Sew Distinct manufactures all-cotton, high-quality, custom quilts with original designs. Through my design process, my customers work with me to provide the information, ideas, and sometimes even images (like photographs) that allow me turn their intentions into beautiful works of quilt art. When completed, my quilts are hand-delivered or shipped securely to my clients, or, if they prefer, to the intended recipient of the gift, along with instructions on the proper care and maintenance of their heirloom-quality quilt.
I make six different quilt options, which are differentiated by size into "Crib Quilts" (for babies and children), Queen-Size Quilts, and King-Sized Quilts, and by quilt type (machine quilted or hand quilted). Use of hand-dyed fabrics, larger sizes, and special requests or processes (including photo transfer, etc.) will require additional charges and completion time.
Price and time variables are determined mostly by the intricacy of the image and quilting designs requested, and reflect additional labor costs. Time to finish does not include shipping time, which will be determined (and paid for) by the client. Since these are custom artworks, I will encourage my local clients to view the finished quilt themselves before sending it to a recipient, and may even provide delivery services for local clients.
For customers ordering over the Web, I will make arrangements to ship via their preferred shipper, but will recommend insured delivery with signature and confirmation via UPS and Fed-Ex, since the quilts are irreplaceable. When I ship, rather than deliver, I will provide the primary wrapping of the quilt, first in un-dyed cotton, then in waterproof plastic wrappers within a larger, padded box, to ensure safe arrival in the quilt's original condition. I WILL NOT ship any quilt without delivery confirmation or insurance, as each quilt represents roughly 1/6 of my monthly earnings.
There are only a handful of other businesses offering custom-designed quilts, and my competitive advantage stems from my design expertise. Many businesses which claim to offer "custom quilts" are really just offering customers a choice between several pre-determined original designs. I, on the other hand, can help a customer generate ideas, even take basic information about the color of a child's room and his favorite book and create a completely new design which is tailored to the customer's taste. And, most importantly, my design features emphasize my client's ideas and feelings, and my skills, by creating quilted pictures, rather than the traditional, geometric quilt designs other businesses offer. My real challenge is simply to get my name out there, because I am offering services far more complete than most other quilt makers.
My closest competitors are local pre-manufactured quilt retailers, other quilt-selling websites, and the do-it-yourself quilting market. However, none of these competitors offers the combination of factors which define my niche. Retailers, both local and national via websites, offering finished quilts allow the customer only to choose However pre-determined designs, with customization limited at most to color choices. The only other option for custom-designed quilts, offered through quilting classes and books, requires an enormous investment of time on the part of the customer.
Indirect competitors include other personalized services and gift options, from season tickets at a baseball game to other art media, including sculpture, paintings, and drawings. My challenge is both to enable customers to see personalized quilts as an appropriate choice, and then to demonstrate the superior quality of my quilts.
Sew Distinct fills a unique niche, offering the status and personalization available with a fully custom quilt, without a major investment of the customer's time. I am therefore targeting those busy professionals (often called the Bourgeoise Bohemians) who see prestige in gifts and purchased artwork not solely in its expense, but by the extent to which it reflects their values: handmade or unique, rather than mass-produced; consisting of all-natural materials, rather than synthetics; made by (and thus funding and supporting) an identifiable small-scale artisan rather than a large corporation; and reflecting sincere feelings of love and caring, rather than commercialized, standardized emotions. (More information on my target market can be found in the Market Analysis section, below.)
At the end of this plan are sample brochures such as those I will distribute at local arts and quilting retailers. These brochures contain pictures of some previous quilts, as well as customer comments on the high quality of my workmanship and willingness to customize my designs.
Each brochure also includes the URL for my website. Sample pages from the website have been printed out and attached to the plan as well.
I buy most of my fabrics from the local division of a national fabric chain, to keep down costs. Since most of the design value comes from the combination of fabrics, my ideal fabric supply provides a broad range of styles, colors, and textures available in small (1/4 yard) to very large (entire roll) amounts. The local fabric store in this larger chain meets this need, and their low prices ($3-8/yard) for fabric ensures a good return on the fabric expense.
Occasionally, customers may want a particular theme or style in the fabric choices, so I also maintain the option of shopping from other local fabric retailers, and of charging a premium for specialty or special-order fabrics (locally hand-dyed artisan cottons and silks, brand-name fabrics from Disney, Mary Engelbreit, etc.). I am an experienced fabric dyer, and have a small library of hand-dyed fabrics which I will contribute to the business, and expand as necessary. Many of the artisan fabrics are available through craftspeople here in Sweetville, while the national ones are most available online.
My business as a whole is a relatively low-tech establishment in terms of manufacturing, since I stress the value of individually designed and hand-crafted quilts. However, my use of a website will attract more technologically-savvy customers, and I anticipate possibilities for design which incorporate photos and other images which are emailed to me by the customer, enabling their direct input into the finished design.
I will use a database to track my orders and to spot trends in customer requests. For example, I may find that Web customers more often request customized text embroidery on a quilt, while my local customers want to choose individual fabrics from my collection. Keeping track of these trends will enable me to tailor my marketing approaches to different customer groups.
My products are driven directly by customer demand. Whatever they request, within reason, I will give them. So, each design, each quilt is the direct result of suggestions or requests from the customer, and future products will reflect any changes in customer preferences.
In the future, once my business is established, I may take some design time to create a series of stock elements which can be combined in different ways to provide less expensive options for customers who want customization, but cannot afford to fully commission their own quilt.
Eventually, I would like to employ other local craftspeople to do the piecing and quilting of the artworks, so that I can focus on design and customer interaction. However, this is a long-term goal (5-10 years away), and will depend on increasing demands for my products which require additional labor.