Janelle Girod and Kristin Rodriguez
Fiber on a Whim
Embellished by Design
Fiber on a Whim prioritizes inspiration, creativity and customer service.
Janelle Girod is a fiber artist. Her daughter, Kristin Rodriguez, is a quilter. Together they are Fiber on a Whim, an online source for surface design and embellishment products based in Georgia. This dynamic mother-daughter duo experiments with paints, dyes, and three-dimensional objects to create one-of-a-kind pieces of art and inspire customers to do the same. If it’s not “bolted down or already attached to something else,” they say, it is fair game for application as an embellishment.
Girod got into fiber arts in the 1970s and slowly but surely brought Rodriguez into her dream of owning a quilt shop, believing that her daughter would take to the business operation side better than she. “Mom sent me to Houston at 18 to take a class about opening and managing a quilt shop,” Rodriguez recalls. They looked at locations and discussed options until, years later, the time was right. Girod’s dream became reality when Rodriguez found a suitable location and called to inquire.
“On the whim of a phone call, we ended up in business,” Rodriguez said.
They started out as a brick-and-mortar shop, hand-dying fabric and thread in the basement, then transitioned to an exclusively on-line resource. “We expanded what we were dying, did trade shows, and then shops started asking if we would sell our product wholesale,” Rodriguez says.
How do you and your mom blend your different interests into a viable business?
We complement each other well. We each have different strengths that dictate our responsibilities in the business. We also collaborate on art work, which can be entertaining. Our rule: We can’t discuss what we see in a piece. We just do our “layer” and see what comes out of it.
What support you offer retailers who carry Fiber on a Whim products?
We have been there. We know it is really hard for shop owners to find the time to make samples to help sell new products. We offer trunk shows so that shops can highlight our products without having to devote large amounts of time on their end. We also offer samples, home dec/sewing projects, or art quilts for purchase so that shops can continue boosting sales. The biggest support we can offer to shop owners is to help them save time while making it easier to move our products.
Please describe your trunk shows.
Shops can choose large quilts, art quilts, garments, or home dec/sewing projects. We customize pieces to fit the style or theme of the shop or event and include signage that shows what products the pieces require to help move the shop owner’s inventory.
How does the trunk show process work?
Shops interested in hosting a trunk show can go to our website and click on the trunk show link to see options and photos of pieces they may receive and then fill out the request form choosing months that work for them. We have enough pieces to host two trunk shows of each type during a month, so we do our best to meet the needs of each shop for special events. We ship out the pieces to arrive a few days before the start of their month so that shop owners can get samples on display and receive product shipments prior to the first of the month. At the end of the month, we send a return label and ask that shops pack our pieces with care for return. We curate extra product for orders during their trunk show to match the pieces they will have on display to boost sales.
What feedback do you get from shop owners?
The best feedback we get is when a shop owner calls just days after setting up the trunk show and orders more product. It means that we heard their description of their customers or events and delivered the best pieces and product package for them to increase their sales.
What advice to you have for quilt and fiber art designers and retailers who want to start an on-line store or supplement a brick and mortar store with an on-line component?
The best advice is to know your target market. Are you an art quilt, traditional quilt, modern quilt, wool applique or mixed media business? Knowing this can help you decide how best to work your online presence and where best to attract your target market. The internet and social media are a huge presence in our everyday lives, so whether you offer products for sale online or not, you need a website to showcase products you offer in your brick and mortar, items you design, and classes you teach. This will help educate your customer on what you offer before they come into your shop or reach out to communicate with you. If you are not comfortable online and posting to social media, hire someone to do it for you. The investment will pay off in the long run. For instance, a photo on Instagram is an ad. That photo can drive customers to purchase a specific product, kit, or even register for a class. You can choose to “boost” the photo by paying for it to be shown to a wider audience.
What are the hallmarks of your customer service?
We know that our products are not your typical quilting supplies. That means that the focus of our customer service is making sure that shop owners know how best to market our products and that customers are comfortable in how they might use them. When doing trade shows, it is easy to walk people through explanations while showing examples. Being an on-line business is about the visual aids, so we answer emails with attached pictures, and our website and blog showcase photos for those who inquire. The rest of the customer service component is that we make sure that we offer our hand-dyed products at reasonable prices and wait times. We do our best to keep decent stock numbers so that we can provide reasonable turnaround on orders.
Fiber on a Whim offers on-line courses. How do you make that work?
Teaching online is definitely a lot different than teaching in person. We have found that the best way to conduct online classes is through videos with accompanying handouts so that it is almost like we are with them. We break down the classes into several weeks so that each week is a manageable amount of new information and work. We do our best to share any issues that could come up and possible solutions in the initial video. Participants can also post photos or ask for more info in the online classroom.
Explain your motto, “We are going crazy and we want you to come with us!”
Life is no dress rehearsal so we need to have fun as we go. We do not take ourselves too seriously, so you will often find us laughing. People at trade shows often comment about our laughter. People coming into our booth say, “You two are so crazy!” So we went with it. You attract more people with laughter and smiles though than you do with a frown. Ultimately, we hope that our products bring smiles to the faces of people using them and the people who view the finished pieces.