- Will Juntunen
It was a recommendation from an entrepreneurial friend that led Tori Artman to meet with Amy Lambert of the IL SBDC at the Starved Rock Country Alliance in October of 2018. Tori Artman had a strong case for a business. She had an accounting background and was well networked with a good banker, lawyer, and an accountant. Artman knew what to do to start a business and who to contact, but what she needed was a second, more grounded perspective. Tori had wanted to start a long-arm quilt finishing business and was straddling the line in asking herself whether her idea could be a business.
The SBDC helped confirm that Tori's business idea of starting a long-arm quilt finishing business had market demand within Starved Rock Country. Tori's business met the two challenges that businesses need to meet in order to be successful - it solved a problem for its customers and fulfilled a growing need. Through research, the two were able to test and prove the market indeed existed and potential clients were willing to pay for Artman's service. Once Tori Artman investigated the local market and found few competitors, she and her husband Jason took the leap of faith and launched her company, Sew Quiltable. "Amy helped give us the direction we needed and helped us make sure we not only knew where we wanted to go, but how we could get there, and importantly for us--where to start," Tori Artman said. "We knew we wanted to take our time and do things correctly. The SBDC helped us look ahead and take the right steps at the right time, and we launched in October 2019." Since then, Artman said she has referred other friends looking to launch businesses to Lambert and the SBDC.
Quilts need to be finished by adding backing and binding. With larger quilts, this requires a special sewing machine. The Artmans invested in a Nolting Longarm Quilting Machine with a 24-inch throat depth on a 14-foot frame. “The size of the machine allows me to finish quilts of any size,” said Tori Artman. Soon after, the Artmans began to make contacts at craft shows and farmers markets. Their marketing now brings a steady flow of customers and their quilts to her shop, all requiring long arm services. Then, something unexpected happened. A friend from high school, Shawn Hudachko, learned of their quilting business. Hudachko had built Comics Elite, a vibrant business selling vintage and limited-edition comic books through online channels, including Facebook Live sales. The Artmans showed their friend some of the pop-culture-inspired quilts they had created, and Hudachko sold them through his live sales, starting a whole new line of business for the Artmans. Tori and Jason Artman began collaborating with artists to create art to feature on their fandom quilts. Brock Sondgeroth and Beth Tobias, local favorites, contributed fantastic superhero imagery that caused a sensation on the Comic Convention circuit. One customer told Tori Artman, “We’ve never seen anything like these quilts before now. And we go everywhere.”
The Artmans are booked for the Indy Pop Con in July 2021 and are hopeful that the show will take place live, and current plans call for just that. “Our fandom quilts are an in-person, impulse buy,” explained Tori Artman. “We are preparing to see where our comic quilts can take us on the Comic-Con circuit.” In the meantime, their comic and fandom quilts can be purchased online at the Artman’s eCommerce store, https://www.sewquiltable.com