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Planning My Own Online Only Quilt Shop

Planning My Own Online Only Quilt Shop

Old 07-19-2014, 07:23 AM
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Red face Planning My Own Online Only Quilt Shop

I am planning to start my own online only quilt shop after I sell on a craft website for a while. I would like your advice-please be brutally honest-and any ideas you may have to help me or guide me in my venture. Please read through.....

I have had the idea for the past 10-15 years or so for my own website and now I want to SPECIALIZE in reproduction fabrics and related supplies while also carrying a few other fabrics, notions, gift items, and I do Love the pre-cuts! I will also carry whatever else grabs my eye on the manufacturer's/distributor's websites! I also plan to have a suggestion box. My LQS has never had a great reproduction stock so I don't see that competition being too tough. I have a few ideas for drawing in customers and keeping them happy. I remember being a customer!

I am lucky enough to have a building that housed a previous small quilt shop that is separate from my home to operate out of-complete with cutting counter! I won't have all of the normal overhead that a shop would have but I will have some. I have been looking into the costs of the electric, phone, internet, insurance, etc. I have found someone to build my website who has done other quilt websites but have to wait for now. I do have my state required business license for sole proprietorship, my sales tax license and will soon have my county privelege license. Then I can get started!

Now a little history...my husband and I have always struggled in some way financially. One day a few months ago he made a comment about not having anything he could sell. And that got me to thinking that I DO-my fabric-that has been sitting idle for a while because of one reason or another. I could never realize my dream because I was always working fulltime. But that changed for personal and medical reasons four years ago. And since that time I have been planning my website in my mind. But we don't have the money needed to get me going. With my credit history I can't get a loan. And we don't have family that can help. I have been online searching. Beware! I have looked at some Angel Investor sites but they don't seem to be interested in our craft. So it's going to be a slow go by earning for capital from the craft site and another site. But that's ok because I believe it is worth it. I have looked into the SBA and the way I understand it I don't qualify because I am an online retail business and I am not employing anyone so locally it won't add to employment to boost the economy.

Anyway, that's my plan, my dream. I believe my idea is a good one. I will be doing what I love, trying to support our craft and having fun doing it! And I am blessed with a husband who is supportive. Sew, what do you think?????
Thanks in advance for the advice and the ideas/suggestions.
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Old 07-19-2014, 07:30 AM
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Sounds like a good idea but it will take a lot of capitol up front to have the supplies you need. You will also need someone to constantly update your website. It will be a lot of work for you but it could be an amazing adventure.
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Old 07-19-2014, 07:32 AM
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I have never had my own business but have worked in many. So, I may not be one to reply. But, my advice is to start small, DO NOT get a loan of any sort. Start small with what you have or can afford and let demand determine how you grow. Just keep it simple. Money can be made on ebay, craigslist and etsy. See what flys. Start with your own fabric and then expand as you can.
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Old 07-19-2014, 07:38 AM
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Interesting post. I would love to hear how you progress in your venture. Why not try first to open an Etsy shop? Then you don't have to invest in website costs, etc? The charge per listing is very reasonable too.
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Old 07-19-2014, 07:44 AM
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Web hosting and banking costs can be rather high. That has a lot to do with why I closed my online quilt shop. Getting your website to come up in search engines can also be a real challenge and if it doesn't come up in search engines you're basically wasting your time and money. I would say if you don't have at least $100 a month to devote to web and banking costs plus the time to devote to keeping your website updated you may want to rethink the whole thing.
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Old 07-19-2014, 08:09 AM
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I am doing this....on Etsy. There are a lot of people who sell fabric online...so I would do a lot of window shopping on different sites and see what they are charging and can you compete with the prices.

I sell previously owned fabric...buying can be very reasonable if you are in an area that a lot of people live and willing to wait and shop when someone sells their mothers stash. Selling retail means buying in quantity to get the best price. So check that out too.

I know it can be done...hope you get your chance to fulfill you dream.
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Old 07-19-2014, 08:54 AM
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I am not a fan of pre-cuts although it seems a lot of quilters use them. If by 'reproductions' you mean civil war era fabrics, that may also limit your market, but since I prefer modern quilt designs and fabrics, I honestly don't know how big/robust the market is for those fabrics. Lack of cash flow is the reason 90% of small businesses fail, so I am a little concerned with your comment about tight finances. However if you start small and keep your expenses down so you can have a good mark-up on the items you sell, it will help. Lastly, I don't know what the requirements are for getting a loan, but please check out KIVA.org. It is a non-profit organization that makes micro-loans all over the world, including the United States. I am an active lender on KIVA to help women businesses, and lately I have seen several small business loan opportunities on the KIVA website for borrowers in the United States--start ups and established small businesses like beauty salons, website developers, T-shirt printing businesses, etc. You might qualify for a loan through them as they specialize in small loans to small businesses that can't otherwise get loans from regular sources like banks.
Good luck to you!
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Old 07-19-2014, 09:42 AM
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Following up on what Jeanne said, your local area may have a micro-business lending program. I was part of one when I started my business and it was tremendously helpful. They encouraged me to go for an SBA loan which is what I eventually did, but there were several participants that we did lend to. Loans are usually in the $5,000 and under range. You'll meet with a group of other micro business owners regularly who will also provide support, suggestions, feedback, etc. There will also be a group facilitator who will be more experienced and will guide the loan process. In my community this was coordinated by a state wide organization which had a revolving fund for loans. I would start with your chamber of commerce to see if this exists in your state.

Putting on my other hat as a website developer, I cannot stress enough how many sites I've built for small businesses that have eventually failed because the businesses weren't willing to promote their sites. I'm not a marketer; I just create the code that makes your site work. The marketing part is up to the site owner and can be quite expensive, especially in a crowded field like quilt shops. There are a lot of ways to promote, but almost all of them come at a substantial cost. In addition, if you aren't well versed in how to update your site (add and remove fabrics) you will be paying a substantial fee for that. Our minimum charge is for 15 minutes. I'm not going to share our hourly rate, but it's up there. It adds up very quickly.

And putting on my hat as a female business owner, I can't help but cheer you on. There's a lot of negatives but for me at least the positives outweigh them. You have to proceed carefully and with your eyes wide open. If you do, you can make it work and make it worthwhile.

Good luck!
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Old 07-19-2014, 09:46 AM
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msquilter59 I see a couple of things in your scenario that could be a hiccup: 1) your lack of working capital; 2) you mention using an outside brick & mortar location for your operations which can add significantly to your costs; 3) you mentioned this was to be an online business but you looked LQS as your competition. Your competition as an online business will not be your LQS but other online retailers. Have you researched your online competition?; 4) You will need an finance professional to work with me as you will need to collect sales tax on sales in MS and file monthly or quarterly returns. Do you have such a person in place?; 5) How will you market yourself and your online business? How do you plan for your business to come up in online searches?; 6) What forms of payment do you plan to accept? It costs retailers fees to accept credit cards online and the fee will depend on your sales.

These are just some of the things that come to mind. Have you taken any small business courses at your local junior college? I would recommend this route to anyone considering starting a small business. SBA in your area may also have classes you can take or maybe there is a small business incubator somewhere near you. Give yourself every chance to be successful at this.

There are other ways to sell your repo fabrics first to raise capital to do it on a larger scale later. You can open an Ebay or Etsy store to sell your items. Ebay and Etsy will be the company clearing your payments for you so no need to worry about that. Your items can come up in searches on these sites if you put in the right searchable words. Your only cost here will be your inventory. The rest of the platform is in place. It is just something to consider. You can also sell at local craft shows and venues.

Also, consider reaching out to a local college and ask if one of the business classes can design a business plan for you. It is often free of charge as the class take this on as a class assignment for credit. My former husband had this done for a business he had started some years ago and I had a recent business class where we had to come up with a fictional business to create a business plan for. It may be worth the inquiry.

I do applaud your efforts to start your own business. I have started and ran several small businesses: children's boutique clothing, tax services and Ebay seller. It is possible to realize your dream and you can be successful with adequate preparations and research. Good luck with your venture.

Last edited by Havplenty; 07-19-2014 at 09:52 AM.
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Old 07-19-2014, 09:51 AM
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My friends that have web businesses have told me it took years to have a living income from the business.
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