Lollie’s Quilt Shop
By Terri McClung
This is the thirteenth in the series of interviews conducted by the Alleghany Highlands Economic Development Corporation about small business entrepreneurship in our area.
The Alleghany Highlands Economic Development Corporation offers entrepreneurial services,
one-on-one business planning assistance, training, mentoring and operational assistance to existing local small businesses and startups.
Lollie’s Quilt Shop is located at 515 E. Ridgeway Street, Clifton Forge, VA 24422. Hours are Tuesday through Saturday from 10 am to 5 pm. The phone number is 540.862.7845 and website is www.lolliesquiltshop.com
I recently sat down with owner Jane Greenwood to get her view on the life of being a small business entrepreneur in the Alleghany Highlands.
What made you take the leap into being an entrepreneur and start your own business?
Well I had dreamed about owning a quilt shop years back and at that time the timing wasn’t just right.
For the past couple of years I have been reading books, improving myself, stepping up and stretching myself knowing this is what I want to do. So I thought, why not just do it?
I jumped right in to it by starting with a plan because mentally I needed to figure out what exactly I wanted to do.
I started by getting online and researching plans, and came up with my own business plan. I think with my education and being a teacher some things just came naturally.
Once I had the business plan, I had to decide exactly how I was going to do this. At that point, everything started to snowball and things began to come together.
When I mentioned all this to my husband, I don’t think he thought it was going to happen.
Every step made me feel that I was getting closer to having it work out for me, and I feel like God has his hand in all this.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to become an entrepreneur?
Make sure you do a business plan. Even if you stray away from the plan at least you have a foundation to go back to and you know where you were headed and what you wanted to do.
Reach out to people because you will be surprised how much support is out there for you if you share your plans.
I could not have done this by myself. When I started, I thought that I could.
I was working on my business plan and thought this is my thing, this is my goal, I can do this. But I could not do this by myself.
The community support has been wonderful.
What motivates you?
I have always wanted to be a better person.
Right now it is my granddaughter. You want to try and make the world a better place for your grandchildren.
She comes in and sews with me even though she doesn’t know what she is doing; she can make the machine move fast and slow. The people here at the shop make over her so much.
How do you generate new ideas?
Today we have a meeting with all the instructors and together we discuss ideas. Right now we will be discussing how to advertise our classes.
At the moment I have six instructors and they do an excellent job in getting samples to me and planning their side of it.
We need to find a way to get our schedule of classes out in to the community. People come to me all the time not knowing anything about our classes.
We really need to figure out how we can do this.
It is tough especially when people come in and say if I had known I would have done that.
How do you find people to bring into your organization that truly care about the business the way you do?
My two children are first on my list, my son is the repair person for the sewing machines and my daughter is my support.
I told them my plans back in January and asked my son if he would be interested in doing the repairs for me and he immediately said yes.
I then started with my quilting community who I meet with once a month. I told them my plans and they have been very supportive.
Carol Almarez and Brenda Bartocci were next and I shared my mission statement with them. They were on board from the start and have been very supportive with their time and energy.
I think it is very important to let those who are supportive to know your mission statement.
When we do our instructional meetings, I try to remind them that yes I want to make a profit and I want this business to be self sufficient.
My goal is to make it feel welcoming, especially for my beginning learners so they have a good experience, are not criticized, and will want to come back.
I guess that is why I like my quilting community so well; you would go to the meetings and share your quilting knowing all your mistakes and they would make over you for your work.
I want other people to feel that experience knowing what they do does make a difference.
What would you say are the top three skills needed to be a successful entrepreneur?
- I do not feel like I am successful yet because I still struggle with finances. I know in The Gauntlet we had a section on finances, and knowing your finances is very important.
- Know how to delegate because you can’t do everything yourself.
- Find yourself a good mentor to help guide you. Mott Atherholt was my mentor through The Gauntlet program and she has been wonderful along with her husband who has even helped me some with finances.
Jenny Oeltjen has been a huge help to me since I have actually started my business due to our similar situations.
What has been your most satisfying moment so far?
There have been so many!
I remember a lady coming in from West Virginia who was camping at Sherwood Lake. She visited the quilt shop in Covington and they sent her my way.
She touched some fabric and said to me “this is my fabric.” She was homesick and wanted to just feel her fabric. We try to do the reproductions and that was along her line.
Then a month ago a lady who had come straight here after a funeral service for her mother.
She said my mom told me to go to my “happy place.” I do not know the lady and have not seen her since but she came in and we just let her do her thing, almost like a form of therapy.
So it is things like helping people. I don’t teach the classes because I am usually out front, but hearing the people having a good time just makes it so worthwhile.
It is not just quilting, it is the networking with the community that makes it so rewarding to me.
We had a lady start out by saying this is not my cup of tea I am only doing this for my friend, but by the end she loved it.
Some people say the machines give them anxiety but these machines feed themselves and it is not like the older machines where you had to push and pull, these do most of the work.
To me it is like they are humming to you and it is calming.
Tell me about the services and/or products you offer.
The Bernina’s are the top of the line machines. If you ever see the inside of them, they are solid and very well made.
My son went to Texas in March to be trained and came back talking about Babylocks saying they were the best.
After visiting the Bernina’s he changed his mind saying these were the best. Even in repairing he says they are much easier to repair because they are all metal where the others are a lot of plastic.
Next is our fabric, we do some reproductions, solids and batiks. I am trying not to compete with Pam of Sew Many Quilts.
She is more contemporary with the big bold flowers and that type of fabric, which I like at times for a change, but I just did not want to compete with her.
There is enough business for both shops to be successful as we have a slightly different focus.
My instructors are getting some samples of fabrics that would make beautiful quilts.
We offer classes in the back room and are getting in the process of who, what, when, where, how and why with our scheduling so we can have more structure.
We started with two beginning classes and they filled up so quickly that we added two more.
Then we have the repair section in the very back where Zach, my son, does the repairing. It normally takes him a day to repair one machine. At one time he had 10 machines.
We just bought a used long arm machine and I am hoping that in October this will be another service that we can offer. I already have people calling and asking about long arming.
We offer a variety of classes each month so you can call or stop by to check out our calendar for each month.
If you had one piece of advice to someone starting out, what would it be?
Do your business plan and have a goal to help guide you to where you want to be.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
This is a hard one because I had not even planned the long arm machine for another 5 years and I already have it.
I would like to see the shop expand to the basement which needs a lot of work to get it ready for customers.
With the fabric right now I am right where I need to be, it is expensive so I am going to see how well I can turn what I have around before purchasing more.
With the machines, I am probably right where I need to be but it would be nice to have Bernina machines for the classes so people do not have to bring their own. I have had two donated to me.
The instructors are people who come to me with a variety of classes they have to offer.
In one word characterize your life as an entrepreneur?
How did you go about obtaining investors for your venture of having your small business?
Sonabank has been wonderful, I had checked out several other banks in the area.
I visited with Kevin Persinger of Sonabank and right away he said I can see your vision. Mott Atherholt is the one that guided me straight to him and he just stepped right up.
I think by having my business plan was a big thing for the bank.
How are you building a successful customer base?
Mostly by word of mouth and Facebook!
WDBJ came and did a clipping for the news and from that I get people from all over saying they saw me on the news.
Also some of the local people keep in contact with folks who have moved out of the area and when they come in to town, they visit.
We get many tourists as well. I have started keeping a book for people to sign and some of those have been from Texas, Utah, North Dakota, and other places. I now have three pages filled.
Lollie’s Quilt Shop is one of the small businesses that the Alleghany Highlands Economic Development Corporation has worked with. Jane was a top finalist in the 2018 Gauntlet program where she won $5,350.00 in in-kind to go towards her business. With that in-kind money, she was able to have all new flooring in her business.
Between Alleghany County, Roanoke County, and Botetourt County there were 103 entrepreneurs assisted by over 200 faculty and mentors in this year’s program. After 10 weeks of classes, 41 businesses (71 entrepreneurs) submitted business plans and were entered into the final competition where over $250,000 of cash and in-kind was distributed.
The Gauntlet program will be starting up classes February 5, 2019. If you are interested in starting a business or expanding your business please consider entering The Gauntlet program.
Call the Alleghany Highlands Economic Development Corporation today at 862.0936 to sign up.