I’ve been doing a lot of reminiscing & “looking back” of late since we just completed our 15th year in business. When I started StudioKat Designs way back then, I had absolutely NO business experience at all. I didn’t even take any business courses in college. I took a couple years of “Distributive Education” (or so it was called back in the day) when I was in high school, but that’s about it! I probably had no business starting a business but was too dumb to know that! So it probably wouldn’t surprise you to find out that we’ve made a LOT of mistakes along the way. Don’t worry, I’ll tell you about those in an upcoming post. Today however, I’m sharing the six BEST choices I’ve made along the way!
1) I determined VERY early on that teaching wasn’t for me and would not be part of my business model. Now to be clear… there’s nothing wrong with teaching. In fact, I so admire those who are good at it and make it an important part of their business. But here’s the deal. I firmly believe that teaching is a gift and its just NOT an area in which I am gifted. First of all, I really don’t enjoy it at all. I would far rather spend my time doing something I enjoy doing and actually am good at. I’ve bowed to the pressure at times and tried small settings like small quilt guilds as well as larger venues such as the Schoolhouse series at Quilt Market and the results are always predictable. It totally stresses me out and I’m never happy with my performance. So… now whenever I get invitations to speak or teach I politely decline.
2) We took a calculated risk and added a studio onto our house in 2009. It was a BIG expense and a leap of faith because let’s face it… 10 years ago we were still a relatively new business AND we were in the midst of that economic downturn so it didn’t really SEEM like a good time to take on this kind of a project, but we were in the midst of expanding our line (see item #3) and were strapped for space and quite honestly, we felt we were in the right place at the right time and it worked out beautifully!
3) We added zippers and hardware to our product line. I’ve always been a student of analytic metrics and the aforementioned economic downturn in 2008 REALLY affected our metrics, and not particularly in a good way. It totally changed our income streams. Prior to 2008, our primary income source was thru our distribution channels, to the tune of 60-65%! But when SO many quilt stores started failing in the recession it had a very negative impact on our business and we knew we had to make some BIG changes. We decided to add zippers and hardware to our product offerings in order to more aggressively pursue our retail customers thru an increased social media presence. And you know what? After this change, I began to notice our metrics were slowly changing as a greater and greater portion of our income was direct-to-consumer, so during those lean years, when many designers were struggling to break even, we did quite well as a direct result of being willing to diversify and to change our marketing strategy!
4) We began vending at retail shows. Piggy-backing on #3 and our changing demographic, we started small and close to home by testing the waters at a little 3-day summer show in Raleigh, NC, mainly because we wanted to get our feet wet and work out the bugs BEFORE going to Houston in November for the International Quilt Festival.
But here’s the deal… the show in Houston taught us two things. 1) You’re never really ready for your first International Quilt Festival, no matter how much you THINK you are… and 2) a carefully chosen retail show is an awesome way to increase your consumer income stream!
So… in order to get the biggest “bang for our buck” and to spend as little time away from the studio as possible, we scoped out the retail landscape and worked toward getting into 4 great shows in 4 different areas of this country! Road to California, Mid-Atlantic Quilt Festival, AQS Paducah KY, and of course the International Quilt Market & Festival! And here’s the best part! Our metrics have virtually flipped 180 degrees! The “direct-to-consumer portion of our income is now 65%+!
5) We hired our sister-in-law to handle order fullfillment & eventually a lot other stuff too! Of course adding all those zippers and hardware to our product line also meant that there were WAY more items to pack up and tag for our distributors and particularly before the retail shows. It had gotten to the point where it was more than I could handle alone but lucky for me, my brother and his family moved from California to a house just few doors down from us and my sister-in-law has been a Godsend! I honestly don’t know what I’d do without Lina. (And if you’re wondering why I don’t have a picture posted of her here, it’s because she’d filet me and serve me for supper if I did!) I guess some folks just prefer flying under the radar, right?
6) We upgraded our website to a WordPress site. Believe it or not, way back in the beginning (circa 2004) I taught myself HTML and built our first website from scratch (my son-in-law still thinks this is hysterical). It certainly wasn’t cutting edge and it would never have won a design contest but it served me well for 7 years or so until we had our website redesigned to a WordPress site. And here’s the deal … it was amazing how much the technology had changed since 2004 because the new site was SO much easier to manage besides being easier on the eyes! I didn’t realize how much time I was wasting making redundant changes!
And now…. it’s YOUR turn!
Do YOU care to share a decision you’ve made that turned out to be key for you or your family?
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