We're thrilled to have machine quilting small business owner, Angela Walters, as a Craftsy instructor. So often here at Craftsy, we talk creative techniques. But we wanted to take a bit of time to talk to Angela about the business side of things, for instance: how she got her start, advice about machines, and helpful resources. Check out the free video below to hear what she has to say!
Hi, I'm Susanne Woods from Craftsy.com, and I'm here with Angela Walters, expert quilter. We're so pleased to have her here. We're here to talk about her business of quilting.
Angela, thanks for coming in.
Well thanks for having me, I'm excited to be here.
We're so excited to have you be a Craftsy instructor and talk a little bit about your business!
So, why don't you tell me a little bit about how you got started in quilting.
Well sometimes when I think about how I am quilter now, I never would have imagined going down this path. I actually learned how to quilt from my husband's grandfather, and he patiently taught me how to make quilts. And it was actually his suggestion that I buy a quilting machine. I remember going to his house one time, and he said, "I think you should buy a quilting machine." And I said, "I think I should, too! What is it?" And he said, "I don't know, but I saw one at a show one time!" So that's actually how it started. So, I got the machine and it's been history ever since.
And how did you decide you were going to start a longarm business?
Well, I loved machine quilting a lot. When I got the machine, I wasn't sure what to expect. So I just went in for it. I think that the most important thing in life is just to have that go-for-it-don't-worry-about-it, figure-it-out-as-you-go [attitude]. And so I just jumped into it with both feet. Well, I realized I loved the machine quilting part way more than making the quilts. So, I started taking customer quilts so I could machine quilt more.
For people who are maybe thinking of starting a business of their own, or they are shopping for a longarm machine, what are some of the tools on your machine that make it a lot easier for you to do your job quicker?
That's a good question. I really think I'm living the American dream because I get to do what I love for a business. I just think you can't ask for more than that. When it comes to tools on their machine, it depends on how much you're ready to invest in your business. When I started quilting, it wasn't with the intention of being in business. It was just to quilt my own quilts. So the machine that I got was very basic. It was actually used. It didn't have a stitch regulator or any of those things. But, I still made it work. It didn't affect me at all. I was still able to go and do that. But I think if some people are more worried about the stitch length or worried about that part of it, or the bells and whistles, they can definitely look into investing in that, but I would just say try out the machines. Be sure you need what you're going to get. I definitely wouldn't go too big with it.
...in your first investment?
Yeah. Right. Does that make sense?
And you can always buy a used machine. Is that right?
Absolutely. In fact, I think quilting machines hold their values really well. So if you can find a used machine like I did (my machine was used, and I purchased it over 10 years ago), you can actually get a lot of use out of it. Another thing to think about, though, as well is that if you're not comfortable with the maintenance of your machine, then you might want to find a machine that has a dealer in the area. That would be invaluable. Not that maitenance is hard, but there's a little bit of upkeep, and just a little bit of stuff.
What are some of the dealer names? Some of the more well-known ones?
Well, quilting machine companies that are more well known are HandiQuilter (that's what I use), there's Gammill, APQS. Any of the big well-known quilting machine companies will have a great product. At that point, it's just about the company and if you can find someone near you.
So, you have been in the industry for awhile now. But if you were to start again, what would you do differently, if anything?
If I were to start again---especially in the business sense---I would realize it is a business.
That's a great point.
I think when you love what you're doing so much, it's so easy to be like, "I just love to quilt! I don't worry about the money or anything!" But I think that, while it's not about the money or the business side of it, that's a great indicator of how you're doing. And so I think I wish I would have been more business-minded. Even now, I would say I need to work on that because that's something I struggle with. But even if somebody is a quilter, or any kind of business person, and they're not comfortable with the business side, then surround yourself with people who know how to do that.
I know you have a lot of small business in your background. Did you read any books that you found that were valuable to you on that? I know you're a great reader!
I am a huge small-business-self-help nerd! So "The E-Myth" was a huge one. The whole concept was that you need to work not only in your business, but on your business. So that made a lot of impact on me. Another one was "Guerrilla Marketing." When you're doing a business, especially a start-up in your house, this is like a hobby-based business, referrals and marketing yourself does not have to be expensive. That author of "Guerrilla Marketing"---I can't remember his name---he has a lot of different ideas for marketing your business, which is the part I find the most fun. But you know that already!
So that's all we have time for today. If you have any questions or experiences you'd like to share, please post them below. Angela, thanks so much for coming. We're really looking forward to all your Craftsy classes that you have with us now!
We'll see you next time!