Happy Wednesday Y’all!
I have been quilting since I was about 9 years old but when I turned 16 I really discovered my passion for quilting and opened up my own business. I first heard about Jeni Baker about two months ago when I had won an excellence in quilting scholarship. In the gift bag I was given was one of Jeni’s new magazines. Her work was so beautiful and since I want to become a big-name quilter as she is, I decided to use her as my interview subject. Because I really wanted to know how she got her business and fame started, I decided to interview her. The interview took place early Monday Morning via Email. I read on her website that she responds to emails quickly, so I figured I would give it a shot. Below are the questions I asked of Jeni and her responses.
That’s so sweet of you to think of me! I’m happy to answer your questions!
1. Are you self-employed, or work for a quilting company?
I am self-employed. I work with many different quilting companies, but on a contract basis, not a permanent basis. I run my own company, In Color Order LLC, producing sewing patterns.
2. How did you come to be a quilter, and what makes you stand out from other big-name quilters/crafters?
I started quilting when I moved into my first apartment in college. It can be difficult to stand out, but I think being a young quilter in the industry helped me stand out in the beginning. Now I think I stand out because of the work I have done designing fabric, producing my own line of sewing patterns, writing my first book, and contributing to magazines.
3. What are your main duties and responsibilities and what do you spend the majority of your time doing?
I do a little bit of everything. I am responsible for running my entire business from designing new quilts for patterns, writing magazine articles and posts for my blog to shipping out orders from my online retail shop and working with distributors who order my patterns. I spend a lot of my time working on the computer, I wish I had more time to sew!
4. What do you like most and least about your job?
I love the flexibility of my job. I am able to work from home and generally can set my own hours (as long as my deadlines allow). Being your own boss has a lot of perks, but it can also be difficult because every problem that comes your way is yours to deal with alone. It can be hard not having someone else to help out when things get busy or stressful.
5. What has been the most difficult aspect you have had to encounter while in this job, and how did you address this situation?
I think the most difficult thing I have had to encounter in this job is watching products not do well. Since I create my fabrics and patterns myself, and they feel like an extension of my creative mind, it can be difficult not to take it personally when something doesn’t do as well as you think. I have struggled with this.
6. In your opinion what unique skills, abilities and qualities should a person holding this position possess? What recommendations and suggestions do you have for developing such abilities?
I think the most important thing you need to have to do this job is a desire to work hard. Working for yourself on your own schedule is very hard work. You need to be self-motivated and know that being self-employed involves a lot more work (often times with less pay-off) than working a traditional job. Having good communication skills is important too. Most of my business communication is done via email, so having good email etiquette and being polite in general is really important. Honestly, I think the best way to develop some of these skills is through practice. That’s true for the business side and the craft side
7. At what age did this passion become evident to you?
When I was 20, I am now 26.
8. Did you have any help getting to where you are now? Parents, siblings, friends, etc?
Absolutely, I couldn’t have made it to where I am now without help. I have very supportive family and friends. My husband is always here to listen to the issues I’m dealing with an provide advice. My Dad runs his own business too, so he has been a big help on dealing with the business side of things. I have two friends in particular that are my sounding boards for new ideas and designs.
9. Have you ever wanted to just quit? Maybe too much stress, etc. that it caused you to want to throw in the towel?
Yes! Just last week I had to end a business partnership that wasn’t working anymore. It was so hard, but it was the right decision for my business. It can be really stressful, especially knowing I am the one who has to make all the decisions.
10. And finally, what best motivates you and what ways would you recommend to motivate someone else who is trying to get a business off the ground?
I think the biggest motivator for me is being able to share my knowledge with others through my sewing patterns and teaching. And being able to provide for my family. My husband works long hours as a graduate student, so for me to be able to work from home and take care of the household is huge. My recommendation for anyone trying to get a business started is to be patient. I started my business almost 5 years ago and I have only started to see real, tangible success in the last two years. It takes time and a lot of hard work!