(Posted October 3rd 2016 @ 10:30 AM by: Melody Reever)
My teacher shut me down before I could make my millions, but over the course of a few weeks, my third-grade self had managed to make $50 selling various items on the school playground.
I grew up loving and respecting capitalism.
After high school graduation, I dabbled in various entrepreneurship activities and even started my own company—The Handmade Experience, selling holistic, handmade body products. The introduction to entrepreneur life was incredibly invigorating, but even those defining moments fell short of my idea of destiny.
To tell the rest of my story, I have to tell my mother’s story. My mother, Teresa, is and always has been a hardcore fitness nut. With a touch of control and a few drops of vanity notwithstanding, she began making her own running “SportSkirts”—ensuring she looked both sporty and modest. Eventually, she transitioned her hobby of converting men’s basketball shorts into SportSkirts into a small home business. My mother never kept any of the profits, which I always admired. Instead she gave it all to missions. (When I found out what she did with the profits, I did my best to convince her that since I was part of a church plant, she could consider me a missionary of sorts.)
Despite the hours of labor, ornery sewing machines, and low profit margins, she made these SportSkirts because she believed she could help ladies achieve their fitness goals by providing them with “cool” modest running apparel. It wasn’t a gimmick—she believed it wholeheartedly.
I wasn’t around during the groundwork of her small start-up, Apostolic Sportwear (ASW). I had moved from my hometown of Belleview, Florida, to Chicago, Illinois, just a few days after gradating with a BA in Business Administration. Each time we talked on the phone, though, she would fill me in on the growth of the company: how she had figured out Instagram, how she had learned a fun, new sewing stitch, and how Carlie, the family dog, had received “tons of likes” on the Facebook page. To put it lightly, my mom had a “cute” way of running business.
Christmas of 2014, I visited home and my mom was giving me yet another rundown of Apostolic Sportwear. I was having backward success in my own start-up at the time, so I was baffled how my unstandardized, zippy mother had managed unprecedented growth in her company.
I didn’t know if it was a trap or treat, but by the time I left to go back home, my parents had decided to make me the owner and operator of Apostolic Sportwear.
I was now the proud, naive owner of two start-ups.
Originally, I thought I would maintain ASW and continue to build my other company—The Handmade Experience—but as the year unfolded, I found myself wrapped up more and more with ASW. The thirty-minute sewing tutorial my mom had given me before leaving had paid off. I was a sewing and shipping machine. SportSkirts coming at ya!
And then the obstacles came. And with obstacles, great frustration: issues with bringing raw inventory in, constant quirks with my Sears special sewing machine, and the post office simply not being my friend. There had to be a different way to provide modest running skirts to ladies. An easier way, I hoped.
I reached out to a local seamstress and solicited her to custom make the skirts for me. This would solve my inventory issue and my sewing debacle. Between bouts of laughter, she kindly explained that I would lose money if I went that route. Two days later, I got in touch with a machine shop overseas. I have a hard time ordering Chinese takeout over the phone, so communicating with the shop proved quite the arduous task. Thanks to Google Translate, we came up with a plan, and eventually they agreed to have a go at it.
When I received the first batch of skirts, my heart sunk. My first big show was in just a few weeks. I had invested a lot of money into this kick-off show, and I just was not pleased with outcome of the samples. No way would I promote something I didn’t absolutely love. So back to the drawing board. I had twenty-four hours to send them corrections if they were to make my show deadline. I remember many late-night prayer sessions reminding God that I wasn’t a clothing designer and I had no idea what kind of feedback to give them other than, “Just make them look more flattering.” I knew at the end of the day, God would just have to go before me, anoint my mind, and make this all come together Himself.
A few days before we left for our big show, the skirts came in. I nervously opened the box and slipped on the SportSkirt. I’m glad I have a recording of the delight and relief that swept my face as I realized how perfectly the skirts felt and looked.
That show was more successful than I ever could have anticipated. We reached our goal before the halfway point. I attribute a lot of the beginning momentum and repeat orders to the success of that show. Since that point, I’ve had the pleasure of partnering with schools, fitness groups, and churches all over the world. Apparently (and thankfully) there are many women who long to be modest in their fitness activities.
The business, now called MOD Sportswear, has exceeded my expectations. Last month, MOD hired their first part-time employee to help take care of the day-to-day operations. I always have a million irons in the fire and daily the dream gets bigger, but thanks to coffee, Trello, the Lord’s help, and a dynamic support group, we’re making it happen.
Hannah Billingsley, a young entrepreneur, resides in her cozy 1800s farmhouse in the Chicagoland area. She is the owner of MOD Sportswear and is also a marketing consultant for a local graphic solutions company. Hannah leads the media and youth departments at her church, The Orchard UPC. She is somewhat of a coffee enthusiast.