It all started with a yoga mat tote. When Amy Miller Fisher showed up for class with a tote she had designed and made, it wasn't long before nearly every class member asked her to make them one.
Since that time in 2011, when Fisher released her sewing machine from the dusty box where it had been for some time, she has developed a growing business in handcrafted items.
The company, named Sweet Caroline & Co., after Amy and Thad Fisher's third child and only daughter, now operates from a spare bedroom in the Fisher home.
"I just sort of fell into this business," Fisher said. "After I made the yoga mat totes, people just started calling me with custom orders. Most of my business now is child-related, such as blankets, burp cloths, bibs and animal pillows."
Fisher credits her mother, Ginger Miller, with teaching her how to sew, and also with assisting with the manufacture of items.
"My mom and I had wanted to do something together for a long time," Fisher said. "When I started to get busy she started to help. She is very busy with foster care, but she comes over and sews when she can."
Fisher says she works about 25 hours a week on the business."I work in the mornings when my sons, Charlie (age 6) and Connor (age 4) are in school," she said. "I also do some work at night when all the children (including Caroline, age 2) are in bed."
Fisher, who does 95 percent of her own designs, has a bachelor's degree in fashion marketing and management from Stephens College. She developed the business into a brand which includes a company logo, a website and Facebook page to market the items.
"Facebook and word of mouth have been my best source of advertising," she said. "My biggest compliment is when I get a repeat customer or when recipients of gifts email me and say they love the gift they received and they want to place an order."
Along with the other baby goods, Fisher says her most popular items are the animal pillows which she makes in shapes such as turtles, owls, elephants, whales and foxes.
Fisher says she and her mother have gotten much faster at completing orders. "We are more efficient now," she said. "Since 2011, sales have doubled every year. We've shipped orders to states all over the country."
In November, a Columbia store began carrying her products. Plume, located at 165 E. Hoe Down Drive, (in the Rock Bridge High School area) has 20-30 Sweet Caroline & Co. articles at any given time. "One of my relatives 'liked' Plume's Facebook page so I 'liked' it too and I made a mental note that I should check out the store next time I found myself in Columbia. Then, out of the blue, I called the owner and asked if she would like to carry some of my items, " Fisher said. "If I had stopped to think about it, I would have never made that call."
Page 2 of 2 - After the owner saw the items, she added Fisher as one of her approximately 60 vendors.
This year, Sweet Caroline & Co. also expanded into Mexico's Scrapbook Store and More. "I was looking for a place to show my creations here in town," Fisher said. "The Scrapbook store is a great place because it is so fun and bright. It's a great fit for us."
Fisher said she is contemplating what to do to take her business to the next level. "My business has become like a fourth child to me," she said. "My kids come first, but it's also very important for me to never stop creating--it's part of who I am.
"I'd love to have my own store or warehousee some day. Right now, I'm just feeling completely blessed that I have a supportive husband, and that I can stay at home raising my children, all while running a small business doing something I love."