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Welcome back to another episode of the Ecommerce Playbook Podcast! Today's episode is one for the books, featuring a guest who needs no introduction other than "your mom's favorite." Yes, you heard that right, it's none other than Alan Doan, co-founder of the Missouri Star Quilt Company, a.k.a Dr. Bill Nye on Twitter!

In this episode, Alan shares the fascinating journey behind the Missouri Star Quilt Company, from its humble beginnings to becoming the world's largest quilt shop, with over a hundred million in revenue annually and a whopping 400 employees! But what sets them apart isn't just their impressive stats; it's their commitment to community, authenticity, and genuine connection with their customers.

Discover how Alan and his team built an engaged, loyal audience through their YouTube channel, offering everything from quilting tutorials to product demos, and revolutionizing the quilting industry one stitch at a time.

Show Notes:
  • The Ecommerce Playbook mailbag is open — email us at to ask us any questions you might have about the world of ecomm.

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[00:00:00] Taylor Holiday: Welcome back to another episode of the Ecommerce Playbook Podcast. And today we have an exciting one. We have your mom's favorite guests that we've ever had for sure. He is one 

[00:00:10] Alan Doan: That's how I prefer to be introduced. Your mom's favorite. 

[00:00:14] Taylor Holiday: just want you to know that was a direct request that comes with his writer. I have to introduce him that way. He is one of the founders of the Missouri Star Quilt Company, Mr. Al Doan, or you may know him on Twitter as Dr. Bill Nye. And we got to start there because Twitter is the uniting premise of all my audience here. Why on earth are you Dr. Bill Nye on Twitter?

[00:00:36] Alan Doan: I’m Dr. Bill Nye everywhere. And, and it's because we, I picked my fortunes as a 14-year-old on tournament. I just, I liked Bill Nye. I never feel like he got enough attention in 14-year-old crowd. I liked people getting fragged by Bill Nye. And so that became, that became my, my thing.

And then I accidentally was successful enough early to ever have to change into a professional email. so here I am as a Dr. Nye, old man. And And I but 

[00:01:09] Taylor Holiday: Well, in continuing with the paradox of your existence, tell us what is Missouri Missouri star quilt company and why are you my mom's favorite guest?

[00:01:18] Alan Doan: I love that intro. That's that's going on a business card. It has to but yeah, so Missouri star quilt company, it's the world's largest quilt shop. We are America's local quilt shop. We we started 15 years ago. It's a big business now. It's over a hundred million a year. It's 400 employees.

We do a whole it's a whole to do. And and really our, our claim to fame is we do these, a lot of free content, a lot of free education and stuff like that. And so if you've ever Googled how to quilt or I want how to make this block or something, that's, that's my mom. And so that's how most, most people.

Of of a certain demo. They, they know us because they've sat And watched my mom to learn how to do this thing that they, that they love this art form that they they really enjoyed. So that's, that's my, that's my claim to fame

[00:02:05] Taylor Holiday: And if you're like me, so I am not a 40 year old woman. I'm a 40 year old man. That was basically unaware of the existence of an alternate universe. That is the Missouri star quilt company and its community. It is one of the most like engaged, loyal, voracious, excited groups of people that you'll ever find around a company.

[00:02:27] Alan Doan: it's the best man. Honestly, you'll never work for a better customer than working for. My mom right. Like literally I've had cookies with my face drawn on them and brought to me and I've had people, people, the thing, the thing that's so unique about us is most people these days are trying to start a company and they end up building a, a brand that is a faceless, nameless entity in a warehouse somewhere in Tulsa, right?

And we are, we are, you can come visit us. You can come give us a big hug. You can come see us. And it really resonates. with, with this customer base and they, they are so kind and engaging. Literally, I remember back in the day at the website went down for a couple of days and I had people sending me like notes I'm so sorry.

It must be so tough. And I'm like, Oh my gosh. I'm used to the, the, you know, the big enterprise clients that are like, I will cut your balls off if you don't get this fixed and, and you come into this world where they're just like, man, we just listen, thank you so much for making great experiences for us.

We think you're great. And very kind, very patient, very, very forgiving and loving. So long as you're like authentic and true to who you are. There's a, there's a famous story. Some, some guys bought knitting. com and we're just being bozos about it. And we're going to go and there's so much margin and opportunity.

Look how we're going to profit off this. And like the community just revolted against them and were like, screw these guys. They suck. They're just trying to profiteer here. You can't do that in, in my world, in my my community. Like you have to genuinely love them and care about them. And but the, the output is they will love you back.

I've, never had a customer hug me as much as these guys, literally other, another anecdote on this is like, when we were starting out. I remember our first couple of years, we'd get hundreds of Christmas cards mailed to the company.

And I'm just like, dude, I have never once been like, dear target.

You've had everything. Every time I've gone, thank you so much. You're the best. But these people would like, they had such a relationship with our brand. They'd be like Missouri star. Thanks for everything. Hope you enjoy the money. I gave you your products are the best. We love you. And of these.

And it was like such a, such a, such a, Symbol of how this brand came to be in their hearts. It was awesome. 

[00:04:40] Taylor Holiday: It's so, it's so cool, man. And so for the sake of these episodes, what I'm always trying to do is to dissect the commonalities amongst brands that are highly successful in e commerce. Cause I think it's really easy to adopt the, you know, whatever the negative sentiment trope is in the industry about the state of e commerce or whatever.

But the reality is there's so many people that are building incredible businesses, and this is one of the ones that I'm sure as people discover, they're constantly blown away. By what exists here, right? Like that, wait, hold on. You're how big with how many people doing what? And you have a town, you have a place.

So you, you mentioned that. So one of the things I want to talk about that you just talked about that often manifest, and this is in our world, I'm a tactical marketing guy, and we talk about LTV, right? And. Oftentimes what underlies the output of that metric is the language and connection that you just described.

It's actually a very, it's a representation of a human relationship in many cases between a brand and people and their connection to that product in a way that makes them want to continually come back. And so that's one of the powerful items for you guys in a way that obviously the product category lends to that too, but there's actually like a way in which that philosophical principle, you just.

Described shows up in your business in a way that's really powerful. 

[00:05:54] Alan Doan: Yeah. 

[00:05:55] Taylor Holiday: So what do you think um, started that relationship and allowed you guys to discover, did you know that going in? Was that part of the business premise? Or is it really just I love to make quilts. Maybe other people will too. And it was just rootsy and authentic.

Or what was the underlying impetus for starting in this direction?

[00:06:13] Alan Doan: That's, that's a good question because it was funny. A lot of like men, Gary Vee in the early days would, would call out this kind of stuff, you know, you think 15 years ago, Gary Vee was talking about building in public and stuff. And I, I, I mean, I knew, I don't know him, but but like we were in similar circles out in New York in the startup scene and and I really, that stuff kind of resonated with me of just this You know, he put his, he put his phone number on a billboard sort of thing.

It was like, call me and talk to me. We can hang out like whatever you want. And and that sort of of of a tempo with my customer was what I was going for as I started this with of we'll put it, we'll put our email everywhere. We'll put our phone number, you know, you can call and ask, talk to mom, you can call us, talk, you know, like that was, that was the, the, the stuff in the beginning.

And it was strictly like, we are just going to be as accessible and as authentic as we can. And it's funny, cause the town, the town happened. As a, as sort of an an extension of the content effort. Right. And so as we'd, as we'd start working on a building, that story was cool. And we'd say, Hey, we bought this building.

Here's how it looks right now. What do you think we should put in it? Hey, here's the update on this one. Here's what's going on here. Look how cool this is turning out. And as we, as we kept doing that, like it was a, it was a natural extension to like, Hey, here's, here's. My brother, he's getting married.

Hey, here's, here's a look at my kid. Like we're very, we're very sort of bringing our people along with our story. And and we literally, man, we, we've had people that have been customers since the very beginning that like have. Been driving out to see us every year for 15 years sort of thing. And they know us and they love us and we love them.

And and like it's sort of snowballed where I don't think, I don't think it was an intentional thing of coming out and saying, this is how we're going to be. But like when we saw, when we saw what. Actually got people to care about us because I mean, to, to back up, when we started this company, we were, we were quilt shop number 3, 501 in America, right?

There's thousands of quilt shops. Every small town has one. Most of the time they're started by you know, somebody that typically a woman that wants to retire. And also have wholesale access to fabric, you know, and so they're like, they start these as, as like their hobby shops and they're, and they're a labor of love and they're done in this, in this space of sort of community building and bringing people together.

Well, So. we start one in a town of a thousand, 500 people. Nobody cares that it exists. There's not enough customers here to to come in and you know, buy stuff that it can support us. And so we were kind of stuck with this well, there's an idea we thought we could, we could get it going. I, I mean, I had an idea where like mom was going to use our quilt machine and she was going to make enough money to pay the rent and stuff.

We were going to be okay. But we were just going to be a quilt shop that broke even every year. And that's what we, you know, that's what every quilt shop that opens typically ends up being is, is a shop that just is earning the right to exist barely. And mainly it's a, it's a hobby. And so as, as we showed up and said, how do we do this differently so that we can, you know, so it can support families and employees and all that stuff.

We had to be a little bit more strategic on how to grow and what was going to resonate. And that's where from a marketing standpoint, I feel like we got very nerdy, very fast to say here's, here's what matters and here's what doesn't. And then result is as you described, being this very authentic, 

[00:09:37] Taylor Holiday: So 

[00:09:38] Alan Doan: maybe campy, but. Fun, fun identity.

[00:09:41] Taylor Holiday: So one of the, one of the things that you guys have done that's been a huge piece of creating an organic audience that allows you to drive demand absent paid me day is YouTube. So what drove, so you guys have almost a million subscribers on YouTube doing everything from quilting tutorials to product demos, to all sorts of things that go on there.

When did that start, and how much of a role has that played in it? And where did you get your experience in that channel?

[00:10:06] Alan Doan: So that was, I mean, 2008 is when we started. And so it's crazy to think that 2008 YouTube was a year and a half old, right? It was, it was still very, very new in that space. And but it was already this like common, Oh, go to YouTube. Let's go to YouTube and see what's on there. And and there wasn't great professional content there yet.

And so. When, you know, when we started the company, it was me and my buddy, Dave, were the ones that are trying to like growth hack it, right? Like, how can we get customers here? Our, our stick, we copied woot. com and made a daily deal that was doing like, you know, we'd write the story, we do the whole thing.

I thought I love the daily deal stuff and they'd been done. For everyone. Chain love was for mountain bikers and they had you know, there was a pet one. There was a, every, every niche had a daily deal site, but nobody had built one for, you know, my mom, she had zero daily deal sites. She was waiting up till midnight to check.

And I was like, dude, if anybody should be catered to in this market, it should be my mom was up at. Two in the morning, anyway go and pee and she would love to stop, you know, pull out her phone and check this out. And so we had this, we had a commerce angle, we were working on our community angle, which really was our town.

And our, our content angle was, you know, like the reason that people are going to open our emails and stuff we didn't have, and we were, we were. We were going everywhere. We were like, dude, we were posting on Craigslist trying to like, Hey, if you're looking for fabric supplies, check us out. You know, like we were just two dummies that were like trying to figure out how people learned about a website and cared about it.

And so, as a piece of that, we looked at YouTube and we said, ah, I think maybe we could do something here. This would be good content. And so we, we started filming these basic tutorials. It was like in the early days, dude, it was me with a Canon digital wealth. And you know, the manual zoom where I'm just leaning over the table and leaning back, but my, but my, my trick was like, mom, mom, when, you know, she would demo these things or teach these things and you want your instinct is you use the, the sort of coded vernacular that, that quilters use.

And I'm like, mom, I'm not an idiot. I should be able to understand what you're saying. And I have no idea what you're talking about. So can you say this using words that I can understand? She said, Oh, okay. And so she, she was able to speak in a way that anybody could pick up that video and follow along.

Like Taylor, you could, you could sit down, put on one of mom's videos. Follow along outcome is a quilt. And that's, that's remarkable. And so in that YouTube space, as we started making these videos, we're like, this is, this is awesome. We've got these now and I would make three or four of them, post them all up at the same time.

Cause we just had zero videos and and every now and then one would get a little, a little bit of traction. But what was cool about it is that became the headline of every email that we sent out. We were very adamant Where it was like one a week. There's we, we did not want to be spammy. I mean, now we send.

A lot more emails. Cause that's a channel that you have to sort of be a little more aggressive in. And it breaks my heart because I love the identity of we send you one email and when you open it, it's got the tutorial and you're so excited about the tutorial. It's got, you know, but in the early days that was, it was, Hey, here's this free thing we want to give you.

And, and again, this demographic had never had somebody just love them and not I didn't care if they bought or not. We had, we had more sales than we knew what to do with. Cause we couldn't scale up fast enough. So I was just trying to love these people and give them stuff. And and all of that lived on YouTube.

And so being, being one of the, one of the first people there and creating a bunch of really good content and listening to our audience there, let us be you know, one of the premier channels for that.

[00:13:45] Taylor Holiday: Where does that language? So a couple of weeks ago I had on Brian Garofalo is the CEO of school candies, one of my really good friends. And he has this immense gift of relationship where I talk about CTC. I've been in the service business for 12 years. I've had two people in 12 years show up at my office and thank my team for the work that they'd done.

And he's one of those two people. And it is. Just inherent to who he is. He just has these relationships everywhere where he just cares about people. Well, and the way you're talking about your customer kind of seems like it's a similar thing. Like you just want to love these people. Like what, what is that for you?

Where did that come from? Why did you care about them? Or is that you and people generally?

[00:14:23] Alan Doan: Where does that come from? That's, that's interesting. I've never, I've never I've never sort of looked in the mirror for that of like, why, why do I care? I think that's sort of native to, I don't, I don't know. It's sort of a, maybe it's a Midwest morals thing of like, of I, I, I like the idea of being able to spend a career in a very, you know, sort of honest way.

What's the, what's the Harvard shtick of make a, make a profit in a, you know, make a decent profit decently. Right. Is there, is there shtick? And it's like that idea of being a decent human and like, and Not just trying to profiteer, but like actually loving where you are. I, I don't know. I, I can't imagine working in a space where I didn't do that.

And I started out, like I said, my, my career started out in I don't know, with like semantic, you know, where it's like just a giant enterprise where nobody cares about anybody. And, and like what you do doesn't matter and what everybody else does doesn't matter and you know, all that kind of stuff.

And. And for me, man, it was just that soulless space. And I think my freedom came from like having a business that I could actually care about. It's funny. Cause I think, I think the instinct is when, when you know, when I drop into a group of guys and, and we're getting to know each other, most of the time quilting is the, it's the butt of the joke, right?

Oh, quilting out, you know, this thing. And and everybody, you know, it's not, it's not the cool space. It's not the you know, I'm not building rocket ships that, but but I feel like I probably get way more satisfaction out of the work that I do. Then most of these guys are able to get out of the work they do because.

You know, like for a lot of people, the, the validation that you're looking for is coming from places that will never give it to you, you know, like you're never going to step into a circle and be respected by all your peers because of the great work you do. Even though that's what a lot of us are striving for.

I strive for that for a long time until I finally stopped looking for validation from like my tech bros. And I started looking for validation from my. My customers and my family and stuff like that. Like they love me. They've been validating me since day one. And as soon as you can like sort of turn your radar to that it's a, it's a very satisfying industry to work in.

It's a very satisfying way to build a career. And it like, I couldn't. I don't know. I couldn't be a drop shipper. I couldn't be an Alibaba reseller. It's just not in me. There's no, there's no pride in that. There's no like sense of accomplishment and, and stuff, even though people, you know, you can make your 10 million and by doing some of that stuff, but it's not, it's not a legacy that your kids are waiting to learn how pop did it.

It's Oh no, man, I scammed these guys. I found. I could buy low high and look at me go. And that's it's a different, different 


[00:17:07] Taylor Holiday: I, I think what I find, so what's fun for me in these conversations is that my whole, the way my brain works, what I like to do is information synthesis, process a bunch of successful people, businesses, try and find commonalities. And one of, one of the things that I find, if you go listen to Mark Ritz from carnivore snacks, I mentioned BG from skull candy.

It's you when you talk about it, is that Everybody listening wants me to give them a post purchase email flow. That's going to transform their, you know, their LTV and blah, blah, blah. But the answer is actually just like really, really giving a shit about the thing that you're doing and the people and like more than everyone else.

And if you do that you know what happens? The customer experiences that. They have a positive experience. They spread that story and the flywheel starts from there. And it's that's a hard thing to give to people when they all just want a tactic, you know,

[00:17:52] Alan Doan: Well, it's, it's funny, man. Cause like about, let's see, seven years ago, I stepped back from the day to day operations. We, me and my co founders, my sister and my best buddy, Dave, We all decided that the time was right to to pull back. And we put in a CEO who was our friend, Mike, who did a great job. He had the same Myers Briggs as Jesus You know, he's one of those guys just like very human focused. saw 

[00:18:14] Taylor Holiday: took that test. I didn't know that. I didn't know that they got it to 

[00:18:17] Alan Doan: yeah, he's an EN or something, you know, don't know, no, but like he was just strictly focused on the, on the humans. And and so like he stepped in here, ran it for a bit, but in order for him.

to sort of take a seat as CEO, I had to, I had to leave, you know, I had to be far enough away that he could be the CEO.

Cause if I came in the same room as, as Mike was our CFO at the time, there's this Oh, who do I listen to? And so it was, it was you know, it ended up leaving me sort of. Out, out in the, out in the wilderness for a minute. And then we've got a, then we transitioned to a new CEO. And, and he's great as well.

And he sort of pulled me back in and said, Hey, if you got ideas, we'd love to hear them. Like he's, he's he doesn't have that like growing up under me. Sort of, I guess millstone to, to take off his neck. And so as I've come back in, it's been fun because we end up staring at. A lot of these pieces of the business and noticing that we've, we've strayed a little bit, you know, marketing marketers are, are the, the, they're great because when they find a thing, they can go mine it, but they'll strip mine it down to where it's desolate and ruined.

And as we like look into our, it was funny. I, we started looking at cause I jumped into to work with our marketing team, we started looking at our emails and we had, we have a daily deal email that goes out every single day, which is great. And and it blows my mind that people want that email, but if it doesn't go out, it is chaos, it has to go out.

People want to read that email and drink their coffee every single morning. And then they have a 9am promotion email that goes out and I was like, what's a 9am promo email? And they're like, we have to send it. It's our way to get sessions. And I was like, I hate this and I hate that. And I ate all of this.

And and as we, as we leaned back in the chair a little bit, I was like, actually, you don't have to get rid of this. We just have to have a reason that we're talking to our people and like, and like Kara, if, if we, if a touch point every day is, is reasonable, that's great. But it can't be just to try and get money out of people.

We've got to drive some value into the customer. And so we, you know, we didn't have to actually change any of our marketing behavior, but we had to, or any of our marketing. Cadence, but we had to change like why we were doing like what the reason was, what the why was, and as we, as we did all that, like the life of the brand sort of came back into it and we're caring and the people are caring and they can see the, the enthusiasm that we have and and all that carries over, but, but yeah, like you take your eye off the ball too long, man.

And any of these different departments, just start optimizing. For optimization sake, instead of, instead of for like these, these things that are going to last a long time, you know, the email email is a great example because you start doing the unsubscribe rate by email and you say, our unsubscribe rate is almost zero.

It's crazy good. But if you do as a, as an aggregate of well, we're sending 20 emails a week now, instead of one, we're actually losing way more people than we thought. I mean, marketers, dude, we, we end up. We're, we're the worst data people. And because we're the storytellers, we 

backfill the narrative that we want to support whatever we just did.

We say, look, we're geniuses. And and it's hard, it's hard to keep an honest I guess, lens on what you're doing and making sure that you're taking care of the brand. So it'll be here in 20 


[00:21:32] Taylor Holiday: And you balance that with people's individual short term incentives and trying to figure there's just so many competing things that get mixed into it, that it, somebody has to hold spirit as like this untangible idea that, that doesn't exist in a spreadsheet. 

[00:21:47] Alan Doan: need a Lorax of the 

brand, right, Somebody, the protector of like the, the, the principles that make it all 

[00:21:53] Taylor Holiday: right. And you actually have to invite a healthy friction between that person and the other people in a way that like isn't necessarily bad, but it's just like somebody has to exist in that that sense of it all that they're deeply and intimately connected to 

[00:22:05] Alan Doan: Well, that's right. Cause if it was, if I was just running a day to day, right, I would have never let us get to 20 emails a week. That's way too many. How dare you? We'll stay at one. And the truth is we can be at 20. As long as we're still driving it like I needed to abstract the principles enough that I could understand what actually mattered instead of the way that I set it up is the right way and we can never change from that.

And so letting that friction exists where, where those principles are sort of being tested and applied over and over again, I think is the right way. That's a good out. 

[00:22:34] Taylor Holiday: I totally agree. So one of the other things that's really unique and you, we were talking a little bit off camera before we started was the This idea that you guys have a town, this may be things that people have heard about you as a, another lever. So we talked about YouTube. You guys also have a huge audience on Instagram.

You create a ton of content. Email is a big part of what you do, but part of the organic demand engine is literally a physical place. And you said you believe everybody should have a place. So what is. Yes. So, so defend this dogma. What in this episode of defend this dogma, what, what is the town and what do you really believe about what people should do with this idea?

[00:23:10] Alan Doan: Well, so we're, yeah, we're in a town of 1500 people, Hamilton, Missouri. It's an hour North of Kansas city right in the middle of nowhere. Right. And this is where I grew up. I actually grew up in an even smaller town, Cowgill, Missouri, population 103, which when our family of nine moved in, it was quite the hubbub.

Cause that's like big percentage point movement in, in population. And so, and so Hamilton, Hamilton's great. But I grew up here. There was like five restaurants. It was a whole big thing. And now 25 years later, there's just, there's kind of nothing left. You know, there's no reason if you're a 17 year old kid and looking to start your career, you're not going to stay here.

You're going to go, you're going to go somewhere else. And so, as, as the town sort of started going away, we're looking around and we're saying, well, this place should matter. I would like this to exist in 50 years. And but most, most small towns run into this problem where Jimmy works at the gas station to make his 10 bucks.

And he goes to the grocery store where Susie works and makes her 10 bucks. Who goes to the gas station to spend that, you know, like it's just this very incestuous cycling our money between hands and you need outside revenue coming in for any of this stuff to get better. And so we had this quilt shop and And we were starting to get some, you know, the idea?

was like, maybe we can get some internet sales, some attention from outside to come in.

We'll make improvements on our building and stuff. And and the, so we started, we started building and we had this location. It was like a 5, 000 square foot storefront that we were in. And the idea, the idea that I had was like, I would really for when people stop into the shop, the retail side of what we're doing.

Most of the time, It's just a lady sitting behind a counter with a crossword puzzle that's Hey, let me know if you need anything. It just goes back to her thing. Right. And I'm like, dude, out here, we're only going to get two customers a week. And so either they come in and it's just, we're just paying somebody to sit here and it's empty.

Or I had this, I thought I invented retail warehousing. I thought that was my idea. But, but like everything that we were, that we were selling was getting fulfilled out of this retail space. And so when you'd come in, it was like this energy and all this stuff going on. We thought it was really cool and it was great.

And so we, we, we had our one building and as we needed more space, we bought a second building and then a third. And these are buildings we're buying for 20, 000 cause they're just old. You know, rundown, they need a lot of work. We'd have to put a hundred thousand dollars into them just to make them stand and turn them into, you know, big empty shells.

But it was just more retail space. And so we, we were at three quilt shops at that point. And so people would come to town and it was like this cool thing. There was a couple other spots to go check out. We said you know, I, I kind of googled who has the most quilt shops of any town in the world, you know, because that's, that was a, a tagline that I thought was kind of interesting and I liked, and and there's some place I think that had four.

And so I was like, all right, we can get to four. easy. So four or five. Now, now we're at 15 quilt shops. And and it's, it's turned into the Disneyland for, for quilters and. Disneyland in the sense that you don't just have splash mountain. We had to create restaurants. We had to do, you know, I, we have housing that we're trying to provide for both our employees and people to stay in Airbnbs and short term rentals and stuff.

I'm trying to figure out how to get a hotel in here. You know, we're doing all this extra work, try and bring this thing along. Cause you can't just build space mountain and expect people to get the vision. So we, we built this cool experience. We have this great spot where if, if this is your world. You know, this is your comic con like, like if your mom is a quilter, she's got a basement full of fabric and everybody at home makes fun of her until she comes to Hamilton and all the people get it.

They get her right. Comic con is the same thing where you're like, you're a nerd at home until you go there and you dress up and everybody else is dressed up and now you're cool. And that's your tribe and those are your people. And so we sort of give that for quilters and, and they love it. And when I think about The content that we were able to make as we built this town, as we did this stuff is it's I mean, it's, here's a new building.

What should we put in it? Here's how it's coming along. Here's the updates. Hey, this thing just opened. Look at this cool experience we built. You got to come see it. And then we do that over and over and over again. And as the town gets bigger, it gets more interesting and the picture gets more interesting.

And then we build mom's studio and then we're building this restaurant. And we're trying this thing and this bakery did this and If, if we, if you took the town away and we're just a warehouse with quilting stuff, and we're trying to make the same level of content, the same. You know, sort of production volume of content, it would be so difficult, but because we have a town, because we have customers bringing their stuff to town, the stories they want to tell all that stuff it's actually very, very easy for us to do easy in that, like we have the chance to do it.

And and so I'm, I'm a huge proponent of the town was a great investment. You know, it doesn't make a ton of money for us. No, most of our revenue, like over 95 percent of it is online, but this town matters and and it's important and it's good and it's meaningful. And when I look at other brands, you know, I like, I definitely, I I, I see a ton of opportunity for my niece was into baking and I was like, I should be able to just take you to some town in Kentucky that has 20 shops for baking and, and You know, Wilton brands should be one that runs that and, or or somebody where we can go and take a class for a a can try all the mixers and learn how to cook with a Dutch oven. Like it's just the experience. Cause this is my thing and I'm going to go where my people are. You should be able that. I'm, 


same have, You have a bunch 

marketing nerds that follow you.

Like they love this stuff. Let me come to your summer camp, rent it out for, for a And we're all going to go and just Do this stuff. I'm normal there a year I'm the odd man out. 

[00:28:52] Taylor Holiday: I mean, it's Hershey, Pennsylvania, it's Magnolia in Waco, Texas. It's like religions have holy places like they, they, they do and their, their 

[00:29:01] Alan Doan: Magnolia Magnolia is dude. That's my, That's my North star. And a lot of this, they get 60, 000 people week through summer that 

come there to see get a hundred thousand people a year and we feel good about that. But I'm like, do not, can there be 30, 000 people a week that say, let's go to that place and we'll create a thing like that'd be 


[00:29:18] Taylor Holiday: funny. I, so I've been, my, my, my wife has family in Waco and she's a fan and the common bond at Magnolia is you go there and there are. 25 men standing on the porch that surrounds it on their phones while their wives are inside shopping. And that's my shared experience of knowing I was amongst my people when I 

[00:29:36] Alan Doan: dude, I, I started, I started we have one retail space called man's land and it's just recliners and TVs and a pool table. 

[00:29:42] Taylor Holiday: That's it.

[00:29:44] Alan Doan: they just snore away all Saturday. It's great. But, but you think about you know, should be place in Wisconsin where we can all go to learn how to make cheese.

There should 

be a beekeeping place. There should be when, when you get pregnant with a baby, there should be someplace you can go and race strollers around the and try out every. You know, there's so much product and content in this space. And if somebody raised their we're the thought 

leader in this, we'll be the capital wants to come here now, like you've done so of your 

[00:30:14] Taylor Holiday: Well, I, I think as a baseball fan, I think about spring training is this experience you go to all the fields are close to each other. There's these there's these voyages that you go on, it's going to Mecca, you know, it's, it's getting the experience of connecting to it in a deeper, more personal way.

And it adds to the virality of the story. You can tell about why you care about this brand. Like it gives it identity and purpose and meaning and all these different pieces. So it's 

[00:30:36] Alan Doan: then you, Well, it's funny, man. I wish there was like a Nintendo town. I wish there was an I've been to the, I've been to the

[00:30:42] Taylor Holiday: Well, Universal Studios, Nintendo land, right? That's why they're all built on that idea. Like you're talking about

[00:30:47] Alan Doan: hugely under, underappreciated.

Growth channel of both content and opportunity. Cause your cost in that is not like you get a finances over 30 years, man. Like it's a wild, you're going to spend a couple million dollars to get into it. And, and make that over 30 That's your, your annual payment on that mortgage is going to be like one month of decent paid 

ad, ad spend.


[00:31:13] Taylor Holiday: Yeah. 

[00:31:14] Alan Doan: if you're going to kill it, 

[00:31:15] Taylor Holiday: Yeah. Super interesting. So when I think about, again, it's these, the commonalities of these traits from the organic demand creation. So as Team bit like this business was not built off the back of paid advertising, which is a big deviation from most of the brands that you see at the space at this size, but the organic from YouTube to the physical location, the care for the customers that shows up in an LTV, that's 250 percent in a year and 60 percent 30 days, like all the 

[00:31:38] Alan Doan: keep thinking, we had to think about virality without like social media. Right. Because like it was, it was, it was what, what is interesting enough that we can do that people will forward this email. To their guild or their sisters or their friends and say, Oh my gosh, is hilarious.

at what they're doing. This is crazy. And because like my demo isn't tightly grouped enough on any social platform for to really go viral in the traditional viral sense. Right. So we had to think of moments that were like shareable that people would go out of their way to say.

Hey, check this out. And you can't, you can't be taking in those moments, right? It's all giving and this is a cool thing, no matter what you're saying, right? Like this town is interesting. Even if you don't buy here and you love fabric, just come walk by. These rows, it's the coolest thing you've ever seen.

And and we'll, we'll do everything in our power to make sure it's a great experience and we'll give, give, give, give, give. And then the hope is that like your loyalty and appreciation will come on the other side in terms of sales, but we can't ask for it. And you know, building those sorts of moments, focusing on what creates those moments was the, was the way that we got where we are.

It's that once a week email that mattered all that kind of stuff because, well, and mainly, I mean, in, in my world, like fabric world, right. I, I placed an order six months before I get any of the product. And so if you imagine like I'm growing at a hundred percent year over year, a hundred percent plus some years.

And and I'm placing an order for six months from now when I think the business is going to about double, I hope it does. You know, like we're betting the farm every three months, every three to six months saying, I hope that we can do this. And just to support our, our growth. Right. And we couldn't actually grow any faster than that because we couldn't.

You know, you can't just order more fabric tomorrow. You have to order it six months ago to be able to support sales. And so, and so with all of those constraints and the no outside money, cause nobody was going to a quilt shop. Like what a terrible idea, you know? Like I, we had to do it all ourselves and and bootstrap our way to where we are.

And so like advertising, advertising just never made sense. We couldn't, you know, you talk to some of these guys who are like five, 10, 15 percent of their revenue goes back in, back out and ads percent but it's, but dude, like in, in my world, we're like, we can give you one and a half percent, we'll do 2%, you know, So conservative in this space because like we, we, we all like, we can't almost risk.

Success. We need it to be very proportionate to what we're, what we're building and what we're growing at. And yeah, being, organic is just in our blood.

[00:34:21] Taylor Holiday: So when you think about growth, because I think new customer acquisition is the thing we talk a lot about together. Do you think of it as at this point, you're converting people to becoming quilters? Are you expanding the category or what is the actual mechanism for finding and continuing to grow this community?

[00:34:38] Alan Doan: no, our space, our space is interesting because if you get nerdy on us, right, it's a, it's all the, all the reports say it's about a 4 billion. Industry, which is a big industry that, that you never think about. Right. It's a big industry. We there's about 12 million quilters that make up that 4 billion in sales.

I can find online. A million and a half of them, right? That like most of them are going to brick and mortar shops. They want to touch and feel the fabric. Like most of my effort is still, can I give an amazing online experience? It makes you trust the color, the feel, the everything, the experience of this fabric.

And, and thankfully there's some brands that have done a lot of work to represent that, right? There's well known brands in my space, but, but also there's a lot of customers that just, they don't shop for this online, that it doesn't occur to them to shop for this online. And so, and so sort of being there when.

When they go to look for a thing and when they try and do it and like doing a good job to win them over there is a lot of that, a lot of that effort. And so, you know, most people I don't think like we, we are there when you, when people want to become quilters, right? Like we sort of speak to the beginner in a very, a very open way.

And so we're expecting like, as you, as you get to the space where you have time and you're sort of interested in this craft that you want to look into it. We're, we want to be that trusted. You know, sort of guide to take you through that. But I think most of most of the people that are out there, like there's such a huge opportunity just in servicing this community that exists, but doing it in a way that's better than than what's out there and continuing to win them over to like online as an option. 

[00:36:19] Taylor Holiday: Are the, 

[00:36:19] Alan Doan: and that's, that's where 

[00:36:20] Taylor Holiday: okay. Yeah. And that makes total sense. What are the other things I think you're doing? That's fascinating in terms of product makes is you guys sell a magazine. That's like a subscription to a piece of content that a lot of people buy. Tell me a little bit about that.

[00:36:36] Alan Doan: wait, we sell a


[00:36:37] Taylor Holiday: magazine, right?


[00:36:39] Alan Doan: yeah, yeah, yeah.

no, the magazine dude, I, I've always, I've always thought of ourselves as like a tech company. so, I, I do a little exercise where I'm like, everything we do should somehow connect to tech because this is a secret sauce we have. Most of our competitors are not trying to be tech companies.

And so we had all these YouTube tutorials going out. And and then we, we did, we have a great story with getting into the magazine world where the, where a publisher like wanted to do a thing with us. And they, they had us do it. And in our world, they, they would pay you like 200 per project and say, thanks for, for doing this.

So we did the entire magazine. We did a full takeover is called like. Quilting quickly or something. Right. And it was like all done with pre cuts. We were so proud of it. And we did 20 some projects in there. And they, so they paid us like 4, 000 and said, thank you very much. And then they sold a hundred thousand copies at 10 bucks a piece.

And I was like, great. I'm glad we explored this and it worked out very, very happy with the outcome. Let's cut me in on this. Let's do it. And if they would have given me 2 percent of the, of the revenue, I would not be in the magazine business. But instead I got like super pissed and said, great, I'm going to go and build my own magazine.

It can't be that hard. And the way I do most of this, I did this with, with this, I did it with PR. Anything I don't understand. I, I just Hey, who do I know that knows a lot about this? I just need 30 minutes and and I'll stack 12 meetings in a day or two and just say, I need to understand what am I missing?

What do I do? How do I get there? And I did that. with a magazine. I was like, how do you publish A magazine, What are the roles that need to exist? How much does it cost? What am I trying to do? And and got some great answers. We span up a magazine in about three weeks to pull the team together. And then we spent six or eight weeks putting the first one together and sold 50, 000 copies right?

out the gate.

And, and it was awesome. It was like that many subscribers day one, you know, to a it's seven or eight bucks, but it turned into like a, almost a 5 million piece of our business. And what it does is it repurposes the last 10 YouTube tutorials and turns them into printed patterns. And and so we're just like, we're just leveraging that same content that we, that we built and putting it out there in a way that people want to consume it differently.

And it lets us showcase some other products that we're, we're Didn't make it in The first run because it's just trying to get good visibility on everything. And no, people really, they really enjoyed it. They like, again, again, was like, it's a way cooler magazine than what you would expect. It's nice paper.

It's good photography. It's good. All that stuff, which in. world, most of the magazines are just like very crappy. Here's, here's 10 projects and now get out of here. And we're like, no, we're going to do, we're going to make some stuff. We're going to show you some things. We're going to write some stories about it.

And and people really loved it. And so yeah.

that's a fun little piece of the business that again, just like. Promotes the other stuff that we're 

[00:39:29] Taylor Holiday: So do you know Kevin Espiritu? I think that's how you say his last name. 

[00:39:32] Alan Doan: Yeah. Yeah. the epic gardening. guy. We, 

[00:39:34] Taylor Holiday: So yeah, so he put out this thread the other day that I realized he gave language to a thing that I've been doing with our business too. Like this podcast here is an effort in what I call creating negative CAC.

So you create content that you end up getting paid to create, that produces a marketing flywheel for your business. Okay. So, you know, on YouTube, it's, you sell ad dollars and you get ad dollars. And if you can actually make the process of generating that content, generate money for you, you're actually doing marketing and getting paid to do it.

Same thing with our podcast. We have sponsors. We have whatever, as I create content, we get paid to do that. It's a negative cat. What you're describing is doing exactly that. Like you have. A magazine that's off the back of the content you've created that actually generates revenue for you and is therefore not a cost.

It's a negative CAC. It's like the most, it's the, it's a brilliant framing for, for this, that I don't know if you intended to think of it that way, but it just creates another way to monetize the effort of creating this growth engine. That is all your content. It's brilliant.

[00:40:37] Alan Doan: yeah, well, honestly, the place that I have we've been much more isolationist than we need to, which is probably why, like our story isn't as, as out there as it could be. Because, because the thing that like you, you guys would be doing that that I, I admire and I look at it and say, oh, we got to do a better job at that.

It's like getting, bringing in the sponsors or leveraging, leveraging some of these other pieces and letting other people be a part of the ride. I've, I think we've always sort of had a chip on our shoulder and just said, ah, nobody else is going to believe in us anyway. They're not, they're not going to care about it.

I'd rather just do it myself and we'll just go build it. We build it in our own silo and put it out to our own customers. And we're not leveraging that sort of brandscaping approach, but you're exactly right. I mean, so much of our, so much of our efforts from YouTube to the magazine, to the town is all on this idea of if, if we were just doing the town in isolation, it is a cost center. Like it is, it's just losing money at the town as content for everything else. I think we argue, we can do some girl math on here and it's we're, we're making 

[00:41:38] Taylor Holiday: That's right.

[00:41:39] Alan Doan: know, like it's all that accounting stuff gets, gets really fun when when the entire business is helping each other out, which. Is really hard to do in a lot of places, but like when you build your own, you can make it 


[00:41:54] Taylor Holiday: and that's where it gets hard to assign on a direct attribution basis, word of mouth. Right. And, but these efforts are what create that flywheel. There's just no way around it

[00:42:02] Alan Doan: you, you've seen that crazy Disney, the sort of the Disney flywheel diagram. You know what I'm talking about? 

[00:42:08] Taylor Holiday: from studios to parks, to merch, to licensing and the one that's drawn with all the lines. Yeah. 

[00:42:13] Alan Doan: Yeah, exactly. Like that, that did. That is my, that is my aspiration in this business because it's great. If everything's working right when a Friday tutorial comes out. You know, we're talking, we're leveraging and actioning the entire company. And everybody's saying, you know, from in store to setting up the displays and pulling all that together and getting content back to our content team, that's doing stuff to our block magazine knows what's going on with that.

We've got our influencers are getting, you know, like in a perfect world, if all that was coming together beautifully man, that would be, that would be magic, right? We're far from it.

by nature of like, of getting people and organizations to work together. It's very tough, especially as you get bigger, but man, the, the opportunity there, if you do it, right, the reward is huge. 

The reward's a monster. 

[00:43:02] Taylor Holiday: you, that's how you get to a nine figure business with one and a half or 2 percent of your marketing spent on marketing. 

[00:43:07] Alan Doan: Right. 

[00:43:07] Taylor Holiday: Like that, but, but I think it's really, again, this is where the benefit of the world that I'm in is I see so many different ways and people want to know like, how, how is it possible to have a 50 to one MER on a hundred million dollars?

Well, here's the story. Listen to it, understand the components of what isn't the normative path and creates a differentiated outcome in a way that's really special. So Al, you're the man. Dr. Bill Nye on Twitter is the place to follow you. And Missouri star quilt co. com. YouTube, 

[00:43:35] Alan Doan: Missouri, 

[00:43:36] Taylor Holiday: Oh, Missouri.

Quilco got rid of the star. You dropped the star like Zuck.

[00:43:40] Alan Doan: Yeah. He said, he said, you know, it's cool. Drop the star. just easy to spell and it's domain. We couldn't say no to it. Missouri quilt co. com. We're

[00:43:49] Taylor Holiday: And if we want to come visit you, like we just, what's the nearest airport? How would I get there?

[00:43:53] Alan Doan: do fly into Kansas city, get some barbecue. Come on up. Honestly, it's worth a visit.

come on. And if you come out, let me know. I'll I'll give you the red carpet tour. We'd love 

[00:44:02] Taylor Holiday: There you go. You're the man. We appreciate you stopping by buddy. Talk soon.

[00:44:06] Alan Doan: All right.