Kelley Legler is experiencing with her small business what she calls a "full circle moment." She started Baby Jack Blankets in 2009 and, although it has been a struggle at times, she is finally getting in the groove and seeing positive results.
Legler, who lives in Hales Corners, is the mother of two children: Jackson, age 3, and Bailey, 16 months. She says she needed a creative outlet after the birth of her kids, and so her mom taught her how to sew.
Then, Legler was unexpectedly let go from her marketing job upon returning after her maternity leave, and although she now considers this to be a blessing in disguise, she was stunned at the time.
"This traumatic and life-altering experience made me figure out who I am and where I want to go. I had a degree and web / marketing skills and just needed to figure out how to implement them," she says.
So Legler started to visualize her "creative outlet" of making baby blankets as a small business opportunity and before long Baby Jack Blankets was in full swing.
"Sewing is my sanity," says Legler, who co-owns Baby Jack Blankets with her mother-in-law, Nancy. "It gives me confidence and validation seeing my children and hearing other's stories about how my creations bring comfort."
Baby Jack Blankets are custom-made blankets for babies and small children with ribbon tab accents. Legler created the first one for her son after she saw him devouring a tag on a blanket, so she made him a blanket with loops around it. To this day, he still sleeps with it.
"It all started with a boy named Jack. My baby Jack. And boy did Jack like ribbons," she says.
Although there are other tabbed blankets on the market, Legler created a signature ribbon blanket design different from the rest (with a patent pending). Baby Jack Blankets have the ribbons sewn shut which, according to Legler, prevents tiny fingers from getting caught.
"Our product is similar to a brand sold in stores, except we found that many looped ribbons or heat sealed ribbons along the edges may cause a potential hazard to kids, so we decided to sew all of the ribbons shut into 'tabs,'" she says.
The purpose of the tabs are to provide tactile play and comfort to babies. The blanket also entertains them and stimulates their senses with the different textures and colors.
These days, Legler gets more than a creative outlet from sewing. It has taught her about patience and allowed her to escape the constant demands of children.
However, her business, which she runs out of a creative station in her basement rec room, allows her to work away from the kids or with them, if need be. Often they help pick out ribbons or observe her sewing technique. They even have a kids’ sewing machine so they can play sew, too.
Legler says she receives the most validation of her products from her kids.
"Jack tickles his nose with his red ribbons and this is his security and comforts him in times of need," says Legler. "My daughter Bailey will not part with her two satin 'loveys' and cannot sleep without them.
Baby Jack Blankets started at local craft fairs and selling via a Facebook Business Page three years ago. Price points begin at $23, but there are usually discounts on the Facebook page. Orders usually take 2-3 weeks to fill, but can be done more quickly if need be.
"I want all moms to know that it is important to seek out your passion. It's an uphill battle to start your own business and I have run into many obstacles but I'm determined to keep going," says Legler. "It makes a huge difference knowing that your product puts a smile on someone's face as well as your own."
Molly Snyder started writing and publishing her work at the age 10, when her community newspaper printed her poem, "The Unicorn.” Since then, she's expanded beyond the subject of mythical creatures and written in many different mediums but, nearest and dearest to her heart, thousands of articles for OnMilwaukee.
Molly is a regular contributor to FOX6 News and numerous radio stations as well as the co-host of "Dandelions: A Podcast For Women.” She's received five Milwaukee Press Club Awards, served as the Pfister Narrator and is the Wisconsin State Fair’s Celebrity Cream Puff Eating Champion of 2019.