When her 14-year-old daughter Molly brought home a stellar report card a few weeks ago, Cathy Moran rewarded her with a shopping trip to one of their favorite local shops, The Silk Purse. It would be the beginning of a new business venture with two of her closest friends.
Moran, a 16-year resident of Great Falls, pre-school teacher and 46-year-old mother of four, had been running her own home-based stationary business for the past 11 years. As a regular customer at The Silk Purse, Moran had become well acquainted with owner Nancy Jacobs — and Jacobs had often said that Moran should sell her stationary products out of her store.
"So I came here with Molly, and Nancy said, 'I'm really serious this time,'" said Moran.
A mother of two, Jacobs wanted to reduce some of her working hours in order to have more time to spend with her children. Moran's daughter Molly was instantly enthusiastic and repeatedly implored her mother to "call Mrs. Garten."
"Mrs. Garten" is Reston resident and jewelry-maker Kim Garten, a close friend of Moran's ever since the two were introduced via a mutual acquaintance four years ago.
"My neighbor was actually a customer of Kim's and she kept telling me that I had to call her, so I did," said Moran.
LIKE MORAN, Garten had been operating her jewelry-making business out of her home for 11 years. After nine years of working for the Republican National Committee, the mother of three quit her job in order to spend more time with her children. Garten stumbled into the jewelry business when she offered to help a friend sell her baseball sport jewelry at games.
"Within a week I had sold $1,400 worth of her jewelry, so I thought I might as well do it for myself," said Garten, who is now 45. "I started out with sports jewelry and then I branched out into handbags."
Garten says that, with a husband and three sons, the jewelry business has provided her with something "girlie" in her life.
"It's my own thing that nobody else can touch," she said.
Garten and Moran made an immediate connection, and have traveled to countless trade shows together over the past few years. So when Moran heeded her daughter's advice and called her friend with the proposal that they set up shop inside The Silk Purse, Garten jumped at the opportunity.
"It just makes sense for us to be here," said Garten. "Our stuff complements Nancy's stuff, and Nancy's stuff complements ours — and this location is very close to our clients as they tend to be from Great Falls, Reston and Herndon."
Garten and Moran also decided to call their friend Mari Thomason, a Centreville/Fair Lakes resident whom they dub their "magician" and "seamstress extraordinaire." Thomason, 41, and the mother of a 2-year-old son, has been sewing for 25 years.
"My grandmother showed me how," she said.
However, it was not until recently that she turned her skill into a business. With an M.B.A. in international business from Thunderbird School of Global Management, Thomason spent her 20s and early 30s climbing the corporate ladder. But in her mid-30s, Thomason decided that the corporate world was simply "not worth it anymore." Still, she found that she still needed some sort of occupation in addition to being a mother.
"I had my son and I would say OK, I fed him — now what do I do?'" said Thomason. "I was used to going 90 miles per hour."
She began selling her hand-made wares at trade shows, and subsequently met Kim Garten at a show in October of 2006.
"I was checking out her stuff, and she was looking at mine, so we did a little bartering," said Garten.
When Thomason was invited to join in as a third partner for The Silk Purse venture, she happily accepted. Both Moran and Garten said that they believe Thomason's hand-sewn and personalized baby blankets, pillows, quillows, bed linens and shower curtains, provide the perfect round-off to their overall offerings.
THE MOMS ALSO wanted to make sure they had an arrangement that would not interfere with their number one priority.
"There are three of us, so we can split the time and still keep our family values intact," said Garten. "Our kids play sports and are involved in all sorts of activities, but that's the beauty of this — we can do everything."
Moran said that the opportunity at The Silk Purse came at just the right moment.
"Kim and I have been doing this for a while, and we were really looking to grow our business, but not go too fast," said Moran.
In fact, Moran has managed to include her family in the experience by having daughter Molly sell her own line of reversible headbands at the store. Molly creates and sews the headbands herself, and plans to work in the store every Saturday. Running a family-friendly operation is something that is important to all three mothers.
"We have eight kids among us, so we know that it's important to have a kid-friendly atmosphere," said Garten.
So in addition to providing a stroller-accessible shop, the three friends meet regularly to brainstorm product ideas geared toward the younger local set. Thomason will offer a variety of hand-crafted items emblazoned with local high school colors and mascots, and her camouflage and soccer ball patterned "quillows" — pillows that also fold out into a blanket — are already a favorite among children.
"I don't do calico," said Thomason. "My quillows are not your grandmother's quillow."
"A Special Touch," the store within a store, will open its doors on Tuesday, Feb. 13, specifically for Valentines Day shopping. In addition, Moran, Garten and Thomason will host a wine and cheese night on Thursday, Feb. 22, and Friday, Feb. 23, from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.