News and Trends from International Quilt Market




It’s generally safe to assume that any person who puts their energy, heart, and money into opening and building a retail business has a passion for the product they’re selling. And in the case of the quilt shop owner or quilt retailer, a passion for quilting is essential to the success of their business.

Bob Negen



International Quilt Market/Portland

May 18-20
Classes begin May 17

Oregon Convention Center

Portland, Oregon, USA


International Quilt Market/Houston

November 3-5 (NOTE: LATER DATES)

Classes begin November 1

George R. Brown Convention Center

Houston, Texas, USA






International Quilt Market/Kansas City

May 17-19
Classes begin May 16

Kansas City Convention Center

Kansas City, Missouri, USA


International Quilt Market/Houston

October 26-28

Classes begin October 25

George R. Brown Convention Center

Houston, Texas, USA



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Still, as business expert and WhizBang! Retail Training founder Bob Negen explains, passion is only part of the equation, and that alone is not enough to make a business profitable.


Negen got his start in the retail business at only 23 years old, when he founded the Mackinaw Kite Company, a small chain of specialty toy and kite stores. It didn’t take long for him to realize what he now spends his time teaching other people—that passion for his product wasn’t paying the bills. And he spent the next 20 years learning how to really make money in retail.


In 1999, he and his wife Susan founded WhizBang! Retail Training, which offers products and services designed to help independent retailers of all sizes—new and established—thrive in today’s competitive market.


Negen speaks to and works with retailers in many areas of business, including extensive engagement in the quilting and sewing industries. In addition to his Quilt Market seminars (which he’s presented for several years), he’s also spoken at Baby Lock Tech, Pfaff-SVP, and Brother Sewing events. The WhizBang! Retail community includes a number of quilt shop owners, and Negen was a regular contributor to American Quilt Retailer.


In other words, he says, “I know your industry well.” The real value in what he teaches, however, is that it’s not industry-specific. “What I’m teaching,” he adds, “are the retailer truths, the nuts and bolts, and the more advanced skills that an independent retailer must have.”


Negen is presenting two educational events at spring Quilt Market in Portland: a day-long Boot Camp from 9 am-4 pm on Wednesday, May 16, and the business seminar, “The Productive Quilt Shop Owner,” from 8-10 am on Thursday, May 17.


During the fun, interactive Boot Camp, Negen will be covering what he calls “The Five Pillars of Retail Success:” Marketing, Leadership and Employee Management, Inventory Management, Creating an Amazing Customer Experience, and Personal Business Skills. His promise, he says, and backs up with a refund guarantee for anyone who isn’t entirely satisfied at the end of the Boot Camp—is that “anybody who comes and spends the day will leave with a mind expanded.”


Negen’s experience—and the experience of thousands of retailers with whom he’s spoken—has been that retailers have a moment during about year two of business in which they realize that they don’t actually know as much as they should about how to run a business.


“When people start a quilt shop, it’s almost always the case that they’re not doing it for an economic opportunity, but rather because they love quilting,” he says. “So, what happens is that there is an unconscious incompetence. They don’t know what they don’t know. The next step is conscious  incompetence—that’s when they figure out that they know what they don’t know.


“When you talk about an extra edge among hundreds and hundreds of independent quilt store owners or all levels—from brand new and entirely green to super successful and experienced—is the idea that there is a set of skills that are totally independent of quilting knowledge. Your passion for your product is not enough to make you profitable. And anyone who comes to the Boot Camp is going to have a significant shift in how they look at managing their teams, managing their marketing, managing their inventory, and managing themselves.”


And it’s not just new retailers that can benefit from Negen’s program, he says. “I know that there are also going to be many very successful retailers in that Boot Camp. Why are they going to be there? Because the most successful people are always learning. They’re never satisfied with where they are. They’re always anticipating the future and looking for new skills and strategies.”


In his other Market business seminar, “The Productive Quilt Shop Owner,” Negen will teach retailers how to better manage their time, energy, and focus so that they can get more done, and how to build the structure of their business so that it runs well without them.


“The biggest issue they face in the beginning is that they’re trying to do everything themselves, so they’re stretched too thin,” he explains. “As they grow, and they’re able to bring in more people, they’ve then created a culture where people come to them. It becomes a personal productivity and focus issue. Most independent quilt store owners are never able to do the important work, because they’re busy doing the unimportant work. That’s also why they get burnt out and the business doesn’t run the way it’s supposed to run."


Productivity, he says, is really about making sure that the important work—things like creating training programs, making promotions all that they should and could be, building a marketing plan, doing strategic work, and all of the things that move a business forward in a meaningful way—don’t get pushed aside because the inexperienced retailer is too busy putting out fires.


“My late father-in-law used to describe stress as ‘knowing what to do, but not knowing how to do it,’” Negen adds. “And when you are an independent retailer who has not been trained to be an independent retailer, you know what you want to do—you want your team to behave a certain way, you want your marketing to work a certain way, you want your store to run a certain way, you want your customers to feel a certain way—but you don’t know how to do it.


“That’s what we teach. That’s what I spent 19 years in retail learning how to do. And I’ve spent the last 19 years with WhizBang! Retail learning how to take what I learned about running a successful retail store and teach it in a way that’s accessible, so that other people don’t have to go through the struggles and the trials and tribulations that I went through.”





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News and Trends from International Quilt Market