Stephanie Soebbing the founder of Quilt Addicts Anonymous has taken what she loves and made it her living. Interested in learning about Stephanie’s journey into the world of pattern distribution, we asked for the scoop on how she did it and some advice for those thinking of embarking on the same journey.
Three years ago I was pregnant with my first child, working 60 hours a week at an ad agency where no matter how much of myself I gave, it was never going to be enough. I was miserable and I knew I needed something different when I became a mom.
Today I own my own business, Quilt Addicts Anonymous, have employees, an online and brick and mortar quilt shop and sold more than 1,300 patterns in the first two months I started working with distributors. The best part is I love what I do and I’ve been freed from a nine to five schedule so I can spend more quality time with my daughter.
Back to three years ago and how I got here. I was teaching a block of the month pattern I designed at my local quilt shop to five students. I started putting each month’s pattern online as a free download with a pretty terrible video tutorial to go with it. The only catch was participants had to give me their email address in order to download the pattern. By the end of the first year I had a six-month-old baby and 12,000 emails, but I was just barely making enough from blog advertising revenue to cover the website hosting fees. There was no way I could quit my day job any time soon.
I approached a major fabric company to see if they would send me fabric for my second block of the month design. They said yes, and when I released the pattern, my subscribers started asking for kits. I made it happen and all of a sudden I had actual revenue, but still not nearly enough to replace my income.
That’s when I started treating my business like it was one of my digital marketing clients at the ad agency. I started an email schedule, sending out two emails a week, one tutorial and one sales push. I hired a graphic designer to redo my logo and branding. I redesigned my website to improve usability, create an ecommerce store and incorporate the new brand look. I hosted Facebook contests to get new email addresses and generate sales leads. I upgraded email marketing providers to one that doubled as a customer relationship management system so I could send out automated follow-up campaigns, getting people to purchase upsell items increasing my revenue with less effort. I created a product launch schedule releasing new patterns and kits at regular intervals to keep cash flow strong. I tracked where every penny I made online came from so I knew where to spend my marketing budget to bring in the best return.
Two-and-a-half years and those five students in the quilt shop had turned into 35,000+ online. I replaced my income and I quit my day job one month after my daughter’s second birthday.
But at that point I was still selling all my patterns as digital downloads. I knew printed patterns and approaching distributors would be my next step and my greatest area of potential revenue growth. I’ve spent years taking businesses from a do-it-yourself marketing approach to a professional level. I know the difference professional graphic design can make, and I knew I needed a pro to overhaul my pattern covers.
That was the best $500 I have ever invested in my business. I had a professional graphic designer create the template for the pattern so I could swap in images of the new pattern and update text. The result is a professional, consistent look that elevates my brand and is easy to update myself when I have a new pattern to publish.
This is so critical. Quilt shops and their customers probably won’t ever see my quilt in person. My pattern covers have to clearly show my pattern, communicate its attributes and make people want to make it. Professional graphic design and photography are two of the easiest ways to help communicate that message.
While I was preparing to expand into pattern distribution, I was approached by Northcott Fabrics to rerelease one of my block of the month designs with one of their fabric lines. The opportunity would put my business in front of thousands of quilt shops at Quilt Market, dozens of sales reps would bring my pattern to quilt shops across the U.S. and Canada, selling it in conjunction with the fabrics to make it. It was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up.
The partnership, along with the audience I built for myself through Quilt Addicts Anonymous, gave me the legitimacy I needed to be accepted by distributors. The exposure has led to additional partnerships with other fabric companies that are promoting my patterns with their fabric lines, leading to additional sales and brand recognition that would be difficult to obtain on my own.
I still work 60 hours a week, maybe more. But the revenue I bring in directly improves my family’s life, I am able to spend quality time with my daughter every day and I find great fulfillment in being able to create a thriving business for myself instead of working my tail off for someone else and not being able to share in the successes financially. I can’t wait to see what is in store for Year 4 since I posted that first free pattern and video tutorial.