I grew up in the Amish culture with my family making everything we needed and watching over our community farm. As a child, I regularly had a desire to be creative. I remember sitting in an outhouse restroom by the one-room schoolhouse I attended and creating rose flowers out of toilet paper. I loved the reaction of my friends who thought I was talented. It inspired me to continue finding unique ways to be creative.
I believe it’s always possible to make something beautiful out of something plain or ordinary. It’s that way with life, too.
Though I grew up in a naturally beautiful community, I dreamed of growing up and leaving the Amish culture to live on the beach one day. I’m sure in retrospect this was because one always loves the new and the mysterious, but nevertheless, I yearned for it. Today, I no longer live the Amish way of life, but it remains the culture of my family. One of my sisters is still Amish and lives within the community, and I live just next door to my Amish parents in Millersburg, Ohio — the heart of Ohio’s Amish country.
Though I always had the desire to leave, one day I heard the saying, “Bloom where you are planted,” which changed my way of thinking and my way of living. Suddenly, everything changed and my creativity blossomed. I started sharing a “photo-of-the-day” to share a glimpse of the beauty of Amish country with people on social media whom I’d met at vintage events or fairs. At the same time, I started to dream about the kind of products or business I could create that would mean something to me.
I AM MOST PROUD…
of personally handpicking all of the fabrics for our clothes.
As a plus-sized woman, I have always been frustrated by the reality that there aren’t any companies that make “cute” clothes for me which not only look good but fit well. Suddenly, I found myself wanting those bohemian clothes that had become popular, but there wasn’t a company making them for me. I decided that if I set my mind to it, I could be that company, and I could make a garment that was just as beautiful and well built, just as well for a size “28” as a size “5.”
I had the vision, but as a kid, I didn’t really learn to sew. I’d always dreamed about moving out of the Amish country, so any lesson my mom would try to give me went in one ear and out the other. Luckily, I inherited the Amish work ethic and resourcefulness. Gathering inexpensive thrift store curtains and fabrics, and enlisting the help of my local Amish community of seamstresses, I slowly taught myself to sew enough to start making frocks. Speaking the Dutch language of these talented women, I was able to build a community with them helping me achieve my dream.
I have been in business as Farmhouse Frocks going on three years now. It has become a business that feels not only creatively rewarding but also fulfilling in my ability to create beautiful pieces for other women and bring happiness to them. My garments are an extension of my goal to empower women of all shapes and sizes. I am also lucky to be able to work with both of my daughters. Sydni, my younger daughter, is my personal assistant and handles my online presence and styling, while my older daughter, Felicia, is my lead salesperson.
Six months into our business, we outgrew the basement of my home where we were producing all of our goods. We were utterly out of excess space to work and create, and people were starting to ask us about opening a small space for retail, so I began to look in historic downtown Millersburg for a usable location. Eventually, we found our space, with its industrial roots, high ceilings, and ceilings decorated with tin roofing. After using 28 gallons of white paint to paint all of the walls white, we found a new home for Farmhouse Frocks.
We have grown rapidly, and I feel blessed. My biggest passion has been empowering women from maker to consumer, and I vow every day to make my decisions out of faith, not fear. It’s too difficult to make clear decisions that are hard if you’re fearful. That is why I always try to operate with faith. We even started and continue to use the hashtag #MoreFaithThanFear.
Today, I am happy to say that Farmhouse Frocks employs 40 people, and I love that I can involve my Amish community in my business. We now have a great leverage to create jobs in the community for Amish mothers who aren’t able to work outside of the home. We were honored last year when the local chamber of commerce presented us with the “Small Business of the Year” award for the impact we have had on our community. Now that I have built a team to help with all the day-to-day needs, I have more time to travel and feed my soul with inspiration. When I’m not drawing inspiration on the road, I love to browse Pinterest and podcasts.
The Rita Romper is the best pattern I ever created.
It looks good on everyone!
I love to think of ways to better my business/events. How can I make it more creative? Sometimes that becomes building new fixtures or figuring out creative solutions. Generally, I love my work and never feel too overworked. As I’ve always heard, “Do what you love, and you’ll never work a day in your life.” Always make sure to figure out a way to make money while doing what you love. Sure, sometimes working at fairs or events can be stressful, but my workspace makes me smile, and I think that’s important.
More faith than fear.
Make your decisions on faith, not fear.
— Lena Schlabach