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Calico Gals sewing up online sales plans after e200 graduation

By Journal Staff

Date:

DeWITT  —  A Central New York quilt and sewing shop wants to patch into online sales.

“Although I’ve stayed up with the social-media pieces and I do have a nice website, I’ve never had an online store,” says Janet Lutz, who owns Calico Gals, Inc. “Probably within the next six months we will have that, maybe sooner.”

Lutz operates two brick-and-mortar Calico Gals stores. One is in the town of DeWitt at 3906 New Court Ave., where she leases 4,000 square feet of space from Robert Pomfrey. The other store, dubbed Calico Gals Harborview, is situated in Oswego at 199 W. 1st St., where she leases about 2,000 square feet from Anthony Pauldine.

The online store won’t be a small undertaking, Lutz says. She’s viewing it like a second business rather than an appendage sewn onto her physical stores.

Starting the online store will likely require hiring two part-time employees. That would bring Calico Gals’ total employee count to 31, including Lutz. Aside from Lutz, all of the company’s employees are part time. About 20 work in DeWitt, and nine work in Oswego.

Calico Gals caters to quilters and sewers, offering fabrics, sewing machines, support, and classes. It’s a destination that allows people to interact around their hobbies, which are often interactive in nature, Lutz explains.

But the business still needs to adapt to online retail, she says.

“The world of retail has changed so much in the last 12 years,” Lutz says. “We shop differently. Even my demographic shops differently. They do enjoy seeing and touching and looking at things, but the Internet has changed our lives, and it’s totally changed retail.”

Calico Gals generates revenue of just under $1 million annually, according to Lutz, and she would like to crack the $1 million sales barrier in 2013.

Lutz’s foray into online sales will come after she finished the Emerging 200 Initiative (e200) offered by the U.S. Small Business Administration’s (SBA) Syracuse district office. The initiative, which the Syracuse district schedules over eight months, aims to train small-business leaders so they can expand and hire.

The class helped Lutz put together a growth-action plan, she contends. Now she’s looking at her company’s financials strategically. Lutz is also evaluating her marketing and money-making operations.

“Part of my growth-action plan is to pull back and fine-tune what I have, and then go forward with growth,” Lutz says. “Although I did have a business plan before, I didn’t really have a strong growth plan. Every time I saw something I liked, I’d say, ‘Oh, that’s a good idea. Let’s try that.’ ”

Lutz also wants to work on the human-resources end of Calico Gals, she says. She plans to draw up an organizational chart, which she never had previously, and write job descriptions for her employees.

The business has prospered without those human-resources aspects because it’s what Lutz calls a “hobby job” for employees — they work there for enjoyment. Now, she says, it’s grown to the point where more definition is necessary.

If she hadn’t enrolled in the SBA’s e200 course, Lutz says she would have entered another training program.

“It was great timing for me,” she says. “What I learned is that my business, even though it’s a small business, [is] a real business. It’s just as important as any of the others. It’s just as important to me and the people who work here.”

 

e200’s future

The SBA’s Syracuse district graduated this year’s e200 class Nov. 7. It was the second class to graduate from the initiative in Syracuse and consisted of 17 business leaders.

The program will be back for a third year, according to Bernard Paprocki, SBA Syracuse district director.

“We’re very excited about that,” he says. “Not every city that had it this year was re-upped for next year, so we feel very good about the fact that our program was working very well and was recognized.”

Next year’s program will operate along the same timeline as this year’s, which started in the spring, Paprocki continues. The SBA is looking for approximately the same number of participants.

Interested business owners can contact Cathy Pokines at cathy.pokines@sba.gov or (315) 471-9393. The first year of the Syracuse district e200 was limited to companies in the city of Syracuse, but the SBA has since expanded it to accept businesses from areas surrounding the city.

 

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