Shoot for the Moon #11


Who knew shooting for the moon would be so exhausting? I am still recovering from market. I had such a push before market that I guess I needed more time than I thought to recenter. So what has happened in the past two weeks since market? Well we continued to pick up a few more customers nationally via email and we have even started getting a few reorders from the new customers. We have filled all the orders and shipped everything except the “In the Beginning” Collection as I am still writing instructions on those twelve.I have entered into a relationship with Krenik – a thread company in West Virginia. They make specialty threads of metallics and other embellishment like materials. They are sending me a sample pack to use and once I get used to their products I will be endorsing them. My first Art Quilt sponsor – how exciting! I have been in touch with Pokey Bolton of Quilting Arts magazine and I am writing an article in their summer issue on underpainting and oversketching a quilt. This is a process I developed for arts quilts. I followed up with some of the other companies and I am waiting for a response. I was wondering how many of the companies that expressed interest would really follow up. I must say that most have not followed up yet. Who knows if they will. To me – it is yet another lesson learned. I think people get caught up in the excitement of  market and make a few too many promises. That is okay though. While I am mildly disappointed I just chalk it up to “here we GROW again”! This is the way we learn.

I have also taken a step away from the whole process to rest. We went to NYC for some fun family activities. In between market end and now I have given two lectures and attended one for myself. I have to say it was very nice watching and listening to someone other than myself give a lecture. My mother in law is visiting and we have been going museum hopping! We have been to the Visionary museum in Baltimore, a local craft exhibition and few others in DC. It has been a lot of fun. Noone in my family of men really ever want to go to museums art art galleries. I am refilling the well. Recharging. I am getting an intense sense of wanting to start another art quilt.

I have found since I have really focused on Zebra Patterns that a distinct rhythm has been developing. I work on Zebra for awhile which is some creative, a good amount of graphic design and technical writing and finally mindless production efforts and eventually I need a break from all that and need to create something new. I need to create something without boundaries, without worrying if it will translate well to a pattern that the general public will be able to successfully follow and reproduce.

I walk in to my laundry/storage room where I keep my completed patterns and see over 20 bins now filled with over 65 patterns – soon to be over 72! and I think back to last summer and I had just two large bins. Yes I only stocked 12-36 per pattern. Now I am stocking close to 100 of each at a time. I had 4-6 customers. Now I have close to 25 customers. That is great growth in this economic environment for a small business.  It has been a ton of work.  We are seriously considering going to Fall market which is the biggy! It is in Houston. Over four time the exhibitors display and over four times the people attend.


I have not written much about the ups and downs of emotions that I have been living through throughout this process of building a business. So lets jump into that pond and see what surfaces! Right now I am feeling like – whew this is a ton of work and I am very tired. One cannot help but compare the amount of hours spent on this endeavor and if I had been spending the same amount of time doing graphic design at $75-100.00 per hour how much fatter my bank account would be.  You do not see tons of money rolling in really at any point. Yes my receivables have grown substantially however so have my payables! I am not paying printing bills of 26.00 dollars any longer.

Emotionally it is quite demanding to stay on course.  I do enjoy most of the work most of the time. I would enjoy it a whole lot more if the profits started showing up at a greater pace. It is like I am on a business treadmill and it is slowly increasing in speed.  In my current state I am constantly asking myself – why are you doing all of this? Some days I have the answer quickly – because you are enjoying it and building a small to medium or beyond business for our future. Other days the answer is “I don’t know – why am I running at 110 miles per hour?” I have to constantly remind myself – Debra take a breath you do not have to build a pattern business with 10 employees and trucks coming in and out of a loading dock in 8 months! (although I would really like to! lol) So why AM I doing this? I do have to go back to my mission statement that is on my booth sign: My intentions are to continue lecturing and teaching, to evolve into a national quilter / speaker / author and to travel the world through quilting.That is why mission statements are very important. Often times we get lost at sea and need to reread our original intentions.  I reflect on that and see I have been lecturing and teaching. I am now working on becoming a national quilter and I have begun to travel the world through quilting, even if it is only Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, NYC, VA, DE,  and other areas of PA.  I think maybe I need to add an addendum to my mission statement to make a nice living at what I am doing.  Yes it will now read: My intentions are to continue lecturing and teaching, to evolve into a national quilter / speaker / author and to travel the world through quilting and to make a nice living at what I am doing. I am not an advocate of that whole starving artist theory!

So yes I do have many doubts and often think about just throwing in the towel on this whole process and take a nice 9-5 graphic design job. Or better yet – just abandon Zebra Patterns and focus on art quilts only. But pretty quickly after that I think about what I would be missing. I would miss giving lectures and teaching. It really feeds my soul to share my experiences and techniques. I am starting to get out and see new places with new friends that I meet through this process. So no – abandoning this whole process is not rational. It is funny how one can set a goal and start to achieve it and once we are there, or part way there we look around and say – hey this is not what I thought it would be.  Then I ask – just what did you think it was going to be? The answer to that is not really clear. When I went to market I saw all the TOP know quilters in the business. I saw Pokey Bolton, Alex Anderson. Mark Lipinski, Bonnie McCaffrey, Elenor Burns, and several others.  While they might be celebs in quilters minds I did notice they were just working people with recognizable faces. In fact they all looked to be hard working people. Then I ask – do I want to be one of those quilting celebs? The real answer is not really. I would rather build a company that can afford 3-4 booths at market and has a book full of appointments with customers weeks in advance and the people just come to me and buy. It is really about creating a creative business that is successful – really successful is what matters to me. I would like a staff of people. I would love for all of the employees in my company to be eager to come to work each day because the work enviornment was so dynamic and enriching. So maybe I should rewrite my mission statement one more time:  My intentions are to continue lecturing and teaching, to evolve into a national quilter / speaker / author and to travel the world through quilting and to make a nice living at what I am doing. In this process I would like to create a company with a  staff where we could all work together in a creative, uplifting and productive environment for the better good of all of us and the quilting community through our products and personalities. How’s that? Sounds better to me.  It is through writing this blog that I refresh and renew my drive. You always hear about people who journal and keep diaries are able to flush out inner thoughts – well it is true. It just happened here. I actually feel renewed and with more drive. (I know that is a scary thought to those of you who know me! lol – don’t worry I do not for see I will spontaneously combust anytime soon!)

In summary about emotions – it is a real roller coaster. But knowing your intentions and reflecting back on your mission statement can be the needed seatbelt in the run away car on that crazy track.  I have been working on Zebra Patterns for so long that I anticipate these ebbs and flows in the business – and for that matter in life. The key is to  ride out the ebbs knowing the flows are surely to follow. I have found with this persistence the ebbs become less difficult and the flows play out for a longer period of time. It is necessary to check in with your emotions and constantly reevaluate and reform your mission.

Zebra Patterns?

Some people have asked – why is your company called Zebra Patterns? It is for a few reasons. First I did not want a company called “Debra’s Patterns”. There are so many companies out there with the owners name in the title. I also did not want my name becoming the brand. Companies with peoples names depend on the person who’s name is in the Brand to help push the brand. What if I someday want to sell my pattern company with all my employees and loading docks? It will be much easier to sell  the brand “Zebra” than my own name. Also in the future if I have designers who work for the company – they can use their own name under the Zebra Umbrella. Another reason is that I use a lot of black and white stripes in my work. And lastly – if you take the “D” off of Debra and replace it with a “Z” you get Zebra. We found one last benefit to the name Zebra …. in show catalogs I am usually the last listing! I always say if you can’t be first in the listing last is much better than stuck in the middle.

How is it going?

I think over all my goals are right on time or even a bit early. After I had recovered enough from the bone marrow trabsplant in 2004 I set a 1 year, 5 year and 10 year goal. It was surprising to find myself at 44 years old rewriting my life plans. No ever thinks cancer will visit there front door. My one year goal was to earnistly start working again and grow my pattern line. I did that and developed a strong presence in local quilt shops through my patterns and teaching.  My five year plan was to have a line large enough to take to National market. I did that.  I now have a national presence with my patterrns and I have National recognition and publication nationally through my art quilts. My long term goal was to actually be traveling the world through my quilts and patterns. I think now is a good time to revisit those goals and reset the 1 year, 5 year and 10 year goals.

What’s next on the one year horizon?

So lets see – in one year I would like to continue to grow the pattern line by adding more stamps and rounding out a few other items in my line. I want to add one or two more chair covers and a few more door hangers. I need to pattern that big Chuppah/ Wedding quilt too. I want to wite lets say 2-3 articles for Quilting publications.  I want to have at least 2 new art quilts to enter in National/International competitions.

In five years I want to grow the business and start making a good living from my patterns/teaching/lecturing. I want to write a book.

In the next ten – really make the business sore with a great little profitable company of like minded employees called Zebra patterns.

How does that all sound? Like a plan?I am reinspired – I need to go make something!


1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Diane D.
    Jun 07, 2009 @ 16:39:22

    Well, Debra, I’m sure you’ll meet whatever goals you set. You surely set a good example for all of us with your hard work and dedication, and demonstrate that hard work pays off.


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