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In 2009, my new quilting business was struggling to get off the ground. The recession had hit my family and my town of Hamilton, Mo., pretty hard and I had started Missouri Star Quilt Company as a way to earn retirement money while doing something I loved. But like almost every small business at the time, Missouri Star wasn’t setting the world on fire. To help get the word out, my son Al suggested we film some tutorials and post them to YouTube.
“Sure,” I told him. “What’s a tutorial?”
Back then, I had never even visited YouTube, but I decided to try it out. I set up my sewing machine in a corner of the shop and Al began to shoot our first video on a handheld camera. We didn’t even bother to close the shop because foot traffic was so slow. Those first videos didn’t always look super spiffy, but I think people appreciated that I was making a hobby that sometimes feels intimidating to learn, more approachable.
Week by week, we filmed new tutorials and though it took a little while, we started seeing our views and subscriber numbers go up. First we hit 1,000 subscribers, then 10,000 subscribers. And while our online following was growing, we started getting some new visitors in real life, too. People were popping into our store from as far away as Texas, Virginia and Mexico telling me how they’d seen our videos on YouTube and wanted to visit me in person. We couldn’t just film the videos during store hours anymore; the foot traffic had picked up! And it was coming from everywhere.
By 2012, we had over 25,000 subscribers and we were regularly getting visitors to Missouri Star from around the world. Our sales were growing quickly and we decided to use the money we were earning to help invest in our community. One by one, I had seen businesses in Hamilton pack up and leave as the recession got worse and I wanted to change that trend. We decided to buy up a few of those boarded-up buildings to give our visitors an even richer experience.
We opened a store for Civil War-era prints, a store for modern quilt fabric, a store for novelty patterns and still we kept growing. Today, Hamilton is the Disneyland of quilting. We have 12 quilting stores operating in Hamilton and we get busloads of visitors coming to our small town almost every week. We didn’t just stop at quilting, either. We’ve partnered with talented chefs, cooks and bakers in our community to help them open their own business. In small town of 1,800, Missouri Star Quilt now employs over 400 people.
I remember having a dance party with my family when we sold seven orders in one day. Now we ship as many as 5,000 orders a day. Missouri Star Quilt Company has grown from one woman with a quilting machine to the largest seller of pre-cut quilting fabric in the world and the biggest employer in our county.
None of that could have been possible without YouTube. Our channel allowed us to turn our small business into a global business. We now have over 350,000 subscribers on YouTube, from countries throughout the world.
But as great as all those numbers are, the thing that makes me happiest is what I did in that very first video: teach someone how to quilt. I’ve been lucky to find something I truly love to do and I’m so happy YouTube has given me the opportunity to share that passion with others. It’s meant the world to my small business, to my community and to me.