Jenny Doan – Missouri Star Quilt Co. – Part 2

Missouri Star Quilt Company LogoAlthough there are many reasons for the skyrocketing success of Missouri Star Quilt Company, there were several key decisions that turned the quilt world upside down.

First of all, Al decided to put his Mom on YouTube. He said, “YouTube will be our center for learning, Mom.” In 2009, not many people had even heard of YouTube, and Jenny was very skeptical. But she went along with his crazy idea and the videos started going up on the internet. Making quilts has always been her happy place, so Jenny’s genuine enthusiasm and energy — combined with her love of performing and singing (she has a background in musical theater) made for some very entertaining, spontaneous “quilt tutorials.”

Learning to Quilt is Fun with Jenny Doan, Missouri Star Quilt Company.

Learning to Quilt is Fun with Jenny.

In the beginning, they thought their viewers would be women who worked a lot of hours, and didn’t have a chance to shop or take a class. But those first letters were from handicapped women who couldn’t get out of their house . . . and they were afraid to try to navigate a wheelchair around the aisles of a quilt shop. One letter Jenny received was from a woman in Iran, who wrote, “You have brought color into my war-torn world.” An agoraphobic man wrote to tell her he had started making quilts with his own two hands and felt for the first time that his life had meaning and purpose.

In these letters it was clear the viewers wanted to BUY THE FABRIC. Unfortunately, the fabric was coming out of Jenny’s personal stash. “I had to tell them I bought it at a Ben Franklin store 14 years ago . . . .”

When Al was in college in Hawaii, he became addicted to a Deal Of The Day website, Woot.com. Even though he was living on a tropical island, when the Deal of the Day was a $30 down comforter, he could not resist. At the time, he barely had enough money for groceries, but he purchased that comforter and had it sent to Missouri. Because it was SUCH A GREAT DEAL!!

Main hop: Missouri Star Quilt Company

The main shop.

Al was itching to do a Deal of the Day with fabric. But since the creation of the internet, quilt shops have struggled to sell fabric on line. It is cost prohibitive to scan in every single piece of fabric that comes into a store. Also, each quilt project requires pulling and cutting eight different bolts of fabric (at least!). The employee hours required to do all that made online fabric sales very unprofitable.

When precut fabric entered the scene, Jenny saw it like the “Lego®” blocks of quilting. This was their answer to how to sell fabric online. Jenny would do a YouTube video, and the viewers could buy two bundles of 10″ squares, and maybe two bundles of 5″ squares (or whatever, depending on the size), and they could make the EXACT quilt Jenny showed on YouTube. The bundles of precuts (which included every fabric in the designer’s line) would be one SKU — BOOM — Legos® for quilters.

But that certainly isn’t the end of the story. It soon became clear that Jenny’s fans wanted to come to Hamilton, Missouri. They wanted to see Jenny in person.

Missouri Star Quilt Company, Inside the main shop.

Inside the main shop.

When they opened their second retail store down the road on main street, Missouri Star had 45 employees. By 2015, they had 225 employees . . . and at this point, they have renovated 11 storefronts in Hamilton and employ ~400 people. Jenny laughs when she says, “We grew so fast, we hired just about every person in town who wanted a job. Hey, even with seven kids, our family couldn’t do it all.”

For example, it soon became clear that the thousands of quilt fans coming to Hamilton needed a place to eat. Jenny says, “Our family didn’t have the bandwidth to operate a restaurant. So we bought the buildings, did the renovations, and looked for somebody to come run the business. We now have a bakery, a burger place and a fine dining restaurant.”

Mama Hawk’s Kitchen & J’s Burger Dive.

Mama Hawk’s Kitchen & J’s Burger Dive.

Although Jenny Doan is the face of Missouri Star, she always makes it clear that it wasn’t her idea, and that her children, Al and Sarah, are the owners. If you spend any time with Jenny, you soon realize she’s the real deal — humble and genuine in her approach and opinions. “My kids are amazing — look what they’ve done! I get to make new quilts, tell stories, and show up for the video tapings .”

Jenny Doan - Quilting is a Sweet Journey.

Quilting is a Sweet Journey.

Missouri Star Quilt Company is proof that the American Dream is alive and well. MSQC is actively exploring ways to share their innovative business ideas with other quilt shop owners. MSQC has begun to wholesale their branded merchandise, and they also offer Retail Retreats in Hamilton for other shop owners.

The truth is, MSQC and YouTube have taught quilting to people who were NEVER customers of conventional quilt shops. But every MSQC YouTube viewer is a potential customer for a local quilt shop. Jenny says, “They would much rather find a shop in their own home town with a local mentor — and we’re delighted to help them make that happen.”

“There is no better hobby than quilting because it changes us. Every quilter has a story, and every quilt has a story. You start doing it for yourself, then for your family and friends. Eventually you do it for charity — to give it away. It’s a sweet journey.”

www.missouriquiltco.com

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