A few weeks ago we asked our readers to name sewing industry professionals who rocked 2013. We looked for sewists who inspired and instructed, blazed new trails or reached new heights!  We chose 10 of the most inspiring sewists to participate in our Reflections and Predictions series. Here is the first post in the series: Victoria Findlay Wolfe of Bumble Beans Inc.

We want you to participate as well! Please answer any or all of our questions on your own blog and share the link to your reflections and predictions in the comments on any of the series posts. We love seeing photos of your sewing this year and we enjoy clicking into your site to learn about what you’re looking forward to in 2014! (The complete set of questions for the series is at the bottom of this post.)

Next up is Heather Grant, Director of Marketing & Programming for The Modern Quilt Guild and QuiltCon. Heather shares many thought-provoking ideas about social media, and some interesting predictions for the year ahead.

Why we chose Heather:

  • First word: QuiltCon!  Manufacturers, retailers, instructors and most of all, attendees all loved the inaugural conference of the Modern Quilt Guild. Although it took a whole team of MQG board members and volunteers to plan and pull off QuiltCon, Heather’s hard work and organizational skills pulled it all together. The amount of effort that went into planning the show, the classes, the lectures and the activities (80’s Dance Party!) is simply mind-blowing. Luckily for all of us, Heather is already hard at work on QuiltCon 2015.
  • Second word: Survivor! Anyone who follows Heather on social media has surely been moved by her journey through her cancer diagnosis and treatment. Being the great organizer that she is, she turned her focus towards raising funds for Leiomyoscarcoma research. She has been honest and brave and we wish all the best for her and her family.

SMS: Looking back on 2013, what trends stand out?
HG: The hashtag. It’s usable across several channels and is one of the few tools that can centralize the content of many different users. Things with successful hashtags were top trends! #scrappytripalong anyone? Everyone was doing it.

Was there a personal or industry high point?
Personally and industry wide, it was QuiltCon. It was the culmination of more than a year of work and met my expectations. Alissa and I designed an event we wanted to go to. Turns out everyone else did too! While I do think it was successful, I believe it can be so much better. From an industry perspective, I think QuiltCon showed B2B companies (Business-to-Business) the value of a personal connection with the end consumer.

What did you make that you’re most proud of?
I battled cancer for much of the year. So, I didn’t feel up to doing much making since I was too exhausted. In the last two months, I’ve gotten back in the sewing saddle. I’m most proud that I’m sewing again! I missed it.

Whose work inspired or awed you?
It may sound cheesy, but it’s the truth, I’m inspired by people in our community every dang day. There are some really amazing, kick ass people. I’m constantly inspired and awed. It also makes it so hard to pick which instructors and lecturers we want for QuiltCon. Too many people are awesome! It’s a great problem to have.

Heather and Alissa prepare for QuiltCon!

What was your favorite fabric collection or print?
Carolyn Friedlander’s Botanics by Robert Kaufman. I don’t buy fabric really. I’m an anomaly in this industry in that I don’t hoard. I buy for specific projects. My stash is zero. Carolyn’s first line was the only fabric I bought the entire line of ever. I did the same for her second.

Do you have a book, pattern or class from the past year to recommend?
Right now I’m working on the Catvent Quilt-A-Long by Elizabeth Hartman. Next on my plate is Busy City from the Empty Bobbin. Third at bat is a Charley Harper pattern from Keri Designs that I got at QuiltCon. I’m really enjoying patterns. I used to feel like I always had to design everything myself, but lately I’ve enjoyed the process of making more than designing. Patterns are so perfect for that.

What are your thoughts about social media? How is it going for you? What do you love or hate?
I have so many thoughts on it! I think about it all the time, but I was a Communications major in college. Ha! Like everyone, I have a love/hate with it.

Social media can no longer be ignored by companies or brands. Social media is not an option for marketing campaigns any longer, it is a central focus and a requirement to be successful. Smart companies will be leveraging it to bring ROI to their marketing campaigns. Visual content has always been critical to a content strategy in this industry, but in the last two years social media has established strong networks to deliver visual content to users. Companies must have a social media person on staff. The thing is, many people think they are an expert because they use social media everyday, but there is a difference between being a user and social media manager.

It has been fascinating to watch the rise of Instagram and impact on other social media. People are consuming a wide variety of information in micro bits and then drilling down to blogs or websites for things that really peak their interest. Users are increasing their consumption of micro media (like Instagram/Twitter) more than longer media (like blogs).

Blogs and Flickr in their traditional sense seem to be dying. People are consuming content differently. People aren’t following blogs as much. In the craft and sewing world, we are holding onto this longer than most industries, but it is still happening. People find blogs through one off visits through social media like Pinterest, Instagram, Twitter or SEO rather than RSS feeds. SEO is extremely important. Facebook isn’t as much of a communication tool as it once was as engagement is much lower. Usability and navigation are central and too often not done well in this industry.

After a Social Media Manager, the next hire a company should do is a Usability Manager or agency to look at all marketing and sales systems. Usability needs to be tweaked all the time. How people use content is moving and changing quickly.

With micro media like Instagram and Twitter, I think it makes it much harder to discover new and exciting talent and get out of your “box,” but easier to stay connected to what people you follow are doing. It really segments and silos the market. Which is a good thing and a bad thing.

Micro media also shortens engagement times. But what makes great engagement? How does this translate to your personal/company brand and sales? Too often people use followers as a statistic to measurement. It is not a good measure. It isn’t about followers, it is about engagement. What is important is that you consistently create good content for your followers. Are your followers engaged? Do they interact across channels? How many followers are across channels?

The quilting industry is being forced to really examine multi-channel marketing plans and few companies are doing it well. The ones who are maintaining and gaining market share.

So yeah, I think about social media and its implications across media to both the user and content creator constantly. I could spend hours talking about it, as you can see by my stream of consciousness answering this question!

What do you predict for 2014?
In terms of style, I think we’ll see more sewing with kids. Cats are big too. I love cats!

All marketing predictions across industries are saying video, video, video and I think it is 110% correct. The rise of online video will become more prominent. The sewing industry is really perfect for it. Seeds of it are already starting on Instagram. Subscription based video services, webinars and more will become a great way to engage online audiences. There’s so much possibility here, from micro videos to extended length classes. Some people and companies have been doing it for some time or are built around it (Sharon Schamber, Craftsy, Creativebug), others launched new programs in the last year (Fat Quarter Shop); it will be interesting to watch. Literally!

We’ll see more collaboration. Partnerships between Companies, Creatives or Creatives and companies can be an extremely effective way to bring content to audiences. The days of top down communication are gone. Collaborative communication and content has a deeper reach within the multi-channel experience. Cotton + Steel appears to be a collaborative system, but I’m watching it with interest to see where it goes.

We have also just started to see a shift of profit and creative power to the creative class. It may not be a trend this year– it may be a 2015 trend– but it is starting to happen. With the creation of technologies and multiple cost-effective marketing channels it facilitates Creatives to “self-publish” (digital fabric and printing, downloads, etc.) and be more selective with what companies they publish with. While I wouldn’t suggest anyone “self-publish” 100%, I still think companies are extremely important and very appealing to Creatives. Companies will need to adapt to this changing market system. When people start in this industry, they often give away too much for free. As people get more successful in an industry, they are less willing to do so without a quantifiable return. Some media companies recognize this and are adapting their compensation and contracting processes. Some companies are still old guard. I’m curious to see which companies rise to the top. The general rule of thumb is, to attract the best talent, you need the best compensation and benefits. Compensation isn’t always about money. I know people who give their best work to publications where their retain ownership rights over money.

In all of this, I think there will be a shift towards quality over quantity. People produce, produce, produce. This can lead to errors and not the best work. The over-producer isn’t as effective as brands and people who pride themselves on quality work (both in design and editing). The investment in quality may be more in the beginning, but offers a longer ROI (return on investment). In my own experience, if I face a serious lack in quality, I never go back to that business. I was recently excited about a new line of fabric, but when I saw it in person the quality was so poor, I didn’t buy any of it. I encourage business owners not to skimp on quality. If you have strong quality, people will come back, again and again.

Who do you think will be a rising star of 2014?
Alyssa Lichner. She works her butt off and is great at looking beyond traditional structures. She is all over the future and is designing her brand/company around it.

Are you ready for QuiltCon 2015?!

Can you tell us anything about what to expect from you in 2014? Any projects or life-changing goals you can share?
We’ve started work on QuiltCon 2015 and I feel this year is going to fly by! We’ve expanded our space and I’m really thrilled of what is to come. I’m also working with the team to develop more exciting educational opportunities to MQG members. Lastly, we’re working to really build a strong guild with a great foundation and a path for members to get more involved and guide the organization to its long-term future.

Thank you, Heather!

Interested in seeing if any predictions from previous years have come true? You can see them all here.

Want to play along? Answer any/or all of these questions on your own blog, then come back here to share the link.

  • Looking back on 2013, what trends stand out?
  • Was there a personal or an industry high point?
  • What did you make that you’re most proud of?
  • Whose work inspired or awed you?
  • What was your favorite fabric collection or print?
  • Do you have a book, pattern or class from the past year to recommend?
  • What are your thoughts about social media? How is it going for you? What do you love or hate?
  • What do you predict for 2014? (It could be related to style, social media, manufacturing, etc.)
  • Who do you think will be a rising star of 2014?
  • Can you tell us anything about what to expect from you in 2014? Any projects or life-changing goals you can share?
  • Is there anything else about the sewing industry or community that you’d like to talk about? (It could be good or bad, but hopefully constructive.)