Designing Women

They were once financiers, nutritionists, Broadway stars and seamstresses to Trappist monks. They lived in Hong Kong, London, Los Angeles and Manhattan. But lives changed and, for some of them, children arrived. Or for whatever reason, their prior professional pursuits just didn’t fit anymore. What happened next? These women followed their creative impulses and established cottage industries — several of them, quite literally, in cottages — to design and produce beautiful handmade objects, from jewelry and quilts to paper products and handbags.

Sound idyllic? Our area’s designing women feel blessed to miss the mess on the Merritt or Metro-North every weekday morning and evening. They acknowledge that they couldn’t do what they do without the luxury of time and support to start a small business that the family, at least at first, doesn’t depend on for grocery money. And just as important, they are grateful they had the opportunity to make a change. “So many people stay with a career for their entire lives, never asking themselves what they really want to do,” says one of these entrepreneurial women, Lyn Gaylord.

That said, if you think running a small business means you can control the amount of time and energy you devote to the work, think again. They’re at work at any hour of the day and night — and during busy seasons, around the clock. As creative people, they found the actual work easy enough but many admitted to struggling over other aspects, including selling into stores across the state or nationwide, moving from a one-woman production to hiring workers and trying to market, publicize and brand their products. Even with the challenges, it appears that more and more Fairfield County residents are creating at-home businesses.

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