Velma Crawford is an artist, designer, and storyteller-well known for making unique aprons. Velma’s designs are inspired by the love she felt for her grandmother, who taught her the art of quilting, and the memory of good times shared with her grandmother’s seven daughters.
How did your business start?
The business started out as a hobby, for the purpose of healing. In 2008, I was working at the time, and I was also in Catholic University’s Human Resource and Training Development Masters Program. For the course I had to write up a practical training example. I chose how to make an apron for my project. I presented my instructions in class along with some aprons I had made. From that class I actually got apron orders, though that was not my intent [laughs].
How did you hear about EWI?
I became a storyteller for a group called the Network of Biblical Storytellers. Show and Tell was part of every meeting. There were usually about ten people. When it was my turn I took 25-30 of my aprons to show them. I sold more than half on the spot, from $25 to $40 an apron. I think I sold $250 in aprons that day. That was when someone referred to Marga Fripp of EWI. They said that EWI could help me to learn how to turn that into a business.
What was your biggest challenge you needed to overcome when you began the class?
When I first went to meet Marga and apply for the class, I thought my biggest challenge would be trying to convince them that my aprons were good enough to sell. I took my aprons to the EWI office. When I left the meeting with Marga and two others, all three had bought an apron.
I enrolled in the 2011 class, which started in March or April. I had had brain surgery in January, and it was a very down time for me. I knew right away that I was among women who cared about my health and well being. The aprons were a healing process.
What was the most valuable thing you gained from the class?
The later lessons built my self confidence, and the leadership that would take us to places and introduce us to new people. We never knew these type of people existed, the women’s groups and others who support new businesses. I met a lot of women, and I learned how to go out there and find other groups on my own.
In 2012 I went to the Smithsonian Museum of African Art. I took some aprons. The Director of Education happened to came through, heard my story, and asked me to come back and do a presentation. I came back and told my story. I was very successful. that day, a Sunday – I made $575 selling my aprons in the parking lot. The Smithsonian invited me back.
What’s going on now?
I just started again after a break. My sabbatical increased my passion. My biggest project right now is to connect with the buyer for the National Women in the Arts Museum to sell my aprons in the shop. I’ve been preparing 20 aprons, and they are exceptional. I’m also planning a house party to show my aprons. I want to tell people how I translate the apron making into storytelling. It’s an art for me. My story has encouraged a lot of women, and not just women… also men. It has helped them see something inside that they never saw otherwise.
How can our readers connect with you? Can people invite you for a house party to show off your aprons?
I believe that donors, partners, alumni, and fellow entrepreneurs can really make an impact in each other’s lives if we had more meeting and one-on-one opportunities.
Contact me through Empowered Women International (mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org) or through Facebook:
More about Velma