One local mom just couldn’t make herself go back to her job at a local bank after her second child was born. . . So she didn’t, and that was how she discovered how a home-based business, Simply Irresistible Embroidery, can grow so fast that it can’t be contained in a house.
Nicole Gregory is the wife of Garrett and mother of three – no, four – children and runs her own business from her dining room. Although only three of the kids, Annabelle, Garrett and Wyatt, in her household are her natural-born children, Gregory also claims Spanish foreign exchange student Laura as her own.
Her desire to make Disney-themed T-shirts for a family vacation more than two years ago quickly got out of hand after a conversation with her grandmother.
“I just wanted to make shirts for everyone in our family to wear to Disneyland for one day,” she said. It was a family custom to visit the magic kingdom every year. Her grandmother thought it was an excellent idea and suggested Gregory went on a hunt for a tiny sewing and embroidery machine that had been in storage since the birth of her first child. When she found it, she proceeded to embroider shirts for every member of her family for every day they were at Disneyland. Each shirt had the family member’s name and favorite Disney character on it.
Then, because the family vacation was at the end of November, she embroidered names on beanies for each member of her family.
Growth of business changes trajectory of her dream
Gregory’s “hobby” quickly took on a life of its own after her initial foray into embroidering vacation shirts.
When the family returned from the trip and Gregory posted pictures of the beanies, she was flooded with Christmas orders. “Hmmm. Maybe I could do this as a hobby,” she thought.
She made 58 beanies in three weeks and had to visit numerous Phoenix Valley Walmarts to find enough of the hats to fill her orders. “I made them all the way up to Christmas Eve,” she said.
After that, her hobby started slowly growing as people called to order shirts, beanies and other embroidery projects. All she asked was that they send her pictures. One of her first orders after the beanies was a Ninja Turtle shirt and shorts set. That order was followed by a matching mom and dad shirt for the same family.
She now has two employees: her mother, Eileen Harbison, who started doing all of the sewing projects last April, and her sister-in-law, Erin Sanders, who learned how to make patches, tutus and blankets. Eileen said she sews anything that needs a seam – suspenders, shorts, etc. Harbison says she eats dinner with her daughter’s family and then takes whatever is piled on the ironing board home with her.
“Sometimes, I will stay up and sew all night, and sometimes I can wait until I am off from my other job and do things on the weekend,” Eileen said.
Erica Brantley of Globe called Gregory about two years ago and suggested they do some projects together. Brantley made tutus and often received orders for embroidery sets, Gregory said. Brantley was also the one who encouraged her to open at Etsy shop, which is an online store where people can sell and manage their products.
“I put a few things on there, and then I started selling a lot of Ninja Turtle products,” Gregory said.
She was doing about three projects a week, which seemed “amazing” to her when she received a call from Florida.
Gregory almost ignored the call because she was at a family birthday party, but something made her pick up her phone that day. When she heard the woman ordering a Turtle outfit for her kid’s birthday party, it dawned on her that this thing, this business, was going to be much bigger than she imagined.
“I was like, oh my God, people are calling me from Florida,” she said.
Now, she is at the point where she doesn’t have to “beg and strive” for business, and her embroidery projects feature more Disney than Ninja Turtle. She is very careful, however, to tell people that she has a three-week turnaround on most projects. “If they need something, and it’s an emergency, they’re going to have to pay for my time,” she said.
Gregory embroiders shirts, jackets, hats and many other clothing items for everything from births and birthdays to graduations, family reunions and memorials. She has even created a Superman badge for the equine part of a super hero partnership.
What started out on a tiny embroidery machine and a table has taken over the family’s entire dining room. Gregory laughed as she pointed to the chairs surrounding the tiny island in the middle of her kitchen.
“I told my family, we can fit around the island at dinner time,” she said. And they do even if it is a tight fit.
Gregory said she realized not too long ago that her home could no longer contain her business. She gestured to her dining room, which is crammed with expensive (and increasingly large) machinery and tables and then admitted that she has piles of project clothing stacked in her bedroom, as well.
Entrepreneurship is not new to her family; her aunt owns Shirley’s Gifts on Broad Street in Globe. Gregory said she
How It All Started
Back when Gregory was a little girl, her mother, Eileen, taught her how to sew pillows for Christmas gifts. “I remember her sewing a seam and coming out to show it to me,” Eileen said. “I showed her the ripper and told her she was going to have to take it apart because the inside was sewn to the outside. You should have seen her eyes!”
Her grandmother took over teaching Gregory when she was a little older, and from that point on, Gregory made many of her own dresses, costumes and outfits for special events. “I could never find what I liked on the rack, so I learned to design and sew my own stuff.”
Because she hated to iron, her grandmother, Dorothy was always nearby to grab the sewn material and press open the seams. “She knew if she didn’t, I wouldn’t,” Gregory said with a laugh.
When Gregory was in the sixth grade, her teacher sent home a box of stuffing and asked her to make pillows for the classroom couch. She made those and then, years later, found herself in another classroom – this time at the Eastern Arizona College – sewing costumes for the drama department.
Gregory went on to be a waitress, a bank teller and the executive director of the Habitat for Humanity. What she didn’t realize was that creating projects out of cloth was in her blood and that no matter what else she put her hand to, she would eventually come back to it.
Eileen, who had been taught to sew by her own mother, Dorothy Harbison, made all of Gregory’s outfits – dresses, costumes and rodeo – from the time her daughter was a little girl. “She would tell me what she wanted, and I would do my best to make it for her because we could not afford all of those expensive rodeo outfits.”
Gregory does the same thing for her own children, and even her youngest makes orders of designs for everyday or special occasions. She demonstrated for the Globe Miami Times by cutting out a vinyl dinosaur with four-leaf clover markings ordered for St. Patrick’s Day by one of her boys.
Where Can You Order?
Visit Gregory’s shop by going to Simply Irresistible Embroidery on Facebook and clicking the “Shop Now” button. You can also call her at 928-651-5417 to place orders.