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Meet the Reps: Laurie, Doug, Stephanie, and Jenny

Meet the Reps: Laurie, Doug, Stephanie, and Jenny

Written by: 
Linzee McCray

It’s time to meet more of the Moda team. This week we’re featuring the "Snow Bunnies." These reps brave extreme weather to bring Moda’s fabrics to shop owners in the Midwest and Plains states. 

Jenny, Laurie, Doug, and Stephanie at Spring Quilt Market, modeling hats that helped get them through this past (very cold, very long) winter

First up is Laurie Schaff, who’s been a Moda rep for nine years. She was working in a quilt shop when she learned about an opening with Moda and was thrilled when she was hired to “spread the Moda love.” Laurie’s territory is vast and she drives an average of 1,250 miles weekly, meeting with shop owners in North and South Dakota, northern Minnesota, eastern Montana, and small bits of Wyoming and Nebraska. 

Laurie on the road in rainy South Dakota

What’s a typical day like for you? 

Laurie: A typical day for me starts in a hotel, from home, or in my little RV in the summer time. I prefer to have a short drive in the morning when I can enjoy my coffee and listen to news podcasts. I usually try to see two stores in a day. There are a lot of miles between my stores so seeing three in a day is a rare occasion that only happens when I’m in just the right area. 

I listen to podcasts and Audible while I drive. I don’t know how I would make it through all the miles without them. NPR’s Up Firstand The Dailyfrom the New York Times start my morning. Midday I typically listen to Bulletproof radio and NPR’s PoliticsEmbedded podcasts. Afternoons, when I typically do longer drives, are filled with Audible books. Some of my recent favorites include: Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine, Where the Crawdads Sing, Becoming, Educated, The Orphan Master’s Son, Ready Player One, and Big Little Lies. 

Food on the road can be tricky, especially if you’re focused on staying healthy. My cooler is always full of healthy snacks on the road. Protein shakes, bars, fruits and veggies if the weather outside won’t cook it or freeze it in my car, lots of water, emergency chocolate and coffee are items I have along most of the time. During the summer months in the RV I can stop to make more coffee or grab a snack whenever I need to. When I do need to eat out during the cold months I enjoy catching up with family, friends, and customers for lunch or dinner when I can. When it’s just me I try to find a delicious salad and once in awhile, I’ll splurge on pasta, steak, or a great burger. My current quick, easy, consistent favorite dinner spot is Qdoba. 

Laurie on vacation in AZ with husband Brian and furry family members Hampton & Sophie

Tell us about a memorable experience you’ve had while repping for Moda.

Laurie: There are so many odd and funny encounters that it’s hard to pick just one. Thinking back over the past nine years I’ve shown fabric in many different locations. As many of you are aware Moda always has so many cloth samples and we have the legal-size pattern sheets with the details for coordinating patterns. The products take up a substantial amount of space when I’m meeting with customers and showing them everything I’ve stuffed into my Mary Poppins bag. So, keep that big mound of samples in mind as you imagine them piled up in some very interesting places—here are just a few: tiny coffee shop tables, on top of a tanning bed, on a spare bed, on a piece of wood lain on two sawhorses, lots of dining room tables and kitchen islands, on the rungs of a standing ladder, on the tops of bolts in a store, at a quilt retreat, cutting tables at quilt shops, and in the back of an SUV. As a sales person you get comfortable working with any surface that’s available

Do you sew?

Laurie: I worked in a quilt store for six years prior to becoming a sales rep for Moda. I loved Moda’s product and fabric in general. It’s so easy to work with something you truly enjoy. 

I made my first runner in 2003 and I’ve learned so much about sewing since then. Working my way through runners, pillows, bags, quilts of all sizes, and garments, my stitching experience has grown. I learned about stitching by reading quilting books and from so many of the ladies I worked with at the quilt store and our good customers. They all had a friendly pointer or trick to share when I was learning how to match up points, sew in a zipper, join my binding, hand stitch the binding, and figuring out how to take the wave out of my borders. Those early quilts must have been a challenge for the longarmer and I appreciate that she never told me how bad it probably was!

Laurie and Brian on a weekend ski trip in Montana

What do you do in your spare time?

Laurie:When I’m not working I like to travel for fun, spend time with my family and my dogs, sew something, and get outside. My husband, Brian, and I plan camping weekends or ski trips that can work along with my sales rep travel. In fact, any weekend that takes me away from home to visit family, friends, or sewing retreats, I plan it so that I can work my way there and work my way home. It’s a huge perk of making your own schedule, that life and work can have a harmonious balance. As much as I like to stay busy I find myself embracing more quiet weekends at home with nothing on the schedule. 

What do you enjoy about being a rep for Moda?

Laurie:The wide array of fabric and my customers!  I enjoy showing the new samples to my stores and seeing which fabrics, designers, and patterns are the instant inspirations for my store owners and buyers. Every store has different plans for a fabric line and I love talking through those ideas and sharing suggestions to help them develop other options. Did I mention the fabric? I get paid to pet the fabric and take it to all my stores so they can pet it, too.

Next up is one of Moda’s newer reps, Doug Leko, who covers the lower half of Minnesota, the western and northern part of Wisconsin and part of Michigan’s UP (Upper Penninsula) and northern Iowa. He’s been a Moda rep for just about a year. 

Tell us about your typical day.

Doug: I am a morning person, so I often get up between 4 and 5 a.m., either at a hotel or at home. I get on the computer and with coffee in hand, start working on emails and emails and more emails. I leave my house or hotel always in time to arrive at least 15 minutes before the appointment (I like to be early). That can mean leaving sometimes at 6 a.m. or sometimes at 9 a.m., depending on the day. I try to see between two and three shops per day—some days it’s four and some days it’s just two. I will normally have pretzels or mixed nuts in the car to eat while on the road. I tend to skip lunch and have a large breakfast and a large dinner, but I do whatever time permits. I am huge foodie and I love good food! In the evenings I get myself organized for the next and then head back to my computer to send out or answer more emails.

How do you make the most of your time on the road?

Doug: I have been told by many sales reps (retired and still working) that when it comes to sleep, it’s never a good idea to skimp or pick the cheapest option. I try to pick the same chain of hotels so that way I know what to expect and also get the rewards too.

Tell us about a memorable experience. 

Doug: It was one of those days when every appointment was running behind. I was about 1.5 hours behind when I finally arrived at my third shop for the day and I hadn’t eaten anything. I stayed in touch with the shop owner throughout the day and when I arrived at her shop she had dinner ready for me. It had made my day!

Doug flanked by Mary and Barb of Me and My Sister Designs. He's dressed as the Yellow Brick Road for Moda's Wizard of Oz-themed Customer Appreciation Party at Spring 2019 Quilt Market.

What do you enjoy about being a Moda rep?

Doug: I love helping the shop owners succeed and also working with the best people in the industry. I grew up with have a family quilt shop and remember the long days and sleepless night it takes—not an easy job for sure. So with having that background I feel I can always help the shops. I LOVE helping shop owners find new projects, change and move things arounds in their stores, help them come up with special events or clubs that they can offer quilters. I also enjoy selling the best products on the market and supporting a company that is just like family. I feel so fortunate to wake up every day and get excited for what the day will bring. It’s something new every day.

Doug's newest book, Winter Manor

What do you do for fun when you're not on the road? 

Doug: When I am not on the road, I’m at home writing patterns or designing for my pattern company (Antler Quilt Design) which is always using something NEW from Moda! Which what could be more fun. When I am not doing that I love to travel either locally or Internationally.

And now, sisters Stephanie Hoveand Jenny Brodeski.

Jenny and Stephanie at the Moda warehouse in Dallas, in front of the quilt that was used as inspiration for the very first Collections for a Cause, Heritage, in memory of their mom, Moda rep Pam Wieland.

They share northern Illinois and southern Wisconsin, a route that their mom, Pam Wieland, had when she was a Moda rep (“This was her dream job!” says Stephanie). Pam was diagnosed with ovarian cancer and while she was undergoing treatment in 2007, Stephanie—then a single girl in her 20s, who was bartending in Chicago—stepped in to help out. When Pam passed away in 2008, Stephanie took over the territory and ran it herself until 2016, when Jenny came on board to cover her during maternity leave. Now Stephanie and Jenny split the job so that they can work their dream job and still be home with their little ones. (Stephanie has a three-year-old son and a baby on the way; Jenny has four daughters and a son, ranging in age from 13 to 6.) “There are not many companies out there that are not only willing to let a daughter “cover” for her mom and then hire her, but continue to work out a plan in the future that allows the opportunity of having a fulfilling career AND being more present with our kids,” says Stephanie. “We both feel incredibly lucky we get to share this job that we love and that our mom loved so much.”

Stephanie Hove

Tell us about your typical day.

Stephanie and her family, son Wilson and husband

Stephanie:I’m on the road two to three days a week, with three overnight trips every seven weeks. Prior to having my son I was driving 40,000 to 45,000 miles a year and had 150 accounts. Now I have about 80 accounts and still see most of them regularly. After dropping my son at daycare, I see as many shops as I can in an area, usually three to five. When I stay overnight, it’s typical to have six to eight appointments a day, starting in the early morning and working into the early evening. I pack snacks and lunch to eat while driving between appointments, but I LOVE going to dinner myself in whatever town I’m staying in. I order a glass (or two) of wine and a cheese flight, submit my orders for the day, and then just read my book at the table—alone. I enjoy it even more now that I am a mom.

How do you pass the time while driving?

Stephanie:I used to only listen to books through Audible. I can't tell you how many times I've listened to my favorite series, Outlander, over the years. The last couple of years, I've switched over to podcasts.  Currently I listen to Dave Ramsey, Rachel Hollis, Dax Shepard regularly. I have also done all the murder mystery series like Serial, Dirty John, S-town etc. 

The family bundled up and visited the ice castles this past winter in Lake Geneva.
(It was -4 degrees then this picture was taken!)

Share a funny story that happened while on the road.

Stephanie:One that sticks out is an early morning appointment I had years ago in a tin "barn" with no heat while it was -20 degrees out.  I was showing fabric on a card table they had set up less than an arms-length away from a cow who would MOO over my shoulder.  My hands were shaking from the cold, the plastic of my pattern pages snapped, but the worst was I could smell fresh bread and bacon coming from the house on the property. I couldn't figure out why we weren't meeting in there! 

That’s hilarious (in retrospect)!  What do you enjoy about your job?

Stephanie: I love working with all the women (and men) in their shops. I enjoy showing the exact same lines to every single store and seeing how each shop chooses a different combination. Unless they are ordering an assortment, there are no two shops who order the same. It doesn't matter if they all order the same collection in our area, it will be displayed differently with a spin all their own on it. I love playing a silent game in my head seeing if I pick the same combinations as them. Most of the time, they pick the one I was hoping they would! With so many shops so close in distance, their customers are very lucky to get so many different perspectives and inspiration just by visiting the area.   

Clark W. and Wilson share news of the family's newest addition

What do you do for fun when you're not on the road?  

Stephanie: Two years ago, my husband and I left the bustling city life in Chicago and moved to a property with 10 acres just north of the border in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin. It has been quite an adjustment, to say the least. We used to travel the world taking epic trips, but these days we stay closer to home. I love baking, sewing (although I don't get to do it as much as I want to these days), reading, and just chasing Wilson and our dog, Clark W. around the yard.

Jenny Brodeski

Jenny's sporting a Moda's V and Co Confetti Ombré skirt and signature Chuck Taylor Converse at the Vegas Gift Market. "Just because it’s not Quilt Market doesn’t mean I can’t wear Moda fabrics." 

Tell us about a typical day.

Jenny:I only have one overnight run due to the close proximity of my shops in my territory. I would rather work a couple of really long days in a week than a bunch of half days. My shops are amazing with this schedule and I even have a shop that will feed me dinner at their home after our appointment, before I make the long trek home for the night. I usually pack a lunch for the road. When you are packing five lunches for school with your kids, what's one more? And I don’t drink coffee, but on any given day there will be a can...or two…of Dr. Pepper in my car. Is there really any other pop to drink besides that?    

Let’s hear about a memorable experience.

Jenny:When I was meeting with a shop owner for only the second or third time, she had to bring her son into the shop for the day because he was sick and couldn't go to school. Right as I was showing the lines he came over and threw up all over the floor by me. I'm sure most reps would pack it in and come back another day, not this mama of five. I asked where the paper towels were and started cleaning it up so that she could take care of her son.   

Jenny at Kansas City Quilt Market wearing a skirt she made from Ruby Star Society’s newest collection for Moda, Darlings.

That certainly is…memorable. And I bet the shop owner was so grateful! Do you sew?

Jenny:I have been sewing since my feet could hit the pedals and I am passing that skill on to my kids. My oldest has made her first quilt top (out of my samples) and all of her friends have homemade scrunchies that she made. Can you believe they are coming back in style?!! My mama taught me how to sew and I not only make some of my outfits for Quilt Market, but I also attend two markets a year as a vendor selling what I make. I have to do something with all of the things that I make right? Ha!   

Jenny's oldest daughter, Sophie, working on her first quilt top using Moda fabrics, of course!

What do you enjoy about being a Moda rep?

Jenny: Where do I begin?!! If you have ever met me you will learn very quickly that I am a social person and like to talk—....a lot—so I love meeting with my shops and digging right in and talking about the new lines, their newest sewing projects and classes, and whatever else is going on in their lives. Working for this company is not like working for any other company.  We are a family, and are treated as family.   

A picture of Jenny's brood, where almost all seven were looking. (She says that doesn’t happen very often.)

What do you do for fun when you're not on the road?

Jenny: We love to go camping in the summer with our brood and I love throwing theme parties at our house. Moda got wind of that and I now plan the Customer Appreciation Party, the latest being a Wizard of Oz party with me dressed as Glinda. My husband and I love live music, so we are suckers for some good concerts or even a local band in a dive bar or outdoor market. 

Just a few characters from Kansas City Quilt Market for the Moda Customer Appreciation Party. Josh Dunn as the tinman, Jenny as Glinda the Good Witch, Brian Dunn as the Scarecrow, and of course, Mr. Mark Dunn as the Wizard of Oz. 

What's one thing you wish people knew about fabric reps? 

Jenny: Fabric reps have a life in the car and Mother Nature wasn't very nice to Illinois and Wisconsin this winter and there were some brutal days out there. During the "Polar Vortex" it got down to -38 in Rockford, Illinois, and we're not talking about the wind chill, that was the actual temperature.

One of the many times Jenny's car had to be dug out of the snow while on the road.

My poor car wouldn't even start for days it was so cold. I have driven through blizzards, pouring rain, flooded roads (don't be brave and try to drive through a washed-out road, it doesn't end well), unplowed Wisconsin sideroads, almost hit deer multiple times, the list goes on. I was very grateful to quite a few of my shops during these bad weather conditions as the owner’s husbands were the brave ones to plow my car out when it was stuck and got buried in a foot and a half of snow.   

So there you have it—our second group of reps. Have you worked with Jenny, Stephanie, Doug, or Laurie? Stay tuned for more reps in the months to come. And now that you’ve heard a few of their stories, what do you think? Would you enjoy being a Moda rep? 

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