With the Spring 2017 Quilt Market in full swing I thought now would be a great time to share with you a column I wrote for Make Modern Magazine earlier this year. For those of you that don’t know, I write a regular column for Make Modern Magazine called “The Hustle”. It’s all about the business lessons and advice that I’ve gleamed from transitioning my hobby and passion into my business. When I came back from attending my first ever Quilt Market I wrote about the experience I had and the lessons I learned for my column and the ladies at Make Modern have graciously allowed me to publish it here on Craft Your Blog to share with those of you that are suffering FOMO (fear of missing out) or for those that are trying to work out whether they need to attend Quilt Market. Be sure to read to the end as I’m sharing an exclusive discount code for Make Modern Magazine that will allow you to purchase the latest issue for only AUD$5. But hurry, the offer expires 1 June.
As the resident business advice columnist for Make Modern I’d be remiss not to share with you the business lessons I learned from attending my first Quilt Market. Quilt Market is an industry-only event that’s held twice a year in America. ‘Industry-only’ means that you have to provide credentials that show you’re working in the quilting industry, it’s not open to the public – and with good reason.
The purpose of Quilt Market is to provide a platform for businesses to debut their upcoming products and services and to have face-to-face interaction with shop owners and industry professionals. It’s like Mecca for the quilt industry. Now you know what it is, let me tell you how to make the most of it.
Strap yourself in, I’m about to lay down some wisdom and it’s not going to be gentle.
Be clear about why you’re attending.
Sure, it’s great to meet up with other quilter types and talk fabric, quilts and who’s doing what but that’s not the purpose of this event. If you want to improve your social life go to QuiltCon. This event is all about business. If you’re not there to do business you’re wasting your time and the time of the people who are there for the right reasons.
You need to be able to, without flinching, clearly articulate the following: who are you, what is your business and what do you hope to achieve by being there. If you can’t do that then save your pennies and invest in a new sewing machine instead of an airline ticket because you’re not ready. This is about business, not indulging a hobby.
Make sure it relates to your business goals.
What’s that, you don’t have business goals? Now’s the time to fix that. Get some. If you’re serious about what you’re doing you should have a business plan or goals written down. It’s not good enough to have a rough plan floating around in your head, you need to have them written down. Then you need to make sure that every decision you make takes you towards achieving those goals.
Global domination doesn’t happen by accident. You need a plan and then you need to work that plan. Knowing what it is you want to do will help you stay focused and true to your vision when you find yourself surrounded by the many Quilt Market temptations to get off track and waste time.
Do your homework.
The event is massive and trust me, once it gets going you’re going to be swept up in a riptide of quilters, designers, samples and invites to attend things. You have to be prepared. I’m not talking about what outfits you’ll wear I’m talking about having a list of what you want to achieve and sticking to it.
The event is packed with so many businesses you’ll never see them all. Four days seems like a long time, but it’s not. It’ll go by in the blink of an eye. So be prepared. Do your research and make a list. Don’t be fooled by how simple that sounds. You’re going to be clinging to that list like a life raft once you’re there.
It might not sound as fun as sewing things to travel handmade, but it’s this hard work up front that will yield the biggest results. Find out who’s attending. Make a list of the top three (yep, only three) people or businesses that you absolutely must connect with while there. This is the list that if you only see these people you’ll consider the trip a success.
Once you’ve got those three add your next seven. These are the people or businesses that you’d love to see and will work hard to see, but if you don’t it won’t be devastating to your business goals. Prioritise that list of seven so that if you see your top three you’ll know the next top three, and so on.
You are not going to get to see everyone. Take my word for it. I hustled while I was there and I saw eight out of my top ten. The place is massive; people are busy and you have a lot to do. Go prepared.
Invest in a good business card
This is how you’ll be remembered by people after the event and you want it to be positive. For the love of all that is Alison Glass, do not use an online template. Spend the time and energy to make your business card unique and if you don’t have the skill set find someone who does. You don’t want to be caught at the event with the same business card as someone else; it looks tacky and you’ll lose business due to confusion.
Make sure your business card includes your contact details and information about what your business is. If you can afford it, opt for double sided business cards. This provides you with an opportunity to have your contact details on one side and examples of your work on the other.
Still want motivation for investing in your business card? Tula Pink took three of my cards because she liked the images on them. *mic drop*
Take more than you think you’ll need. I handed out nearly 300 cards in four days. If you can’t bring yourself to hand out your business card then you’re not in business, you’re in an expensive hobby. If you stop to talk to someone, give them a business card. I don’t care if you’re standing in line to get a taco bowl, give them a card. You never know when that card will pop up in their life and remind them of you and bring you opportunities.
Hand out your card!
Make notes, keep the relevant and jettison the rest.
Just as you’ll hand out business cards you’ll get many in return. The swag from School House is enough to put you over the luggage limit and that doesn’t take into consideration what you’ll pick up on your travels around the Market floor. Figure out a way to sort through all of that you return home.
Make notes in your phone, make notes in a notebook, record your voice on your phone – whatever system that works for you do it. You don’t want to get home and not be able to work out who was who and why you have their card. Those cards are your money ticket – keep them safe, keep them ordered.
Throw away all the fluff (and there’ll be lots of it). I know it’ll be hard, but be ruthless. Don’t muddy the waters by keeping the handout on the latest innovations in chair massage machines when you know that’s not in line with your business goals. Stay focused and put the rest in the recycle bin.
Get out of your comfort zone.
Out of all of the advice I can give you this is probably the hardest one to implement, but it’s the one that stands to bring you more opportunities then you’ll know what to do with. I’m not talking about becoming the life of the party if you’re an introvert. That’s my job as the extroverted introvert. *wink*
What I am talking about is pushing yourself to do the things that you know you need to do but might scare you. Say you’ve got this brilliant idea for a quilt pattern that would look amazeballs in the latest Carolyn Friedlander fabrics. You’d love to partner with her to gain the exposure and work with someone you admire. Only problem, you are pooping your pants petrified to talk to her. You’re going to have to get over that.
Got a book idea you want to pitch but you can’t bring yourself to talk to the Editor of Lucky Spool because you’re scared she’ll laugh at it? Get over it. Got an idea for a brilliant new notion that will revolutionise the way we quilt, but can’t bring yourself to talk to Clover about it. Get over it.
Pitch the ideas. Seriously. You’re not going to be there again if you don’t. This is business, not a commentary on your self-worth. Who cares if they don’t get it or you don’t vibe with them. Move on, the place is packed with other opportunities. Don’t let your self-consciousness hold you back from being the next big thing in quilting.
Be open to possibilities.
You’ve done the homework, you’ve got your research, you’ve practiced to death handing out your business card and giving your pitch at the same time. Brilliant. Now breathe out.
Trust in yourself and the fact that already you’re ahead of 80% of the pack because you’ve done the hard work to get ready. You know your business and so you’ll be able to tell if something is an opportunity or a time waster. The beauty of being prepared is that you’re going to see the world through the lens of your goals. It’s a strong position to be in.
Think of that hard work as the rudder of your ship, guiding you through the turbulent and exciting waters of Quilt Market. It’s a hell of a ride, but it’s so worth it.
Quilt Market may be over, but the work isn’t.
My last piece of advice is to follow up. It’s easy to get off that plane after traveling for 36 hours and just collapse into a heap. Don’t do it. Get out those business cards and your notes and start emailing people. Don’t let time pass. Just like your memory dulls, so does theirs. Take advantage of the post-Market come down everyone experiences to keep yourself on their radar and in their heads.
For me, Quilt Market was worth every penny. I’m already reaping the rewards of heading over there. Can I tell you if Quilt Market will be worth it for you? No. But I’ve shared with you the approach I took and over the coming months I’ll be able to share with you the results of that advice and you’ll be able to tell for yourself. The proof is, after all, in the pudding.