Ok, so I was really feeling the love from all of your great comments from my last soapbox post about giving yourself permission to succeed. Many of you took encouragement from what I had to say (yay!) One reader (Lauren) left this comment which I thought would make a great followup post:
What would be really helpful to others out there is to tell us about the “paths” that were successful and those “paths” that were not.
So I thought I would give you more of an insight into my path thus far. Just remember, there are many paths to achieve your goals and not everyone’s will be the same. So here ya go:
I started quilting about 20 years ago as a newlywed and (poor) college student. I was getting my degree in business at the time and knew I always wanted to own my own company. I immediately saw the potential to make money from this great hobby of mine and set off on a path to figure out how to do so.
I first began by selling quilts and quilted items at a local craft cooperative. Although I loved the excuse to make things, and it gave me a ton of machine quilting practice, in the end, it really didn’t make much money. But it did allow me to get my wholesale license so that I could buy fabrics in bulk, at a discount.
During this productive crafting time, I began teaching quilting classes locally, first at a small quilt shop that’s now out of business, then at the nearest JoAnn’s. I absolutely loved teaching and thought that I had found my true calling. I created original designs, taught my students how to make a complete quilt from start to finish, and reveled in the friendships I was making with women who spanned all ages and walks of life. I was very successful doing this for several years until my third child came along (11 years ago). Jason was a CPA by this time and those tax seasons were long and hard on both of us. I realized something had to give and I needed to focus more on working from home.
At the same time, the corporate structure of JoAnn’s changed so that they no longer wanted original ideas for their classes. Instead, they wanted to go with a one size fits all approach with each store teaching the same curriculum. That did not interest me in the least since I didn’t want to teach other people’s ideas; I preferred to teach my own. So it was a good time to make a change. One of my students suggested I begin selling fabric on ebay, so I took her up on that suggestion.
This led me on my next path which lasted for a good 10 years – setting up and running a full-service online quilt shop with my own independent website. The first couple of years I did it all on my own, as a side business while Jason worked full time. Until one day he came home and said he was tired of crunching other people’s numbers and he wanted a change. So I made the suggestion to take our business full time with both of us fully invested in it. We had only ourselves to rely on now and it was a bit of a scary ride, but we were all in.
We came to a crossroads sometime after the great recession of 2008-2010 (yes it lasted that long for us). We either had to go big or go home, or change the fundamental way in which we were doing business. At about this time I started feeling anxious about my lack of quilting time. As any shop owner knows, when you run a full-time gig, you rarely have time to actually sew!
So we started kicking around ideas of what other products/services we could promote within the quilting industry that would get me back to sewing. I began teaching again because my kids were older now. I started throwing around the idea of designing patterns professionally or maybe writing a book. However I sat on that idea for a couple of years, because I didn’t feel like I had quite found my voice. That is until I discovered modern quilting in 2012.
All of a sudden I tired of cutting and selling traditional fabrics (no offense please – I finally admitted they weren’t my style but I loved that they were other people’s style). On a whim, Jason decided we should try selling precuts, freeing us from the daily grind of cutting fabric day after day, order after order. It was a pretty big risk and we had to sink quite a bit of savings into it to give it a go. But it has given me back my fun time: time to teach, time to design, time to write, and time to quilt. So far so good, and I’ve never been happier.
I’m not exactly sure where the current path will lead. My hope is to produce enough content and secure enough educational work that our business can truly be “Christa Quilts” rather than “Christa Sells Fabric.” As I always say, the joy is in the journey and I sure have enjoyed the ride!