Entrepreneur 101: South King County mom shares her story

I have been encouraged to share my story. I must admit it is not your everyday story. Instead, it is a unique experience had by a young mom with a shop full of 3,000 boxes.

  • Thursday, November 13, 2008 1:39pm
  • Business

I have been encouraged to share my story. I must admit it is not your everyday story. Instead, it is a unique experience had by a young mom with a shop full of 3,000 boxes.

I was born and raised in Maple Valley. After graduating from Tahoma High School, I attended the University of Washington for my undergraduate degree and then Seattle University for my graduate degree in teaching. After receiving my masters, I eagerly accepted a teaching position at Black Diamond Elementary School, which is where my product began to take form.

After witnessing my students’ absolute enthusiasm for one particular classroom activity, I began brainstorming. I wanted to invent a way to use the same concept in a different format as a party activity for all ages and occasions. A few weeks later, I was hosting my sister’s baby shower and I decided that would be an opportune time for me to try out my latest invention. I sketched out my design and put my husband to work in the garage. After many hours with a sheet of plywood and a jigsaw, Party Art was born. When my husband returned from the garage, we had a novel party activity ready for my sister’s baby shower.

As each guest arrived to the shower, they sat down to a table of individual wooden puzzle pieces, paints and brushes. After everyone gathered around, I explained that each guest would have the opportunity to create a small work of art for my sister and her baby. I must say that those women sat painting, laughing, talking and reminiscing for hours. When they were finished, they put the puzzle back together and created a spectacular piece of wall art for my niece’s nursery.

The guests were astonished by what a beautiful piece of art they had worked together to create. The wonderful part is that these were women who were a little nervous about painting and made several remarks about how “uncreative” they were.

Since my sister’s party, I had so many requests for Party Art – either from the women who attended the party or party guests who told someone else about my idea. With the growing interest in the product and the extensive encouragement from my family and friends, I decided to start the sourcing process – something I had no clue about. At this time, our son had turned 1, and I decided to go for my dream. I didn’t realize just how difficult this dream would be to accomplish.

I launched my company, Naptime Studio, which I named for my son and for the most opportune time I have to get my work done. I worked during daytime naps and very late into the nights when my son was sleeping. To save money, I developed each component of my product – from sketching out my Web site design, to creating my logos, to designing packaging prototypes from old boxes and construction paper.

I didn’t realize the magnitude of such a project. In one short year, it took over my life and my husband’s garage. At the beginning of August, all 3,000 units were delivered to our home in Maple Valley.

The countless days filled with tears of frustration and utter exhaustion have absolutely been made up for in the lessons I have learned and the successes I have had. I am proud to say that Party Art is gaining quite a following and is now situated in several stores, spanning from boutiques in Alaska to Sun River Resort in Oregon. The greatest compliment comes from the guest at someone else’s party who decides that they, too, will need a Party Art for an upcoming event.

Whether Party Art becomes a big idea or just a product that moms and grandmas have fun with occasionally, perhaps someone will learn from my experience. I believe that all of life’s experiences shape us as people and can be learned by others.

More about Haley Pendergraft

Watching her father run a plumbing contract business out of the family’s home when she was growing up (“I saw his entrepreneurial nature”) was Haley Pendergraft’s only business experience until she launched Naptime Studio and began marketing and selling Party Art. Now, the Maple Valley woman’s product is being sold in stores in three states and online (www.ShopPartyArt.com). Washington locations include City Perk in Maple Valley and Enumclaw, Brat Pack Salon in Redmond, Kid’s Club in Seattle’s University Village, Accents Et Cetera in Redmond, Inside Out in Snohomish and Launching Learning and Success in Bellingham.

“Our product distribution spans as far north as Alaska, as far south as Sunriver Resort in Oregon, and even a store in Texas,” said Pendergraft.

A former school teacher who became a stay-home mother after the birth of her son, Luke, Pendergraft pursued her own business dream after learning of other people’s “successes and stories. Whether Party Art becomes a big idea or just a product that moms and grandmas have fun with occasionally, perhaps someone will learn from my experience. I believe that all of life’s experiences shape us as people and can be learned from by others.”


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