Meagan Hughes is used to the surprised looks.

“Whenever I tell someone I own a quilt shop they are shocked,” said Hughes.

“I’m 35 and they expect a quilt shop owner to be in their 50s or 60s.”

Or, a customer in her Cottage Quilting store at the corner of Spall and Springfield roads will approach and ask to speak with the owner.

Again, the eyebrows are raised with astonishment that she, not someone much older, is the proprietor of such a store.

After all, quilting is supposed to be a hobby for older ladies or a pastime picked up in retirement.

Not so, according to Hughes.

“Traditionally, the average quilter is 50 to 70 and ladies from that age group are still the majority of my customers,” said Hughes.

“But there’s a trend in the U.S. with younger women catching onto quilting because of the simplified techniques and it’s social.”

Eventually, most American trends seep into Canada.

Hughes started quilting eight years ago with her mom and her aunt while she lived in Calgary.

When she moved to Kelowna she was looking for a business to buy and was pleased to see Cottage Quilting was for sale.

By the way, the previous owner was Sandy Kennedy, 57, who did fit the sterotype of a woman who owns a quilting shop.

“It was perfect,” said Hughes.

“A business that fit into my hobby and also provided some work-life balance for me and my family.”

Hughes has two daughters, age six and four.

“As the sole proprietor, it is a juggle, because I like to be in the store, but I also have staff for when I need to be with the girls,” said Hughes.

“The girls have also made two quilts with me and they like to come into work with me, too.”

When she lived in Calgary, Hughes worked in purchasing and advertising for Visions Electronics and also worked as a construction project manager during the city’s housing boom.

“The experience and knowledge I gained from both of those jobs are coming in handy as I run my own business,” she said.

“I know the importance of advertising, networking, listening to cusotmers, meeting the needs of customers and constantly having people come into the shop.”

Huges has found continually offering quilting classes keeps customers visiting the store and buying.

“Classes are probably 30 per cent of the business,” said Hughes.

“It drives traffic into the store to learn new techniques and how to work with new fabrics and it also drives sales of tools, fabrics and sewing machines.”

Cottage Quilting is also a dealer for Brother and Berina sewing machines.

Hughes tries to hold a class every day and two on Saturdays.

Many of the classes are only one hour so people aren’t giving up their whole day.

But they are long enough for quilters to learn some basics, a new technique or how to work with a new fabric.

And the classes are affordable too with most costing $5.

The classes are especially valuable in the summer when quilting stores are traditionally slow because it continues to drive traffic into the store to learn and buy.

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Editor’s note: This the 20th of 40 profiles for the Kelowna Top Forty Under 40 program presented by BDO Accountants and Consultants, Junior Chamber International (Okanagan branch), Kelowna Chamber of Commerce and The Daily Courier. Every week in this space, we’ll feature someone under the age of 40 who is making an impact through business, community involvement and innovation.