I closed The Quilt Room last week and gave my very last lesson this week. I don't really feel good or bad about it. Mostly I feel . . . interrupted. I feel like I wasn't really able to give it my best shot you know? On the other hand, I had fun and learned a great deal at the same time. You can't really ask for more than that.
Actually, when I really think about it, I learned more in the past 8 months about running and owning a small retail shop than I ever could have taking classes or reading a book. Paul has talked about opening some kind of business for years and it has always been scary to me. Not any more.
Here are five things I learned from owning The Quilt Room and working with Regina Rooney:
1. If you want to open a shop of some sort, find a need in the community. If you are having trouble finding something regularly or having to drive more than 30 minutes to get to a place that sells what you're looking for, that is a need. You will have much more success than if you try to start up in an already flooded market.
2. You don't need thousands of dollars to start. Regina laughs a little when she describes the few skeins of yarn and weaving tools that were for sale when she opened her doors almost 6 years ago. She started slow and now has one of the premiere weaving/yarn shops in the South, it is certainly the best and most versatile in Texas.
Unless you want to start with debt that you may never be able to pay back or are given some largess that you are willing to lose, start slowly with what you can afford. It takes surprisingly little to get started. Be patient.
3. It takes five years to turn a profit, 10 years to be able to provide for a family. I spent about twice what I made in the eight months I was in business but I could see the potential everyday when ladies would come in and be thrilled to know they could come to my shop for basic quilting supplies. I had a strict budget and stuck to it. I watched my inventory grow steadily using only the cash that came through the shop. It was satisfying to know that I didn't owe anybody.
4. If people want a bargain they will go to Walmart. I think that small businesses are where people go to get something special, something that can't be purchased at one of the big box stores. Have good quality and beautiful products. Everyone responds well to quality as well as beauty.
5. People want to be treated with respect and importance, they also want to feel included. You can't fake kindness or sincerity so if you aren't good at that, find a partner that is and stay in the back with the books. Like moth to a flame, people will return to a place where they feel they belong. Create a reason for people to return regularly.
I learned much more but these are things that were important for me to understand and I will take all this with me as we move forward. Man, I'm lucky!