Marie Kessler loves to quilt. If she had her way, she would quilt 24/7 — and she almost does.
However, on March 12 she took time off from Kessler Kreations in Hillsboro to go to Topeka with her husband, Lynn, and a group of other 2013 Kansas Small Business Development award winners.
“I never dreamed my business would get to be this big,” Kessler said. “My success has to be a God thing because I never even thought I would do something like this.”
Kessler once dreamed of being a writer, but work experiences at AGCO, Ratzlaff Draperies, and Odds ‘n’ Ends prepared her for a career of quilting and sewing that she accepts as her life work.
“When I worked at AGCO I met a lady, who is still my dear friend, and we started doing some crafts together,” Kessler said. “I remember her saying it would be so cool if someday we could own a quilt store, and now I do. I’ve learned that if you can sew, you can do almost anything.”
Financing an expanding business, based on sewing and quilting, 18 months ago was not an easy undertaking but somehow Kessler made it work.
“My banker flat-out told me I would never be able to make it with the expenses I had projected,” she said. “He was pretty much right, but I had the help of the South Central Kansas Economic Development District, and without them I never would have gotten this far.”
Kessler said Hillsboro Economic Director Clint Seibel helped her get on board with SCKEDD, and helped her see how her business success was beneficial to Hillsboro and the broader community.
“This year I am going to be part of a South Central Shop Hop in October,” Kessler said. “The ladies that will come here to shop for quilt fabric and block kits will also be stopping somewhere to eat, they might need fuel, and most likely will check out the local antique stores too. It’s all part of bringing business to town that leads to success for all of us.”
Kessler said that, even with help from business development groups, paying the bills at the end of every month was still a struggle.
“It’s never an easy battle,” she said. “I am never going to get rich making quilts, but I am happy.”
Kessler said winning the 2013 Existing Business of the Year award from KSBDC has already opened up new doors for her in marketing.
“Just the other day I got a call from the lady in charge of finding vendors for Wichita River Festival,” she said. “They wanted me to send an application for selling handmade items so they could promote me for winning this award. I guess it was kind of a big deal.”
Since Kessler spends so much time at her shop working on quilt projects, she recently brought her two new puppies, Bear and Flint, to work with her.
“I’ve decided they are going to be shop dogs,” she said. “Visitors here love them, and this way I can keep on working and spend time with them.”
Kessler said she worked with 350 machine quilting projects last year, and pieced an average of 40 quilt tops. Every once in a while she takes a break to go hunting or fishing, but mostly she does what she loves — quilts.