Jennifer Thornton is the founder of Geekling Designs where she makes children's shirts and baby clothes with sayings such as 'miso cute' modelled by six-month-old Kaitlyn

Jennifer Thornton is the founder of Geekling Designs where she makes children's shirts and baby clothes with sayings such as 'miso cute' modelled by six-month-old Kaitlyn

Boosting geek chic one shirt at a time

Chilliwack, Geekling Designs, SavvyMom

All Jennifer Thornton wanted to do was dress her daughter in a style that complimented her and her husband’s personalities: Geek chic.

Anything Star Wars, Harry Potter, Nintendo, World of Warcraft would do. But after fruitless trips through kid boutique after kid boutique, and countless searches online, Thornton realized the only way her daughter would be able to take on the geek was by her own hand.

Good thing she’s crafty.

“I made a onesie on a lark,” she said of the first shirt she made in 2008 for her now three-year-old daughter Natalie.

The onesie featured a murloc – a World of Warcraft humanoid, with bulbous, prehistoric-looking frog and fish features – on the front.

“Everyone thought it was funny,” Thornton said.

What started as a lark spawned into a business.

Thornton’s home-based, handmade business, Geekling Designs, is up for the Savvymom Mom Entrepreneur of the Year Award.

The award was started five years ago by Savvymom, an online resource for Canadian moms, in an effort to celebrate great ideas and innovative solutions started by Canadian moms. And with $15,000 in prizes, by way of marketing, mentoring and more, it helps to advance businesses to the next level.

Geekling Designs fit the bill.

After that first shirt, where Thornton researched online how to screen print using cut-out stencils and transfer paper, she started making more: onesies with coined Harry Potter phrases like Dumbledore’s Army and I solemnly swear I am up to no good, Big Bang Theory idioms like Bazinga, anime dust bunnies, and more.

In total, she has approximately 50 different designs, ideas that came to her when watching TV and movies, playing video games, reading the news, and back-and-forth banter with her husband.

“I’m a bit of a geek,” Thornton giggled.

She started selling at swap meets, but switched to Etzys.com, an online site similar to Ebay, to better reach her target market: computer geeks. Before long, orders were coming in from the United States, Singapore, Australia, and various parts of Europe and the United Kingdom.

“The first two years I wasn’t able to pay myself, I was throwing every profit I made back into the company,” said Thornton, who puts 20 to 30 hours a week into the business.

Harry Potter changed that. Two Harry Potter movies in one year caused a boom to her business. Thornton, who’s half-way through her second maternity leave, said she’s now on track to being able to work on Geekling Designs full-time before her maternity leave is up.

It’s not easy being a mompreneur though. With two young daughters in tow, “little fingers tend to get in the way,” said Thornton.

As well, her current workspace is the dining table, where she has to pack everything up at night before dinner.

Thornton has plans to renovate her basement to better accommodate the business, and to upgrade her screen-printing equipment for improved efficiency and product production.

The SavvyMom award would help make that happen.

The top 10 mom entrepreneurs who receive the most online votes by Sept. 12 will be shortlisted. From there, a panel of judges will select a national winner based on business success, innovation and impact on community.

To vote, visit http://momentrepreneur.savvymom.ca. Voters can vote once a day, and are are also eligible for weekly prizes.

kbartel@theprogress.com

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