This is another post in a continuing series called “Meet and Greet”. We’ll be sharing the results of interviews we’ve conducted with fascinating folks in our niche, that you either know of already, or will want to know more about.
I met Annie Unrein at Spring Market in Salt Lake City and I liked her immediately, maybe because we have quite a bit in common. She started her internet pattern business in 2001 with absolutely no formal training in design or computer programming and has extended her reach into product development with the successful launch of ‘Texture Magic‘ and more recently, ‘Soft & Stable‘. And here’s the deal… Annie is so pumped about this post that she’s generously offering TWO free giveaways PLUS a week-long discount on Soft & Stable. We’ll give you the details after we talk to Annie a bit…
1- I know you had a career prior to starting your on-line business. What was your former job like and how did you get started in business on your own?
I majored in accounting in college, taking and passing the CPA exam the month I graduated. I worked as a CPA for a number of years, mostly preparing financial statements and income taxes. It’s been a wonderful background to have as a small business owner.
In the early 1980s, my husband and I homesteaded a 160-acre parcel of agricultural land in Southeast Alaska. We built roads and bridges to get into the property, cleared land for fields, and cut down and milled our own lumber to build our home and outbuildings. I got pregnant a month after we moved there — which was not at all in the plans!
We planned to farm and raise livestock, but quickly learned that farming in rainy, remote Southeast Alaska was not going to pay the bills.
Fortunately, we were located less than 10 miles from the headquarters of Glacier Bay National Park, so we decided to open a country inn. We built a beautiful inn and eventually added another lodge and charter boat business to take guests fishing, whale watching, and sightseeing in Glacier Bay. We operated that business for over 10 years, with up to 17 employees and 40 people for dinner at night! We sold the business when our children were in middle school so that we could give them different exposure and opportunities than they would get living in the Alaskan bush.
The next several years were full with raising children, ranching and farming, and working with my husband to rehabilitate a number of properties. In between all that, I made time to join our local quilt guild, becoming active in guild activities and developing my quilting skills.
I was looking for a little extra income to pay for my quilting habit and because I’m organized and (I confess) a bit anal (it’s the CPA in me, I guess), love to quilt and sew, and enjoy working on the computer, writing patterns seemed like a logical choice. It was something that I could do at home that wouldn’t take a big investment of money or space. . . in the beginning anyway!
I also was fortunate to be friends with Heather Purcell (Mother Superior of Superior Threads) and she offered to sell my patterns if I’d make samples for her booth. It was a win – win for both of us and my relationship with Superior Threads has opened many, many doors for me.
2- What inspires you?
I find inspiration everywhere! I keep my eyes and ears open all the time for ideas for patterns and products. Many of my patterns came about because I needed an organizer for my supplies, a new purse, or a quilt for a gift.
Mother Superior (Heather Purcell) is also a great source of inspiration for me. Many of my quilt patterns began in her amazing head. She often comes up with an idea for a quilt. We’ll sit down at the computer (I use EQ software) and play with designs until we come up with something that we both like. Then I print a rough pattern for her. Heather makes the quilt, keeping notes as she goes, and then finds someone amazing to quilt it. I finish the pattern and test it. She provides a photo of the quilt and I publish the pattern. Superior Threads has a beautiful, unique quilt for their booth and I have a beautiful pattern. Win – win!
3- What do you do or where do you go to seek inspiration for your work?
Our annual trip to our island home in Alaska always provides me with great inspiration. The library in Sitka, Alaska, has the best selection of quilting and art books that I’ve ever seen. I always “fill my well” during my time there. The peace and quiet and time to reflect surrounded by the beauty of Mother Nature always inspires me. You may enjoy reading my blog post: Mother Nature Is A Quilter. LINK: http://byanniecom.blogspot.com/2009/06/mother-nature-is-quilter.html
4- Tell us what a typical day is like for you.
These days it seems that I spend most of my day in my office, filling orders, answering emails, and taking care of paperwork. So, it’s usually evening before I get to all the tasks that I’d hoped to do that day: sewing, writing patterns, etc. I am very much a night owl, so I can do a day’s work after dinner. (Sleep tends to be very low on my list of priorities!)
5- What is your work space like?
I’m fortunate to be able to work at home in a beautiful large room that has great views of the city and mountains. My husband built me a beautiful custom desk and tables for my sewing machines, so one side of the room is computers and office and the other side is production/sewing. He made me a wonderful cutting table with wire basket storage units underneath for fabric, too. I am a lucky girl.
6- What are you most excited about right now?
I get to go to Hawaii on Monday! I’m teaching at Superior Threads’ School of Threadology at Quilt Hawaii and then we’re taking a few days off to relax on the beach. I am SO ready! I’m also excited that my next shipment of WHITE Soft and Stable will arrive this week. (Unfortunately, it got held up along the way so won’t arrive until after I leave for Hawaii, so my helpers will have to take care of it and all the backorders while I am away. I will owe them BIG time!)
I developed Soft and Stable last year because I was looking for something that would give good body and stability to my purses without making them heavy or stiff or hard to sew.
Several years ago, I noticed that my favorite designer handbag was made using a foam stabilizer rather than batting, so I went looking for something like that to use in my projects. I found and used a foam-type product for several years, but it had a number of drawbacks. It was stretchy and not very stable; it had fabric only on one side of the foam, so I had to be careful when sewing; and I couldn’t buy it at a price that I could sell it to wholesale customers. I got yelled at by more than one store for calling for a product that they couldn’t offer!
I finally decided to find someone to make the product that I needed so spent several months working with various manufacturers and testing and re-testing products. I introduced ByAnnie’s Soft and Stable in black at Fall Market in Houston last fall to great reviews. Customers are loving it and many pattern designers (such as StudioKat Designs!) are adding it to their projects as well.
Due to popular request, I recently added white Soft and Stable to my product line as well. You’ll find lots more info about Soft and Stable as well as a number of video tutorials on my website.
So, if your customers want to make purses, bags, totes, or home dec items that look like they BOUGHT them (not like they MADE them), please ask them to give ByAnnie’s Soft and Stable a try!
7- Do you have a secret hobby or pastime?
Can’t say that this is a hobby or pastime, but I just created a Facebook page for my business. So far it’s a secret because I can’t figure out how to let people know about it! I’m going to have to look for a “Facebook for Dummies” book to read while I’m lazing on the beach in Hawaii. . . Please “Like” me or “friend” me or whatever it is you do on Facebook!
Flash Card Questions
1- Who is your hero? My husband: He is always, always there for all of us and is a great counselor.
2- Tell us something on your ‘bucket list’. I have lived an amazing, full life and have had many, many wonderful experiences. I love what I am doing and where I am and have to say that I’m pretty much satisfied with the here and now.
3- What is your favorite color to design with? I was never a big orange fan, but I have to say that orange really adds something to a quilt!
4- What is your favorite TV show (current or in re-runs)? I very rarely watch TV these days, but I used to love West Wing and Boston Legal.
5- What book are you reading right now? I need a good book to take to Hawaii. . . better find something tomorrow. Not reading anything right now, but do enjoy Harlen Coben’s books. Read “Caught” while in Alaska.
6- Something or someone who can make you smile, even on the worst of days. My kids, Havila and Casey, each of whom has a charming wit and terrific sense of humor combined with wisdom beyond their years. My daughter’s words of advice to me (as I was losing it big-time when she was a teen): “Possess thyself in patience, Mom.” (I still try to remember that!) And, when asked how they’d cope with us when we get old, my son said, “Oh, I’ll just say, ‘Hey, Mom, will you make me a quilt?’ and you’ll disappear into the back room and we won’t have to deal with you!” Oh, I hope I can continue to quilt all the days of my life!
Here’s where you can find Annie on the web!
And now for THE FUN PART….
Annie is offering a generous sitewide 10% discount for ALL READERS! (how cool is that?)
To receive your discount: Type KAT in the discount code box at checkout (discount offer expires on 7/24/11, so don’t delay)
PLUS- TWO lucky readers will receive these 2 FABULOUS giveaways!
- a Prissy Purses” pattern plus white Soft & Stable
- a “Necessories” pattern plus black Soft & Stable;
So what do YOU have to be a winner? It’s SIMPLE!
Just leave an answer to the following question
in the comment box below.
What do you do, or where do YOU go to seek inspiration for YOUR projects?
Annie will choose two winners from amongst the comments rec’d by Friday (7/22) at 7am. Please leave at least your first name & last initial with your answer. Anonymous commentors cannot be considered. The winners will be announced in a future post.
Did you enjoy this post? I’m sure Annie would love to hear any feedback
you might have for her along with your giveaway answer,
and please feel free to pass this post along to friends and family in anyway you see fit.