In our Meet the Maker series we get to know entrepreneurs who have pursued their dreams and launched a small business. To celebrate Women’s History Month, we’re shining a light on women Makers to hear what lessons they have learned along the way.
Today, we’re catching up with Sydney Hewitt of the hometown custom towel company, Coast & Cotton. After graduating from Auburn University with a degree in industrial design, Sydney and her husband, Will, were a military family and moved regularly, giving Sydney the idea for designs that celebrate states. Creating these nostalgia-channeling tea towels turned into a full-time job, and Coast & Cotton was born.
What did you want to be when you grew up?
I knew from an early age that I wanted to do something in the arts. My dad, a graphic designer, and my grandmother, a watercolor artist, both played a large role in my love of drawing, painting, and creating. As a child, I could sit for hours creating patterns with gel pens and markers all over my notebooks and sketch pads. My parents always encouraged my love of the arts and enrolled me in calligraphy, sketching, and painting classes during my early years. So when it came time to pick a major in college, a design degree felt like a natural fit.
How do you get around creative roadblocks?
Creative roadblocks are definitely part of the process when you work in the design field. My husband and business partner, Will, is my sounding board for all new designs and patterns. When designing a new pattern, I come up with an initial drawing and color scheme, then Will comes in and helps with the layout and spacing. It is crucial to have someone with an eye for space and symmetry to tweak a design and get it just right.
What advice would you give yourself 10 years ago?
Be OK with staying at home, supporting your husband with his career, focusing on your babies, and slowly working on your idea until the time is right. Then jump on it as fast as you can! Don’t rush the process, and don’t be discouraged if it’s not in “your timeline”. The Lord’s plan is greater than your own.
Best business advice that you ever received?
Know when you have a good thing. Work hard to constantly improve it, but don’t over improve until it’s not your idea anymore. Look to the trends, but don’t become a trend. Keep your ideas fresh and innovative while still remaining true to your aesthetic.
What three personality traits do think have helped you become a successful entrepreneur?
I still have so much more room to grow in many areas! We are making mistakes and learning from them every day. First of all, I am thankful to have a husband and business partner with 10 years of Army operations experience. He keeps the business running smoothly and all parts working together on a daily basis. I think our desire to work for ourselves and build a lasting family business has helped to keep this thing going even when it seemed too hard to continue. I also feel like our life experiences of moving around and living in many different places helped us see the need for unique, custom products that reflect the place they are from.
What lessons have you learned over the years that might help other entrepreneurs who are just starting out?
In our experience so far, we have learned perseverance, humility, and gratitude. Being able to persevere through situations that seemed overwhelming allowed us to grow in new ways and shape our business into what it is today. We learned that humility leads to growth while also keeping you grounded. We want our children to see that in our business, everyone’s ideas are important and we cannot build this company on our own. Gratitude has been the cornerstone of our small business from the beginning. We cannot express how thankful we are to the retailers, customers, family, and friends who support us. It’s because of them that we are still growing today.
What has surprised you most about starting a business?
I think what has surprised us the most is how difficult, and at the same time, how rewarding owning our own business has been. When it is just the two of you, there is no one else to pick up the extra slack when you are behind or tired or coming up on a deadline. You are also the decision maker on all matters, big and small. So there is definitely more stress and pressure on a daily basis. On the flip side, the rewards are so sweet. Seeing something grow and flourish that we created is such a huge blessing. We are thankful everyday that we were given this opportunity and that hopefully we can build a company our children are proud to own one day.