Deb Luttrell of Stitchin’ Heaven: I’ve found that many fellow female entrepreneurs feel compelled to present an attitude that they’re in business for humanitarian reasons; Embrace success and don’t have guilt when you make money

Authority Magazine
Authority Magazine
Published in
8 min readJun 1, 2020


Embrace success and don’t be afraid or have guilt when you make money. I have found that many fellow female entrepreneurs feel compelled to present an attitude that they are in business for humanitarian reasons. While it is worthwhile to include humanitarianism in your mission or business objectives, it has be understood that bottom line, you are in business to make money.

As part of my series about the leadership lessons of accomplished business leaders, I had the pleasure of interviewing Deb Luttrell.

Since 1996, Deb Luttrell of Stitchin’ Heaven has been wowing quilters in East Texas and beyond. For 24 years she has grown her business from a small storefront into a multimillion-dollar family-run business that bolsters a small community and provides quilters around the world with unique projects and creative outlets. In October 2019, she opened the doors to a brand new 17,500 sq. foot shop — the largest in Texas — that has made an immediate impact on the livelihood and commerce in the small town of Quitman.

Along with building relationships with fabric and quilting executives to steadily growing the store’s e-commerce business, Deb has also found unique ways for her customers to come together, meet and share the love of her craft. In 2010 she formed Stitchin’ Heaven Travel, where she partners with luxury cruise lines to curate vacations for quilters that incorporate time for creativity and sewing alongside the exciting excursions and luxuries that are standard in a cruise. She also develops unique subscription-style “Block of the Month” programs and has recently ventured into creating instructional video content on the brand’s YouTube channel, which has amassed almost 9K subscribers in the past year. Deb is determined to be a driving force in the revitalization of her community and cement Stitchin’ Heaven as the premier online destination for quilters and sewers of all levels to access products, programming and community.

Thank you for joining us Deb! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

I originally moved to Quitman, Texas in 1996 with the intention to raise emus. I quickly realized that it wasn’t for me, and instead I opened a little sewing center and named it Stitchin’ Heaven. I did not grow up a quilter but began the hobby while pregnant with my son, wanting to be able to create a baby blanket for him with my own hands. I had a clear vision for Stitchin’ Heaven from the beginning — a premier quilt shop appealing to those who love to quilt and sew and to offer the very best fabrics and supplies. I was quite the topic of conversation in Quitman when I opened this venture in a town with a population of only 1895. Thankfully, over the years we have made smart decisions and assembled a fabulous and creative team that has proudly grown Stitchin’ Heaven into a successful, respected name in the quilting industry.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

I opened the store with the help of a friend who loved cross stitch. She convinced me that I needed to include it in our inventory mix. All was great until she decided to pursue a job opportunity and was no longer in the store to teach. I found myself having to teach and sell cross stitch, not knowing at all what I was doing. Through this, I learned to be true to my original vision and stick to what I know!

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

We are an an independent, family-owned quilt shop that is also an online destination for quilters and sewers of all levels to explore products, programming, and find community. What we offer extends even beyond fabrics and notions — we bring in industry experts to host classes and retreats, and we curate specialty cruises with our partner Royal Caribbean to bring together hundreds of quilters across the country for life-changing vacations. That sense of community is really what makes us stand out. Our following on social media, especially Facebook, is incredibly engaged and responsive. They allow us to get direct insight into what is working and what our customers are craving, allowing us to stay on the pulse and relevant at all times. It’s inspiring to see how friendships and been formed in our Facebook groups and on our cruises. We value the personal relationships we have made and the opportunity to get to know our customers. When we opened our new shop last year, we even had one of our long-time customers move to Quitman in order to be near the store!

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

This year we will break ground on a 9,500 sq. ft. retreat center and 10 standalone cottages. These spaces will give our customers the opportunity to travel to the shop and have a beautiful place to stay while attending classes and events. Quitman, Texas is a small town, but the area has so much to offer. We are so much looking forward to bringing more commerce to the county and be able to host events at a much larger capacity.

What advice would you give to other female leaders to help their team to thrive?

Embrace success and don’t be afraid or have guilt when you make money. I have found that many fellow female entrepreneurs feel compelled to present an attitude that they are in business for humanitarian reasons. While it is worthwhile to include humanitarianism in your mission or business objectives, it has be understood that bottom line, you are in business to make money.

What advice would you give to other female leaders about the best way to manage a large team?

Make sure you surround yourself with people who know more than you, and then give them the freedom to do their job.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

I was in business for almost 20 years before my son Clay joined my organization. I take pride that my hard work over the years built an amazing foundation, but once he came onboard, we have catapulted to the next level. His knowledge and application of our vision has helped us grow exponentially over the past several years. I am so grateful he made the commitment to bolster for the continuation and success of my dream.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

I seek out ways to bring goodness whenever I can. We often contribute finished quilts to organizations for use in raffles or charitable auctions. We also consistently donate to private organizations like Kingdom Quilters, who craft quilts and take supplies to the orphanages in Guatemala. We also facilitate group of women who meet at the store to make quilts for the Quilts of Valor Project, a foundation which has awarded more than 230,000 quilts to veterans since its inception in 2003.

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why? (Please share a story or example for each.)

1. Be sure you have a BIG vision. Then, make it bigger. Then, make it the biggest you can imagine. People are limited by their boundaries so be sure yours are out there big and bold.

2. Understand the power of procedures and that if it isn’t written, it isn’t real. This defines clearly to employees how a task is to be performed. It then allows the corrective action to be about the procedure and removes the emotional element.

3. No drama allowed! My business is primarily female and there is the perception that women-based organizations have more drama than with men. From the get-go, there should be an understanding that drama is not allowed. When there is a conflict the two individuals, know they will be brought together to communicate the issues and work it out to a satisfactory completion.

4. Hire people. Too many business owners try to do it all, from unboxing inventory to shipping product. Understand that while it is scary to hire people when there is little money, there is little money because people have not been hired. Hiring people to generate revenue is one of the most important things in a business and will free up the owner to concentrate on the primary task of the owner — developing the vision for the company. I see it like an orchestra: The musicians are the employees — the ones who complete day-to-day tasks and are essential in making the piece work. The conductor of the orchestra is akin to the manager, directly leading and guiding the employees face-to-face. But there would be no music to play without the composer, who in this analogy is the business owner and responsible for setting the tone creating the overall vision.

5. Learn to let go of the vine. This is most difficult, yet very important. Once the team is in place and the procedures are set up, you must have confidence in their ability to do what is needed the way they are trained. They need to be allowed to succeed, and when they fail, they need to know there is a process to get them back on track.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.

Wow People. Have Fun. Be Happy. This is the mission and everyday focus of my company. Such simple concepts but adopting this credence this as a lifestyle or factoring it into a business plan has the potential to bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“You don’t like your life? Change it!” Once I learned that I was in control of the outcome of my life, I became a person of confidence and direction. I live with minimal stress because I know I cannot change what another person does — I only have control over how I react to what they do. I can offer encouragement and guidance, but ultimately the choice to follow my recommendation is up to the individual.

We are blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.

Kelly Clarkston… She’s a quilter!



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