Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Fabric Store closing story...


So yes, HYPERNOODLE FABRICS is closing down.  It has been a glorious 7 years of fast paced, amazing, challenging fun…along with quite a bit of blood, sweat and tears.  I have gotten a ton of messages about why I am closing the fabric shop down.  The quick version to it is that My Hypernoodle needs to be fed…lol… 
If you’d like to know the more detailed story, here it is…
Ironically, when I actually started the fabric side of Hypernoodle, it was kind of an afterthought.
  I had worked at a local Quilt Shop where I was loading fabrics and shipping online orders…there were hardly any (orders).  It was slow going and I had ideas on how to improve it that fell onto deaf ears.  I left that job and thought “I should open my own online shop!”

Even though I had kept that little notion of opening a fabric store in the back of my mind, I decided my calling was to do handmade items and pattern of purses, accessories and plushies.  I dived into making handmade pretty seriously in 2007 after leaving the job at the quilt shop and I was fortunate in that my handmade business was booming and very busy.  Since I was doing quite a bit of business, I thought it would be a great idea to buy fabric wholesale for my handmade shop.  Luckily, there was a distributor here in Houston that I could purchase bolts from with no minimum. 
So, I’d buy a bolt, use what I needed for my handmade shop and sell off the rest.  This seemed easy enough at first and I could manage my full time job, selling the rest of the fabric and my handmade shop with just buying 1 or 2 bolts at a time.  I realized that the selection of fabric bolts at this local distributor was very limited, so I began the process of opening wholesale accounts with the fabric manufacturers to get a better variation.  Now…opening wholesale accounts is a completely different story!  Lots of documentation and verification! Then I learned that there a minimums you must purchase in order to purchase wholesale from manufacturers.  This threw me for a loop because I was so used to buying only 1 to 2 bolts at a time from the local distributor.  I marinated over it for awhile because I wasn’t sure what I would do with 15-20 bolts of fabric.  But I thought back about how much I had wanted to have a fabric shop “my way” and decided to take the plunge.

Having to order a minimum number of bolts left me with lots of fabric to sell off.  I had to open a separate Etsy shop just to house and sell all the fabric and it very quickly took over all my time and attention…making my Handmade Shop and the patterns a distant memory.  I was spending all my time on the fabric shop, but was making no profit from it.  I knew very little about pricing and calculating cost.   People don’t realize the cost of freight on fabric (to have it shipped to you from the manufacturer).  When you calculate that in, there really is no money to be made….unless you up the price and are selling a massive QUANTITY of it.  It didn’t take me long to realize that you have to sell a RIDICULOUS amount of fabric to make selling fabric profitable. 
I thought since I had all these bolts of fabric to sell, I was going to go all in and do it right.  I had A LOT of learning to do about the ins and outs of fabric selling!  I took my previous ideas, did hours upon hours of research and got a lot of feedback from customers.  Soon I had to move the fabric store off Etsy to handle the capacity and keep the fees down.

Once the website opened and the majority of Hypernoodle Fabrics customers migrated there from Etsy, 95% of business has been on the website.  The Etsy store still had sales though!  Even though most of Hypernoodle Fabric’s business was on the website since 2010/2011, Hypernoodle Fabrics still ranks as #43 on Craft Count for Fabric Stores on Etsy!  That is pretty darn amazing considering the multitude of fabrics stores on Etsy combined with the fact that most of you didn’t even shop in my Etsy fabric store!  Adding in the sales from the website combined with the website sales, Hypernoodle Fabrics would be in the top 5 Fabrics stores on Etsy had we stayed on Etsy!  And it’s all because of you all!  ♥Thank you♥!

So while browsing the Craft Count website, I also found that at the time I looked, my Handmade store ranks #197 in the Purses & Bags category.  There are thousands and thousands of sellers in this category on Etsy, so I was shocked that since I had devoted the majority of my time to the fabric store (which resulted in selling very little in my handmade shop), that I even ranked #197.   I had to cut back so drastically on the number of items I was able to make to put in my handmade shop to focus on selling the fabric…there just was no time at all to sew and maintain a viable fabric store at the same time.  By 2009, I had stopped producing, making or designing much of anything.  It got to the point that if I was able to construct and put in a couple of items in my handmade shop every 2-3 months, I was lucky. 
While I was super dorky geeked about seeing this #197 ranking for my handmade shop, it also made me think…a lot.. my handmade shop had been booming with business and if I had not stopped producing in my handmade shop and designed patterns and fabrics like I planned …where would I be with that today?  While the fabric shop had been successful, it was consuming so much of my time and I missed actual MAKING things.

Now, the question I have been asked over the run of the fabric store probably more than any other question is some form of:
•How can I buy wholesale?
•Can I buy wholesale from you?
•Is it worth it to buy wholesale for my shop?

I know that almost everyone who buys fabrics retail, at some point in time likely toys with the idea of opening a wholesale account to purchase fabrics at what we all believe to be a cheaper cost.  Here’s the 100% honest deal guys…

If this is your reason to buy fabric wholesale and then sell the rest in your shop or a separate fabric shop…don’t do it!  Don’t, don’t DON’T sell fabric/open a fabric store as a result of having extra fabric to sell off from the wholesale bolts you purchase for your handmade!!!  If you truly just want to have a fabric store, let that be the reason. 

Here is the truth about buying wholesale:
If your small business is making enough sales/moving product at a rapid pace and/or use a lot of yardage per project (8 yards or above per project) making things such as: curtains or bedding, it may be to your benefit to buy wholesale.  **Considering you will use an entire bolt and will be prepared to order more bolts to meet your 1st and yearly minimum purchase requirements** 

But if you make smaller items or use fewer yards of fabric per project, you are better off buying retail.  Even if you duplicate fabrics a lot in your shop/projects (use the same fabric over and over to complete orders/projects)--to buy fabric wholesale, keep in mind, you must purchase a certain amount—by the bolt only—with FREIGHT shipping costs—freight shipping is NOT cheap, guys!  It makes the cost of that desirable “wholesale” cost SOAR to the point where you may as well buy it in smaller amounts by the yard retail …real talk here guys!  In the end, buying retail is a better way to keep your costs down.  Not only because you won’t have extra fabric you won’t use, but it will save you time from having to SELL that fabric!

If I had to guess, I would say that quite a few online fabric shop owners started ordering fabric wholesale to get it at cost for their handmade business then end up opening a fabric shop or selling fabric because they will never be able to use all of the fabric bolts themselves.
You quickly find out that you have to order more and more and more and more and it just snowballs—at least it did for me.  I was prepared to take on the challenge; After all, I had told myself when I worked at that quilt shop that one day I was going to have my own fabric shop.  I found the fabric store exciting--but at the same time, what I was not prepared for, was letting my creativity and sewing go in the process. 
In my case, giving up my handmade and setting my creativity to the side has not worked for me.  I spent an inordinate amount of time maintaining inventory, marketing and advertising for the fabric shop.  Then cutting, packaging and shipping fabric to everyone else to be creative and sew.  Me no likey the “Business” side of the fabric business!  Lol~ it is quite stifling for a “Hypernoodle” to do.  As a 1 woman fabric shop show, this consumed all my time.  Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed the fabric shop very much and loved, loved, loved seeing all of the gorgeous projects my customers created from the fabrics purchased from my shop.  On top of that, being surrounded by hundreds of bolts of fabric daily was amaze-balls!  But not getting to use them, wasn’t.  Deep down inside I kept having a nagging feeling like the fabric shop wasn’t what I was “supposed” to be doing.
    
Sadly, I have gotten to the point that I simply couldn’t devote the time to the fabric store any longer.  It came down to me realizing that I would rather let it go than not be able to give my all to it.  I had been toying with the idea of closing the shop for awhile, then my son said to me a few months back:  “Mom, all you do is WORK, I feel like I don’t ever get to talk to you”.  That broke my heart!  My family have been supportive troopers throughout the whole fabric store experience and I love them immensely for it, but I didn’t consciously realize how it was affecting them. 

When my son pointed out that he felt like he had to compete with the fabric store…that for me-- was the straw and camel.  I then had a long conversation with my husband and the general consensus was the same thing my son said.  I started thinking about my family first and then how the fabric store had also meant the loss of my handmade creativity and I knew it was time.    

This is just how it was for me.  I was lucky enough to learn the ins and outs and have a wonderful run with my fabric shop.  I could have expanded it more and hired help ~ my husband even suggested we do this to take some of the load off of me.  But what it would have taken to get it to “the next level” just wasn’t something I wanted to devote more time to.  It didn't move or excited me…I am a creative junkie at heart and what moves and excites me is how I longed-- very deeply to MAKE things again.

You know how people get asked the question “Where do you see yourself in 5/10 years?”, I had to take a good long look at myself and answer truthfully that having a fabric shop was not in that future vision…but designing and creating is.  There are a gazillion people who have asked me for patterns and tutorials for my designs—Since this is what I always believed my "Original" calling was (and where I started!), I am ecstatic that I can cross the fabric shop off my bucket list, and move on to the next item on that list!

I don’t regret the fabric shop at all.  Even though I felt at times it wasn’t what I was “supposed” to be doing, I truly believe that there is a reason for why I did it.  It taught me quite a bit about business so I try not to question it too much, everything happens for a reason.  Even when we are “thrown off path” from our plans, I believe that where we are--- is still where we are supposed to be when we are there.  So I have faith that having ‘Hypernoodle Fabrics’ was a part of the master plan for where I will eventually be.  

I have learned an incredible amount in the last 7 years running the fabric store, lessons and knowledge I couldn’t have learned anywhere else, and I am so grateful for that.  I am even more grateful for the fabulous, loyal, wonderful, amazing Hypernoodle Fabrics customers from the last 7 years!  What an absolute incredible bunch of ladies!   
With all the love you all have shown about how much you are going to miss my fabric shop, I am truly touched!  You have shared your work with me and honored me with knowing you all.  You have made me smile, touched my heart and even made me laugh myself silly with your stories!  There are customers I’ve gotten to know so well, that I consider friends.  I am blessed!  And I thank each and every one of you who ever purchased fabrics from me, read a blog or Facebook post, or even just stopped by to say “Hi”.  You all have enriched my life in ways you will never know.  I’m not leaving you though, just moving on to a new endeavor... Sometimes in life we just know when we get to that fork in the road that it is time to go the other way, and for me, that time is now. 

That being said, there are those that have started and continued to run fabrics shops EXPERTLY!  It works for them and fits them to a “T”.  They do so as their passion and it shows in their magnificent shops!  I have one in particular that I am SUPER impressed with to tell you about…more info coming on that very soon!

As I bid adieu to the fabric shop, I want to say again….Thank you, Thank you, Thank you all--So very, very, very much from the bottom of my heart!  You will never know what it means to me ♥ 

**As a side note: I got a lot of emails and messages asking specific questions about selling fabric/buying wholesale and having a fabric shop.  I tried to answer them in this post as detailed as possible to provide a general consensus to all who asked. Doing that has already made this post quite lengthy, so I don't want to go on and on to make this post more of a novel / e-book!  If you still have questions, you can email me--I can't promise I will get to all the questions, but I will do my best to try and respond! ☺

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