On today’s episode of the Craft Industry Alliance podcast we’re talking about building a quilting empire with my guest Jenny Doan.
Jenny Doan is the smiling face of Missouri Star Quilt Company. Stitching together simplified quilts full of love and laughter, she makes quilting easier, more accessible, and friendlier than ever before. Watching her tutorials feels like coming home again. With over 750,000 YouTube subscribers and more than 230 million views to date, Jenny has sparked enthusiasm for quilting and warmed her viewer’s hearts across the globe.
When she moved with her growing family to Missouri over 20 years ago, she never imagined that someday they’d have a successful quilting business. Like many small towns across America, employment was scarce, so in November 2008, on a modest budget, the Doan family bought a building in Hamilton and started Missouri Star Quilt Company. At first, they offered basic quilting supplies and machine quilting services, but business picked up when they started posting videos of Jenny teaching quilting tutorials online. From that time on her life changed forever.
Almost 13 years later, Jenny now teaches quilting tutorials on YouTube once a week and continues to share her story everywhere she goes. It’s a labor of love and a dream come true for her. Hamilton, Missouri, has become a quilter’s paradise, attracting visitors from around the world. With the help of Jenny’s husband, Ron, her seven children, and 25 grandchildren, this family business has grown to include an entire community.
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Jenny has a new memoir out now, How to Stitch an American Dream: A Story of Family, Faith, and the Power of Giving. She explains how she was approached by the company that worked with Joanna Gaines on her memoir, selected a writer, and then did extensive interviews with them. In the book, Jenny talks about many parts of her life she has not shared previously, including about her first marriage. She also talks about the experience of recording the book for Audible.
I ask Jenny how she and her family chose Hamilton as a destination when they decided to move to the Midwest from California. She talks about their early days in town renovating homes and making costumes for the local theater company. Jenny learned about quilting from a neighbor who hand-pieced quilts. She then took a quilting class in a town 30 minutes away and began attending a quilting group there each week.
Once her children bought her a longarm machine, she began making YouTube tutorials to encourage people to create more tops to send to her to longarm. Soon, though, viewers wanted the fabric she was using and they wanted a pattern. Choosing to invest in pre-cuts was a way to be able o offer an entire fabric line without investing in all of the bolts. Jenny also realized that even though she was demonstrating the whole pattern on video, viewers still wanted to buy a printed version, and that was how Block Magazine was born.
Jenny shares two pieces of advice she has for new shop owners. She also discusses the Daily Deal promotion on Missouri Star, a concept based on Woot, and shifting to having a buyer specifically for that part of the business.
I ask Jenny what it’s like to be a sewlebrity. She talks about being recognized by many people, but still being able to be a regular person, too. Jenny talks about the health strides she’s made over the past year. She now walks four miles a day with a buddy, does intermittent fasting, and is investing in self-care for the first time. After a hectic schedule of constant travel and eating fast food three meals a day, the pandemic forced her to slow down and take care of her health.
We discuss how Missouri Star fared during the pandemic. They closed down all of the retail shops and Jenny recorded a mask-making video. They saw an uptick and ecommerce orders and reallocated their workforce to the warehouse. As a result, they were able to get through the pandemic without any layoffs.
Missouri Star was originally intended as a small business that would help the Doans build a nest egg for retirement after losing their retirement savings during the recession. Of course, the company has become much, much larger and busier than they had originally anticipated. I ask Jenny about her succession plan and if she ever does plan to retire. She talks about having other people star in the tutorials so that viewers get to know people beyond Jenny.
And, of course, I ask Jenny to recommend great stuff she’s enjoying right now. Jenny recommends:
- Big Magic
- crumb and scrap quilting
- having a sewing buddy