I want you to meet Nicole Lester, the owner of Parra Quilting. She is one of those people who people are just drawn to. I've only online-met her, but as soon as I did, I knew that she was one of the good ones. I'm lucky to meet amazing women through my FB group Mom Boss (here's the link to our secret club house), and she was one of them.
She made my son an absolutely beautiful vintage-inspired airplane wall hanging for his room and creates the coolest custom pieces I have seen. From baby headbands to quilts, Nicole puts her certain cool quirk in every piece.
Get to know her a little better with an interview I gave her.
1) What motivated you to start your own business?
To make a long story short, my grandma, Mimi, whom passed away this year, instilled the love of sewing in me when I was in middle school. While I did not keep up with it consistently, at first, I picked up quilting in college when I decided to make my bridesmaids individual quilts as their gifts. When my mentor, for student teaching, saw my work, she was actually the one who motivated me to begin a blog about my sewing projects.
2) How did you get started?
My art form is not writing so the blog did not go over well, but over time I started to take little "jobs" here and there for people, such as T-shirt quilts, tote bags, and baby quilts. This was over the course of two years from 2010-2012. We moved to Chicago in 2012, where I was pregnant with my first child, so I did not continue teaching. I needed something to keep me occupied, as well as earn some extra income. I really started to reach out to friends and family about T-shirt quilts and tote bags. By the time I moved to Ohio in 2013, I was so sad to have left the life that we had begun to create in Chicago that I needed something to keep my mind off of the sadness. That's when I created my Facebook business page, Parra Quilting, and posted on some local buy/sell/trade sites. I went from 160 "likes" to 600! It was incredible to see the response that I got in such a short amount of time, and it really helped me believe in myself and in my art form, that I had a skill people were willing to support!
3) Why did you choose the product that you did?
Every product I create always starts out as something that interests me. At first, it was regular quilts, and then it was tote bags. Close family and family friends knew that I was able to sew, and when one family friend asked me to make a T-shirt quilt, I said I would be more than happy to try. Once I did, more people began to inquire about them, and it spiraled from there. T-shirt quilts turned into regular quilts, which then motivated me to explore different options and really step outside of my comfort zone. That's where the baby products, burp cloths, bibs, car seat covers, comfort blankets, began. I loved making all of these items! When I found out I was having a girl, I decided to purchase an embroidery machine so that I could make her monthly onesies, as well as cute shirts for both of my kiddos to wear to holiday school parties/events/birthdays, and that's where the embroidery obsession began. I also went to the store to pick up some items to create headbands when I found out I was having a girl. I never imagined how much I would love making those until I went to have her newborn pictures taken and the photographer, who is now a wonderful friend and someone I work closely with in promoting both of our businesses, told me that I really should consider selling my headbands. I added those to the lists, along with some tutus. And, the other wonderful art work my kids inspired me to make was the elephant wall hanging. It wasn't until Sarah approached me about making a smaller version, did I consider really stepping outside the box and scaling the idea down and free handing the airplane. Now, I make it a priority to try something new every couple of months to expand my product list; my most recent being customized, embroidered pillowcases.
4) When did you start your business?
I technically started my business back in 2010 when I made my first T-shirt quilt as a paying job, but I recently became a LLC this year, 2015, and it was such an exciting step in this journey. It really solidified all the hard work that I have put into this business, and something that I never dreamed would be my reality.
5) What has been your biggest struggle as a business owner?
My biggest struggle as a business owner is the competition, in an already very flooded market, that I experience. While my style is very different from most, especially in relation to T-shirt quilt designs, the market is extremely flooded with the baby products. Trying to stand out and take a different perspective on these items has been the biggest struggle, but also a wonderful creative outlet for me. It has truly allowed me to think outside the box and try new and different ways to create some of these products.
6) What was your biggest success in your business?
My biggest success was definitely when I made the leap of faith to post about my business on several local buy/trade/sell sites in Ohio. Once I did that, I received so many followers on my Facebook business page that I almost did not know if I had the time to make everything that was being asked of me to make. I really buckled down with my organizational and time management skills so that I could successfully complete what was asked of me without compromising any of the quality. I take a lot of pride in my work and am always making sure that I give a product to customers that will last and that I'm 100% confident in. If I am not happy with the product, myself, I would never give it to a customer. I think my dedication to making high quality products, by taking my time and using the best materials out there, have really helped aide in my success.
7) What is your favorite social media where people will find you most?
I really enjoy my Facebook business page! I have had a lot of success through word of mouth, creating posts with incentives for people to share my page on their personal pages, and boosting my posts.
8) What is your favorite part about owning your own business?
I love the freedom it gives to me to explore my creative side. As a mom of two, I some times feel like I get lost in always worrying about others, which I love to do. My kids, my husband, my family, is my life, but I also like knowing that while I am providing a stable environment for my children and seeing all of their "firsts," I am also bettering myself and setting an example on how to pursue your dreams and work hard for something you believe in. My business allows me to have another identity as a business woman in conjunction with being a stay-at-home/work-at-home mom.
9) Who motivates you to keep going on those hard days?
My husband, parents and sister are great motivators in my business. I also have wonderful, supportive friends who are either supporting me by purchasing my products or always helping to spread the word of my business to their family and friends. Knowing that I have so many people who believe in me is always in the back of my mind and motives me on those hard days. I also have a dedication board to my grandma, Mimi, in my sewing area. Every day that I work, I always occasionally stop to look up at that and remember the first moments that she taught me how to sew. I also like to think that on most days she is sitting right next to me, makings sure I'm ironing out my seams ;).
Follow this chick on social to see her super cute items: