Who knew bow ties and babies would be such a hit, but a Lithia couple struck gold with their simple sewing designs for baby boys and men, and for the next three weeks, they will be sewing around the clock to meet all their deadlines for Christmas.
It's been such a hit they've quit their day jobs to pursue their dream full time, and they're doing it all out of one tiny room in their parents' house.
Lauren and Neal Felker are slowly feeling their way through the bow tie biz. As you might imagine with starting a new business, there's a huge learning curve. But they took inspiration from their wedding day, the first time Neal ever put on a bow tie, and they've never looked back.
"This brings me back to our wedding," said Lauren Felker as she helped Neal re-tie his bow tie. Just watching her husband Neal tie one on transports her.
"First time I wore one was for my wedding, and I haven't stopped since," said Neal Felker. "I tried to shop for bow ties all the time, and I could never find any that I liked, so I figured why not power-up the sewing machine and make some myself, so I did."
That was three years ago, and today bow ties are their stock in trade. They created unique cardigan onesies, with colorful piping around a V-neck collar, with buttons down the center, for baby boys complete with a permanent bow tie.
There are bigger, real bow ties for dad, and they sell it all on Etsy.com, a site that deals only with handcrafted or vintage items.
"It's like flooded with girl hair bows and headbands and tutu's and so now we feel like there's finally a shop for boys," said Lauren Felker.
"We have a no-shoe policy," laughed Neal as he worked in cargo shorts, a button-down polo shirt complete with plaid bow tie and bare feet on the machine pedal. He handles the bulk of the sewing.
"Apparently, for a long time, I was sewing backwards and someone let me know I was doing that completely wrong," he joked.
Now, after a few short weeks of constant sewing, he's become a real pro.
Lauren handles the marketing. They've worked 16 hour days, seven days a week, for the past couple weeks since leaving their day jobs.
There are hundreds of onesies waiting to be sewn with sales all over the planet.
"China, Brazil, Greece, all over," they both chimed-in. "Chile, Singapore, Finland, Netherlands."
Their orders stretch from one end of the tiny room they're operating out of to the other end, and that's not even a third of what's waiting.
"And before you knew it, we had more and more and more sales every day and we couldn't believe it," said Lauren Felker. "Or keep up!"
They just launched in November and already there are accolades.
"Entrepreneur.com had a competition for indie merchants, and we were finalists, top 10 finalists, out of thousands of applicants in the kids category, so that was pretty exciting. Very unexpected," said Lauren Felker.
Neal said he's lost track of how many football Saturday's he's had one eye to the TV and the other on the sewing machine, but it's full-time work. Plus, chasing after their baby boy Jude who's nearly a year old keeps him busy.
Neal and Lauren have been going non-stop for the last three months. They're working now on sewing machine No. 3 already, with no sign of slowing down. Did they ever think their business would take off like this?
"No, not in a million years, we were hoping to get a 10th of the business we're getting now, that would have been a success for us," they both said.
"I think after Christmas, we're probably going to be like, when things slow down a little bit, what did we do?" laughed Lauren.
"Yeah, it's definitely not the status quo life," echoed Neal. "But we're embracing it. We love it. It's our dream come true!"
As soon as they survive Christmas, they have plans to break away from Etsy with their own autonomous site: www.haddonco.com. If you click on that site right now, it will still direct you to their offerings on Etsy.
Only three months out and already they're seeing knock-offs showing-up on Etsy.
"At that point, we were like, oh no, and watching our sales trickle down just a little bit," said Lauren.
They weren't able to stop anyone from pirating their designs, so their plan is to stay ahead of the competition with a litany of new designs and products.
They're getting some help from family and friends, and after Christmas, it may be time for an expansion.
FOX 13 / WTVT-TV
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