A business run by a mother and daughter in Columbia has its roots in a number places, but one of the things that spurred it was the cancellation of Monday evening quilting at a Dupo church one night last year because the basement was too hot.
Warm N Cozy Quilting, located at 235 N. Main St., celebrated being in business one year in September.
Owners Debbie Chitty and her daughter Danielle Cyvas say their respective previous experiences helped them get their idea for a business off the ground, but their faith in God and each other has kept the business afloat and fueled its growth.
The business is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays and Wednesdays, 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Thursdays, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Fridays and 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturdays. Call the shop at 618-719-2565.
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Q: What’s the brief history of how you two came to be where you are now?
A: Debbie: “Prior to (Danielle) growing up, my grandmother made everybody a quilt when they got married. But she passed away and then Danielle got engaged and somebody had to make her a quilt. I looked around the room and I was the only one there. Then my stepdaughter got married the next year so now I’ve started a tradition where I had to make another quilt. I found a lady who could do it but she said she was out of the business and her machine was for sale, so I bought her machine. I started doing machine quilting business out of my home. When the economy tanked, I lost a lot of business. People didn’t have the extra money. I went to work at Taco Bell and worked there for five years. I’ll let Danielle tell her part because then that’s where we came together.”
A: Danielle: “I’ve worked in retail management for 20 years. I was tired of working all the weekends, all the nights, all the holidays. So in 2015 I left there and finished my associate’s degree and then got to spend the summer with my kids. At the same time we would quilt at church (Bluffview Christian Center in Dupo) on Monday nights. It was like our therapy. I would look forward to that. One Monday night it was so hot they ended up canceling quilting. The basement where we quilt does not cool off fast enough. My husband saw I was bummed out. He’s like ‘You know, you should just open your own shop.’ And I said ‘You probably shouldn’t say things like that.’ Me and my mom, she’s done this before and I’ve done retail. We started talking about it in July 2015 and put money down on this building that August. We opened Sept. 15, 2015.”
Q: How do you feel about being in business for a year now?
A: Debbie: “I think I’m happier here than I’ve been in other shops and I’m happiest here because I think we’re doing things right. We give very good customer service. And we make a quality product. It makes it easy to get repeat customers because what we do we do well. We traded in my old machine and got this new computerized machine that does fabulous stitches. We put out a nice product. We’ve grown.”
Q: Do you draw folks from far away to the shop?
A: Danielle: “Quilters travel, that’s one thing we’ve learned. They will get in a group and go hit all the shops they can. The closest one to us is Arnold, Mo., and there’s one in Wood River. We are definitely spread out. And the other thing is when you have other quilt shops around, everybody has their own little niche, they have their thing.”
A: Debbie: “There’s enough variety out there for you that one shop can’t have it all. Even if there was a new quilt shop across the street, they would carry something different and we would feed off of each other.”
Q: What is it like for both of you to run a business with a nuclear family member?
A: Danielle: “It’s actually turned out really well. I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it for everyone because I don’t think everyone gets along as well as we do. And I can definitely say for sure that both of us were nervous about it. Working with each other every day, we were concerned. Luckily for us, it’s turned out great. We are like-minded in a lot of ways. We compliment each other well. She has experience with the equipment that I don’t have.”
A: Debbie: “And she has marketing and business experience. And we are constantly having a sit-down brainstorming session. We do that two or three times a week. We make financial decisions together. There’s really no one person doing one thing. We’re constantly melding our things together. We’ve even commented on how we can do things together without talking.”
Q: What has the business done for your relationship as family members?
A: Debbie: “It’s just made it stronger. We go to church together on Sundays. So we spend every day together somehow. It’s helped us grow spiritually. It also helped us grow with our families because we are closed Sundays. Sunday is our family day. We still get together but it’s our family day. It’s time with the kids. It’s really strengthened the family in more ways than one.”
A: Danielle: “More than we thought. I have a 16-year-old son. And who would have thought that he would come help us at the quilt shop. But he enjoys it. He helps us out, he hangs out with ‘Grams,’ he loves it. It’s just brought everybody together.”
Q: You had help from the SIUE Metro East Small Business Development Center in getting this off the ground. What did you want to know? How did they help?
A: Debbie: “Everybody says there’s free money out there for women in business. We found that not to be the case. Nobody was handing out money. But what we did find was a lot of guidance on how to get what we needed. We really had no idea. The helped us visualize that we really could do this.”
A: Danielle: “It built our confidence and reassured us. It helped us find that this was possible, so I think that was definitely good.”
Q: Having started this business from nothing but the idea, what would you say to someone with an idea but who is afraid to follow through?
A: Debbie: “I say put pen to paper. Get a business plan. Talk to the Small Business Administration. They’re not handing out checks but they’re handing out information and encouragement.”
A: Danielle: “Every day was scary in the beginning. Every day. I look back now and think, how did we even keep going? How did I not throw my hands in the air or say this is too much? We just kept going. That’s what I would say to someone: Sit down and figure out if it’s something you can do. Don’t just throw your idea away. It’ll never hurt to try.”
Q: What do you think of when you recall those early days and how afraid you both were?
A: Debbie: “I still say we put it in the hands of God. I have said many times that everybody has been given a gift. My gift is the gift of quilting. God gave me that gift so that I can provide a service to people and develop friendships. That’s the only thing I can say, that it was our faith that kept us going and that we had to continue to rely on that. I cannot express any other way that it’s our faith that’s done it.”
A: Danielle: “We’ve also had quite a bit of support from our family. I went home some days not knowing if this was going to work, and my husband said ‘Well, you’re in it now.’ But he would say ‘Let’s figure this out, how can we think this through?’ Having other people to bounce ideas off of and having them to believe in us has been great.”
Q: What’s your prognosis for the future of the business?
A: Debbie: “We’re almost to capacity here and we may have to look to move into a bigger building. So, in a year’s time we’re already thinking of expansion. We would like to do more classes.”
Debbie Chitty and Danielle Cyvas
Job: Co-owners, Warm N Cozy Quilting in Columbia
Why they’re successful: “It’s our faith that’s done it.”