Running a quilt related business to earn money is certainly nothing new. During the Great Depression a woman's earnings through quilting was sometimes the only income coming into a household.
While some women were able to have their own home business making quilts, many couldn't afford to be independent. Instead, they worked for a larger business and were paid for their part in the process of making quilts that the company then sold. For example one woman would piece a quilt, another applique it and yet another quilted the top. The business owner bought the fabric and decided on the pattern. These quilts would be sold through shops or by mail orders.
Some quilt related businesses didn't involve sewing at all. Quilt kits were popular and well known designers often hired people to produce kits based on their designs. Often this could be done at home.
But when money is tight there are less customers who can pay so women sometimes made quilts in trade for something their family needed. Barter was common during the depression as farm women paid for services with potatoes or eggs while others worked for food.
A fun example of managing without money was the practice or quilting by the "halves" or "shares". In some cases a customer would buy fabric for two quilts. One would be made for the person who provided the fabric and the quilter kept the second quilt. She might have used it for her family or sold it for cash. Hmm, maybe she even traded it for needed food.
Another way sharing could be done is by one women making two quilts and another quilting them. In the end each had a completed quilt.
We are facing much the same challenge today. How can we find customers when people hesitate to spend money? What creative ways can we find to obtain supplies, promote our products and succeed when many businesses will fail?
A business where the work is done at home is called a cottage industry. They thrived during the Great Depression and are a common today due to the opportunities the Internet provides. When doing the work at home there is no need to pay rent or buy a shop or studio. Moreover there is not the expense of gas for long commutes or day care for children. A home based business can be done locally, online or even both.
There are numerous shops selling fabric, quilts and other quilt related products online. The Internet has provided an opportunity but the competition is fierce. It's not enough to build a website and expect customers to rush to your site. You have to stand out in some way and to make sure you will be found.
One way to thrive is to offer a unique product that people will want. When things are tough something cozy is a great comfort. People look to the past as well. Peanut butter and Jelly sandwiches are coming back. Comfort food. Appealing to this natural instinct an obvious possibility with quilts.
A strategy that works well in some cases is to provide a product that attracts a specific niche. For example you might make quilty toys and blankies specifically targeting moms of young children. My websites are designed to be of interest to people who enjoy both history and quilting. One business might concentrate on new techniques while another may appeal to hand quilters. Consider your interests and expertise and see if you can find a niche group that your business could serve.
People also turn to crafts during hard times. Pursuing a hobby can cheer one up and make a person feel they can accomplish something creative. How could you help people get needed quilting supplies at a lesser price while providing what they want? For example the Fabric Attic appeals to me as they have a nice selection of reproduction fabric.
Quilters have been going to retreats and workshops to learn new skills. But travel, lodging and and registrations fees get expensive. How can you provide lessons through the computer? Quilting Weekly: Your Online Classroom is one example of quilting classes provided online.
Many of us have enjoyed hearing famous quilters at our guild meetings or even seeing them at national quilt shows or conferences. Kimberly Wulfert has found a way to let us meet these people through online or phone interviews. Her business, Women on Quilts, is focused on people who have or want to start a quilt related business.
It's time to start considering how you can provide something that is unique and affordable. But you can't stop there. You not only need to produce but to promote. You can't be stuck in the "If you build it they will come" mentality. It's going to take hard work learning the best ways to promote your business on the modern Internet. "Search Engine Optimization" and "Social Media Networking" are the buzz words of today and it isn't easy to learn how.
When there is a need the scammers flock in. So don't just hire the first person you see an ad for or jump into the fray yourself with no education. Take the time to read information online and in books. Be discerning as to whether the information is truly useful or just promoting a money making scheme. This takes a lot of effort! You have to work extra hard to succeed in difficult times.
If you don't have the ability or mind set to promote your business perhaps you can find someone with the needed expertise to work with you "on the halves". Someone just might love to get a beautiful quilt in return for marketing advice.