Come along for another behind-the-scenes peek at an inspirational crafting retailer that we’ve had the pleasure to meet through Bluprint Connect. This week we were lucky to talk with Remnants:fiber[culture] owner Jessica Sloan, about the challenges and triumphs of owning a 4,000 square foot quilting shop in Austin, as well as what makes her shop unique, and her experience with Bluprint Connect!
What inspired you to open your own quilting shop in Austin?
I was inspired to open Remnants because of a lady named Pat Fryer. She owned a longarm quilting company called California Quiltmakers for over 30 years before retiring in 2008 and developing Villa Rosa Designs. She is my second mom, my mentor, and gave me my first quilting job when I was 15. She allowed me to grow into my own person and develop a unique quilting style and encouraged me to pursue this business very aggressively. I also really just wanted a place to call my own, and an alternative to the traditional quilt shop that I felt had never completely embraced my generation or sensibility. I wanted to give other rebellious (now they call it Modern) quilters a place to go too!
What was the biggest challenge to getting started?
The biggest challenge getting started for me was probably cash flow and investment capital. I admit that I may have jumped the gun when developing my store, but I was too excited to wait!
What makes your shop unique?
What makes Remnants:fiber[culture], or RFC, unique is our aesthetic and our fabric choices. My husband Mike and I operate RFC together, and we both love urban street art and found items, so our store has a little slam-dunk-the-funk going on. It’s not your granny’s quilt shop. We love color, and our walls are covered in vibrant, colorful quilts. We also have a kid’s room, so that parents can shop in peace and their kids won’t grow up to hate the quilt shop! We keep beer in the fridge in case a husband gets impatient, too.
How would you describe the style of fabrics and projects in your shop?
We only carry modern quilting and fashion fabrics, and we specialize in Westminster, FreeSpirit, Michael Miller, Kokka, and Andover fabrics. We limit the labels from which we buy so that it allows us a very streamlined aesthetic. We also carry basics (like Lizzy House Pearl Bracelets and Michael Miller’s Cotton Couture) as well as seasonal fabrics, and we typically buy full collections so that it allows us more design options. As far as projects go, we love handbags, dresses, scarves (love the Anna Maria “Figuring the 8” scarf in our shop!) and of course our flagship quilts. I won’t lie to you- quilts are pretty much my obsession and that may show thru in our shop!
What have you learned about your customers that you didn’t expect?
I’ve learned from my guests many unexpected things, but what really surprised me most about them was how incredibly progressive and versatile they are. Each guest has a unique style and a different perspective on fabric and sewing. They constantly teach me new things and expose me to their individual favorite blogs, patterns, and heroes. I love our guests–they inspire me every day.
How did you first hear about Bluprint Connect?
I first heard about BluprintConnect thru Lisa Anne Logan, the Marketing Director from Bluprint. She is a friend of mine, and an incredible advocate for our store, so when Bluprint partnered with retailers, she emailed me right away and I couldn’t believe what an awesome opportunity that had been forged!
When you joined Bluprint Connect how were you hoping it would help you?
Because Mike and I operate our 4,000 square foot store exclusively, we are always running around doing something, and sometimes that has created little time for me to properly plan a class curriculum. Plus, it’s not every day that Angela Walters is available for a private longarm lesson! I was hoping Bluprint Connect would help to fill in some of those blank spaces until I had the proper attention to our in-store schedule and demand, as well as give our guests inspiration from some of their favorite designers, teachers, and quilters.
How is Bluprint Connect working for you? What do your customers like about the program?
I was overjoyed to find that my guests are just as excited about Bluprint classes as I am! It has been a very successful program for us. Our guests have had nothing but positive feedback about Bluprint. They love the versatile selection of classes and love that they are not just limited to sewing and quilting. Often our guests are multi-media artists! The iPad app that allows you to watch the classes you’ve purchased is also mentioned by our guests, as well as the 30-second loop feature that facilitates hands-free learning without having to interrupt the project.
Do you have any tips for other retailers on how to get the most out of their Bluprint Connect sales?
If a fellow shop owner approached me and asked me how to beef up their Bluprint Connect class sales, I would recommend a few best practices. If the shop had multiple employees, I would create a Bluprint Connect Challenge, where I would throw a gauntlet at each employee and reward them with either prizes and goodies, or a commission check for each class sold! I would hold a competition where the employee with the highest sales won something highly desirable or had a fatter commission check. Who doesn’t love a little bonus?
I would also recommend writing about Bluprint on your social media sites, especially since they make it so easy for you with their plug-in graphics for your newsletters, facebook and twitter. It’s practically spoon-fed to you—as a busy shopowner, I can get down with that. It is foolish not to use these social media outlets! Plus, your customer is begging for advise and inspiration for a great price, and Bluprint is constantly having great sales that slash the price of the classes, making it very enticing to purchase them.
I would also mention Bluprint in your everyday conversation to your guest, especially anytime someone asked what classes you hold in your store. This is a great conversation starter, and if it is after a peak class season or in between planning, it’s a perfect supplement.
What’s the biggest challenge you face today?
Today, the biggest challenge I face is balancing my lecture and workshop schedule with running the business. We travel several times a year to Market and other various quilting engagements, so we are constantly juggling projects!
Will you be doing anything new in your shop this year?
We will be offering a variety of new things in our shop this year. We are launching our website remnantsfiberculture.com in mid-March (for now it links to our blog), and we are expanding our fabric selection constantly. We receive new fabric shipments weekly!
What was your favorite part of QuiltCon?
I had a few favorite moments during QuiltCon. I was really bummed that because we had a booth and our shop open, there was little opportunity for lectures or workshops. My friend and aspiring fabric designer Lily Gonzales-Creed was taking Amy Butler’s color lecture, and at the very last-minute (literally!) I managed to get in. I was worried I wouldn’t see Amy–she is my hero and inspiration, and I call her my Fairy Godmother. So seeing her and having a short visit with her and Dave really perked my spirits and gave me a little second wind! I also really enjoyed my in-store events and the opportunity to really get to know Valori Wells, Alison Glass, and Melody Miller. I consider them all friends of mine and also a great design advisory council. I’ve known Valori since I was a wee little thing, so it’s been great to grow up and be able to stand alongside her producing an event. I never would have expected that in a million years when I was 15!
Any advice for aspiring or current quilters?
My advice to any aspiring or current quilters is simple. Keep an open mind about what you like and what you want to learn, and enjoy yourself. Constantly push your quilting abilities and your abilities to put colors and prints together. I believe for most of us it is a lifetime hobby, and it’s a marathon of learning-there is always something different you can try!
Share with us what you love about Remnants