An award-winning quilter, Maetha Elliott shopped for many years at Tiny Stitches, a quilting shop in Marietta.
“The owner kept talking to me about teaching quilting classes and later suggested I could own the shop,” Maetha Elliott said.
When the owner decided to sell the shop, Maetha and her husband Henry Elliott decided to buy it.
After teaching in the Cobb County School System for 20 years, Maetha Elliott was ready for something new. She and Henry Elliott had been looking for a retail business they could buy. They visited children’s book stores, as they both loved children and books. But the earning potential wasn’t high enough.
As they began the process to finance the purchase, they reached out to the University of Georgia Small Business Development Center (SBDC).
“Maetha and Henry approached their goal to be entrepreneurs the right way, by getting educated before buying a business,” said Drew Tonsmeire, area director of the UGA SBDC office located at Kennesaw State University in Cobb County.
The Elliotts attended an SBDC program for business start-ups and SBDC financing workshops for new entrepreneurs.
“Drew reviewed all of our financials to make sure they looked good. He gave us an outline of what needed to be in our business plan, and he helped us with the narrative,” said Henry Elliott. “We did a PowerPoint presentation of the plan and took it to the United Community Bank to get the loan to purchase the business.”
The Elliotts spent six months in the purchasing process before they bought the business, Tonsmeire said.
“Then they needed to make changes to the shop’s processes and culture, which also presented challenges,” Tonsmeire said. “Henry and Maetha began quickly bringing all their management skills into play.”
Henry Elliott created an inventory spreadsheet to plan for fabric deliveries, which can take six months or longer to arrive after ordering. The Elliotts also updated customer records and changed to a point-of-sale system that collected more useful sales data.
By 2014, the 3,500-square-foot store in a retail shopping center needed to expand, so the Elliotts moved into a space next door, which had housed a consignment shop and martial arts studio. With twice as much space as they had in the original shop, the Elliotts now display fabrics, patterns and notions on the first floor, and use basement space to display work done by beginners as well as guild-level quilters who take classes and sew at the store.
“Tiny Stitches lives up to its motto: a gathering place for quilters,” Tonsmeire said. “The shop is like a second home for customers who can both buy and sew in the building. Maetha is totally focused on the customer experience. She wants them to enjoy their time there.”
The Elliotts now have 14 employees and have nearly doubled their annual sales revenue.
They attended the SBDC’s GrowSmart® program and are working on social media marketing with Tonsmeire and a digital media expert at the SBDC. They plan to launch an online store this year.
“If we have a problem, the first person we call is Drew,” Maetha Elliott said. “He’s local, he will return the call, and he will come to our shop. You don’t get that service anywhere else.”
The Small Business Development Center (SBDC) provides tools, training and resources to help small businesses grow and succeed. Designated as one of Georgia’s top providers of small business assistance, the SBDC has 17 offices in regions throughout the state to help serve the business community. Since 1977, the SBDC network of partners has helped construct a statewide ecosystem to foster the spirit, support, and success of hundreds of thousands of entrepreneurs and innovators. A part of UGA Public Service and Outreach, the SBDC, is funded in part by the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) and is nationally accredited by the Association of SBDCs. Learn more at https://www.georgiasbdc.org.