On today’s episode of the While She Naps podcast we’re talking about running a fabric, notions, and gifts company with my guests, Mark, Brian, and Josh Dunn of Moda and United Notions.
Mark Dunn got his start in the fabric industry in 1966 working with his father William Dunn at Sewing, Sales, and Services which they founded together. In May of 1975 when Mark was 29, he moved to Texas to start United Notions Inc. He started with a five-man operation where he would take orders in the morning and fill them at his warehouse in the afternoon. In 1991 he started Moda Fabrics, a company that created a new product category of precuts with their famous Jelly Rolls.
His son, Brian Dunn, started working at United Notions during the summers and officially started full time in 1986. He managed and operated the Denver warehouse for 15 years as Vice President of Operations until they closed that warehouse down to consolidate all of their warehousing in their home state of Texas. He moved back and has handled all fabric buying since then.
Another of his sons, Josh Dunn, started with the company 8 years ago after graduating from the University of Southern California with a major in Photography and business administration. At Moda Fabrics, he is the director of international sales.
Mark Dunn surrounded by a collection of quilts.
Mark starts us off by talking about his father’s work in the textile business and how he grew up working alongside him. Mark explains how that business shifted over the years and what brought him to Texas to strike out on his own, trying a different model with United Notions. Brian and Josh then pick up, sharing reflections of what they remember growing up in the warehouses and realizing that they, too, would like to work in the family business.
Next, we talk about the total scope of the current business including Moda, United Notions, and the recently expanded Moda Gift+Home. Mark shares the strategy behind why the company decided to go deeper into this category and their belief that quilt shops are also essentially gift shops. Moda, as a company is responsible for the invention and growth of much of the market for precuts and Mark, explains how and why this product came about.
The full company.
I ask the Dunns about their perspective on digital printing both now and how they’re looking at it in the future. We also talk about diversifying into substrates beyond quilting cottons and about the decision to take on Ruby Star Society. Next, we have what I think is a really interesting discussion about why Moda doesn’t sell to Fabric.com.
Josh and Mark checking orders.
Orders ready to ship in the warehouse.
Finally, we talk about Moda’s charitable efforts, about Quilt Market, and Mark’s love for fashion. Mark shares that he also collects quilts and cars and currently owns seven Porsches.
And, of course, I ask Mark, Brain, and Josh to recommend great stuff they’re enjoying right now.
- sous vide cooking
This episode is sponsored by Mitzie Shafer at Jittery Wings Quilt Co. Mitzie has authored and illustrated a new book called Improve Your Practice: Free-Motion Quilting. She believes that quilting a quilt top doesn’t have to be frightening once you learn to stop fighting with it. Visit jitterywings.com and use the coupon code WHILESHENAPS at checkout to save 20% on your own signed copy.
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