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Missouri Star Quilting Company has the largest selection of precut quilting fabrics in the world. Their team has focused on educating people on quick and easy ways to quilt and have grown the largest quilting YouTube channel in order to deliver that vision.
MO: What inspired you to launch a quilting company?
Al: My dad was a machinist in the newspaper industry and didn’t feel secure in the future of his career. My sister and I started looking around for ways we could help, and after a few conversations around mom’s love of quilting, we decided it was an industry we could shine in.
MO: Missouri Star Quilting Company was first launched in 2008 and has gained a remarkable amount of traction and visibility in a relatively short period of time. How have you managed to gain such impressive traction within the quilting community?
Al: The key for us has been to rethink how we approach the quilting industry. For us, we’ve had to focus on the long term vision which is growing the industry and not on the short term need to get that sale. By doing that, we are much more free with the patterns we come up with, and each new person we teach to quilt is a potential customer, but beyond that, they are a referral engine, so we don’t stress about making that sale right away, it will come back to us eventually because of the good we do for free now.
MO: Can you talk about the process of innovating in an industry that many feel is stagnant?
Al: One of the things you have to do as a startup is differentiate. If you are no different than the other 100 quilt shops in the area, why would anyone come to you? A lot of shops specialize in a style of fabric, a genre, their teachers that work there, etc. We focused on precut quilting fabric, seeing it as a way to simplify what is commonly seen as a very complex activity. Once we gained confidence in the precut world, we’ve leveraged that expertise to reach new customers through every channel available (youtube, twitter, facebook, forums, blogs, vyou, etc). Combining the social media opportunities with the changes to the industry itself (focusing now on precuts instead of yardage) has been the innovation we’ve needed to set us apart.
MO: What inspired you to start a quilting channel on YouTube?
Al: We looked at what was available at the time (I think Feb 2009 was when we decided to go for it) and the quality was really bad. Poor sound, poor lighting, and personalities that didn’t shine on video. We knew we could put out a great product that would stand out against the competition, and there was a void that needed to be filled. We went after it.
MO: How did it feel to be recognized as one of America’s top startups run by an entrepreneur under 30 last year with a White House event? What was the most memorable part of the experience and how did you prepare for such a significant event?
Al: It was incredible to even be mentioned in the same list as some of those other companies. Some really brilliant minds in there, and I came away inspired to try new things and stretch ourselves in the work we do. The most memorable part for me was sitting in a luncheon where the secretary of commerce discussing the struggles startups face in America and what the government could do to help overcome those obstacles. It was encouraging to offer up ideas and suggestions to people who might be able to help.
MO: You’re not only breathing new life into an old fashioned hobby but also creating a new niche for your local economy. Can you talk about how the remarkable success of Missouri Star Quilt Company is making your community a new quilting “destination experience?”
Al: Hamilton Missouri is a small town with just over a thousand people, and is the birthplace of JC Penny, so we had the king of retail, but since him there hasn’t been a lot of retail success in our community. By having a quilt shop that is supplemented by the success we’ve had online, we’ve been able to build a world class shop that is more than local traffic could ever have supported alone. But our customers aren’t just local, with the success of our youtube channel, people all over the world have learned to quilt with Jenny from the Missouri Star Quilt Company. Because we were there in the beginning, as they continue to develop their talent / skill / creativity, they feel a trip to Hamilton is a bit of a pilgrimage, to go to that place that gave them this great piece of their life, and we are thrilled to host them in our lovely little community, while they spend a day and eat at the towns restaurants, shop the antique shops, and walk our main street, all things which are getting better every day.
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