Many new APQS longarm owners tell us that their machines are “just for themselves” and that they have no desire to start a business. They just want to get their own projects finished. Of course, it doesn’t take long before a friend or relative finds out about that new longarm and asks them when they’ll be ready to quilt for others!
Even if you never intend to quilt for anyone but yourself, it pays to spend a little time thinking about how you might structure a quilting business if you buckle in a weak moment and say “yes” to someone begging you to quilt for them.
Creating a longarm business plan will provide you with a three-to-five year road map that outlines how to achieve your goals – whether that is to quilt only one quilt a month for friends and family for a small fee, or to earn a living quilting for others.
Here’s a quick overview of the section we recommend you include in your longarm business plan:
All business plans include an executive summary, which typically includes your mission statement, how you intend to grow the company, financial information, products and services you will offer, and a summary of future plans. Of course, if you’re just starting out your executive summary will be the last thing you write for the business plan.
Description of your business
Instead, start with a description of your business that provides information on all the services you plan to offer. This could include quilting or even piecing for others, basting services, binding, etc. This would also include any products you intend to sell such as thread, batting or backing. Define what makes your business different or unique.
The next (and probably the most important) section should be a thorough market analysis. Research what the competition is like in your area:
- What services do your competitors offer?
- Do they specialize in any type of quilting?
- What is their “waiting list”?
- What is their pricing structure?
- Explore the customer pool as well. Are there active guilds in your region?
- What about quilt shops or fabric stores?
- How are those groups currently getting their quilt tops completed?
With a good understanding of the market your next business plan section should outline the services that YOU plan to offer, and how they will benefit your customers. How will those set you apart from competition? How will you generate repeat business and develop customer loyalty? What pricing structure will you put in place?
Once you have clearly defined your company and its goals, you’ve analyzed your market and you have outlined your services and products, it’s time to outline how you will market business to others. With quilters, word-of-mouth is the most powerful advertising available. With today’s technology that can mean a face-to-face encounter or it could mean making use of several of the social media platforms available.
How will you use those tools to spread the word about your business? Will you attend guild meetings? Will you offer to quilt a charity project for a group, or even the shop samples for your local quilt shop in exchange for sharing your business card with customers? Will you manage a Facebook page or post photos to Instagram?
Financial projections are also a critical part of a well-crafted business plan. In this section you’ll outline what earnings and expenses you expect over the next five years. This section will include documents such as income statements, balance sheets, and cash flow statements on at least a quarterly basis for your first year. The financial section will also include an outline of any capital expenditures you anticipate. For example, you may start by investing in your longarm quilting machine but you may intend to add a computer system after your second year in business.
Longarm quilters often start quilting for others as a hobby or a way to pay for their own personal quilting supplies. While that style of business can provide you some “pocket money”, it will be hard to grow your business beyond that very casual arrangement without a solid plan as your foundation.
If you’d like to explore the possibility of starting your own longarm quilting business, take a look at these return on investment calculations for APQS longarm machines.
When you’re ready to get started on your plan, contact APQS to receive a free Sample Business Plan to help you get started!