I’m so proud to have the Fabric Shop Network as sponsors of True Up. Since 1997 this trade association has been dedicated to helping independent fabric shops from around the world get off the ground, grow, and thrive. For retail fabric businesses, they offer a trade magazine, business library, marketing tools, members-only forums, consulting, and more.
They also reach out to fabric shoppers looking for independent fabric retailers. If you’ve ever bought fabric online you’ve no doubt run into the FabShop Hop bunny. The FabShop Hop is an addictive virtual shop hop through which shoppers can win tremendous prizes and learn about new online shops, fabrics, patterns, and tools along the way.
The Fabric Shop Network also recently launched Project 95, a campaign to encourage fabric shoppers to shop independents first and help support the quality, service, and selection at independent quilt and fabric stores that we all know is unmatched by the chains. We covered their database of U.S. independent fabric shops when it launched earlier this year, and it has continued to evolve since then. (The international version is in the works.) And-wait-there’s-more: you can also search Fabric Shop Network member shops’ inventory through the FabShop FabSearch.
Our focus today is the FabShopU virtual classes. I’ve never sold fabric myself, but being in my position and dealing with dozens of retailers, I know that it takes a ton of work, dedication, and love to run a successful fabric business. The upcoming class series “ABCs of Opening, Owning, and Operating a Quilt Store” is geared toward aspiring and new fabric shop owners, guiding them through the basics so that they will be better positioned for long-term success.
Even though I have taken an (ahem) driver safety course online, I couldn’t imagine how a class like this would work. So I asked Laurie Harsh, Fabric Shop Network founder, to tell us all about it. “The ABCs of Opening, Owning, and Operating a Quilt Store” series begins on September 22, and there is still time to enroll and do your pre-class homework. If you’re an established shop, you may also benefit from the more advanced course offerings from FabShopU — here‘s the schedule.
What are the individual classes in “The ABCs of Opening, Owning, and Operating a Quilt or Fabric Store” series, and what are they each about?
There is a lot of specific information to know in retailing fabric, and FabShopU instructor Debi Linker has created a series of three classes that are appropriate for anyone thinking about opening a fabric or quilt shop (either a storefront or online). Each one provides the fundamentals that aspiring fabric and quilt shopowners will need to get started. Debi has an accounting background and over 30 years of retail, wholesale, manufacturing, and design experience in the fabric, quilting, and crafting industries. A private business consultant since the late 1970s, Debi specializes in business and money management for retail stores in the creative industries and for people exploring opening a retail store.
The first course, Me & My Store, will help you develop your vision for your shop. It will walk you through creating goals and then familiarize you with commonly used terms and practices in fabric retailing. This class also deals with taxes, licenses, credit, and suppliers. The second class, Basics Overview, gets down to the details. We’ll look at inventory, rent, payroll, human resources, purchase orders, charge backs, and many of the other details that contribute to the smooth operation of a professional business. The class will look at a number of example forms so you can familiarize yourself with the paperwork involved fabric retailing. In the final class, The Nitty-Gritty, you will study more complex issues such as your capital investment and sales needs. You can access the course descriptions here.
How long are the classes and what are the costs?
Each of the three classes in the series lasts an hour, plus homework, which requires that you create a vision and identify your expectations for your shop in advance of the first session. You register for each class independently, although aspiring shopowners will certainly benefit from the entire series. The classes are very affordable — $25 for FabShop members (register here for membership) and $50 for nonmembers. For a class to take place, we require a minimum of eight students to be enrolled in each.
How does one participate? Do you have to be a member of the Fabric Shop Network? What else do you need to participate?
To participate, register here. You will need access to a high-speed Internet connection or a phone line.
TeleClasses — huh? How does that work? Will the students get to interact with the instructor? About how many students participate in each course?
TeleClasses are the same as virtual classes that you take online, except you dial in with a phone number. Virtual classes are streamed online, so you can see the instructor via a webcam and view her presentation, in addition to hearing it. FabShop can accommodate from eight to 200 students in a teleclass or in the virtual classroom. Students will have an opportunity to ask questions and interact with the instructor during the class.
Will the courses be archived so people can access them later?
Yes, we record each class and will archive them for access in the future.
If I took the three-part “ABCs of Opening, Owning, and Operating a Quilt or Fabric Store,” would I know most of what I’d need to know to get started?
Students who complete “The ABCs of Opening, Owning, and Operating a Quilt or Fabric Store” will have a good foundation for their shop. There are a lot of specifics in fabric retailing, and these courses are designed to give you that knowledge so you can start out on the right foot.
Does the information apply to all kinds of fabric shops, or is it specific to shops that focus on quilting fabrics and supplies?
The knowledge you will gain in the courses is relevant to any fabric retailer, regardless of your specialty. FabShop’s ABCs course is applicable to both traditional bricks-and-mortar stores and online shops. If you are interested in any type of fabric retailing, these are the classes for you!
What are some common mistakes that new retailers make?
It is critical to have a good, well-thought-out business plan before opening your shop. You should have thought through several scenarios that would apply to your market. Also, new retailers sometimes over-buy and under-price their inventory at a level that is not sustainable and will not support future growth. In the ABCs course, we address those issues so you don’t make those mistakes when you’re starting out. FabShop also encourages potential business owners to look at other resources for new businesses that may be available in their communities. Many local governments and nonprofit organizations have resources to help new businesses create a business plan and get started.
Will this series be useful to people who already own a fabric shop?
Yes! If you already own a fabric shop, you will certainly benefit from FabShop’s ABCs courses, particularly if you’re in your first few years or need a refresher. These courses would also be beneficial if you have been retailing on a small scale, but have a goal to expand into a larger operation, either online or in a storefront. Business education is invaluable when you own a small business — whether you are brand new to retail or are a seasoned pro.
What are some of the other teleclasses planned for the future?
FabShop facilitates courses throughout the year, on a diverse range of topics aimed at helping independent fabric retailers become more successful. The topics are updated often, so bookmark us and check back often!
What are some of the other resources the Fabric Shop Network offers for aspiring or startup fabric retailers?
FabShop has been helping independent fabric stores, quilt shops, and design studios succeed since 1997. Members not only receive a subscription to the FabShop News magazine, they also have access to the FabShop forums (a private discussion group for shopowners), receive discounts on services they need, and receive a free consultation with Laurie Harsh, the founder of The Fabric Shop Network. The membership is very affordable, and our members tell us that it’s the best money they spend each year. Startups should definitely join The Fabric Shop Network! You can get more information about joining here.
Published six times a year, FabShop News is our magazine for owners of independent quilt shops, fabric stores, and design studios. You can subscribe even without being a member of FabShop and stay up to date on issues in the fabric retailing industry. Also for sale are back issues of the magazine, which are also a great resource. You can check out previous tables of contents and learn more about FabShop News here. We have also created business workbooks that you can order; learn more here.
Big thanks to Laurie Harsh and the Fabric Shop Network team!