Up until now, Stephanie McCall has created custom quilts as a one woman show. However, COVID shutdowns made her re-imagine her customers’ experience.
While the part of Stephanie’s business that required in-person consultations suffered very early on in the pandemic, she was able to adapt by changing her procedures. She re-organized her processes and notified her customers so that they would be aware that she was doing the very best she could to keep their product(s) safe.
Sometimes that meant reaching out, one-by-one, to customers so that they knew that it was personal, and not just a paycheck for her. “Acting like I'm NOT post-COVID helps me to keep client's projects safe and organized. I'm still wearing masks in my business, and letting my customer's take the lead with how their project is handled. If that means a little (or a lot) of extra time, I'm making sure that as I move forward, I'm being conscious of others and how they interact with me in my business,” Stephanie clarifies.
While Stephanie McCall was doing that, on top of her regular workday, she started giving back to her community. She used her skills to help local essential workers by creating 40 CDC-compliant medical masks a day for three days. Stephanie also organized an event where she and 15 volunteers created a twin-sized quilt as a welcoming gift for the eventual owner of a Cayuga County Habitat for Humanity house. While she took philanthropic action to be charitable for charity’s sake, she could not deny the good PR that came with her altruistic acts. “I didn't seek out the reporters, they came to me. I just kept doing what I was doing and doing it the best I could.” Stephanie explains.
In 2020 Quilts By Commission flourished, seeing a 220% increase in revenue. “It was all about being in the right niche at the right time. It was important that I had a solid client base, a simple to use website, and consistent social media posts. My business works with people IN my industry AND everyone else. I make the process to gain my products easy, with exceptional customer service, and attention to personal details for each client,” Stephanie explains.
Stephanie McCall found that the trust she had in her SBDC Advisor, Keyona Kelly was instrumental in expanding her business. She states “In the artisan field, I'm protective of my work and my ideas. I try to be unique with my approach to selling and marketing. I was confident that the relationship with Keyona was protected and that I could bounce ideas and future plans off of her without worry that it would show up locally in other businesses. I also appreciated the market research that was available through the SBDC. I was able to understand the local and national market better, which helped me focus on the areas that were trending.”
Even during the worst of the shutdowns, Stephanie found creative ways to continue to network. Stephanie began to make contacts via Zoom, as we all quickly learned how to navigate business in a virtual world. “When we were all hibernating in our homes, I "Zoomed" with other local business owners in my industry and we made a focus group that lifted us up! We bounced ideas off of each other for our specific niches and we didn't feel so alone. I wouldn't have learned the value of brainstorming if it weren't for Keyona. This zoom group still exists and is a lifeline for me when I have questions or concerns about something in our industry,” Stephanie explains.
Quilts By Commission has moved out of Stephanie McCall’s converted garage and into a brick-and-mortar space 3 times bigger, and the Grand Opening took place on September 18th, 2021. In the 1341 square foot space she has added many new services and products, a gallery of finished work to purchase that she has curated from local professional and advanced crafters.
Tired of being a one woman show Stephanie is contracting others in her field and working with semi-professionals to help with orders. Stephanie says, “I'm personally booking projects into May of 2022, so it is definitely time to bring more hands to the table. After 6 years, I finally found funding for a machine that will almost double my output - this is my first hire! But I plan to be hiring an assistant before the Holidays so that I can continue to scale the business.”
With 97 Shops in New York State that are in her industry, it can be hard to stand out. Stephanie uses creative techniques, that she is constantly adding to, to pique the interest of potential customers. But the core of her business is solid workmanship, a tried and true process, personalized customer service, and creativity in everything she does.
Visit her Website: www.stephaniemccallquilts.com
Read More about her on our Blog: success-story-quilts-by-commission.html
Article published in the CNY Business Journal on October 11, 2021
Article by Keyona Kelly, Certified Business Advisor at the Small Business Development Center located at Onondaga Community College. Contact her at email@example.com
Read articles and advice written by our very own Onondaga SBDC Business Advisors!