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Momma-preneur makes heavenly dresses

Katrina Hollon had an epiphany when her second child, a daughter, was born.

"My second child was born with peanut allergies which changed my idea of heading back off to work anytime soon,'' said Hollon, 38, who was a teacher at the time. So instead of returning to the classroom, she started making children's clothes in a home business that she calls Strawberry Farm. More on the name in a minute.

Hollon will be among the nearly 40 vendors showing their wares at the annual Angels After Dark charity event from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Friday at the Bank of America Tower, 200 Central Ave., St. Petersburg. The event also features a silent auction, childcare and a personal shopping service.

Hollon was born in Dunedin and says she has lived back and forth between the beaches "and my family's old strawberry farm my whole life." She currently is living in St. Petersburg, although she travels to the farm in Plant City a couple times a month. "I try to always be there when my aunt is making her famous strawberry jelly," she said.

To find her online, go to www.sugarsandwich.etsy.com to see a selection of her delightful girls clothes. After her daughter's first birthday in February, she listed a wide selection and had begun sewing at least a dress a day. She took nearly all of the listings down in August to focus on her family — she homeschools her son Kingsley, 6 — and to prepare for Angels and three other shows this month.

In November, Hollon hopes to replenish her Web site and, she says, "plunge into my little endeavor fully, creating new styles and listing a full selection.''

Here is what Hollon had to say about her home business, what she offers and her advice for other Momma-preneurs.

How long have you been sewing?

My family has sewn for generations. I was always too impatient to thread a needle, but with the birth of my daughter (Tenzin), my mother bought me a sewing machine and I was determined to sew up a square blanket with these amazing fabrics I found online. After months of struggling with tiny little parts and things to figure out, it seemed to suddenly become easy.

Now I feel confident about the pieces I make and moreover, I genuinely enjoy the work. Its art to me, because I create my own patterns, I draw them out on paper and then make it. I usually get it right on the third try. So my own daughter has all the first and second tries.

Why did you start sewing?

I started making them just for my own daughter. Everything in the stores just seems so typically pink and frilly. My daughter is closer to a firecracker than a princess.

Did you have a job in your pre-kids life?

Before I had children I was at USF as a history major with hopes of going into the anthropology masters program. My son came along and changed my ideas of what was important and I knew I needed a career that fit with family. I became a first-grade teacher.

What made you decide to be a stay-at-home mom?

My second child was born with peanut allergies which changed my idea of heading back off to work anytime soon. So my little sewing career is my way of making ends meet for now, and as my children grow, I hope to grow my business as well.

What kind of products do you offer?

I started with pillowcase dresses, taken from the vintage ones my grandmother used to make from flour sacks. I also have blanket sets, peasant dresses, reversible pinafores, pajamas, little matching Scrappy Dolls, and a mod looking, 60's inspired dress. I usually stock smaller sizes but will make any size by request, the pillowcase dresses are $25 each and the others vary. I had been ordering the same fabric over and over because it was a great seller, but I am moving away from that now and just buying enough to make possibly 3 or 4 items with my favorite fabrics.

Do you have advice for other moms who might be considering starting a business at home?

If I were to give advice I would say to find something that works for your family. It is easy to get excited and entertain every single custom order requested, but that gets out of hand and can cut into too much of your time. So set limits, put the kids to bed and get going!

Sherry Robinson can be reached at robinson@sptimes.com or (727) 893-8305.

Angels After Dark will be at the Bank of America Tower, 200 Central Ave., in downtown St. Petersburg on Friday from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Admission is free and no invitation is required.

All proceeds benefit the children's ministries at First United Methodist Church and the church's outreach efforts to disadvantaged children locally and abroad.

The Angels will provide one hour of complimentary childcare on –site for parents who have a valid cell phone number and are there to shop Angels. Spirit FM is broadcasting live from Angels from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Kahwa Coffee will serve complimentary specialty coffees to Angels shoppers from 9-11 a.m. and Parkshore Grill will serve complimentary appetizers to shoppers from 5-6 p.m.

Vendors will offer children's clothing, gifts for the home, custom furniture, jewelry, vintage T-shirts, stationery and more.

Items in the silent auction include a weekend at the Renaissance Vinoy Resort, including spa services; a weekend at the Tradewinds Resort on St. Pete Beach; dinner for 10 at Bonefish Grill and a hand-painted holiday ornament painting party from Pinky's Painted Cottage.

For information, call (727) 560-4872.

Momma-preneur makes heavenly dresses 10/08/08 [Last modified: Wednesday, October 8, 2008 2:55pm]

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