I was recently asked: What Has Been My Biggest Challenge Starting Hunter's Threads?

I am a mom, I am a wife, but something I never thought I would be is a small business owner. That, I would have never predicted. It is interesting how my journey to help my developmentally delayed son Hunter, turned into a passion and something so different than I ever expected. As a mom, we are determined to help our children if we see that they are struggling, and my child was struggling. My first born son Hunter had problems that were proving to be overwhelming for me financially, emotionally and physically. I needed to do something to help me and to help other moms who were struggling as well. So I started a business of selling used clothing, where a portion of the profits pay for children’s occupational and speech therapy for the San Francisco community.

Starting a business never comes without challenges. The biggest challenge of starting my own business has been educating people on the mission of the store. A year ago, I didn’t even have a clue I was going to start a business, let alone a business that would benefit children who need therapy services. The therapy world is a new space for me. This has been a very raw, real and unexpected journey. As I went through the process of questioning signs that Hunter was delayed I realized I needed to get Hunter services as soon as possible.  Unfortunately I began to see him fall through the cracks on the insurance side and then again on the alternate resource/referral system side.  I felt helpless, lost and confused. I didn't know what to do, where to go and how to all of a sudden be prepared to spend up to $450 a week for 3 services (physical, speech and occupational therapy) for Hunter. I immediately thought about a way to help raise awareness and tangibly solve this issue that many others HAD to be going through. The solution I came up with was to recycle and sell children’s used clothing and take a portion of the profits to help subsidize therapy resources for children/families who were in need. I wanted to find a way to prevent families from having to jump through so many hoops to get the help that is so vital for their child’s development, especially before the age of 3. Hunter did not receive any services until after 2 years old. If the doctors and therapists were telling me it was vital to have him get services before 3, then why was it so easy for Hunter to fall through the cracks of the system?

Communicating my business model to the public is my biggest hurdle to jump over. You see, we have a different way of approaching things at Hunter’s Threads. We are not like other used clothing stores since Hunter’s Threads is not consignment store and does not buy back clothing. It is strictly a donation-based business model.

I was determined to make our store, clean, organized, stylish and a brand our families, donors and advocates would be proud to represent. We rely solely on our donors and shoppers to be pure advocates of our stores mission to keep business going. Fueled by inspiration to help other families, it took just three months from the day that we came up with idea and when we opened our doors. There is a huge need to help kids and families that have found themselves in our position or just feel like their kids need more help. I want to make sure that parents feel validated, heard and get the help they need at their discretion. The goal of the store is to be able to offer these subsidized groups throughout the week to accommodate more families.  In order to do that we need more shoppers and donations to fuel the business. We work with the same 4-5 kids a month and start a new group of 4-5 kids the next month. We started the HT Therapy Play Groups in January 2017 and we have served close to 20 kids and have a growing wait list.  At the core of our business - the more successful the store is, the more kids we can reach.

Doing all this with two toddlers and now pregnant with our third (due in June) has been quite difficult. As moms we are expected to juggle a lot because frankly, we can. The challenge is being okay with working through the night on the branding, development, events and procurement for the store while trying to stay caught up on your home and other responsibilities. When the days are slammed, it gets tough to stay relevant and raise awareness for the store while keeping a balanced life. That being said, it is purposeful living.

It’s been overwhelmingly rewarding to hear the positive response of the community, therapists, and teachers. Thankfully, many articles have been written on Hunter’s Threads because it is so different than anything else out there.  The greatest reward of all is to see the parents and children benefitting from the HT Therapy Playgroups hosted by a hand picked company that has personally helped Hunter - Build, Learn, Thrive. When I see people who wear & order Hunter’s Threads apparel, I feel a sense of pride, love and support. It’s a great feeling when a parent tells me that they can’t believe the store is providing these services/groups to their child at no cost. They ask me why I don’t charge them. At this point in time, if I charged them, then it would defeat the mission of the store and it would be another program that parents have to choose from when it is imperative that these kids get help and support now!

Hunter’s Threads has served  20 ish kids from January - April 2017 (5 kids a month - 4 week program). I’m so grateful for the many people I’ve met, the many people who want to help make this a success and especially the shoppers and donors that are directly making an impact. I’m just providing a space for them to help each other out and I love sitting back and watching it all unfold.

The HT staff have been nothing short of amazing and have really made this place what it is. The shoppers and donors love our HT squad and I wouldn't be able to balance it all without them. Thank you all!

The best way for those who want to support Hunter’s Threads is to donate clothes, refer a family whose child could use some therapy services and shop Hunter’s Threads!

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Approaching 3 months at HT....

There are so many things I want to write about and I have been asked to write more often, but it's been a struggle finding the time to sit and write with clear thoughts. I often wonder how other people do it all. (sigh..) We finally reached our 3 month mark and feel very accomplished! Although, I didn't have many expectations as to where the store will lead me or how successful it would be.  I do know that in my heart and in my soul, I have much peace. After coming down from a whirlwind of chaos in my personal life and not being able to believe and trust in the direction my life was heading, Hunter's Threads, (essentially Hunter) was my saving grace. This passion project has redirected my energy of creating, exploring and self reflecting, assessing what is important in my life. More than the store and a room filled with gently used clothing lies a direct connection to families and parents that are longing for these resources just like I did and for me that is worth EVERYTHING.  As inquiries trickle in from my website and I receive the screening applications from parents who have concerns about their child's development, quirks, and behavioral patterns, I get immediate confirmation that we're on the right track. It confirms that the journey I went through with Hunter was a real thing and validates all of my concerns then and now. It confirms that parents are looking for anything to help enhance their child's life and help them become as independent as possible. I don't even know what I was doing during the time, all I knew is that I felt such hopelessness. I think I was just living day by day trying to stay afloat and be on top of appointments, sickness, work and a fairly new baby (Hunter and Isla are 21 months apart). I have however, found the support that I didn't know I needed through launching Hunter's Threads. The many contacts that I have met through HT have been invaluable.  There have been so many thoughts the last several months. I'm still trying to wrap my mind around how parents are expected to perform 100% at work after having children, keep their personal struggles at the door to focus on their employer's mission, when all along you feel like your personal life is falling apart. I have met so many moms that have quit their job to care for their child only because it's impossible to juggle it all. How are we supposed to find the work, life balance? I feel like my tolerance for chaos and stress is naturally pretty high and I still cant even fathom how other parents in much more severe cases handle this balance. It's pretty amazing. The many lessons I've learned personally during these 3 months, have been life changing. I'm still embracing the fact that I have a store and many responsibilities that come with it. It's a huge commitment. What I've learned business wise is that the block I'm on doesn't have much foot traffic, therefore I rely heavily on events and social media and loyal customers to help spread the word. Thank you for jumping on board with Hunter's Threads. Thank you so much to everyone who has highlighted HT. It means the world. Next blog will be about what we're doing in January! Exciting stuff to come! 

*If you're a parent who feels your child might be a little delayed like I did or feel like no one around you possesses empathy or support to help guide you, please email me or fill out the online screening form and I'll do my best to point you in the right direction. 

I included some pictures of some events we did in the last few months. If you would like to invite HT to do a pop up for an event, email me. Hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving!

What Is Wrong With My Baby?

In Hunter's first few months of life there were a few things that raised a concern for us and left us with many unanswered questions about his development. He is our first child which made pinpointing if something was "off" a little harder. I would ask questions like, "Why does he cry every time I put him in the car seat?, Why does he only want to be held laying on his belly in my arms facing down? Why is head so floppy? Why is his eye going in?"  These are questions I would ask the doctors and over and over I was told I was reacting. He would cry in gyms while we tried to watch a basketball game, he would cry if you took him to a mall, to a restaurant the crying never ended. The only safe and comfortable place for Hunter and I was at home or on a neighborhood walk.  Jody would often take him for a walk (held upright and close to his body) in the Bjorn.  As months went by, Hunter was not excelling or meeting the milestones that "Babycenter" would advertise. Other kids around him at the park and daycare were blowing him out of the water. No one listened to me as I vented about the things I would notice and was often told I was over reacting!  Everyone kept saying “he’s fine, he’s fine” But I knew there was something a bit off. It was hard to trust what my gut was telling me when I was surrounded by a constant chorus of "he's fine." 

As Hunter’s doctor kept telling me that he was fine, I begged for referrals but encountered  so much resistance. I asked for appointments with a physical therapist, speech therapist, occupational therapist, neurologist, ophthalmologist, dermatologist, genetics counselor and eventually needed to switch doctors. I was told he was fine. I mean, he was fine and healthy, but there was something off.  At 17 months, he was not walking or talking. As I looked around at the playground I could tell the gap was getting further and further apart. As a new parent I had to navigate through many different emotions wondering why my child wasn't hitting the same milestones as the kids around him.

After a rough first year of questions with no answers we finally found out that Hunter needed tubes for his ears, eye surgery (alternating estrotopia / strabismus)  and many different therapies (speech, occupational and physical). He had and still has sensory overload and cannot physically or emotionally handle transitions. Therefore he acts out behaviorally. He is at his best when he is being played with, touched in a calm way, and is prepped for a transition - this is hard to do when running daily errands. He finds safety with a selected few that all have the same demeanor in temperament and is the most happy and engaging when he is home, in a familiar environment or outdoors with trees, the playground and surrounded by fresh air. He does not have a diagnosis, but we’ve  been told by his neurologist that he has Hypotonia. I cried for many nights when they told me this information only because I was uncertain how this could affect his development and quality of life in general. I was caught off guard and immediately overwhelmed when a medical name was given to us.  At that point I did everything I could to get Hunter the therapy he needed. I'm still new to this world and have a lot more to learn. 

Through this journey, through self-assessment, I have found a need for both a new outlet as well as new passions that have surfaced while being a mom to Hunter.

Thankfully through all of this Hunter has been such a joy and is the most loving and entertaining soul. Throughout my journey with Hunter  I often found myself being completely drained by the end of the day. I asked his doctor several times for resources but she insisted he was fine. She then referred me to a state funded program, nonchalantly, when he was 17 months old - I was persistent and aggressive to get Hunter into the program requesting double/triple therapy a week to make up for the lost time. This means he didn't receive therapy until he was over 2 years old and the program was an "early intervention" program that only went to 3 years old (when the brain develops the most between 1-3 years old). This meant they were doing all they could to get him the therapy he needed in a short amount of time.

I sat in assessments, appointments and therapy often in tears but was hopeful because I finally felt like the therapists understood Hunter and our situation.  Getting to that point was a different story. I finally had the resources and the support to get Hunter on the right track, to find the therapies and instruction that he needed but I would often sit there and think about the other moms who didn't have access to these resources or might've given up along the way because of the complexity of attaining services. By this thought alone I would be brought to tears.

Jody and I are doing this as a way to give back to kids who need the help but cannot afford it, parents who don't have the flexibility in their schedule or access to being mobile or or impaired themselves! My goal is to find the love and support and connection with other parents. Which I have not received. I want Hunter's Threads to shed light on the world of therapy and help all the other little Hunter's out there that need advocates and people to fight for them!