing us to practice what we had learned. The second was an evening for couples to come and learn from a dance instructor a few steps, making for an enjoyable evening out!
A second aspect of community involvement is to work along side other businesses in the area for the benefit of the local neighborhood as well as personal business success. Many quilt shops hold a shop hop each year, where customers travel from shop to shop with passports, shopping and meeting new people. A shop hop requires a shop to be at least a year old to participate, so during our first year we found several other “NEWBIES’ and invited them to be part of the “New Kid on the Block Hop”, this provided support and growth for each shop. Since then we have participated in 3 more hops that cover over 400 miles each and 7-8 shops in a three day period. Along the same lines we invited several businesses, scrap-booking, beading, stitchery, and yarn that lie along the same highway near us to be part of a Saturday event, “Explore the 46 Corridor”, which open the eyes of the community as to what is available just outside their door. We are part of a group of 3 buildings that consist of several stores and businesses. We meet as a group to plan combined activities such as sidewalk days and holiday walks.
Honestly, when asked what would a $250K grant mean to our business, it would be an answer to prayers, the kind that keep you up at night, thinking about how to make what you envision happen. Having a vision of something great and being able to afford to make it are two separate things, both are needed, both require work, the get down in the trenches kind of WORK. We knew this from the moment we sat down to plan, and we continue in that effort each day. In order to maximize the utilization of the funds, and to avoid waste we need to look at our ultimate goal of becoming a full service sewing center. We would love to manage a facility where quilters could attend quilt academy, receive instruction, purchase supplies, and fellowship with one another. There are a few small retreat facilities in Michigan, several are booked two years out. Only a couple have retail on site, and we have the largest quilt shop classroom in Michigan. So based on that goal, the money would be divided into accounts, Inventory Purchase, Class & Teacher Development, Event Planning, and the creation of a Design Department.
To[jll1] maintain a competitive inventory, we will continue to monitor the market, keeping on top of the newest trends, ordering within a monthly budget, thus maintaining a balance of goods each season. In order to develop classes based on customer input, we will enroll our staff in the semi annual market trainings, fall market being based in Houston. As well as attending other trainings offered by national teachers. An account to pay tuition, travel and accommodations would be given a budget. Events, such as Sleep at Home Retreat, would be expanded to incorporate the increasing number of attendees that enroll each month, this would mean hiring additional staff to manage and to plan. The creation of a Design Department, to create patterns and books under the Quilted Cottage label would utilize funding for development, branding and packaging, marketing and promotion. By developing our own patterns and books, and marketing them, we will be able to receive income from sources beyond our local “brick and mortar” store front. This would give us an additional source of income, to help us reach our future goals.
And finally, we would create an account set aside for the purchase of our own building, and based on a time table of growth and development we will purchase what will become ”Quilted Cottage: Sewing and Retreat Center.
The greatest challenge facing any business is the people who manage and run it. Understanding that a business takes a lot of time and effort goes beyond what words can express. Until you live, breathe, dream and wake up thinking about it, you really don’t understand the depth of commitment it takes to succeed. Anyone who isn’t willing to face this fact becomes one of the biggest stumbling blocks a business can face. That being said we also understand the need for rest, both physically and emotionally in order to avoid burnout. Of the original four women owners there are only three left, one left due to family obligations, one is a financial partner who lives out of state. That leaves Jackie and I, (Stacy), as working owners, our husbands have joined us as partners and run the Janome sewing machine and repair departments. Having our husbands and family involved in the business has given us additional support
The next challenge is lack of or mis- management of money. To prevent and to ensure stability a firm budget needs to be in place with money put into accounts for usage. As a small corporation, we meet routinely to plan and vote on expenditures. We have learned by experience how important it is to manage our income especially given the economy. The best way to overcome challenges is to face, identify, problem solve and WORK them out. We are not afraid to do that and because we love what we do we are committed to making it happen.
Our staff includes Jackie and Bob, Mark and Stacy, Jessica, Judy and Marlene. We also have several women and men from our customer base who volunteer to help with many of our events. As a combined TEAM our staff prays for, works and serves each customer who comes through the door. We enjoy our monthly staff breakfast, our yearly Christmas dinner and spontaneous road trips. One unusual fact is that Jessica is the daughter of Mark and Stacy and the daughter-in-law of Jackie and Bob, so we share grandchildren. This may to some be a liability, we see it as a added benefit. Each member of our team represents one piece in a quilt, each sharing in the successes of the other, but combined they create a beautiful masterpiece.
Jackie, has over 20 years in office management and bookkeeping, she is highly self motivated and will work nonstop to complete a project. She has fallen in love with the business and is constantly working to improve our ordering and inventory management. Her ability to pick out a pattern and fabrics one day only to come back the next with a finished project is amazing! Bob, loves to greet each customer who comes through the door and will carry their machines out after an event. He has scraped the snow off windows, started cars, and shared a sucker or two with the little ones. His official duties include sewing machine sales, repair and cleaning. He has attended several out of state trainings and studies to keep up on any changes.
Stacy, has over 25 years of marketing, mainly in the direct selling market, with leadership of several hundred women and awards for sales. She loves to teach, teaching by principle, “teach a man to fish and he will never be hungry.” The development of Fantastic Fridays, Sleep at Home Events, Retreats, and Quilt Academy are some of her marketing ideas. Mark, works full time for another company, works in the shop as needed, helping at events, repairing machines, and managing physical facilities. Mark has attended training to sell and repair Janome machines, and enjoys sharing a joke or two with the ladies. He loves to fix and maintain our building space, even though we rent.
Jessica, is a florist and event planner, and works part time in the shop helping customers, managing our facebook account, writing ads for local papers, setting up displays, and designing projects. She loves to help customers pick out fabric and teaches several classes. Judy, works part time helping customers, cutting kits, and is a very talented long arm quilter, with a large customer base. She has a vast knowledge of quilting and enjoys helping customers pick out fabric. Marlene, is a very talented quilter, who loves to teach. She enjoys trying out new products and teaching others how to use them. If you have any questions about quilting, sewing machines, or sewing, Marlene usually has the answer.
Our use of social media is an asset to our business and consist of a Facebook page where we communicate with our customers regarding events, share quilt ideas and promote the love of quilting. Several of our customers follow and participate on our pinterest page, finding ispiration and sharing ideas. We also have sent a weekly e-newsletter for over 4 years, called the “Cottage Chatter”, filled with news of upcoming events, new products arrivals, and class schedules.