Karen McIlwraith expanded her sewing skills by learning to quilt at the Quilter’s Den in Warwick six years ago and now, with the help of the Coventry and Warwickshire Chamber of Commerce, she is relaunching the specialist shop.
After the previous owner semi-retired, Karen decided to buy the Quilter’s Den and put her own stamp on the business, expanding on the services offered to appeal to a wider audience.
As well as a full-time asset finance role, she has spent the last few years teaching others how to sew and working occasional weekends at the shop and has now launched a series of practical workshops aimed at passing on her skills to people of all ages and abilities.
After taking her idea for the relaunch of the business to the Chamber, Karen received help and support from the Coventry and Warwickshire Business Support Programme to develop the business.
The programme, which is funded by the European Regional Development Fund, in partnership with Coventry City Council, Warwickshire County Council and the District and Borough Councils, helped her after she had got the business off the ground, with networking and attending business events in the region.
The Chamber’s support and advice helped Karen to build the reputation of her business and provided her with advice on the steps to take after it relaunched.
Karen said: “I first became interested in sewing through my Great-Aunt who gave me an old hand-treadle sewing machine when I was seven and since then I haven’t been able to stop so it made sense that eventually I would own my own business selling gorgeous fabrics and sharing my passion for textile craft.
“I approached the Chamber of Commerce as I knew their Business Support Programme would help me with the business and their advice and support became a crucial aid in reinforcing my existing business knowledge.
“I decided that the introduction of the dressmaking and quilting workshops would appeal to a wider demographic and they have been incredibly popular so far with lots of guest tutors contributing. With the support of the Chamber I intend to increase the range of workshops as well as offering City and Guilds courses in Patchwork and Quilting from January 2019.
“The relaunch of Quilter’s Den under my ownership was celebrated when the Lord Mayor of Warwick came to officially open the new shop. I was incredibly honoured by his visit and it really meant a lot that both the Mayor and the Chamber have been able to support our business.”
Tanya King, a business coach with the Coventry and Warwickshire Chamber of Commerce, has advised and supported Karen in developing the business.
She said: “We’re excited to continue guiding and supporting Karen in the future as she increases her product range.
“Karen has attended our masterclass events and workshops and we have been able to offer one-to-one support to help the company develop after the relaunch.”
For more information on the Coventry and Warwickshire Business Support programme, call the Chamber on 024 7665 4321 or log onto www.cw-chamber.co.uk