Teaching in Your Shop,
Part III: Design and Teacher Selection

by Martha Beth Lewis

originally published in The Needlework Retailer
copyright 2004, Martha Beth Lewis

You've done the logistical planning for your in-shop class. Now you're ready for the artistic decisions.

Teacher Choice. The teacher is a factor critical to class success and thus the class's effectiveness in promoting your shop and increasing your sales.

Teacher alternatives: you, a staff member, or a guest teacher (a knowledgeable customer, local "stitching celebrity," or professional teacher or designer from out of town—sometimes someone nationally-known will be nearby, at an EGA or ANG activity, for example, and will be amenable to teaching a shop class while in the area.

Another possibility is to invite an up-and-coming designer to teach one of her pieces. You may be able to negotiate her teaching for no fee in exchange for promoting her work in your shop. You will want to have a special display of her other designs and perhaps even a discount on them to encourage customers to buy the work of someone new. Ask her for stitched models and get them up at least a month in advance.

Select the teacher carefully. Considerations:

And, now, money! Should you pay the teacher? Probably.

Expect to pay a professional designer/teacher her standard fee—unless you are able to negotiate a smaller amount or a gratis arrangement. (What will you do for her in exchange?)

If one of your staff members teaches, pay an honorarium in compensation for the extra effort entailed—that is, an amount above the regular shop wage. If you pay your staff in shop discounts, I suggest you offer a monetary teaching fee, also.

Therefore, when researching guest teachers, one of the initial questions to be settled is the teaching fee. How does this fee, when added to kit costs, impact your desired profit?

What about a pro from out of town? This can be expensive, as these teachers have additional fees for travel, accommodations, and meals. If you are piggy-backing on another organization's invitation to the teacher, see what you can work out about sharing the fees.

For a teacher you don't know, ask for references and check them! If you are able to find independent references, listen carefully for anything not in accord with what the teacher's own references have to say.

If you are considering a non-staff teacher and the person does not state a dollar amount when you ask, be ready to suggest one. This way you can control this cost. Don't hem and haw with, "Well, I don't know. What do you think is fair?"

For a half-day class (not with a visiting pro), consider $50 for teaching 10 students. If students pay $15 for the class and the kits cost no more than $5 each in materials, for 10 students, you'll have $100 left. $20 per student? So much the better. Even more? Great!

As noted, if your teacher is launching her design business, she might teach for no fee, just for the promotion value of the event. As to kits, you can make them from your stock, or, if the designer sells her work as kits and you do not carry her line, you might be able to negotiate to buy kits from her at below wholesale, sell them at retail as part of student fee, and still have her teach the class gratis. In such an agreement, both parties come away with something.

Teacher Contract. I strongly suggest a contract with a teacher. In fact, the teacher may require one. A contract spells out clearly what you expect, what the teacher expects, date and time of the class, all financial matters, and how contingencies are handled. If you are unfamiliar with what should go into a teaching contract, get in touc

h with your local EGA/ANG chapters and ask if they would be kind enough to give you a sample of their contract. These contracts tend to be exceedingly detailed, so, for all but a professional, you probably can streamline it.

Design Selection. The design itself is a crucial element. If the project isn't appealing, the class won't fill, regardless of who's teaching it.

The pattern you choose can be anything from a style (primitive Americana, Victorian elegance) to local interest (landmark, sports team) to a holiday. You know what sells well in your shop. Select a project type that's a winner for you.

On the other hand, how about something different? Such a choice could work well if you are introducing a new designer's work or a new line in the shop.

Some designs lend themselves more easily to a specific class type. For example, a band sampler is a good choice for a class whose goal is to teach stitches/techniques or introduce exotic materials.

If you are unsure how well the class project you're considering will "sell," ask your customers who buy a lot and/or whose judgment you trust. Students who attend consumer shows (such as CATS) also can offer feedback about which class types are popular.

Remember not to make the design so complex that it impedes substantial progress during class, even if the class is for advanced stitchers.

Design Source. Where will you get the chart? Here are some ideas:

Pre-Work. Will pre-work be required? Sometimes teachers ask for pre-work to save class time.

Pre-work is not a good idea for a shop class unless this is an advanced class and you know your registrants are fully capable of doing this particular type of pre-work correctly on their own, and even so, this is risky. Pre-work done incorrectly must be ripped, which slows down the stitcher and starts class on a sour note.

If the design is complex enough to need pre-work, it probably should not be considered as the project.

Next up: making the kit, if one is needed. copyright 2004, Martha Beth Lewis
Contact me about reprint permission.

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Bio: Martha Beth Lewis has taught at consumer festivals for many years and writes for consumer needlework magazines. She is the author of Handbook for Needlework Teachers: An Experienced Festival Teacher's Advice (See this file for more information.) 3 Lewis - Teaching in Your Shop, Part III: Teacher and Design