business planning

I find it sort of funny, when I deal with people in my business (I mean people in the quilting world, in general) only want to know about your quilting history. I am NEVER asked about my former career. I guess it’s funny to me because my “before” and “after” lives are SO dichotomous. Not sure about that word? Look it up :).

At the end of my corporate reign, I was managing a 1.5 million square foot building. To put this in perspective, imagine your bedroom, which might be 15 foot square. 15×15 = 225 square feet. Or your house size = 3-4000 square feet? It was a REALLY big building; actually it was a warehouse, holding home improvement type goods imported from overseas.

If I remember correctly, my budget for the operation was about $43 million. Yes MILLIONS of DOLLARS. Sounds like I’m loony? I don’t remember all the specifics anymore, but I solidly remember that my transportation budget alone was $17 million. We shipped to over 300 stores in 11 states on at least a weekly basis. So to pay for the use of the trailers, the fuel, etc. that was my budget. Add in rent, labor, supplies, utilities and corporate BS and boom – BIG money!

I’m not bragging. I could probably figure out the words to describe how overjoyed I am to be out of that business, but I’m not going to bother. Suffice it to say, to me, now, that is just background.

It is good background tho. I helped a Canadian lady I met on Etsy to build a business plan so she could get a loan for her natural soap company. And now that I have my feet planted on the ground with my business, and have some history tracked down, I am ready to make myself a firm business plan.

I started by making some goals for this year. They were measurable, but not super specific. It is hard to be specific when your business is driven by clients you don’t even know you have yet, and others that call you when they have something for you. There is no guarantees of business, no steady income. But there are expenses driven by workload, and some not…

Not? How do you have to spend money without having a workload? It’s that pesky fabric hoarding addiction thing. My husband and I had a business dinner (beer, queso, the good kind of dinner) to discuss some plans and actions I could take to increase my net income. The first question out of his mouth: Can you decrease expenses? That is the easiest way to increase income without having to increase gross income. Well, if I stop buying fabric… Then he asks the dreaded… “Well how much fabric do you have in inventory?”

I’m not answering that.

Honestly I don’t know. I don’t think I want to know. I’m kind of scared to do that math. So I won’t. Ahhh, the perks of being the business manager.

What I did take from this conversation is that I have a problem, a wound, if you will. And the best course of action for my business is to stop the bleeding. I have plenty of fabric (no I don’t / YES YOU DO / no I don’t / YES YOU DO – this is going on in my head at the moment). I have plenty of fabric and unless I need to buy it to complete a customer’s project, I need to NOT buy it. This truly stopped me from buying this beautiful panel at the store yesterday. It was really hard – I looked at it, and fondled the soft cotton, and then remembered my promise to myself and put it down and walked away.

Step one, day 20 accomplished. Now to just make it through the next 345 days…

This is a pretty significant decision. But truly, I have decided to work on these projects and make quilts for charity – I have a set of 3 quilts on my table in progress and that didn’t even make a 1″ dent in my stack of fabric!

My current charity project

sigh. stack of fabric? it’s actually not a stack, per se. see below…

those bins are all full of fabric

I had to buy more bins because I had so much fabric

Those bins are all full of fabric.

Oh, and then there’s “the table”. It’s actually bags of fabric I brought to a retreat thinking I would get 100 projects done (well, those are the ones under the table), some fabric from mom, 2 repair jobs (yellow and cream pile to the left) and some fabric for those, and some other ‘stuff’, including more fabric (the yellow and blue with duckies is another charity project in the queue). Oh and that blue tub on the left? Full of quilt tops that need to be quilted, most of them with the backs already prepared. HELLO! I could get those done and up on Etsy or given to charity. oi woman! Oh and the basket? Full of beads. So glad I have time for playing with those…

the dreaded table

This is a good thing. I just have to keep repeating that to myself. I have enough. Ya, enough to make quilts for the next 10 years. So as a prudent business owner, I need to use my planning skills and business smarts to know that I am not allowed to buy fabric just because I want to.

That was the biggest realization. Next I’m going to tackle a specific budget. I.e. at the end of each month, I will put the sales tax $ into another account. I will also figure out what % I think I should pay myself and what % to put into my expense account, for purchase of REQUIRED supplies.

I think this is a pretty strong start. Now – on to some quilting!

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charity work thursday

i decided that the best way to attack my very important decision to do charity work weekly, was to actually assign a day to do it. i wasn’t sure this week if that would be thursday or friday, but thought the best plan would be thursday in case friday got crazy busy. i was thinking going forward that planning on thursday’s would be my best bet.

last week when i looked at some of my favorite fabric, i decided on the size of the main panel, and cut three, as well as figuring the inner and middle border sizes i wanted to have for the quilts.

today i scouted out the bricks for the middle border, some from my scrap pile and some from my fabric bins, as well as choosing and cutting my inner border. so i cut my border bricks into strips and am now ready to assemble them into the border bricks.

this is what the quilts will look like when finished (for the most part. they will be larger than this, square rather than rectangular).

noahs ark ez breezy

this one above i had quilted with baptist fans, so it looks like rainbows, which i think really is appropriate either way.

i feel so blessed to have the ability to make quilts like this, to do charity work like this. and THAT is why i feel it is SO important to give back to my community.

i didn’t get a charity quilt completed today, but that’s not what i promised myself i would do, so i’m not upset. i’m actually working on 3 at once, so i know it will take some time to get them all done. i did submit significant throught and time to these quilts, so i know i’ve made progress.

and that’s what counts.

week 1 goal met – charity work done!

I love to do charity work, especially when it involves quilting. I get such a warm and fuzzy feeling inside when I do something that I know will help someone in need. I know a LOT of other quilters that are very generous with their charity work as well, so I feel right at home in this profession.

One of my favorite ‘charity’ groups to donate my time to is Quilts Of Valor Foundation (http://www.qovf.org/). As a veteran, I understand how lucky I am to not have trod the sand, slept in desert heat, fired my rifle at anyone or come home missing body parts. So if I can do one thing that I love to do, AND help out someone that gave their time and well-being to protect ME and my fellow citizens, well then, I want to do that!

The process is pretty cool actually. Someone, or a group of people (I’ve had quilts come from a quilting bee) make a quilt top and use the website to have it directed to a longarm quilter, like me. They send the quilt back and top to me, and I add the batting and quilt it, in whatever style and color I want to use.

Many of the quilts are patriotically themed. Lots of red, white and blue quilts, quilts with stars, or military panels. Sometimes the quilts are just completely different, which is nice too. 

The quilt I finished today was one of those – it does have a pattern of opposing light and dark stars, but the darker fabrics are scrappy and very small, which makes for a beautiful, classic look.

QOV scrappy stars

With this pattern, I wanted to use my variegated blue/white thread and quilt swirls over the stars. Doing a rounded quilting pattern on a quilt top pattern that has more angles can create a unique visual effect. Well, I like it anyway. Hopefully the recipient will also.

swirls on stars

From there usually one of two things happens.

Sometimes I trim and bind the quilt, then wash it per the instructions of QOVF and send it on to wherever they tell me to. One I’ve sent off to Germany, one to Los Angeles and I think one to MD.

Most of the time the quilt maker wants me to send it back to them and they take care of that aspect and have it shipped to the final destination. Along with the quilt I send pictures of my studio and a short letter telling them about me and my family and the process that creates their quilt.

The quilts all go to veterans of war. They all go to someone deserving.

The trouble is that there is ALWAYS a greater need than there is supply. I have received quilts from both coasts because there is a shortage of longarm quilters that participate.

quilt on the longarm

Usually I am sent about one per month. Per my 2013 goals, I have completed my charity for the first week! And it felt really good. 🙂

Resolutions vs. Goals

I’m an avid listmaker. Always have been. Before I had things I actually needed to make lists to keep track of (like my daily to-do’s), I made lists of things, words that rhymed, types of animals, whatever entertained my childish mind. But as an adult, it’s no surprise to me that I continue to rely on, and actually enjoy making, my variety of lists.

One of those lists revolves around 2013, and quilting. By default, I decided not to make any resolutions this year. Actually I didn’t even think about making any, I just plumb forgot. So I guess it’s not that important to me.

What I decided WAS important to me was making some goals, personal and professional. I haven’t delved into personal aspirations yet, but have made my list of professional goals for 2013. They’re pretty basic, but I think making them will keep them in the forefront of my mind, and help me keep focused every week/month/quarter to ensure I’m doing the best I can to grow my business in the direction that I want it to go.

Some are more specific than others, but all are measurable. For example, I have decided that I need to spend time every week on a charity project. Even if that means working for an hour piecing a top to donate, then I have satisfied my self-imposed requirement. I like this goal, because I know how important that work is to me and how good I feel about doing it, so it isn’t a chore, but this goal is a good reminder to do a little bit every week; make time for it.

I (of course) want to generate more income on a monthly and annual basis than in previous years (which would indicate a successful business from the standpoint of most people, I think), but this year I want to ensure I am putting aside funds for taxes on a regular basis, so it doesn’t feel so painful when Uncle Sam comes a’knocking.

I have a few goals with respect to my guild involvement and marketing, fabric buying (this might be tough, because I want to cut back), updating the pictures on my website and blogging regularly. All in all, I think this list is functional, rather than a string of pipedreams or unattainable measurements. Just enough to keep me focused for the year.

Happy quilting!