Teajai Kimsey was sewing to pass the time during her daughter’s competitive cheer practice when another mother helped launch her small business.
“They figured out I knew how to sew,” Kimsey said. “One of the moms came to me and said, ‘Can you make cheer uniforms for their (daughters’) dolls?’ I said, ‘Sure, I’ll give it a try.’ ”
“The next thing you know, I’m making them for almost all the moms.”
That was in the winter of 2012. This week, after growing her cheer-uniform-for-dolls business in her home for over a year, Kimsey is opening a retail space on West Central. The shop is called Annique’s Nook, after what Kimsey says was her name in high school French class. A grand opening is set for 11 a.m. Saturday.
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Kimsey said younger girls who participate in competitive cheering often have 18-inch dolls made by American Girl and other brands. “They take them to the competitions.”
By last fall, Kimsey said, she had so many orders for doll uniforms that she couldn’t fill any more.
“I had three people working in my house.”
Kimsey’s 1,200-square-foot shop in Robin Plaza will be used for sewing and also for retail sales. She also plans to offer the space for birthday parties and other events where attendees can make their own items.
In addition to cheer uniforms for dolls, which sell for $70 to $150, Kimsey makes covers for cheerleaders’ shoes, monogrammed towel wraps for girls and teddy bears dressed in NFL gear.
“They’ve very white, and you want them to stay white through the whole season,” she said of the cheer shoes.
Kimsey said she has owned another business that helps other people with Internet marketing for 15 years.
For Annique’s Nook, she said, “I basically followed the advice I kept telling my clients over the years (about) how to market yourself.”
That includes finding a niche product that’s in demand, but not so much that it draws a lot of competitors. An estimated 3.3 million people participate in competitive cheering, she said. Her doll uniforms, she said, are nearly exact replicas of the real ones.
“It’s intricate work. They are done one at a time. You can’t mass produce these – there aren’t that many (girls) on a team. It’s not something that Mattel’s going to pick up and say let’s make a fortune.”
She does most of her sales through Etsy, an Internet site, including an order of 26 from a California cheer team that she’s working on this week.
Another key, Kimsey said, has been cultivating a “real” presence on social media that appeals to potential customers.
“If I was having a bad day, it went out there just as much as if I was saying ‘Woo-hoo, look at this uniform I just made.’ You’ve got to just be yourself.”