Handmade with happiness [UPDATED]Published 12:26pm Thursday, February 7, 2013 Updated 12:26pm Thursday, February 7, 2013
It started as a fabric obsession. “I am a fabric junkie and always have been. I used to collect it and not know what to do with it,” she notes. While web-surfing on “Pinterest” in the spring of 2012, Melissa came across information about “How to sew a zipper.” Having never used the sewing machine she was gifted two Christmases earlier but feeling bold, she gave it a shot. Success with the zipper led to a “zipper bag” which prompted more fabric purchasing, inquiry about this and more bags, which were placed and sold in the Ben Franklin store in Fergus Falls. Melissa decided she wanted to make her own clutch purse, researched it and then made one and then several more. Around this same time two of Melissa’s high school classmates were each having twins. She remembers, “I thought, ‘I should make them something!” And so she did: hand made baby blankets. Then nephew Maxwell was born in May and Melissa wanted something really special and unique. Remembering the “dishtowel” technique Grandma used to secure little ones in a regular kitchen chair, Melissa came up with “The Anywhere Chair,” her best seller thus far. Before she knew it, Melissa’s hobby and passion for sewing was evolving into a business. RUNDbaby was born.
Though an already impressive list, Melissa’s got many other ideas “in here” as she points to her noggin. In the works are gym bags and camera straps, and other ideas light new fires continually (trust me, it happened during the interview – lamp shades?!). “I see things and think, ‘I can do that!’’’ she says. Ready to tackle anything, give her your idea and Melissa can make it happen. “I might use a pattern for the general idea – mostly off Pinterest or Google,” Melissa adds, noting many projects just originate from cutting fabric and trying out different ideas as they come to her.
RUNDbaby items are not mass produced and Melissa has almost no inventory; she creates on demand for several reasons. There is no space to keep inventory (although her new craft room in the basement is part of the house renovation plan already taking shape!), there are no outstanding overhead costs (she doesn’t want them), and one grand challenge: time. Melissa still calls this a “hobby,” already busy in her role as wife and mother of two (Austin, 15, and Emma, 10), and holding down a full-time, 40+ hours-per-week telecommunication analyst position. Conveniently, Melissa does her job from home, working with accounting, ordering and coding for Apria Healthcare out of Lake Forest, California. Melissa sews in the evenings, about 4 hours a night, but taking weeknights off during the school year when possible. Once an order is placed she has the item/s completed within 5-7 business days. As for strategy, she says, “Sometimes I’ll cut all the fabric (for the current orders) one night and the next night all the inside fabrics or extra pieces, and then the next night do all the first sewing steps, and so on.” This system has worked well for Melissa. When she needs business advice, she goes to her mom, one of several family accountants. When she needs sewing help (occasionally if there is a big order), her mother-in-law helps out. “My mother-in-law threaded my sewing machine for me!” she quips. Melissa says her whole family has been supportive. Her dad even made her a fabric storage cabinet, in the process recycling some discarded windows from a neighboring farm.
Passion for fabric and sewing seems to run in the family. Melissa’s daughter, Emma, bought her own sewing machine when she turned 10 last March and enjoys sewing for her American Girl doll. (Emma is also the other “M” on the non-baby Rund M & M tags — they call her “M”). Will Emma soon join forces with Mom and help fill orders? Maybe. Until then, you’ll find her being creative and trying out different sewing ideas as they come to her. Sound familiar?
Melissa feels lucky and blessed that her sewing passion has become so appreciated by others in our area. Her “Where happiness is handmade” items can be purchased locally at The Market in Fergus Falls as well as Gwendolyn’s in Battle Lake (baby items only and seasonally). You can also see and order her products online (rundbaby.etsy.com). RUNDbaby also has a Facebook site for anyone wanting to contact Melissa personally or just check things out. Orders have come in from as far away as Italy and Australia.
Although RUNDbaby definitely has the potential to grow, Melissa is comfortable with how her business has developed on its own so far, and is enjoying the status quo. She says, smiling, “ I’m just surprised it’s happened! I’m not doing it to make money. I am doing it because I have so much fun sewing.” Repotting a plant into a bigger planter often leads to the plant acclimating and expanding, but there’s no “bigger planter” in the near future for RUNDbaby. Melissa says, “Someday I would like the business to grow, but right now, I like keeping it in a small pot.”