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Baby's needs lead to business

Friday, August 19, 2011

Dave Hall, The Windsor Star

A home-based business which grew out of a mother's inability to find quality products for her newborn son has now become a labour of love for her supportive family.

Shortly after giving birth to Jordan in 2005, Jessica Phillips became frustrated at not being able to find quality burp cloths.

"They were thin pieces of flannel. They didn't stand up to repeated washing, and I thought I could do better myself," said Phillips. "I'd grown up watching my mother sew, and I thought I could handle it."

So Phillips bought some fabrics and began designing and sewing burp cloths for herself, family and friends while selling them out of her home under the Baby Phillips Collection label.

Within 30 months, she had a kiosk at Devonshire Mall, which proved to her that her products would sell. She then moved to a small space at Flowers by Design, and three months ago took a huge step by opening a small storefront location at 1124 Lesperance Rd.

It all sounds so easy in the retelling, but as Phillips says, "It's by far the scariest thing I have ever done.

"I'm still learning what I'm doing, and every day presents a new challenge," said Phillips, now also the mother of Justin, 2. "For the most part, I'm happy with it all, but I would like to be busier."

Phillips, an interior design graduate of St. Clair College, worked with the WindsorEssex Small Business Centre, and director Sabrina DeMarco is developing her business plan and helping her apply for a loan through Canadian Youth Business Foundation.

Phillips also credited Shannon Gilbert of Flowers by Design with providing support and mentoring advice when she launched the business.

"This wouldn't have happened without their help, because I'd never done anything like this before," said Phillips. "I'd worked in the hospitality and retail sectors, which helped me acquire some people and business skills, but not nearly enough to prepare me for this."

Phillips designs and sews all of her products, which are made from all-Canadian fabrics in a workspace at the back of her shop.

Mother Charlene and sister Sheila help out in the shop on a regular basis, and father Raymond and husband Jeff provide moral support.

"This has to work because we all have too much emotional and financial investment at stake.

"I have a whole new appreciation for stay-at-home moms and smallbusiness owners, now that I'm trying to be both. But this is just the beginning of where I want to be."

Phillips skipped craft shows this year while preparing for her store's opening but plans to hit a couple of them again next year.

"I have a website, but again, it's something I've never done before, so I'm sure it still needs work," said Phillips. "The site is not about generating online sales, but more about showing parents what I have to offer so they can come in for a visit."

Phillips acknowledges she doesn't have the budget for large-scale advertising campaigns and relies largely on word-of-mouth and some marketing initiatives she's working on with retail colleagues.

"I'm working with the owners of Applebum and Sweetheart Diapers on some networking ideas so we can help and support each other," said Phillips.

Among the items in Phillips' collection are crib sets, blankets, hats and bibs, burp cloths and changing blankets.

The store is open Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 1 to 8 p.m., Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. It's closed Tuesday and Thursday. For more information on products, visit babyphillipscollection.com.

Her products are also available at Applebum, Flowers by Design, Graham's Paint and Wallpaper and Nguyen Chiropractic Centre.