Hi, I'm Linda Augsburg, executive editor of Quilt Sampler magazine. And Quilt Sampler is celebrating twenty years this year of celebrating the great quilt shops you love. To that end we decided to change the application process for Quilt Sampler just a little bit. The nomination form is going to be online now, and it will be at AllPeopleQuilt.com/nomination. Now I'm going to go into a few dos and don'ts, and also answer some questions about applying for Quilt Sampler. So the first do on my list is watching this video. So thanks for joining us to watch this video and get some details. The second do to my to-do list is to make sure that you provide the information that we ask for in the application process. And that includes shop name, the owners' names, and we do also ask for a cell phone number of the owners. Now we're only going to use that cell phone number if we're calling the owners to let them know that they've been selected. So don't worry that that number is going to get on a list somewhere or anything, just please provide all the information we ask for so that we can really be comparing shops on an equal footing. The next do is about the photos. We ask that you provide photos of your shop, of course, so we know what your shop looks like. We wish we have gone to every shop in the country already, but you know that takes a lot of time. We haven't seen everybody, so it helps us to have some photos of what your shop looks like. A couple of exterior shots and then a few interior shots. Now if your shop is cut up into pieces, like it's an old house that has been transformed, it's really hard to get that big overall picture. So you can feel free to shoot a photo of each room as you walk through the shop. In addition, then we're looking for some photos of displays in your shop, some quilts on the wall, some projects that maybe your staff has designed, and other little areas of your shop that you find interesting. Of course, you can upload those photos online. If online applications are intimidating to you, you can still apply through the mail and you can go online to get the information on how to mail in your submission. Fifteen to twenty photos is about as many as we want to have of your shop. Again, it just gives us a really clear picture of what your shop looks like. The next do has to do with your shop. What makes your shop special? And everyone always says, 'Well, customer service is what makes us special.' So we assume that most quilt shops have excellent customer service. And based on our experience, we know that that's true. However there's probably other things that make your shop special. Do you have some special classes that you offer? Do you have special programs? Is your shop special because of what you do or how you do it or how you display it? We want to know what would make somebody drive maybe a hundred miles out of their way to come to see your shop. And what it is that keeps those customers coming back to your shop. Next, we want us to tell us about you. Why did you open your shop and what made that decision important you? Also, what do you do every day that makes your shop inviting and welcoming? And what are your plans for growing your shop and doing new programs so that you can really make your shop one of those top level shops? Next, gives us a little information about your staff. How big is your staff and what are their skill sets? How do you utilize your staff in a way to make your shop so outstanding? And also, do you or your staff design any original patterns? Or do you have other local designers that you work with that design and teach in your shop? Now, I've just got a few don'ts. My first don't is don't start letter writing campaign or send us a box of cookies. Or send us a 3D model of your shop. Really what we want you to do is think about the questions in the application process, give us your very best answers, and then go back to making your shop as fabulous as I know it can be. And my final don't is don't get discouraged. And I liken the process we go through for picking a Sampler shop to what is like when you go to Market or when you have your fabric rep come. They lay out all these gorgeous new fabric lines and all these beautiful choices, and you only get to pick a small amount to stock your shop. Well for us, we get all these great applications, photos of beautiful shops, and great stories. And we have to narrow it down to ten. And then by the time the next issue comes out, we get all these new applications, and so we're narrowing it down to ten again. So that's why we encourage you to apply often and to keep us updated. We know shops change between the time they apply and the time that we pick, and it's time to apply again. So we encourage you to keep us up-to-date on what's going on in your shop through the online application process. But then also just not to get discouraged if you're not chosen this time. Now I'm going to answer a few questions that we hear or we wonder if people wonder, so let's get started. The first one is, "Do I nominate myself?". Yes, this is probably one of those times in your life where you can actually nominate yourself, and you're the best person to do it. While it's great to hear from customers about a great new shop in an area or a shop they've loved shopping at for years, they're not going to have that pertinent information that we need about what makes your shop special, what your staff does, how you believe your shop really makes a difference, so it's really best if the owner or one of the employees fills out the nomination. So we occasionally hear people say, "Oh that Quilt Sampler, it's just a popularity contest". Well, if that were true that would mean that all our staff had been to every quilt shop in the nation, and trust me when I tell you, while we've been to a lot, we've not been to every shop. So really we do base the selection process on the nominations we receive. Very often a shop says, "Oh, I applied once, and I didn't get in." Well, it's really tough for us to make those decisions based on photos we have that are six or eight years old. When we get the applications in, we're looking at them with a critical eye. What really makes this shop stand out? What would make that customer thrilled and delighted that they made the effort to come to a shop, which may not be in their local neighborhood? So we really are looking at that. While we can't take the names off the applications, because that just wouldn't work in the process, we do really try to take our personal feelings out of the selection process, and all the judges do the same. Some shop owners have asked me whether they can be a Quilt Sampler shop even if they don't carry the magazine in shop or advertise in the magazine. Now personally, while I think every shop in the country should carry the magazine because it's just a great magazine, it doesn't really affect who's getting selected for Quilt Sampler. The marketing department handles all those lists. We don't consider those lists when we're editorially choosing the shops for the issues. Some shops say, "Oh, I'm a new shop" or "I'm a small shop," or "I'm really out of the way, so they won't ever pick me." But again, sometimes part of the value in applying is the application process itself. It really gives you a chance to sit back and look at what your shop is, what your shops story is, and how you want to tell it. And that, I think, can help you improve and become an even better, stronger shop. Whether that's so you can get selected for Quilt Sampler or whether that's just so you can make your shop better for your customers. So we've featured small shops, doesn't matter how many bolts and square footage you have. We've featured out of the way shops. We've featured shops that have been around for forty or more years and shops that have been around for two. We really do look at each shop as it's own on its merits. So I've had quilt shop owners tell me that they applied a few years ago and didn't get in. Now, I imagine that your first quilt was not an award winning quilt. So you learned a lot through the process of making that quilt, and your skills improved. In this case, it's the same for applying for Quilt Sampler. Sometimes the application you send in maybe didn't answer the questions really well. Or maybe your photos weren't very strong. Or maybe you need to look at your shop and say," Gosh, you know it needs a freshening up." So my theory on applying before is if at first you don't succeed try, try again. And yes we understand that it's a lot of work to reapply every year. We don't need you to have professional photos done each time. Some shops do, some shops use a local intern, some shops just have somebody at the shop, employees take the pictures. Either way, it gives you a great opportunity to look at your displays, to look at how your shop is merchandised, to look at how your products are merchandised, and really give you a fresh eye. So you might want to take that chance to reevaluate the shop and just see what you can do to make it really sparkle and shine for us. So how do you know if you're ready to be a Quilt Sampler shop? Ask a quilting buddy to give you an evaluation of your pitch story, which is what you're going to tell us on your application about why you opened your shop, what your shop is special because of, and what really keeps your customers coming back. Then run that same information past a non-quilter friend, possibly even a retailer friend who is in a different line of work that might be able to give you some background on what they would say if they were asked the same questions. Maybe they can even come over and look at your shop with a critical eye and say, "Gosh, you might want to update this area" or "Isn't the ivy a little dusty up there" or something like that. Those little changes sometimes make a big difference in how your shop is perceived when you walk in the door. We all get really used to how our shops and our homes and our rooms in her house look when we walk in, but when somebody else comes in they see it with fresh eyes, and that's always helpful. And of course, in the end it's really about whether you're ready to take on what comes with being a Sampler shop. We come to the shop and we photograph. We write an article about your store, and you design a quilt project. So consider those things. If you can't design a quilt or haven't done it before, do you have an employee who can? Do you have a local designer in the area you work with and who teachers with you who could? So some of those things are parts that play into you being a Quilt Sampler shop. And then of course in the end it's really about the service that you provide to your customers, and what's going to happen when that magazine comes out. So please, again go to AllPeopleQuilt.com/nomination, fill out the application form. We can't wait to see your shop!