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How a Frustrated Mom Created an Empire

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Okay, “Empire” might sound farfetched, but I think you’ll understand why I feel that way. Back when my children were babies, I decided to give up my profession. I was a television actress, having appeared on numerous shows. (Seinfeld, Just Shoot Me, ER, Will & Grace… and many others.) 


Here I am on Friends, yelling at Ross for cheating on Rachel while they were on a "break." Thanks, Google Images!  Even though I had achieved a good deal of success, I was frustrated with having to wait for opportunities to do what I love.

One day, my mother had the idea that we should take a sewing class together. The instant gratification of seeing my creation come to life was intoxicating. I came up with a design for a really cute reversible dress. And it was TWIRLY. What’s the point of wearing a dress if it doesn’t twirl! And because my kids can't stand it when clothes are scratchy, I figured out how to hide the seams away from their bodies. Fortunately I live near the Los Angeles Fashion District, so finding amazingly soft and fun fabric wasn’t hard. 

Seriously, these are the best fabrics ever?! Every time I go on buying sprees, I'm like a kid in a candy store. 

The dresses were a such big hit at their school, that several mothers approached me about creating twirly dresses for their tween girls.  That’s when my hobby became my new profession. TwirlyGirl was born! At first, I sewed everything in my dining room and worked out of my house. That's our daughter studying in a forest of leggings. 

 

When a local tween fashion boutique heard about our dresses, I simply couldn’t keep up with demand. I found some local sewers and contractors to help me and thankfully, they have been working for TwirlyGirl ever since. At first I had to educate them about how I wanted everything sewn. That part was a little weird, because I didn’t have nearly as much sewing experience as they had and yet I was correcting them. But I wanted it done exactly right, even if it cost more.

The TwirlyGirl cutters and sewers work their magic for us every day. 

As our business grew, more opportunities came our way. One day, a little girl walked into Nordstrom wearing TwirlyGirl and it caught the eye of one of their buyers. The buyer immediately called us and placed an opening order. We managed to fulfill it, but it wasn’t easy. Department stores require steep discounts along with very strict packing guidelines... at least a hundred pages of shipping instructions! And if you don’t do it right, they fine you. In order to make selling to department stores profitable, we would have to bring down our costs. That meant outsourcing our sewing overseas, where labor costs are much less. 

(Our first batch of dresses heading for Nordstrom! It sold out in a flash.)

Outsourcing presents two problems for us. First, I can’t bear the thought of possibly exploiting someone. I’m sure there are factories overseas where the workers are treated well, but how would I know for sure? And secondly, our garments are very complicated to sew. With so many contrasting fabrics, it’s easy for things to go wrong. I’m extremely picky on how our garments are sewn. I insist on using the highest quality stitching (called a 4 stitch overlock) and I want all the seams tucked away. When you outsource overseas, you lose control. And if there’s a problem, you spend money here in the States to fix it. But this is what it would take to be carried in the big stores. 

We were at a crossroads. What kind of business did we want to become? 

After much hand wringing, we decided to scale back and not pursue the big stores. We wanted to stay true to our values and cater directly to you and small boutiques. This has allowed us to focus all our resources on making high quality garments and providing excellent customer service. That’s why we’re so proud of the many glowing reviews that our customers leave us. Plus, we LOVE the idea of manufacturing locally. It’s good for our economy and it’s the right thing to do. 

The TwirlyGirl Headquarters in Downtown Los Angeles.  (Yes, I'm out of the dining room now.)  Two glorious rooms of colorful joy. 

It’s been 7 years since I created that first Original Reversible Twirly Dress®, and today I’m the owner of a thriving business. As my girls have grown bigger, I’ve been inspired to keep up with them. I’m very excited to announce that in Spring 2015, I’ll be introducing TwirlyGirl styles for women! It’s time for us ladies to start Twirling! 

I’m so proud to say that TwirlyGirl has sold tens of thousands of dresses and is carried in over a hundred kids boutiques across the country. Everyone at TwirlyGirl is treated like family… including our customers. No one leaves without a smile on their face. So is this what creating an “Empire” is? In my mind, absolutely. 

From the bottom of my heart, thank you for shopping TwirlyGirl. :)

-Cynthia Jamin

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