A recent cover of American Quilt Retailer
When the “New Normal” Becomes Just Normal
KEEPING YOU (and Your Business) HEALTHY
By Bob Ruggiero
You might not think that the practices of selling fabric and selling beer have much in common, but then you wouldn’t have the business worldview of Heidi Kaisand. And that’s okay—because she had to learn to get there as well.
The owner/publisher of American Quilt Retailer and affiliated AQR Academy was attending a class for the 10,000 Small Business Academy from Goldman Sachs, and of the 33 students that day, she was the only one even remotely connecting to the quilting and sewing industry. As Kaisand was comparing notes and comments with the woman sitting next to her—the owner of a small local brewing company—she began to realize as business owners, they actually had a lot in common.
Heidi Kaisand“She was talking about inventory levels and staffing issues and challenges, and they’re exactly the same as mine, even though it’s completely different [industries]. We’re both trying to sell a product,” she says.
“And the experience really pushed me further. We need to look outside of our industry [for ideas]. There are so many things happening in other industries that are exciting and we could parallel. For me, it solidified that we were hitting the topics with the magazine that shop owners need to know. Whether they want to know it is another thing.”
Kaisand will bring some of that knowledge and more to her Business Seminar at Virtual Quilt Market, “Keeping You and Your Business Healthy.” Kaisand is also a quilt shop owner with Hens & Chicks Studio in Conrad, Iowa. One of her main presentation points will be how the success of a store depends on the energy of the owner, and she’ll give tips on managing both personal and business health.
“I have often said my energy created the store, but it’s the energy of the staff that has to keep it going. That energy has got to start at the top, whether it’s a corporation of 10,000 people or a quilt shop with 10 people. It’s all got to sift down,” she says. And shop owners—even the biggest control freaks—shouldn’t shy away from delegating things to their staff.
Using herself as an example, Kaisand says she was “exhausted” after doing Facebook Live events for 45 days straight. So she started bringing some of her employees on camera to both help with the load and provide some variety. “If they can keep that momentum going, I’m thrilled to have that help,” she says. “And that’s hard for some shop owners to let that control go. And if [my employees] can do something better than I can do, that would be awesome.”
After a career that also included stints as the editor of American Patchwork & Quilting and National Sales Manager for American Professional Quilting Systems, Kaisand began freelancing for AQR around the time she opened Hens & Chicks in 2011. In 2015, she purchased the magazine and has made advancements in graphics, content, and distribution.
Hens & Chicks Studio in Conrad, Iowa
“As I’ve grown older, I realized there’s an element of me that wants to teach, wants to help, and wants to be a resource. Connecting quilters to patterns, or longarmers to machines. And it just all came together in a place where I could be that conduit for shop owners and manufacturers. And I like that position,” she says. “It gives me a platform to speak from and say that I’m with them in the trenches and can share with them what I’m doing in my own shop. I can speak from experience with what hurdles we have, and I know what questions to ask.”
And like all shop owners, she’s had to adjust her business practices in the time of COVID, including where the personal and professional mix. Like having or not having a mask mandate in the store, or keeping the doors open, and if so, it is open to all walk-in customers or by appointment only? And how does she and her staff feel about that?
She points to one fellow shop owner who seems to have almost entirely shifted her store’s business model to Facebook Live events and online shopping/order filling. It speaks to Kaisand’s belief that every shop owner has to do what’s right for them, even if it enters areas they haven’t before.
Kaisand bemoans what she calls “Silo Thinking,” or putting your business into one of three categories—Brick and Mortar Only, Online Only, or Brick and Mortar with Online—and staying in that mindset. Instead, she suggest you consider focusing on where your customers are coming from with income categories: Walk-in, online, retreat referrals, and professional quilters. Even if those lines are so blurred that Robin Thicke and Pharrell could have sung about them.
“If [business owners] can maintain the [business] level that they want, then they can throw what is done normally to the wind. But they have to do what’s right for them,” she says. “Before COVID, I would hear people say ‘Well, I’m an online shop only.’ But you’re still a shop. Physical or online, that’s how you’re choosing to run your business. You have to figure out what business model works best for you.”
For more information on Heidi Kaisand, visit www.americanquiltretailer.com
Virtual Quilt Market
International Quilt Market/Houston
Classes/events begin October 21
George R. Brown Convention Center
Houston, Texas USA
NOTE: Quilt Market is a credentialed
trade show only, and not open to
For information on these or any other Quilts, Inc. shows, visit Quilts.com.
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