Another Entrepreneurship Project of the Whitman School of Management

"Don't you dare underestimate the power of your own instinct."
-Barbara Corcoran,
(2012 Keynote Speaker)

Joan Ford

Hummingbird Highway LLC

A little background:

Not quite 10 years ago, I took my first quilting class. And I loved it. Pretty soon, I was practically making quilts in my sleep. I started designing and writing patterns, then came up with a unique concept for a quilting class series taught at a local independent quilt shop. The idea bloomed and became a nationally recognized program and pattern series. I now run the business full time from my home office and studio.

Tell us about your greatest challenge and how you overcame it:

I leveraged my networking skills to promote my ScrapTherapy pattern series at an industry trade show. The program was picked up by a distributor who required an exclusive arrangement to distribute the patterns. This meant, I couldn't work with any other distributors in the industry. The program bloomed. Separately, I signed a book contract with The Taunton Press, and the program seemed to take on a life of its own. Until, three years into it, the distributor changed direction, and dropped the program. In one sense, this was a good thing – I could be open to other delivery channels. On the other hand, it meant I needed to re-tool my marketing plan and my operations. I finally began working on a business plan and revved up my marketing approach while taking advantage of my networking skills. Now, things seem to be taking hold, but I don't know that I can say that I've overcome the challenge completely! If anything is constant in today's business environment, it's change.

What advice do you have for other women entrepreneurs or aspiring entrepreneurs?

Use your network! Don't be afraid to ask for help, and don't expect an easy path. Surround yourself with a strong support structure. Be passionate, but also be realistic. I've never worked as many hours in my life as I do now. However, the work I do today is more fulfilling by miles than any job I've ever done. Above all, be true to yourself! If it doesn't feel right in your gut, it probably isn't right for you! Shakespeare may have said it best: "To thine own self be true!"

Key take-aways from your experience with the WISE Center or Symposium:

The WISE Center can certainly be a major player in support of an emerging business. The help is there for the asking. It's like any other opportunity – you have to start the conversation. They aren't going to call you up and say, 'Hey, I hear you want to start a business!' Make the first move, it's so easy to make an appointment and sit down and talk about your idea with a counselor. You'll find some practical advice and some advice you didn't know you needed! And some advice you may need to hear even if you don't want to hear it.

Any other information you want to share:

This entrepreneur stuff isn't for sissies! It's a lot of work, but it's very fulfilling. You'll hit bumps in the road that can make the wheels fall off the cart. I've asked myself if it's worth it more times than I can count. In the end it's good to know that you aren't alone, that others travel bumpy roads too. The road has its high spots and the view is amazing!


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WISE Women's Business Center

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Phone: 315-443-8693

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