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  1. Business

Designer creates custom clothes in her Land O'Lakes home studio

Published Mar. 24, 2014

LAND O'LAKES — Marcy Budwick turned some coral fabric into an Easter dress for her daughter, Kaiya, in 2007. The finished product? A perfect fit.

Budwick, then a mortgage sales rep, created more clothes for the baby — a hobby that would bud into a business called Kaiya Designs.

After high school, Budwick, 33, studied fashion in Orange County, Calif., where she grew up. While she learned to turn fabric into fashion, she worked as a receptionist in the mortgage industry, until her boss made a decision:

"You're going to be a salesperson."

Budwick resisted: "I'm not a salesperson, I'm a fashion girl," she said.

Her boss retorted: "Be a salesperson, or find another job."

Budwick accepted and excelled as a mortgage sales rep.

"It was fun at the time," she said. Business was "booming and busy."

She met her husband, moved to New Jersey, and continued to work with clients in California.

"After I had my daughter, the market took a tank," Budwick said. The company she worked for closed. Then she made that Easter dress. The family moved to Land O'Lakes in 2008, where she kept making clothes for Kaiya.

Other moms inquired: "Where do you get her clothes?"

They offered to pay Budwick to make clothes for their kids, too.

"Their little girls were going to wear something nobody else had," she said.

And while Budwick created custom clothes for kids, she made a discovery: moms wanted custom clothes, too. So Budwick turned part of the three-car garage at her house into the Kaiya Designs studio.

Budwick buys fabrics from vendors in California, Florida and New York and cuts them into custom patterns specified to client's measurements. She'll tweak designs to a customer's taste and create new ones by request.

She acknowledges that custom clothes can cost more than clothes from the mall. Hers run from $18 for a little boy's shirt to $138 for a maxi dress. She says it's worth it, for the fit and the experience.

"You go into the dressing room (at a store) with 50 pairs of pants and walk out with one, if you're lucky," said Jasmine Atiyeh, who has been a Kaiya Designs client for two years. At Kaiya Designs, she said, "it's going to fit."

Since the business expanded to offer women's clothes, plus the clothes for kids, Budwick's mom, Stella Jimenez, helps by doing most of the sewing. Budwick also refurbishes furniture and does interior decorating.

"I'm married to somebody with an incredibly creative mind," said Budwick's husband Dan, 37. "She wants women to feel good," he said.

The work, Budwick said, has been good for her, too.

"I had to work with decimals and percentages and cash flow (in the mortgage industry) — things I really did not care about," she said. "I am so thankful to pursue my passion instead."

Arleen Spenceley can be reached at aspenceley@tampabay.com or (727) 869-6235.

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