Sisters find careers making custom baby items

Published 9:12 am Friday, October 9, 2015

Star Photo/Lynn Richardson  Sisters Marie Hill, left, and Asley Natusch own Whimsical and Witty, a custom baby boutique in downtown Elizabethton.

Star Photo/Lynn Richardson
Sisters Marie Hill, left, and Asley Natusch own Whimsical and Witty, a custom baby boutique in downtown Elizabethton.

In May, two Elizabethton sisters, Marie Hill and Ashley Natusch, opened their shop, Whimsical and Witty, at 434 E. Elk Avenue.
The store, which features custom designed baby items and clothing, was three years in the making and it all started with a sewing machine, some custom-made baby items and a computer.
Now, over 1,100 orders later, Marie and Ashley have found themselves with a career they never imagined. They have customers from all over the world — Australia, Germany, the U.K., the Ukraine, and, of course, Elizabethton.
The store has evolved from Marie’s online business, a business neither of them ever planned.
“I am a self-taught seamstress,” Marie said. “I started sewing a little bit about 10 years ago and got more serious about it in the last few years. Believe me, I never thought I’d be doing this for a living.”
Marie, an English Literature major, has a teaching degree. But her graduation was in December and at that time of the year, teaching jobs were hard to come by. So she found herself without a job and then learned she and her husband were expecting a baby.
“I was home, pregnant and I had plenty of time on my hands,” Marie said. “I couldn’t find any baby bedding that I liked, so I just decided to make it myself.” Soon, she started creating things for her baby daughter, Cora.
“A friend of mine saw one of my blankets and said, ‘You know, you should start making those and sell them.’ So I decided to give it a try. I started selling online and it took off. I was really surprised that it did so well.”
Her first order was for a set of baby bedding.
“An out-of-state customer liked some of the fabric I was offering for sale online and wanted it appliqued with an alligator,” Marie said. “She ordered a whole set — the blanket, bumper pad, sheets and a crib skirt — for $300. That was the start of all this.”
Marie’s online ETSY store took off and soon she had a booming business — a business that took over her dining room, her living room and her spare bedroom. She continued to work from her home for over two years until finally she knew she needed more space.
She also needed help. Working 12-15 hours to keep up with the demand for her products, she reached out to her sister, Ashley, who was living in Colorado, stationed there with her Army husband. It would be several months before Ashley would be back in town, but it couldn’t be too soon for Marie.
Ashley, who has an associate degree in business, wanted to help her sister, but she was unsure how much assistance she could offer.
“I didn’t even know how to sew on a button,” she said. “But I decided to give it a try.”
Also a mother, with a combined family with five children, ages 2-14, Ashley says she enjoys coming to work at their shop downtown.
“It’s a kid-friendly environment,” she said, gesturing toward her two-year-old son, Dylan, who sat nearby playing with paper and crayons.
The colorful shop, with its melon and turquoise walls, is filled with even more colorful “hard-to-find” fabrics for do-it-yourselfers, as well as boutique clothing in sizes for newborns to 5T.
Custom orders can be placed for anything from baby bedding and accessories to embroidered items, children’s teepees and tents. Clothing items and accessories are also available for purchase in the store as are BabyLit picture books, tiny bow ties and hair bows.
And orders are coming in, especially for the shop’s best-selling product — vintage-look lace baby bedding. “That’s what we sell the most of,” Marie said.
Whimsical and Witty will roll out its Halloween line of clothing and accessories on Monday, with a holiday line soon to come.

Subscribe to our free email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox