How a Single Mother and Her Daughters Turned a Hobby Into a Business
In 2010, Laurie Russo decided to knit her daughters, Sarah and Melissa, infinity scarves for Christmas. After finishing the wool scarves, she felt like something was missing. "What came to mind was that it could really use a hood," Laurie told Entrepreneur. So she added hoods and almost immediately began getting requests from friends and family for her to make more. And so was born the Hooded Infinity Scarf by Laura Alison Design. Knitting was no longer a hobby for Laurie; it became a business.
Then, in 2016, after a trip to the gym, Laurie says she had an "aha moment." Why not utilize the same design, but produce it in towel material? And so, the HoodiFit was added to Laura Alison Design's growing line.
Laurie and her daughters took HoodiFit to Entrepreneur Elevator Pitch to try to get additional funding to what they're raised with their Indiegogo campaign. You'll have to check out their episode on June 6 to see how it went, but in the meantime, we spoke with the three women about what it took to get this product from idea to reality, and the ups and downs of running a business with the ones you love.
Entrepreneur: Tell us what your product is.
Laurie: Our product and patented design is a Hooded Infinity Scarf, a wraparound scarf with an attached hood that serves for everything from style to comfort to functionality. After going back to the gym due to overindulging during the holidays in 2016, I had an "aha moment." Why couldn't I utilize the same design, but get it produced in a towel material for a completely different purpose, with the same great functionality it already served before?
Tell us about the process of how it went from an idea to an actual business.
Laurie: Not long after my girls started wearing their original handmade pieces, I had many people who wanted me to make one for them. Knitting is my hobby, but it is a labor of love, as it takes a very long time to create a beautiful piece that I'm proud of. So, I began producing overseas as a means to spend more of my time on the business side of things.
How did you feel the first time you had a manufactured product in your hands?
Laurie: Wow, it was so exciting and nerve-racking at the same time. I didn't know how I was I going to move all these pieces! Sure, all my friends would buy them, but what then? What I really remember is when I first saw someone walking in town who I did not know wearing my piece. That was the best feeling in the world!
How do you divide up the work of running the business?
Melissa: When my mom first started the business and set up her website, she needed good quality pictures. My sister and I have always been her (unpaid) models! After moving away from home to Wyoming, it's been hard to stay entirely involved, but I do manage social media accounts as best I can.
Sarah: I tend to do most of the content writing, and I try to attend as many events with my mom as I possibly can. At the end of the day, whatever needs to be done will be done by one if not all us. We are all smart, driven ladies and can handle any task we're thrown into.
How does the family dynamic and work dynamic fit together?
Laurie: Raising daughters as a single mom wasn't always easy for sure, but the most important thing to me was raising my girls with integrity, accountability and compassion. The teen years were tough, but now they are by far my best friends. As much as I love working with them, on occasion I have felt that I have done them a disservice. Being an entrepreneur is a very hard road. Aside from the long hours and hard work, emotionally, the highs are really high and the disappointments are very low. That was hard for me to learn as an adult, and very hard seeing my girls have to share in the lows -- although I know that they wouldn't have it any other way.
Melissa: Watching the people you're closest to never give up is the highest form of motivation with the biggest reward. Also, we have each other to lean on when times get tough.
Sarah: I love seeing my mom happy when things are going well or we get some sort of breakthrough, no matter how small. It's the little things that are most rewarding to me, like having phone meetings with the three of us or sharing some good news in our group chat. We all get excited together about the future, and whenever there's a low point, we're always there to lift each other up.