We had the good fortune of connecting with Lori Thompson and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Lori, do you disagree with some advice that is more or less universally accepted?
I have heard often if you do what you love the money will come. I agree and disagree with this. I agree it’s important to do what you love. But I disagree that the money will just “come.” There’s a lot of hustle needed to make that happen. And more importantly, I think you have to find a viable market that will pay you for what you love to do. If there’s not a market to support this, you could really struggle. I learned this first-hand over the last 10 years as I’ve worked on my creative business. I explored many different ideas and tried many of my business. I started out selling handmade items at craft fairs and teaching at local shops and enjoyed modest success. There was a market for these goods and services, but it wasn’t enough for me to quit my day job. Next I started writing and selling craft patterns online. This worked better as I still get a nice small sideline income from patterns I wrote 10 years ago. But again, there’s not been a huge market for this. For the current version of my business, I took a different approach. I made a list of what I really love to do and did some homework to see if there’s a viable market. That’s how I settled on longarm quilting. Quilting is one of the things I really love to do and the quilting market in the US is huge. There’s a lot of options for quilting businesses, especially for longarm quilters who help quilters finish their quilt tops. After doing this homework, I decided to start my longarm quilting business last fall, So far it’s been the most rewarding and profitable creative business I’ve had. There’s still a lot of room for growth, too, which excites me! I was inspired to take this approach by a friend who owns a bricks and mortar art studio in Ohio. She told me that her true passion is crafting things for her home. But she realized early on in her business that would not make her the money she desired. She discovered people would pay her to teach, especially painting classes. So that’s what she does – offers painting classes, which as been very profitable for her. She’s learned she really loves to teach kids, which has made her business personally rewarding for her. She still enjoys her crafting time, although it’s just for her. I think at the end of the day if you want to be successful in your business, find that sweet match of what you want to offer and what others want.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
I’m a longarm quilter who helps others finish their beautiful quilts. I have been quilting for the past 6 years and sewing for over 3 decades. Last fall, I bought an industrial quilter and launched Crafty Girl Quilts where I help others finish their beautiful quilts. I began my business at a different place than most longarm quilters. I am a digital quilter who uses computer software and a really fun, fast industrial machine with 1,000’s of stitch designs. I am also learning how to create custom designs within the software. Most quilters start with free motion quilting where they are guiding the machine. Instead, I’m using the software to guide the machine, which allows precision quilting. One of the best things about my business has been connecting with other creative customers. My customers make the best quilt tops! Each one has their unique style and it’s fun to collaborate with them on choosing stitch designs and thread to create the finished quilt. I take a collaborate approach where I consult with a quilter first and then create a plan based on their ideas and wishes. I also send fun progress pics and videos of the quilting in process to my customers so they can see their beautiful quilt evolve to the next step. It brings me a lot of joy to work with a quilter on a beautiful quilt and then see how happy they are when they see their quilt with the thread and stitches they picked out. Lately, I’ve also done many family heirloom quilts where these quilts tops have been in storage for years. To me it’s exciting to take these quilt tops and finish them into family heirlooms that will be treasured for years. My most memorable heirloom quilt top has been an autograph quilt from 1962 where members of the Helping Hands Club in Osborn, Kansas, make the quilt top for that year’s club president. I recently finished the quilt and it was presented to the club president for her 99th birthday. I started down this creative business path years ago, teaching craft and sewing classes, designing patterns, and selling handmade items at craft shows as a side hustle. I worked in nonprofit management for many years and this was outlet after work. Three years ago, I made the decision to quit my job and finally explore my side hustle full-time. It took a while to get here as I explored many ideas that didn’t quite work. But there were important lessons learned as well as from my other careers that have helped me create my current business. Things seemed to click once I found something I love to do (longarm quilting) that there is a viable market for. To me that’s been one of the biggest lessons – you can love doing something, but if there’s not a market for it you could really struggle. It’s been an interesting journey to get to this point in my business. If you had told me at the beginning of 2020 I would start longarm quilting, I would have been skeptical. But drawing on past lessons learned, some good market research and a business plan, and a willingness to try something new, here I am. And I’m having the best time meeting other quilters and being a part of their quilts’ stories.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
This is a fun question! Here are my picks: Outdoors: Rocky Mountain Arsenal (nothing like a herd of buffalos in the middle of city!) They have had some really great nature programs and tours in the past. Hiking in the foothills, although my favorite mountain spots are a couple hours into the mountains – Grand Lake, Estes Park. Denver Zoo at Sunset (the zoo is great during the day, but even better at night!) Dining: Denver Biscuit Company Buckhorn Exchange (very uniquely Colorado!) Rhein Haus Denver, Beau Jo’s in Idaho Springs Sienna in downtown Castle Rock Viale Pizza Kitchen in Denver Drinks: Two 22 Brewery Dry Dock Exchange Brewery Crush Wine Bar in Castle Rock Fun Places to Go: Stanley Market Place – shop, eat, and drink. My brother worked there in the 80’s as a welder for Stanley Aviation, so it’s really fun to go there with him and hear about the space when it was a working factory. The Source Gaylord Street Shops for some unique shopping. Santa Fe Art District. It’s fun to kick around the shops and do a must visit to Recreative, a nonprofit that sells great art supplies at a discount. Union Station downtown. I like to grab coffee there and people watch. Entertainment: Concert at Red Rocks (can’t think of a better venue!) Avalanche Game Rockies Game in the summer Denver Art Musuem Tour of the state capitol including the climb to the top for a great view of the city. Denver Public Library 7th floor – One of my favorite views of the city and often there’s a great art display happening. Colorado History Museum Tuba Christmas and the Christkinlmarket downtown during the holidays A Colorado Symphony performance, especially during the holidays.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
I think my dear friend, Nancy Hathcote, owner of Queen Bee Quilting, in Omaha, Nebraska, deserves a big shout out. Nancy got me started on my quilting path 6 years ago when she bought her longarm quilter. I had thought about quilting for years, but it was Nancy who encouraged and inspired me.