As a young girl in Washington State, Nicole Morgenthau dreamed of being a doctor – a dream she held onto almost all the way through her college career at Virginia Wesleyan. But, in her senior year, it dawned on her that it was still going to be a really long time until she actually got to work in the field. Twelve more years of training seemed daunting, and, simultaneously, her English professor approached her and suggested she consider a career in literature, an area that seemed to be a natural fit for her. So Nicole pursued a focus in creative writing and ironically, instead of diving into a career right away, went on to get a masters in literature at Old Dominion University. (more…)
Lucinda Snyder imagined she’d lead the life of an academic. With two Master’s Degrees, a job at Rochester Institute of Technology, and plans for a PhD in political science, she was pretty well on the right track. But life had other plans for her, and while the road has been extremely painful at times, she feels certain that she is now exactly where she is supposed to be.
Snyder comes from a long line of doctors – four generations to be exact. She was good in school and grades came easily but medicine didn’t call to her. Some of her college professors suggested she would make a good professor herself, so she opted for that route.
But when Snyder’s contract at RIT was up, she felt like she was ready for a change. She was an avid knitter at a time when the knitting trend was heating up, and Snyder made the difficult decision to indulge her creative side and open a yarn shop. She knew it was a risk, but also figured that she could go back to the academic life later if necessary. The business endured for three years, but in 2006 Snyder decided that it no longer made financial sense to keep the store going, especially as she was getting married and planning to start a family.
On November 27, 2008, Thanksgiving Day, Snyder’s son Cooper was born. Unbeknownst to Snyder and her husband before his birth, Cooper had a congenital heart defect, sometimes referred to as a hole in the heart.
“In terms of heart defects, it’s really not a big deal,” Snyder explains. “It’s normally an easy repair. He had surgery when he was three weeks old. But we were in that one or two or three percent they talk about. He survived the surgery, but the following morning he went into cardiac arrest and died shortly thereafter.”
Snyder found herself desperate for a way to channel her grief after Cooper’s death. “Knitting didn’t do it anymore. I needed something that challenged my mind and gave me something to focus on. I started looking at fabric and was really drawn to color and design.” She thought she might try to make a quilt. But she didn’t know how to sew.
“I borrowed a friend’s sewing machine, took a class at JoAnn Fabrics and basically taught myself how to sew.” From there she started making and selling her creations, both quilts and other handmade items, usually on Etsy or at craft shows. She also wanted to have another baby. “The sewing kept me from obsessing on that topic as well,” she laughs. In 2010 her second child was born, and in 2011 she made the decision to turn what had been a hobby into a real business, or, as she puts it, “I decided to become legitimate.”
And so her line of handmade fabric goods – called Lucends – made the leap from hobby to business.
“I wanted something that was exclusively mine. I got tired of going to craft shows and three booths down somebody would have the same fabric as me.” She started exploring ways to change that. “Now, the fabric that I use, nobody else has.” She works with a surface designer to achieve this. “Every season we brainstorm, look at trends, color palettes, see what’s on the fashion design radar. Once we nail it down we use a company called Spoonflower in NC. They digitally print fabric on demand, so I have my fabric printed as I need it. I’m not committing to thousands of yards of fabric not knowing what’s going to sell.” This spring she’ll debut her 4th fabric collection. She uses these fabrics to make a variety of handmade items, including handbags, scarves, pillows, and custom-made quilts.
Snyder probably could have found work at an established design firm, but that wasn’t for her. “There are big fabric companies that take on designers and produce their fabrics and sell it mainstream, but that’s not really my mission. At this point, every single thing has been done by me. I create every piece that I sell, and that’s important.”
Snyder is surprised at how many people she met and connected with through her business. “Do I have a great product? Yes. But I also think it’s my story that a lot of people can connect to, and feel like they’re part of my journey.”
“I see this business as Cooper’s gift to me. And so it’s very important for me to stay connected to that. It continues to help heal me and gives me motivation to move forward. I think this is how it was supposed to play out for me.”
When asked what research she did before starting her business, Snyder laughs. “Absolutely none. I just jumped. I just did it. I was lucky because I didn’t need to make money to pay the bills, so I could just grow and experiment and see what worked and what didn’t work. I guess that was my research – I knew enough to know that I needed to build the brand, to have an identity, and the rest would fall into place.”
“I joke that 2015 is going to be the Year of my Empire. I have this vision of where I want to go and this empire I want to build for Lucends. This year is the first year that I’ve taken what I’ve learned and gotten my ego out of the way to say okay, these are the things that sell, and these are the things I’m going to make. It’s trial and error. And my gut. I rely on my gut a lot.”
As far as advice for other women considering a career change, the 41-year-old Snyder says simply, “I think you just have to go for it. If it’s on your mind all the time, then that’s what you need to do. I think a lot of people are afraid to take the risk. It is risky. But if it’s something you love and are passionate about, do it. We can be so fearful of change. We think, what if I fail? Well, what if you do? You’re not going to die from it. So you fail, you get up and start something different, or you try again. There isn’t any reward for not trying.”