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Being Visible in Your Business: Meet Our Roundtable Guests

This month I hosted a roundtable discussion with three Longarm League members to discuss the challenges and rewards of being visible in your business as a small business owner. It was such a fun and motivating discussion, and while the full discussion replay is available for League members, I'm excited to share a few takeaways here on the blog and help you get to know our roundtable participants a little better.

Longarm League Roundtable Guests

My guests (left to right) were Jenn Giesbrecht of Jenn G. Quilt Co., Michelle Ramsay of Quilts Made With Love, and Susan Smith of Stitched by Susan. Each of these women has not only worked at becoming increasingly more visible in their business since I first met or became aware of them, they also have a great way of being themselves on social media and I loved being able to chat with them about their insights and perspectives. Let me introduce you to them!

 

Jenn G headshot logo and quilt photos

Jenn G., Jenn G. Quilt Co.

Located: near Lethbridge in Alberta, Canada
Machine and software: APQS Lenni with Intelliquilter

Where to find Jenn
Website: https://www.jenngquiltco.com/
Instagram: jenng.quiltco

Based in Alberta, Canada, Jenn has been in business since 2019 and provides edge-to-edge(E2E) computerized quilting for her clients. You'll find her most often on Instagram, where she posts beautiful photos of the wide variety of quilts she gets from her clients as well as helpful tutorials and tips. If you have a few minutes and haven't yet met Jenn, I highly recommend a slow scroll through her feed, as well as watching her "About Me" story highlight, which is sure to to put a smile on your face.

 

Michelle Ramsay headshot logo and quilt photos

Michelle Ramsay, Quilts Made With Love

Located: Berea, Kentucky
Machine and software: Bernina Q24 with Q-matic

Where to find Michelle
Website: https://www.quiltsmadewithlove.com/
Instagram: @quilts_madewithlove

Michelle started her business journey by making t-shirt quilts for clients in 2017 and later added longarm services. Fast-forward to today and Michelle is exclusively longarming for customers, offering E2E computerized quilting and binding services. Michelle also spends most of her social media time on Instagram, sharing a rainbow of quilts she's completed for customers in her feed, and also sharing her love of the outdoors in her stories, where you can follow along as she goes on a hike or a bike ride.

 

Susan Smith headshot logo and quilt photos

Susan Smith, Stitched by Susan

Located: Eastern Washington state
Machine: Gammill named Lucy

Where to find Susan
Website: https://www.stitchedbysusan.com/
Instagram: @stitchedbysusan
YouTube: StitchedBySusan

Susan has been longarm quilting for almost eight years now, and though she has a computerized system, she loves free motion quilting (fmq) and has built her business around it. Susan enjoys not just quilting for clients, but also loves teaching others to free motion quilt. Over the last couple years she's developed this into a core part of her business, offering an online freehand quilting masterclass (a new session is starting later this year), as well as on-demand online courses. She also has an interview-style podcast: Measure Twice, Cut Once. If you're curious about free motion quilting, Susan is always posting new reels of herself quilting on Instagram, or you can check out her YouTube channel where you can watch her quilt an entire quilt in real time!

 

 

Longarm League Q&A

We thought it would be fun to ask our roundtable guests to share a little more with you about themselves and their experiences with being visible in their businesses.

Quilting

Q: How did you get started longarm quilting?

  • Jenn: "I purchased a small mid-arm in 2013, and did free motion quilting on it till 2018-when I decided to try a regular Longarm machine. I was hooked! I knew after renting for a year and a half that I was good at longarming, and there was no hesitation that I could longarm for customers making a business out of it!"
  • Michelle: "I started by making t-shirt quilts on my domestic machine. I saved up and purchased my first longarm in 2017 and started longarm quilting for others. After a while, I decided to upgrade to a new computerized machine and focus exclusively on longarm quilting and binding."
  • Susan: "A friend invited me to use her longarm to play one afternoon. By the end of that baby quilt I KNEW this was what I wanted to do! I shopped for a used machine of my own, and dove in with both feet. In seven years I've freehand quilted over 1,000 projects."

Q: What's your favorite notion for longarm quilting?

  • Jenn: "A retractable clip that has my little thread scissors on. I never lose my scissors around in my studio."
  • Michelle: "Having a cordless iron by my longarm makes life so much easier."
  • Susan: "Blue painter's tape! I use it to keep row-based designs even, to mark a measurement I'm using over and over on my ruler, and even to hold down bits that would otherwise lift as I quilt over them."

Q: What pantographs / quilting designs have you been loving lately?

  • Jenn: "Picking a favourite panto is like picking a favourite child-how can I figure out a favourite amongst my 200+ pantos? LOL!!-BUT, right now I’m loving anything that lines up easy. 🤣
  • Michelle: "Sunrise Skateland, Baptist Diamonds Curved, Posy Patch, Easy Peasy Baptist Fan"
  • Susan: "My perennial favorite is the all-over feather, but I also love straight parallel lines."

Business

Q: Do you have any advice for someone just starting out with their business?

  • Jenn: "The best advice I received was from Jess; she told me to take ‘Imperfect Action’. I’m a perfectionist (which is a good thing for many aspects in our profession)-but often it hinders getting out there and doing things necessary in business. Don’t let the little things hang you up."
  • Michelle: "There are LOTS of people out there that need your services. You just have to find them. Every mistake you make is a lesson learned."
  • Susan: "Yes! If you're not already positive what type of quilting you love doing, experiment! Find out if you like freehand work, or pantographs, or digital designs, or perhaps even creating designs. You may be able to determine this by taking dealership machines for a test drive, or you may want to purchase used and lower cost until you find your groove. You don't need to know this before you start, but be prepared to pivot or adjust your niche as you discover it."

Q: Tell us about a business "win" you've had related to being visible in your business.

  • Jenn: "I’ve had many local people become customers because I started putting out small tutorials on Instagram stories. People liked that I was relatable, and teaching quilting techniques that improved their quilting. They were comfortable with reaching out to me with questions because they knew I loved helping."
  • Michelle: "I can't point to one specific "win" but it's just a slow and steady growth! I have never shied away from asking to collaborate or offer free quilting. Within 6 months of getting my machine, I reached out to Fat Quarter Shop and offered to do a giveaway for their Stronger Together QAL. I met some Ruby Star Society gals at QuiltCon and game them my card, and a few months later they reached out. I have just started receiving quilts from people that I have "known" online for years. I think if you show up and share your love for what you are doing, more and more people will find you."
  • Susan: "I've had several YouTube videos and Instagram REELs perform spectacularly. One REEL in particular had over 12M views, and produced thousands of followers. I think this is a direct result of just DOING it! Posting regularly...having a constant message...and not waiting for perfection to strike."

Q: Any blooper or outtake moments you've had along the way as you work on being more visible in your business?

  • Jenn: "HAHA!! When I first started doing stories I’d press record & delete SO many times. I felt like it was taking me forever to put out something simple. Once I started saying in my stories ‘I’m just going to push & plow through this’-I realized that my mistakes and awkwardness made me-ME! I started just leaving whatever I said in, people thought I was hilarious-but I was just truly being ME."
  • Michelle: "I look back on my old photos and IG stories and cringe a little bit. I also think bloopers are a great way to connect with your audience as a way to say I'm not perfect either!"
  • Susan: "Oh gosh yes! Usually YouTube because I stream live. Mic is off, and I'm talking away....and I think twice I've run out of backing before the end of the quilt. It's a reality show!"

Just for fun

Q: What's your favorite part of making a quilt?

  • Jenn: "Is BUYING new fabric part of making a quilt-cuz I’m VERY good at that part. 🤣"
  • Michelle: "All of it. :)"
  • Susan: "The quilting! It's magic to see 2 dimensional pieces and bits become a cohesive and beautiful whole. I particularly love quilting less-than-perfect tops, and helping the maker be proud of what they made."

Q: What other hobbies do you enjoy aside from quilting?

  • Jenn: "Baking. (I’ve been obsessed with my Sourdough Starter since the beginning of the pandemic.)"
  • Michelle: "Flower gardening, lifting weights, hiking."
  • Susan: "I love cooking for crowds. 250 cinnamon buns? You got it! Charcuterie cones for 600? That's coming up later this month. 😁"

Q: Any podcasts or YouTube channels you've been loving lately?

 


During our discussion we covered a lot of ground and talked about some of the ways each of our approaches to being visible in our businesses are unique, but a few points were universally agreed-upon:

  1. Being visible is important. Most longarm quilting businesses have an employee count of one - the quilter! People like having a feeling a personal connection to their quilter, so it's important for longarmers to be visible to make that personal connection possible for potential customers.
  2. Practice. As many longarm quilters are introverts (including all of us in the roundtable!), it probably doesn't feel natural at first to put your face and voice out on social media, but practice will make it easier, and over time you'll become more confident.
  3. Embrace the trends. While we all tend to have mixed feelings at times about social media in general, or about a particular new feature, when it comes to marketing our businesses it can really help to embrace the trends instead of fighting them. This is because embracing the trends will give you the best chance of getting your message and business in front of the widest audience. If you avoid learning about new features and trying them, you might be hurting your potential to reach new customers.

 

If you'd like to watch the replay of this discussion or check out our other lessons, we'd love to have you join us in the League! You can learn more about membership here. And if you're interested in starting your own longarm quilting business, subscribe to our newsletter for updates so you don't miss being notified when our Spring 2023 Rookie Season course registration opens (our fall session just started). You can see all the details, register for our newsletter, and read about how the course has helped previous students here.

Thanks so much for talking with me this month ladies, it was a pleasure!

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