For a startup that now employs more than 100 people, has thousands of YouTube followers and is changing the face of Main Street in their hometown, its beginning was pretty unassuming.
When Jenny Doan, a costume designer, moved from California to Hamilton, Missouri, it didn't take her long to realize her craft wasn't in high demand. So on others' suggestions, Jenny took a quilting class--and she fell in love with it. To her, its creativity had no comparison.
Fast forward 20 years and many, many quilts later, and Jenny received a gift from her children that would change the trajectory of her life.
"The children were concerned about what I was going to do once they left home—I have to have something for my hands to do so I keep out of trouble—so they bought me a quilt machine," she said.
But the gift came with a slight challenge: the 14-foot machine didn’t fit in her home. So like any sane person would do, she bought a building to house her new equipment. It was then that Jenny and her husband looked around at their new digs and realized something: they had started a company.
“We could finish people’s quilts in half the time that they were sending them out and waiting for them to be returned,” Jenny said. “So we just put a little ad in the local newspaper, and people starting coming.
This was just the beginning. From here, Jenny’s children got the great idea to film their mother giving quilting tutorials and upload them to YouTube. Jenny’s teaching style and easy-to-follow tutorials took the intimidating complexity out of this traditional craft. People loved them.
With some help from her kids, Jenny has grown a small family-run storefront into an online sensation. Today Jenny and the Missouri Star Quilt Company have amassed millions of views for her online teachings with people tuning in from Iran, Norway and Australia.
“People fell in love with them because they were simple. If they could see it, they could do it,” she said.
Not only did viewers love Jenny’s jargon-free, step-by-step guide to quilting, they loved—and wanted— her fabrics. And with that realization, the company’s free lessons and accompanying fabric packs started generating a lot of revenue.
Back at home in Hamilton, the success of Jenny’s online presence is certainly being felt. Missouri Star Quilt Co. is shipping thousands of fabric orders daily from its warehouse, has multiple retail storefronts and is even transforming an old motel into a quilting weekend getaway.
Jenny hopes this resurgence of quilting, especially among her younger following, and the resulting success of her company provides security, stability and growth for her small hometown for years to come.
“We’re bringing a town back to life. It was dying. The buildings were going away and we were down to one store and a gas station. Now people are coming in here and they are coming here every day. For future generations there will be jobs here.”
Jenny says she loves quilting because quilts become heirlooms; they have longevity. I know the same holds true for her entrepreneurial legacy.