My FIVE Worst Business Decisions

So…

recently I told you about the six best decisions we made for our business, but here’s the deal… if I had to pick the single hardest thing we faced in starting up this business back in 2004 it would clearly be the overwhelming MOUNTAIN of stuff we needed to learn and do without ANY remotely helpful resources from which to learn it or figure it out!

Looking back now, it was certainly NOT a recipe for success. After all, I didn’t know ANYONE who was running an online business, and i could only name one independent pattern designer but I was a voracious reader, devouring every book that was even close to applicable for our business model and here’s the deal…remarkably, we did OK. I can honestly say that with one notable exception, our worst decisions have stemmed from an overwhelming abundance of caution.

Here they are, in the order in which we made them!

1- We waited WAY to long to vend at Quilt Market!  Our 1st Quilt Market was in the Spring of 2008 in Portland, Oregon, but I knew long before then that we needed to be displaying there, but here’s the thing… the very thought of it literally scared me to death! I just didn’t know what to do about my booth display, after all, I’d never been to anything even remotely like the Quilt Market. I knew that avoiding Quilt Market was holding our business back and lucky for me I had a wonderful cheerleader in my corner who believed in me and very much wanted me to be at Quilt Market. Penel Jensen (formerly of Pattern Peddlers) was the 1st distributor to take a chance on our pattern line and for some unknown reason took a liking to us, always providing words of advice and encouragement.

So when I heard she was facing knee-replacement surgery in the Fall of 2007, I asked her if she’d like me to come to Houston for Quilt Market and be “her legs” and she said yes. This gave me that all-important chance to go to Quilt Market to check things out without any commitment. I took measurements, talked to other vendors and in general found out the things I needed to know to feel like I was ready for the next Market in the Spring of 2008.

2- We waited WAY too long to launch our own line of zippers and hardware! Almost from the beginning (2005) we sold loose hardware and eventually zippers in our online store, but I was VERY resistant to selling them wholesale and to our distributors. That’s because that it was little scary getting involved with printing tags with UPC barcodes which was a pretty big commitment to us at the time.

But here’s the deal… the economic downturn in the late 2000’s was VERY hard on many pattern designers and if we hadn’t expanded our reach and added these additional income streams to our business model during a scary economic time, we may well have gone by the wayside just like so many others!

3- We waited WAY too long to add select fabric lines to our offerings! (Are you starting to see a pattern here?) For years folks had been asking us about the beautiful fabrics we use in our samples, and many of my peers had been advising us to start carrying a few select fabrics to our lines, particularly for retail shows. But once again, taking on fabric CAN be a little risky because you can’t start out with just a little. Most fabric houses insist on a pretty substantial opening order and in retrospect I seriously underestimated how much people would be interested in making up their bag in EXACTLY the same fabrics we used for a particular sample.

Finally in the spring of 2018 I found a fabric (NY Skylines by Hoffman) that resonated SO much with me that I knew in my heart it was “the perfect match” for the Sling Along pattern. And when we released the pattern in June of 2018  it was with an option of purchasing the NY Skylines fabric and layout that we used to make that unique bag. And since then we have been carefully adding select fabrics to our line with great success!  ūüôā

4- I was totally resistant to the idea of selling notions kits at retail shows. This is one area in which my husband and I strongly disagreed. He was in favor of selling hardware kits LONG before I got on board. His contention was that I was wasting FAR too much time at shows gathering up the various notions which our individual customers needed for each pattern design. But I just couldn’t get around the logistics of how I could display notions kits without at least doubling our booth footprint.

FINALLY, at Road2Ca in the Winter of 2019 I decided to offer a couple of select notions kits in support of our best-selling patterns. I made up some discounted notions kits with gold as well as silver hardware but WITHOUT zippers (since we had NINE different zip options at that time) and here’s the deal… we sold out of virtually every notions kit we brought. SO… not only did we sell more hardware/notions that ever before, but it was SO MUCH easier on me not having to gather up the same  supplies over and over again for our customers. Yep- the Hubster was right!

5- I stayed with our payment platform (2Checkout) WAY too long. This is probably the most serious mistake I’ve made in the course of establishing this business. We had been using 2Checkout as our payment platform since late 2010 with no problems at all but sometime in early 2018, 2Checkout was bought out by a company called Avangate.

By summer I knew there were serious problems looming because it seemed I could never, and I do mean NEVER get anyone to answer the phone… at all! Worse than that, even when I left a message, it was sometimes days before they’d return phone calls if at all, and on the few occasions they chose to answer an email question, the answer would be some stock answer that had little or nothing to do with the question I asked. It was beyond frustrating. What was even more disturbing was that I couldn’t find a US phone number for Avangate. I knew these were all ominous signs and in retrospect I should’ve started shopping for a new payment platform immediately but instead I stalled, knowing that this change would inevitably be a long, drawn-out and very expensive undertaking. And when the communication situation with Avangate began to improve in the Fall of 2018, I convinced myself that they were getting their act together and that everything would work out… but I was SO WRONG because the decision to stay with Avangate will turn out to be the worst business decision I’ve ever made, and hopefully will EVER make.
You can read the rest of the sad Avangate story by clicking HERE.

And now…. it’s YOUR turn!

Would you care to share a not-so-good decision you made that actually worked out well for you in the end? And remember, we love reading your comments and answering your questions too, so please feel free to leave either or both in the space provided below.

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Kat

7 Comments

  1. Joan O'Malley on February 25, 2020 at 6:48 am

    Thanks for sharing this. I look at your business with awe and wonder. I have, for years wanted to sell my quilts but knew I wasnt savvy enough to take the plunge. After reading that even someone as successful as you had doubts makes me feel a bit more like maybe I could do it. Thanks

    • Kat on February 25, 2020 at 2:22 pm

      You never know until you try! Start small and build on small successes!

  2. Virginia Barbaro on February 25, 2020 at 7:31 am

    Waiting way too long to work for myself. I spent too much time working in some very poor conditions for some not so normal people. At least working for myself, I knew how crazy my boss was!

    • Kat on February 25, 2020 at 2:23 pm

      I waited WAY too long to start as well, but its scary to give up a full time job isnt it.

  3. Diane on February 25, 2020 at 9:10 am

    I’m so glad that you survive and thrive. Making your bags and testing your patterns has gotten me through some tough times and anticipation for the next one is always a bright spot in my days. Thank you.

    • Kat on February 25, 2020 at 2:41 pm

      Thrilled to hear you enjoy testing so much, because I sure do enjoy having you work with us!
      ūüôā

  4. Beth on February 27, 2020 at 10:06 pm

    I really enjoy reading your thoughts about your business experiences. In fact, reading one of your articles is what basically attracted me to your business even before I became familiar with your pattern line.

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