MAY 18, 2005

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ECU’s business plan winners open quilting store, Internet business


Bobbi Collins (left), owner of Quilted Rainbows, a new online and retail store in Stratford, and her mother, Dixie Pennington (seated) hold a silver tray recognizing Collins as the winner of the Quick Advantage Entrepreneurship Program's business plan competition at East Central University. Collins, who lives in Hawaii, wrote the business plan and won a $3,000 start-up grant. Ann Ritter (second from left) of the Small Business Development Center at ECU and Dr. William Mayfield, director of ECU's Center for Entrepreneurship, helped Collins and Pennington work out financing and other details to get the business started on May 1.

Say you are a quilter who lives in a remote area, even on a military base halfway across the world, some place where it's difficult to find quilting fabric and supplies. Then you find just what you need, on the Internet - in Stratford, Okla., at a store owned by a Navy commander who lives in Hawaii.

Such is the nature of business today in the global economy.

But to East Central University graduates and passionate quilters Bobbi Collins, who lives on the island of Oahu in Hawaii, and her mother, Dixie Pennington of Stratford, their new retail and online business, Quilted Rainbows, is a dream come true.

In fact, it was only a dream until Pennington saw a newspaper story last fall about ECU's Quick Advantage Entrepreneurship Program that teaches entrepreneurs how to be successful and offered a $3,000 start-up grant to the winner of a business plan competition.

"I thought it (entrepreneurship program) couldn't hurt," Pennington said. "I called Dr. Mayfield and he enrolled me over the phone. I corresponded with Bobbi and she wrote a business plan. Thirty people started the classes and 17 finished. Four of us submitted business plans.

"The best business plan, and it had to be a business that would succeed, would win the grant, and we won."

Mayfield is dean of ECU's School of Business and director of its Center for Entrepreneurship.

"Quilted Rainbows uses the global presence of the Internet to market and distribute quilts, quilting supplies and quilting classes," Mayfield said. "Its estimated five-year revenues range from $1.8 million to $3.6 million.

"Quilted Rainbows will reach those estimated revenues by serving a series of niche markets throughout the world, beginning with U.S. military personnel stationed in the United States and overseas," he said.

The grand opening was May 1. The store also offers classes, sewing machines, a long-arm (machine) quilting service and special incentives.

"We will focus on creating strong customer relationships even though it's over the Internet," said Collins, who will manage the business from Hawaii and create a newsletter for customers. Pennington oversees day-to-day operations and will teach classes.

They will advertise their Internet business in national quilting magazines and plan to expand from 700 bolts of fabric to 2,000 bolts over the next year.

They also worked with the Small Business Development Center at ECU which helped with small business loans and put them in touch with plumbers and electricians in a network of other new small business owners.

Pennington majored in education at ECU and taught two years before becoming a certified dietician.

Collins was an accounting major at ECU and was a CPA before she joined the Navy 19 years ago. She is commander of the Defense Supply Center, Philadelphia-Pacific Region, which provides supplies for the Armed Forces from Alaska and Central and South America across northern and southeast Asia and the Pacific Islands.

More information about the new business is available at www.quiltedrainbows.com or (580) 759-4300.