There is nothing I hate more than wasting my time. Don’t you agree? I waste my time…..and money when I have to call my lawyer. Recall that I hated law school and the idea of lawyers in general. There is no bill more annoying to have to pay than one from a lawyer. Oh, well maybe the accountant too.
I am stuck wasting my time going after people stealing our designs yet again and acting as if it’s okay. I was recently informed that there is a website where someone is selling kids clothing with our designs on them. As I delved further, I found a company in China that was stealing our designs and printing them on finished products that were being sold allover the world. Very nice, right? I am not going to mention the companies’ names or websites because we are just getting ready to lawyer up on them.
With respect to not naming names, I have a funny story. I remember when we were buying the Blank Quilting Corp and I wrote a blog about the fact that we were close to a takeover of a company in the industry. I didn’t name names or anything like that, just a little teasing by asking people to guess who we were buying. When we were ready to close on the deal, the lawyer said something to me like “seriously with the blog Scott???” To this day, I still have no idea how he came upon that blog, but he did somehow. I digress.
Anyway, stop stealing my designs. It’s just not cool. Stop cutting corners and cheating as you are only cheating yourself. Take that!
Who knew? Who knew that my world was going to be turned upside down because of this deal? Who knew that my work life would never be the same again? Oh, if you haven’t heard, Jaftex (my family business) purchased FreeSpirit in the deal of a lifetime, said I. Who knew that my phone would be blowing up with so many congratulatory calls? Who knew how hard it would be to keep up with the outpouring of positivity, excitement, encouragement, relief and love. I am not kidding. Let’s hug it out!!!!!! (I hate when people put a million!!!!!!! in a row).
Our shareholders, meaning consumers and shop owners, have given a resounding thumbs up to this purchase. The outpouring is unreal and it just crystallizes the importance of this deal for my family and for the entire textile industry. This is the transaction that we have been waiting so patiently for. FINALLY! Hallelujah! Hallelujah!
As I have also said, this industry needs consolidation and perhaps this will be the start of a new wave. I think a fabric merger mania Monday is in the cards so to speak. When I was a stock trader, CNBC Business News would often have merger Monday as most deals are hammered out on the weekends and announced Monday. Ahem. How ironic? Makes sense? Recall that we announced our deal on a Monday.
We have definitely been looking for new targets (eesh that sounds so violent), how about new partners? That’s not correct either. A seller? Yes! This opportunity came out of nowhere when we got the email that FreeSpirit was closing. We had heard rumblings, as I am sure you probably did too, but there is always so much rumor and nonsense being spread in our industry. I am sure it is not unlike other industries. Fake news!
Anyway, my dad made the call to the FreeSpirit management and that got the ball rolling. The rest is history. Here’s one for you dad: I guess you haven’t lost your touch in your over 50 years in the textile industry. Love ya man! (My dad totally reads the blogs. He likes to say that he “caught up on my blogs over the weekend.” Then my mom calls to say that my dad showed her the blogs and she loves them yadda yadda. It’s classic).
Everyone has so many questions as do I. I love it how people presume that within a day of doing this deal that I immediately know which way is up including every small and large detail about FreeSpirit. As my dad always likes to say, “we don’t even know where the bathroom is yet.” Don’t forget that I was away when this deal was amazingly consummated by my brother and dad. I will be heading to the office this week and will also be at the VDTA show in Charlotte so I will get to visit two times in the coming weeks. There is a lot to learn and I look forward to meeting all the new people and all the new challenges. We are excited about how many employees have decided to stay with FreeSpirit. This should greatly help to keep the transitional tumult to a minimum. Thank you in advance to the new team at FreeSpirit. I look forward to the our future together.
If you have questions, I suggest that you contact the same people or person as you would have in the past. Or you can call the office number and get help that way…the number is 866-907-3305. Or you can always contact me and I will point you in the right direction. Don’t be shy people because we want to make this transition as quick and painless as possible.
What I can tell you is that all the January released lines are moving forward except the Sprout line by Joel Dewberry. The reps should have their next samples under the new ownership around quilt market.
All the sales and distribution channels shall remain the same for the time being. We of course need time to evaluate all the existing partners that FreeSpirit has to see how strong they all are. As you know, I am all for change, but that change has to come for the proper reasons. As such, this deal is a work in progress and I expect it to take about a year before all the details and kinks are smoothed out. At that point, the business should be able to more or less run on auto-pilot. And then, we will be ready for the next deal!
I am totally obsessed with the television show Curb Your Enthusiasm lately. I went back and started watching the original episodes and I just can’t contain my laughter. I am talking belly laughs, drooling, hyperventilating, headache kind of laughing. You know what I am talking about, right?
In a recent episode, Larry David, the star, has a whole schtick whereby he judges people on whether their appreciation or thank you is in line with the kind gesture of another. In this case, Larry’s act of kindness was to let a co-workers’ married relatives stay at his house for a couple days. It’s freakin’ hysterical and you should check it out. Long story short, it turns out that the house guests were swingers, but that’s a story for another day. Needless to say, it was nothing short of brilliant comedy as usual.
Anyhow, in light of our recent acquisition of FreeSpirit, I wanted to say that the thank yous have WAY exceeded our actions. So we are all good now and we can still be friends. My family could not be any more appreciative for the outpouring of love and support. Thank you for coming on this amazing journey with us. I promise to continue to give you a birds eye view of what’s going on behind the scenes and keep you on the inside track the whole time.
This all reminds me about the Social Media Marketing World conference that I just attended in San Diego. Many of the speakers harped on attaining the ultimate superfan. This is what everyone should be looking to achieve for their business, the super fan. That person that eat sleeps and breathes you and everything about you or your company or your product. You can do no wrong by them. These superfans actually work for you, but they don’t even realize that they work for you and you aren’t even paying them. (Let’s try to keep this between us). In our case, it is the total and complete obsession with the FreeSpirit designers and their fabrics. I have never witnessed anything like this before. I truly had no idea and let’s say that I am ecstatic about these obsessions.
With that, I want to remind everyone that FreeSpirit is back in business and ready to serve you with amazing fabrics and inspiration. Please just bear with us as we transition to the new ownership and deal with the immediate changes and challenges. All the Jaftex companies are still in business too and ready to serve you as well. Call your sales reps. Call your distributor. Call your local quilt shop proprietor. Call customer service. Get on the website! Call me! When the person on the phone answers, you should just start rattling off all the fabrics you want to order by FreeSpirit or any of our awesome family owned companies. You got this.
It happened! The rumors are all true! Yes, my family is buying FreeSpirit in the deal of a lifetime. While I was out enjoying vacation with my wife and kids for school break, my dad, Robert (3rd generation), and brother, Greg (4th generation), pulled off what I think will be our most pivotal acquisition ever (we have had around 15-20 companies under our Jaftex umbrella in our 88 years in business.) They put this all together on their own in record time because they wanted me to not be bothered on my family vacation. That is what a family business is all about. With support staff, lawyers, accountants and the lovely and professional team at Coats, they pulled a rabbit out of a hat. Bravo guys!
It’s not everyday that you get a chance to buy one of the premier players in the industry. I mean, where do I even start? Kaffe Fassett and his collective! Boom! Tula! Anna! Amy! (Omg, I can’t wait to meet them all!) Also, there is The Original Morris & Co.! I can keep going, but you don’t need me to tell you because these are your idols. These people are quilting royalty or “machers” as I like to call them. For all those that watch the Saturday Night Live Coffee Talk series, I must say that I am completely and utterly verklempt (in Yiddish that means a person that is so overwhelmed that they can’t speak.) I mean, over the top excited and I don’t even know where to begin. This is going to give our family so much credibility as an industry leader. We are now in an ideal position to push the #sewrevolution agenda and quilting for the fifth and sixth generations of Fortunoffs.
Henry Glass! Studioe! Blank Quilting! Scott’s Free Sewing Machines! Fabric Editions & A.E. Nathan Co., Inc.! #sewrevolution! All of our partners in the US and worldwide including Stof of Denmark, Sykel Fabrics, Air-Lite Batting, Oasis Fabrics, 3 Wishes, Quilter’s Palette & Ellie’s Quiltplace of Belgium. All of our employees. All of our sales reps. I hope I didn’t leave anyone out….sorry if I did. This is just so exciting. I hope it is very clear that we are committed…..to the insane asylum….did I say that out loud? But seriously, if this doesn’t show the world how we feel about this amazing industry, I just don’t know what will.
So without boring you to death, let’s jump right to the chase. FreeSpirit is back and is going to be better than ever. The sales reps will have loads of beautiful fabrics to show. We will be at Quilt Market in Portland. We will be at the VDTA Show. If you are wondering if we will be there, the answer is yes, yes and yes again.
I welcome with open arms the opportunity to add FreeSpirit to our stable of well known brands. I am going to learn a lot from this company and that is an exciting prospect for me as I grow as a fourth generation textile executive. I am always pushing to be a better businessman and this deal will certainly help to propel me to the next level.
We are blessed to have retained most, if not all, of the licensing talent and the staff at FreeSpirit. We are just under a new and improved management. There will be some changes no doubt, but those changes will focus on managing costs better and letting people know that FreeSpirit is here to stay and is as stable as ever. You could rely on us, our basics, our quality, our top notch designers and designing, our team, me, my family and so much more. I could go on and on, but I know I had you at “hello.” Please help to welcome the FreeSpirit team to the Jaftex team!
My favorite poem of all time is the Road Not Taken (you can listen to it here). I always like to revert back to this poem because it is very relevant in life and especially in my life. Of late, I think about the different roads that Scott’s Free Sewing Machine project has taken me down and it is truly remarkable because without the adventures, I would be on the same old boring path. Remember happy boring Scott? Life is too short to just be on auto-pilot down the same path day in and day out. Sometimes you just gotta mix things up and stir the pot.
Let’s talk about the roads. The first road I was taken down was the road to Freedom Place in Houston. This was all thanks to Linda Yarrow for her request for a machine to help find a creative outlet for the residents (young sex trafficking victims) of Freedom Place. To be honest, I think that this road I was taken down changed my life forever. It opened my eyes to the barbaric ways of some people in our society and it touched my heart so badly that I couldn’t sit there and not try to help. So I helped and helped and I will continue to help. In short, aside from providing fabric and financial support, I helped to facilitate Freedom Place getting 17 sewing machines so all of their residents would have their own machine thanks to SVP (Singer Viking Pfaff–10 machines) and my BFF Joanne (7 machines).
Another eye-opener on the Freedom Place front was when my new friend, Jennifer, who works at the Freedom Place, spoke at a dinner that Jaftex hosted at quilt market for about 30 people. After Jennifer spoke, there was not a dry eye in the room, but in spite of it being very sad to hear, it made everyone in that room want to help those youngsters being sex trafficked. Trust me when I tell you that no one will forget what Jennifer said that night.
Let’s talk about another road. How could I forget the #sewrevolution? The sewing revolution that I have been promoting would not have been a thing if I didn’t start giving away free sewing machines. The idea just popped in to my head one day that if there are more sewing machines being used, more people will be quilting and sewing and this will help reverse the negative trends in the fabric industry. So why not promote it as such? This byproduct of the free sewing machine giveaway is such a noble cause because it is helping to keep this industry alive and kicking…an industry that my family has been involved with since the early 1900’s. It may seem selfish of me, but this is my livelihood and I need to do what I can to support it and keep it alive and kicking for as long as possible. All those future generations of Fortunoff’s are going to need jobs. And I do love my job. I do love seeing the beautiful things that people create with fabric. I do love seeing the smile on people’s face when they see our fabrics. I love selling fabric. I love the kind people in our industry. If that isn’t enough to try to keep this baby alive, I don’t know what is. Are you with me?
There are just so many roads that I don’t know which should be discussed next. OK, let’s talk about my friend Emelia. When I select sewing machine recipients, I only ask 2 simple things of them in return for the machine:
Pay it forward.
Share photos with me of the machine and all that is being made because I want to feel good about having chosen each recipient.
Anyway, with respect to #2 (sharing photos), Emelia is my star. In fact, she is becoming a staple on all the Jaftex social media sites. Every time that she makes something we post the pictures. All the social media followers are getting a lot of joy out of watching Emelia grow with the help of her new sewing machine. They are all cheering her on and being so supportive…it is amazing. She is now being commissioned to do work and getting paid. She is taking lots of classes. She is going to work with me to try to create a local kids club of young quilters and we are discussing so much more. Emelia talks about working at Jaftex one day which would be so cool if it really happened. In addition, Blank Quilting is going to honor her by naming a line after her. In any case, to say that she is a changed person for the better because of fabric and a sewing machine would be a major understatement. And this folks is why we need to keep promoting all the great art that can be produced with fabric. Keep up the good work Emelia. Thank you for being such an inspiration.
Oh the roads….there are so many and will be so many more. For me, the road that I most cherish is the photographs of all the recipients smiling with their machines. I just can’t get enough of that because a photo speaks a million words. But it is not just the words, it is the future possibilities that arise because of a new sewing machine, because of fabric and because of our amazing fabric industry.
These are all my new roads and there are lots of other endless ones ahead. So, we continue the march down the untraveled roads. Hopefully you will continue to join me to see the surprises that lie ahead around each corner.
Not too long ago I got an email that opened my eyes to the madness of what is occurring on the internet these days. In the email, the customer was writing to me asking how it was possible that a Studioe fabric was being sold on walmart.com? My first reaction was, “No Way.” So I clicked on the link and low and behold, one of the Studioe fabrics was in fact being sold on walmart.com despite Studioe products being for Quilt Shops Only (read: not for big box retailers).
Allow me to explain. In spite of the products being sold on the walmart.com site, it was not being offered by Wal-mart per se. It appears that like Amazon, Ebay and all these other selling sites that Wal-mart has a place where people can post their own items for sale and they of course take their cut of the sale. This is not unusual at all and goes on all the time these days. With that being said, before you come after me for selling Studioe to chain stores in the US, delve a little deeper and you will learn that not everything is what it appears to be. Just to confirm, Studioe is not sold to any of the big box retailers.
While I am discussing this, I might as well mention another interesting thing about the internet. You could go to a site like sears.com and you may see some fabric offered (not from any of our Quilt Shop Only Companies). In this case, the fabric is truly being offered by Sears. However, Sears is not stocking the items. They are just offering it and if someone buys the fabric, Sears has a company like Notions Marketing ship the product to the customer. Sears makes a little cut of the profit and so does Notions Marketing. What this boils down to is that Sears is using their website real estate to just try to sell as much stuff as they can without having to take stock in an item. It is kind of like free money if you ask me because it didn’t cost Sears much more than the space that the offer was taking up on its website. The internet presents lots of ways to make money without having to make big investments and this is just another one of those. If you have a nice idea like this one, please make sure to let me know.
I am taking the easy route this week with a recycled blog. I just love this one and I think about it just about every single day including in my house with the kids. So far we started the year with the no complaining diet. I would say this blog too portrays another great potential New Year’s resolution. If you haven’t followed my lead on “YES” in the past, no time is better than now. Just try this…you too will realize how liberating it feels to say YESSSS!
No! No! No! That dirty little word has be driving me crazy lately because I have been hearing way too much of it from people that should be saying YES! YES! YES! I am hearing this from suppliers, vendors, publishers, employees, reps and so many others. I just don’t get it. I am not sure if the people are just being lazy or that it is just their nature, but from me, I can promise you a YES! 99.9% of the time.
What kind of business practice would it be to say NO? A stupid one in my opinion. The thing that bothers me even more is that when I ask “why not?” the answer is really nothing more than a really lame excuse. I could live with a legitimate excuse. I am not big on excuses though and typically ignore them because all they are is excuses. So in my quest for yes answers, I relentlessly press the NO-sayers to try to get them to a yes answer. I end up hearing more excuses and it makes me consider whether I want to continue to do business with a NOer (someone who always says NO!). Who really needs it when I can probably easily find someone else that will say yes?
I frequently get calls, emails and letters with all sorts of requests and like I said, 99.9% of the time I say yes. To say yes is rewarding. People are sometimes shocked at the lengths I will go to in order to make something happen. But this is an amazing quality and this will make people want to continue to work with me and continue to do business with my family of companies. You would truly be surprised how often I get thank you emails, calls and letters. People even stop me at quilt market and say, “you were so kind to have done so and so.”
Without harping on my successes of being a yes man, I have one simple request: stop saying no! and start saying YES! YES! YES! You too will be thanking me as it is never too late to turn over a new and simple leaf like this one. You will be proud you did. Am I right or what?
I am so excited about this blog post. It really isn’t a blog though. Rather, this is 11 pages of Jaftex Corp. and Fortunoff family history in the words of my grandfather, Everett, that I recently discovered. It is a true gem. I wish he were alive to read all my blogs and see all the social media stuff going on. He would absolutely love it. In any case, get on some good glasses or a magnifying glass and grab a bottle of something (grandpa preferred Vermouth) and take a walk down the textile memory lane. Please enjoy the story and my grandfather’s sense of humor. (If it is too hard for you to read, please make a note in the comments and I will forward you a clearer version.)
I truly hope that you made it to the end and enjoyed this as much as I do. I so cherish this and will protect it with my life for the fifth, sixth and so on generations.
In light of my 2018 resolution to not complain, I am going to make an effort not to complain in this blog post. That is, in spite of the fact that I have a bone to pick with all of my friends and followers. For those of my blog followers that don’t know, I have an Executive Facebook page where I talk about fabric, my companies, the history of our business, the industry, the sewing machine giveaway, charity, my personal life, whatever is on my mind and so much more. If we aren’t already friends there, please take a minute to be my friend….pretty please. Doesn’t that sound so cute? I feel like Mr. Rogers, “Will you be my neighbor?”
There was one executive Facebook post in particular that I want to bring to your attention from December 15 which I have attached below:
When I posted that comment, I had 661 likes. Today, I stand at around 1050 followers and it looks like I have hit the ceiling. I think the people at Facebook are doing a Jedi mind trick on me because that number hasn’t moved in weeks, but who is looking?
Anyway, here is the complaining/non-complaining: It was sad that we couldn’t get to 1250 likes and go upwards from 62 machines given away before the year ended. I mean, it’s not like I was asking people to give me money or take an hour out of their busy day to help push my agenda. All that I am asking is that you take a minute to share my page and get all your quilty/fabric friends on board. Please have them “like” and share so that everyone could hear what I have to say and what I am trying to do to help revitalize our great quilting industry back to where it once was. Is that so hard? Is that so wrong of me? If you ask me, I think it is a very admirable cause and I need to know that you are with me.
What I really want is more people to hear about the sewing revolution and to spread the free sewing machine giveaway to the farthest corners of the US. I can’t do it without you. The plan for me is to continue to give away free sewing machines to those suffering through tragedy or hardship for an indefinite period of time i.e. I have no plan to stop as of right now.
So here’s THE PLAN for this to be mutually beneficial: Share my page with 5 people that you know who are in to quilting. Share it with your guild. Share it with your sewing circle. Just focus on the people that you know would care to hear about my mission and my hopes for a strong future in the quilting industry.
I have at least 50 sewing machines in house to giveaway this year and I am NOT afraid to do lots more. Let’s call a spade a spade, I gave away 62 in about 4 months, so imagine what I could do in a year. Please believe in me that when I say “lots”, I mean lots. Don’t test me! But, I need more likes and shares and I need more legitimate requests from people that need a sewing machine to help them through their struggles. The requests have slowed down dramatically of late and that is why I need your help to continue to spread the word and share the love that I have for our great industry as well as those who are down on their luck. Give me a hand please. We got this!
This past December when I turned 45, I started to reflect on my past and dream about what the future might bring. After much deep thought and introspection, one critical question kept crossing my mind. Unfortunately, I just couldn’t stop thinking about it. I haven’t been able to sleep over this much lately either. I just don’t know what I am going to do. Are you ready for this? Please sit down and prepare yourself….
How much longer am I going to be blogging for?
I have not been able to come up with an answer yet, but I do know that I need some more angles at a minimum. I mean, I have the free sewing machine thing, the yenta, the macher, bit’s n’ pieces, the made up stories and a handful of other concepts. I am going to need some more, for sure, even if I just decide to blog until I am 50. So without further ado, I am going to introduce my newest idea which is called, Scott Hop. This is a play off a shop hop (duh!), but this is going to be my moniker to write about some of quilt shops that I visit during the year.
With that, let me tell you about a trip that I took just last week. I drove nearly 3 hours from my house to Colchester Mill Fabrics at 120 Lebanon Avenue in Colchester, Connecticut to work with owner Cheryl Dolloff and her associate Liz. As I often like to do, I dazzled them with an array of products, but especially the newest January 2018 lines from Studioe, Blank, Stof, Oasis and Ellie’s Quiltplace. You will be happy to know that Colchester will have several fabric lines from the Jaftex Companies soon. Please make sure to visit and check them out.
This was no ordinary quilt shop compared to most that I have visited in the past. It really was more like a full blown craft stores. To be honest, I was shocked to see how impressive the operation was in organization, product offerings and scale. I could go on and on about how amazing the shop was and all the great aspects of it, but you really need to experience this for yourself…if you haven’t already. So instead of raving about all the great attributes of Colchester Fabric Mills, I wanted to focus on something else that truly impressed me and had to do with Cheryl’s excellent business acumen.
After perusing all the products that I had to offer, Cheryl and her husband, Joseph took me to lunch at a local sandwich shop. Joseph and I had the chili which was pretty freakin’ yum. I digress. I always enjoy small talk and
learning about customers and their businesses. As we got deep in to discussion, Cheryl explained that the store was in the process of a major transformation. No, not a paint job or new shelves or anything like that. Rather, after much analysis, Cheryl determined that her business model had shifted and many things that sold well in the past are not selling as well now i.e. home dec. fabrics. In other words, she needed to adjust her business model to keep up with the times. That means less home dec fabric and more of what is selling like quilting fabric. With that, Cheryl decided to kick in to high gear and trust the extensive data in an effort to make her business that much better for the long term…..or at least until things noticeably change again sometime down the road. This is a bold move that I absolutely admire because it takes a lot of guts to go through a makeover.
By now you should know that I love this sort of business: using numbers, statistics and data to make big and smart long-term business decisions. This should be a lesson to anyone who isn’t following the numbers. Don’t forget this important fact ever: THE NUMBERS DO NOT LIE! In order to compete in this extremely technological and sophisticated world, you need to do your homework and act quickly when your homework is telling you to change things up. If you don’t act fast enough, you will be left for dead and nobody wants that. If you haven’t done so already, make sure to invest in a useful inventory system right now and turn over a new leaf for 2018.
I hope this post resonates with all the business owners out there and you all take the time to do your own analyses and homework in order to keep your business running at its best for the long haul. Thank you Cheryl, Liz & Joseph for your hospitality and for confirming to me that change is good….in spite of it being difficult and scary to conquer at times.
Have a great week!
This is Scott Hop Fortunoff signing off.
P.S. Have you been able to stick to the no complaining New Year’s Resolution?