Leah Loudermilk, 34, Anna Maria, Fla.
Etsy Shop: Island Picnic, organic and allergy-free home accents.
Sometimes when you seek to save yourself, you save others in the process.
Leah Loudermilk’s daughter Jillian was born with life-threatening food allergies to milk, eggs, peanuts and tree nuts, and as a result, she spent a lot of time researching what caused them—and why so many children have not only allergies but other ailments like asthma and autism.
“The answer seemed to be all the chemicals we have in our homes and in our foods that we didn’t have a couple of decades ago,” Loudermilk says.
So she cleaned house. She stocked her pantry with as much organic food as possible and switched to organic cotton bedding. She and her boyfriend Tal began using products like vinegar and baking soda to clean the kitchens, bathrooms, floors and windows. They even make mixtures of soap and apple cider vinegar to catch fruit flies. “It’s much better than spraying your house with toxins!” she says.
Getting Started: She had been making one of her products—reusable shopping bags—for a few months before a friend suggested selling them on Etsy. “It was a perfect fit,” says Loudermilk. “We cleaned out our home environments and wanted to help others have nontoxic, pure choices for their lives too.”
In 2008 she and her mom, Janis, opened her Etsy store, Island Picnic, where she sells her eco-chic line of allergy-free home accents, like organic napkins, organic cotton pillows, bedding, placemats and more, which are free of pesticides, chemicals, toxins, BPA, lead, vinyl, plastics and phthalates.
Both shop owners take part in designing, and Janis is the seamstress. “We have extremely similar design aesthetics and always agree on how things should look, colors to use, styling,” Loudermilk says.
Over the years they’ve invested a bit of money—in the thousands—to start and maintain the business. “Organic cotton fabric is not cheap!” she says.
But they’ve had enough sales to recoup their money and keep the business profitable. Their products range from $20 for a sandwich and snack bag set up to $200 for a pair of lined, organic cotton drapes. Most, however are in the $20 to $40 range.
Reaping the Rewards: Though she still works part time at her son’s preschool, Loudermilk spends the rest of her time working on the business.
In addition to Etsy, she and her mom run IslandPicnic.com, which doesn’t make near what the Etsy shop does, but, she says, the site has other benefits. “You can make it look how you want to. Your company looks more professional with your own web address on your business cards. You can add a blog, videos, a press page, whatever you want.”
She plows most of their profits—between $5,000 and $7,000 a year—right back into the business for more fabric, marketing and promotional materials, trade shows, local farmers’ markets, logo design and even a trip to Hollywood to give away products at a celebrity baby event.
She’s also taking advantage of Etsy services to acquire more customers. “They offer a lot of tools. There are ads, community groups and forums. You can make it onto the front page, which we have done several times,” she says.
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