What the What????

I  belong to a YahooGroups for machine quilters. The following email was posted this morning –

“A new quilt shop opened in my area about a year ago. Prior to the opening the owner emailed another shop owner and LIED telling her she was opening a quilt shop in another State (Florida) when in fact it was across town. She wanted a lot of information about opening a new shop.  Since the opening, many new ideas have popped up at her shop that I’m sure were copied from not only this shop, but others. This owner has also asked for the names and phone numbers of other shops class instructors. The latest thing (that I know of) is that she has copied word for word from my long arm quilting website without my permission. I have had this information in my website and/or brochure for years. The only thing that has changed over the years is my prices. I know copying should be a form of flattery, but this is extremely UNPROFESSIONAL behavior and she is winning no friends, trust or respect with other shop owners. I am not a shop owner, but do not appreciate my work being copied. If she can’t come up with her own ideas, she needs to find another business. There—I’ve said it. Done.”

Ever since I read this email, I have been fighting with myself NOT to respond to it, but, as you can see, I have lost that battle.

After reading the above email, I have determined there are three things that the writer is angry about.

Item #1 – that a new shop has opened up in her town and that the new shop owners are “copying” what is working for other shop owners. Let’s assume that the new shop really was going to open in a different state, but things changed and they opened locally.

Item #2 –  that the new shop has been asking for information about (I am assuming) independent quilting/piecing instructors, and

Item #3 – that the new shop has copied some things from the writer’s brochure or website. I am also assuming that the writer is a longarm quilter and quilting for customers.

I am giving fair warning! I TOTALLY DISAGREE with everything this person wrote in their email. If you agree with the writer, you can exit out of this blog right now.

Item #1, about the shop owners copying ideas, information, etc., from other quilt shops – That is what businesses do! I belong to a marketing group and subscribe to several marketing / business websites, etc. One of the sayings of almost every business group I belong to is “if you find a business, or person, who is successful, copy what they are doing!

Nearly all businesses watch what other businesses like them are doing and copy each other! Do you thing McDonalds doesn’t look at what Burger King, Wendys, etc., are doing and then copy them?

Look at Starbucks. They started the coffee house trend. How many other coffee houses do you know of? Tully’s? Caribou Coffee? Many other regional coffee houses / coffee companies have sprung up, all with the same “footprint” that Starbucks has. Also look at the individual “Mom and Pop” style coffee stands that are on corners all around – well, at least here in the Pacific Northwest! With the mindset of the email writer, there would be only ONE coffee house – Starbucks!

Does that mean that years ago, when websites were starting to be popular, that a quilt shop couldn’t have a website because another quilt shop had one! No way! And today with FaceBook, Twitter and other social media – because another quilt shop or business has a presence on social media, you can’t!

I could go on and on with all sorts of examples.

FWIW – Martigale publishing is a great resource for quilt shop owners. Yes, they are selling their books and they want quilt shops to be successful – so the quilt shop can continue to sell their books. They have a website www.martingalewholesale.com dedicated to giving shop owners FREE information on how to promote and sell books and other quilting supplies. I get their emails – even though I don’t own a shop I can find useful information.

Copying business ideas from other businesses is a sign of a good (and probably successful) business owner!

Item #2 – about getting information about teachers. For many years, before I became a professional machine quilter, I taught piecing classes at just about every quilt shop in my area. Most quilt teachers are “independent contractors” and are NOT exclusive to any one shop.

Maybe there are a few teachers out there that ONLY teach at one shop, and maybe they may have a contract that says they can ONLY teach at one shop. But I would be willing to bet that most of these teachers would jump at a chance to teach at another quilt shop (assuming it fits into their schedule, etc.) I know I would – and I did!

Again, just because one shop offers classes, does that mean another shop can’t??

Item #3 – copying your information.

Let’s face it, there is only a few ways that one can write about quilting for customers! If you look at almost any machine quilter’s brochure or website, it will say pretty much the same thing. Unless you have something totally different or exclusive about your brochure or website, you can’t PROVE they copied it from you. In fact, they might have copied the information from someone else’s brochure or website – which is just like yours – and that person can say YOU copied from them!

When you start a business – any business – and you put “stuff” out there, whether on brochures, websites, social media, etc., IT WILL GET COPIED! When you are a quilter and you put photos of your work online, whether it is your website, a blog, FaceBook, etc., others will copy it. It doesn’t matter if it is the piecing or the quilting, if you put photos or descriptions of you work “out there,” someone, someplace, will either copy it or be inspired to create a (new) version or variation of your work. If this didn’t happen, we would all be making only one or two kinds of quilts!

In my un-humble opinion, the ONLY way to avoid this is to NEVER post, NEVER publish, or NEVER tell anyone, ANYTHING about what you do! And as humans, who are social creatures, this is almost impossible to do.

And now, I am going to put on my (very big) big girl, flame proof panties (or a whole suit) and go put a customer quilt on my machine and quilt it!

Whether you agree with me or not, please feel free to leave a comment.

Wholesale and Tax Exempt

I was talking with a quilter yesterday who suggested I write about wholesale resources for professional machine quilters. I agreed it was a great idea for a post – and here it is.

About Wholesalers – Most, if not all, wholesalers require some proof that you are in a business and that you will be purchasing the bulk of the items for use in your business.  (Yes, you can get a few things “just for you” but you will need to talk to your tax person about how to track these items and how to document them on – and for – your taxes.) Each wholesaler will have their own requirements on what you will need to prove you are a business.  You need to follow the rules that are set up at each individual wholesalers.

Most wholesalers have minimum purchase requirements – again, you must follow their rules to purchase at their business.

When buying wholesale you need to purchase larger quantities of items. You will have to purchase a bolt (usually 15 yards) of fabric, not just one or two yards. You may have to purchase a box of thread (several spools/cones) instead of a single spool/cone. Items such as Fray Check and Sewer’s Aide, etc., come in boxes of 3 or 6 or more. You need to purchase the whole box, etc., etc. When it comes to batting, you have to buy a roll, sometimes 40 yards, or more!

When you purchase wholesale, the cost is significantly reduced from retail and most, if not all, wholesale purchases are exempt from state sales taxes.

The theory behind this is – when you sell the completed project, the state will collect MORE in sales tax than when you purchased the items from the wholesaler. (Note – I am not a CPA or tax person. This is my understanding and interpretation. Please correct me if I’m wrong.)

I am not getting into any discussion about what items need to have sales taxes charged, or if labor is taxable. These are questions you need to discuss with your CPA / tax person and you need to do what is right for your state, province, etc.

You will also be responsible for shipping charges to get your purchases delivered to you. Talk to the wholesaler when you place your order and they should be able to give you an approximate cost for the shipping. Note: Talk with the person who is taking your order – depending on the wholesaler, some items may not have any shipping charges if you order a minimum $ amount.

Tax Exempt – Let’s assume that you do purchase wholesale but you need only a single yard of fabric to put a binding on a customer’s quilt. You don’t want to get a whole bolt of fabric and you don’t want to wait for it to be delivered in a few days. You decide that you are going to purchase the fabric at the local quilt shop or big box fabric store (that starts with a “J”.)  Talk to the shop owner / manager and see if you can purchase the fabric/item tax exempt. You will have to pay the marked retail price, but you will not be charged sales tax for this purchase. The (increased) sales taxes will be collected when the project is completed.  Again, you will have to show proof that you are a business – the business documentation will be determined by the shop owner.

If the store you are shopping at has coupons, you can (usually) use the coupons with your tax exempt status. If you have any doubts, check with the store personnel before you checkout.

Purchasing fabrics / items wholesale or tax exempt is one of the good things about being a “legitimate” business.

Business Tip – I like to stock wide backing fabrics in my studio. These fabrics are purchased wholesale and sold to my customers at regular retail prices. I like to have a bolt of light, medium and dark fabric, sometimes a print but mostly marbled or texture fabrics, for this. It is amazing how much extra $$ you can earn by selling wide backing fabrics!

If you have a product or item that you really like to use, contact them directly to see if you can purchase wholesale directly from them. I am always amazed at the number of businesses who will do this. If they don’t, ask for the name of the wholesaler who does carry their products. You may learn of a new supplier.

I know of only a few wholesalers (the ones that I use the most), which I will list below. I know there are a LOT more, so please leave a comment with the name and contact information of any other wholesaler or your favorite  supplier. After a bit I’ll compile all the information and post it as a separate page.

E E Schenck
6000 N Cutter Circle
Portland, OR 97217
(800) 433-0722

 The Warm Company
Warm & Natural Batting
5529 186th Place SW
Lynnwood, Washington 98037
(425) 248-2424 or
Toll Free (800) 234-9276

I KNOW there are a lot more wholesalers and suppliers out there – let’s get them listed here for everyone to see.