I love to tell Mamamelia.com readers about the many talented moms who own their own businesses in our area. This installment in our “Mompreneur” series is about a mom whose talent sort of found her, thanks to her darling little girl.
With a logger husband and two sons, Hilliard mom Stephanie Stone Nelson couldn’t have guessed how a baby girl would change everything.
It all started when she found out her third child would be a girl, and she discovered just how expensive — but also adorable — boutique-style girl clothes and accessories can be. She decided to take matters into her own hands. Even before Emily Grace was born, she began designing beautiful, handmade baby items for her daughter.
She hadn’t done much sewing before, but she had a sewing machine. Her husband’s grandmother came by one day to teach her the basics, and with that she was on her way.
When little Emily Grace came along, Stephanie loved to dress her up, but she and her husband both found themselves removing the store-bought headbands that left red marks on the baby’s head. One day, Stephanie decided to make a hairband, herself, never realizing it would be the first of hundreds that she would design and ship all over the country.
“I made that first headband, and three ladies approached me in Target to ask me where I bought it,” Stephanie said. “I’d always wanted to have my own business at home, so I thought I’d give it a try.”
The Hilliard native has a natural eye for putting together beautiful headbands embellished with flowers, feathers, bows and other pieces. Many have a vintage look, made from genuine vintage fabrics Stephanie inherited from her own grandmother and her husband’s grandmother. And the soft felt she lines them with ensures they won’t press into a child’s head the way store-bought headbands do.
“As long as they fit right, they won’t leave a mark,” Stephanie said. She makes headbands based on the typical head size for a child’s age, or a parent can measure their child’s head circumference.
Stephanie’s Etsy.com business, Inspired by Emily Grace, has sold about 900 headbands to date, in addition to hair clips, burp cloths, dresses, hats, tutus and embroidered items.
Her business really took off when she was “discovered” by a number of local photographers. Dana Cockerham of Bella Blue Photography in Hilliard did a whole photo shoot of girls wearing Inspired by Emily Grace tutus and hair accessories. Photographer Julie Paisley took some of Stephanie’s pieces to the photography classes she teaches. From there, other photographers discovered the business and began using Stephanie’s hair accessories regularly in their newborn photo shoots. Parents, in turn, asked the photographers where they could buy the adorable pieces.
Now Stephanie’s business works with photographers as close by as Southern Expressions in Folkston, and as far away as Massachusetts. Some customers are one-time buyers, while others buy items from her regularly.
Stephanie’s pieces have also been a hit in the General Store at Conner’s A-Maizing-Acres and at Mendy & Company Salon in Callahan. Her items will also be available starting in July at Colette’s Three Little Birds Boutique in Fernandina Beach.
Since any one of the flowers she uses can also be incorporated into a hair clip, Stephanie also has discovered a niche with women.
“I’ve sold a pretty good bit to adults,” she said, explaining bridal parties especially like to order matching clips for bridesmaids.
She said she can typically have a piece made and delivered within two weeks, and sometimes in a much quicker time frame than that.
Since the business started in the spring of 2011, Stephanie couldn’t be more thrilled with the response she’s had. She loves the flexibility of making her pieces on her own time while still enjoying the time she wanted to spend at home with her family. Stephanie said she home schools her two boys, ages 5 and 7, and chases around Miss Emily, now 18 months, during the day, and works on her pieces during nap times and evenings.
“I love it. I like making the stuff, and I love seeing the pictures of the little girls wearing it,” she said. “I am so thankful to God for giving me this talent and opportunity, and for opening doors for my business to grow that I never would have imagined.”
Tip: For locals who want to meet with Stephanie to pick up their orders, she will waive the shipping fee.
How to connect with Inspired by Emily Grace: