For Tina Hill, the “Aha!” moment that launched her business came at the bus stop.
The former clothing designer had been thinking about “Doodle Bears,” a popular toy that lets kids ink their own design on teddy bears. A mother of four, she was walking to the bus stop when an idea struck her — creating a backpack for kids that they can draw on.
That was the birth of Kidzsack, and now, four months or so after the business started, she said it is steadily gaining ground.
About 30 stores are carrying the bags, which are made from recycled fabrics and come in four styles. Hill went to the famed New York toy tradeshow last week to try to expand her contacts in the industry and grow her business.
“I’m hoping that this will be my big break,” she said.
Hill and her family moved from Connecticut to West Newbury almost four years ago, when her husband took a job offer in this area. She had worked in the fashion industry in New York, and discovered that there were no such jobs available in this area.
But her love of design wasn’t left behind in The Big Apple. She kept it in mind as she raised four kids — ages 6, 7, 10, and 12 — hoping to develop a business that she could manage from home.
Getting the business off the ground brought together skills that Hill said she had never thought she had — for instance, cold-calling stores and managing every aspect of production.
In both areas, she said she was lucky — Eureka toystore in Newburyport’s Tannery Mall was the first to agree to stock Kidzsacks. The store not only agreed to sell her goods, it also provided her with inspiration and confidence to approach more stores.
She handmade the first 100 sacks, then decided she had to find a manufacturer. She said she cast a broad net trying to find the right one, and was pleasantly surprised to discover LeBlanc Manufacturing based in Georgetown, 15 miles from her home, that fit her needs.
“I am not, and never considered myself to be, an entrepreneur, I never considered myself to be a ‘boss,’” she said. “But I actually love it. I can’t believe it, I’m a stay-at-home-mom.”