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Thread: Business Idea

  1. #1
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    Business Idea

    I've been kicking around an idea for about a year now, and decided it was time to discuss it with other quilters. I live in rural Illinois, and like many of you, have limited local shops for purchasing fabric. The ones that are available are often 30+ minutes away. Not a big deal except that I work full time so it's not always convenient to go running around after fabric.

    I've been thinking of starting a Fabric Truck where I would take the fabric to small towns around me. I could sit on the town square or in large parking lots, and open my truck up as a storefront. I would also be available to travel to quilt guild meetings if anyone was interested in that.

    What do you all think? Only honest opinions please. It would be mainly Saturdays or by appointment.

    Thanks for your input.

  2. #2
    Super Member DogHouseMom's Avatar
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    If I'm not mistaken, someone is doing this. I don't remember where I saw it, or when, but I do remember seeing pictures of people "shopping" in the back of a truck. Do a google search, you should find something.
    May your stitches always be straight, your seams always lie flat, and your grain never be biased against you.

    Sue

  3. #3
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    it sounds like a possibility. better check local ordances to see what the legal aspect is for selling from a parkinglot.
    Many guilds welcome vendors at their meetings.

  4. #4
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    You should price out inventory and cost of gas, truck, etc. to see if you could charge enough for fabric to cover these costs. Good luck. sounds fun!
    Linda

  5. #5
    Super Member Dolphyngyrl's Avatar
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    That's hard to say, that business would be based off supply and demand, how many people would actually need something like that. There are so many shops in my area that I'm not sure that there would be a need for it, and then you are limiting yourself to one to two days a week, would you be able to make enough profits on those day to stay in business. Someone who majored in business here might know if its a good idea

  6. #6
    Senior Member ragqueen03's Avatar
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    Sounds like a good idea to me - but again i would check the local ordiances to make sure everything was ok with that. They have farmer's markets on Saturdays around here - why not a quilters market? I definitely think it has possibilities especially if there are no fabrics stores nearby. Keep us posted!

  7. #7
    Moderator QuiltnNan's Avatar
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    that's a clever idea, but the expenses seem like they would be high.
    Nancy in western NY
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  8. #8
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    Why not sell at the Farmer's Market on Saturday and hand out your business cards about your mobile fabric shop??

  9. #9
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    How many small communities are within a 2-3 hour drive that have no LQS? Do you have a truck, van, SUV? Have you tried selling at craft fairs or flea markets to see if you like that venue? What will you do for personal security? What are the arrangements from wholesalers? Will someone be available to help with set-up and and take-down? What $ investment is needed to start? Where will it come from? How long can you carry the business before you need to show a profit? Are you thinking you are providing a service or going to primarily be in a business for profit? What type advertisements are you going to use and what are their costs? Lots to think about.
    Last edited by TanyaL; 03-11-2012 at 12:22 PM.

  10. #10
    Super Member Lori S's Avatar
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    Not sure how that could really replace the goods available on the internet. Most libaries have internet , so the internet is really quite accessable. Internet shops could end up having lower overhead , once you figure vehicle, insurance, gas, maintainience, lodging, meals etc. I figure you could end up with a $2,200.00 per month overhead very easily. That means you need to sell $4,400.00 to break even . Thats about 25 + yards per day to break even( 5 days per week) . What about bad weather and no one wants to venture to your "truck" .. so the next few days you will need to make it up just to make your overhead.
    Those really rural areas will take some gas $$ to get to and fabric is heavy , so mileage will be very low.
    Think about the members of this board who internet shop now because getting to a shop is too far and costs more than the gas to get there.
    I'm not trying to throw all the water on your business plan , but make out a business plan listing ALL of the costs , prior to selling your first yard of fabric. Ask yourself how many people are without internet, either at home, or work.
    Last edited by Lori S; 03-11-2012 at 12:23 PM.

  11. #11
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    I have a LQS and two big box fabric stores not too far from me, and I still prefer to shop the internet. I can get what I need in a reasonable length of time, don't have to spend my gas to go and get it, can shop all the sales in the country, and the list goes on and on. Sure, you give up "petting" the fabric until you get it in your hands, but the other conveniences make up for that. And, in fact, I have shopped from so many stores online that I am mostly familiar with the quality of goods they offer before I buy. So the truck idea would be an idea...but there's a whole lot more to setting up a "store" than just that. And by no means am I trying to discourage you, just giving you a little heads up......good luck with whatever you decide!
    If you feel like you're special...it's 'cause you are!
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  12. #12
    Super Member Scissor Queen's Avatar
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    I don't know about a truck but a used school bus might be just the thing. It's fairly easy to rip out the seats and customize the interior.

  13. #13
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    I was going to try that once and get a "toy hauler". I needed a place to live but didn't want to give up my fabric, etc. I used to haul fabric in my van to different churches to have sales for their mission projects.
    http://www.oregonquilting.net
    I choose to give my life away for things that last forever

  14. #14
    Super Member Candace's Avatar
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    Be sure to look into insurance! One person tripping, falling and injuring themselves in your vehicle may cause a lot of problems for you.

  15. #15
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    Have you thought about having a web-site and just selling from your home? I have a friend who does that and she has been very successful. fabricbuffet.com

  16. #16
    Power Poster QuiltE's Avatar
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    Ditto to all the above, particularly for the need for investigating the local bylaws and how they apply to this business idea.

    As for a "truck" ... if I were to be a customer, I might be more intrigued if it were a well-stocked RV, where I could go inside to shop. The consumer would have more of an assurance that the goods had been handled with care (ie farmer's markets are often outside and in the rain!) And from your vantage, there'd be minimal set-up/take-down between stops.

    Can you carry enough inventory to be of "value" to the consumers? I understand your interest to fill the distance to an LQS problem, though if you can't compete with your inventory and pricing, the customer might be more likely to go the extra distance. I know that I often drive by one LQS, knowing that the other one, just a little further has a larger variety awaiting me.

    Do your business plan and see what your start up would be, and then if the potential $ale$ are going to reap a profit? or be a deficit? Good LucK!!
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  17. #17
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    I think it is a great idea!
    Consider all costs.

    Have fun making your decision.

  18. #18
    Super Member ptquilts's Avatar
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    You may need a permit for every single town you sell in. Check it out.

  19. #19
    Super Member patchsamkim's Avatar
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    There was/still is? a quilt bus that did just this. Maybe you could do some research on that and go from there. It sounds like a good idea...but lots to think about. Parking in one place and having people come to you sounds a lot easier than doing a lot of traveling.

  20. #20
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    You would have to have an awful lot of different fabrics on hand to sell to the public. Look at quilt shops, how much they have and have to go "on sale" to get rid of it if it isn't liked. How long can you hold on to it for turnover, and if they didn't like it the first time will they come and look again? I sure wouldn't do it. Just my opinion. Just a bolt of Muslin is 80 or 90 dollars.

  21. #21
    Super Member ThayerRags's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by TanyaL View Post
    ... Lots to think about.
    My wife and I are in very rural Oklahoma, and have customers in small communities around us, so actually, I have thought about this, a lot, and can add a few more considerations:

    How will I be able to protect my goods during bad weather? (Rain storms, dust storms, smoke, etc.)
    - Even getting our inventory from a Quilt Show building and into the vehicle without getting anything wet in the rain is a challenge. An outdoor-only venue amplifies that challenge. Don’t forget about bird droppings on a nice day....

    How much inventory will my customers want to see? What will they buy?
    - There are thousands of cotton prints, and even more color tones. How do I select inventory? Since I have put $1000 (wholesale) worth of fabric into the backseat of a Supercab pickup truck several times, with space left over, what do I take on the road?

    How do I recoup my loss if I or a customer drops a bolt of fabric onto the ground in a wet parking lot?
    - I didn’t mean to, and THEY didn’t mean to, but the whole bolt could be damaged from one slip.

    How can I compete price-wise with the on-line sellers setting at home in their easy chair?
    - Few buyers know (or care) that some on-line “stores” consist of a computer on the kitchen table and inventory crammed into a garage or backyard shed to provide minimal overhead costs. IMO, a pretty web page is not as hard to achieve as an attractive display in a shop or at a parking lot miles away from your home, in the rain, in the wind, in the smoke, in the elements. Some on-line sellers “sell on demand” too, if you didn’t know. They offer fabric for sale on their site, and if they get any “hits”, they order the fabric from their supplier. It happens all of the time. Sometimes they can fill your order, sometimes not.

    I too, have a romantic urge to take our wares “on the road”. I just haven’t figured out a way to do it.
    - A little history: Years ago, small fabric shops had traveling fabric salesmen come around to shops with bolts of fabric to sell wholesale to a retailer. The lady that had our shop before us bought a large part of her inventory “off of the truck” on the street just outside of the front door. That’s the way they did business back then. But remember, that was back in the days when several small shops sold fabric in the same community, so the salesman had a fair chance of selling something in each community. However, those fabric salesmen are few and far between these days. We still do get one from time to time, but rarely, and the fabric is generally close-out fabrics and bolt-ends. Our first-run salesmen come by these days with photos of new fabric lines. They usually don’t even have fabric swatches anymore. The fabric won’t be produced unless enough shops sign up for some, so there are no swatches to bring to us. Basically, it’s a “design idea” that we have to buy, if we want it, and even then, we won’t know if we’ll get the fabric until later on, usually six months or more later. Not all of the fabrics that we “order” are ever produced, so we don’t get them. The manufacturers don’t produce most fabrics that are not already sold by the marketing staff (at least their “minimum” amount). I think that they call it “on demand” sales, or something.

    With the economy being as it is, I think we’ll see folks being less mobile in their shopping, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that they will shop locally. The internet can provide their “out of town” access to products in many cases. Why would they “catch the fabric truck” on a schedule, when they can shop far-away places at all hours of the day and night? Not being able to feel the fabric prior to purchase is becoming less of a consideration these days.

    Also, I think that you’ll soon find yourself asking your customers what they want you to bring with you the next time that you come to their parking lot. Obviously, you won’t want to bring things that they don’t show an interest in, right? But....now we’re also involved with “on demand” sales, aren’t we? What are you going to do with all of that merchandise that is not “on demand” or “in demand”? Keep hauling it around?

    CD in Oklahoma
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  22. #22
    Super Member Daylesewblessed's Avatar
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    An issue I would have would be storage unless you have a truck/van that can double as a storage unit. Loading and unloading fabric is a heavy job too. I can see outdoor markets as having a lot of traffic, but you need to be able to protect the fabric from the elements. In our climate selling out of a truck in the summer would require air conditioning. I think a major concern would be the cost of a permit for selling in every community and the safety/liability insurance issues with people climbing in and out of a truck. One positive is that if people want to see th color of a fabric in true light, they wouldn't have to go far to get outside.
    Dayle

  23. #23
    Junior Member psthreads's Avatar
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    Sounds like a great idea. Be sure to check out ordinences.

  24. #24
    Super Member carrieg's Avatar
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    In order to purchase your fabric for resale, would you have enough volume to get discounts from the vendors? How about checking with your not-so-local LQS to see if you could work a deal with them since they are already established?

    Check with your local guilds about vendoring there. I know with mine you have to be a member to have a table at the guild meeting.

    We're not trying to throw cold water on your idea. Just making sure you have thought everything through.
    Carol in Michigan

  25. #25
    Power Poster dunster's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DogHouseMom View Post
    If I'm not mistaken, someone is doing this. I don't remember where I saw it, or when, but I do remember seeing pictures of people "shopping" in the back of a truck. Do a google search, you should find something.
    I remember reading about someone doing this too. I think it might have been in Canada.

    Found it - http://www.quiltingboard.com/main-f1...i-t146647.html
    Last edited by dunster; 03-11-2012 at 06:02 PM.

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