What started as a thoughtful birthday gift could end up being one McPherson College student’s first career, thanks to the grant she received through the Horizon Fund.
Last year Brittney Shoulders, sophomore, Rialto, Calif., was surprised by her boyfriend with a purse made from vinyl designed for an automotive interior. Austin Grabowski, junior, Upland, Calif., is an automotive restoration major and created the purse for her with extra time he had in his upholstery class. Shoulders received numerous compliments on it, so Grabowski followed up with a second purse to match the interior of the 1963 Thunderbird he was customizing. The look was striking, with the flash and attraction of the seats in a beautiful classic car.
“They’re different,” Shoulders said of the purses. “You’ve never seen something like that. You can’t just walk into a store and buy something like this.
After the positive comments received on that purse, Shoulders and Grabowski thought they had a good idea, but didn’t know how to proceed. Shoulders is majoring in business management and has always wanted to own a business, but wasn’t sure what her business would be.
Fortunately, about that same time the college introduced the Horizon Fund, offering students grants of up to $500 to pursue a great idea. Shoulders went for it, learning how to design and sew the vinyl purses herself and applying for Horizon Grant funds. She has since received two grants as she’s continued to advance in her plans for her business, which she calls Cherry Doll Retro Purses.
Shoulders said thanks to that boost from the Horizon Fund and help from faculty and staff – such as Kori Gregg, executive director of entrepreneurship – she’s close to being able to make Cherry Doll her first career. Coming to McPherson College made the difference.
“I wouldn’t have the motivation from people who know the possibilities,” she said. “It’s put me up on a higher level. It would probably just be an idea in my head, but now we’re making it a reality.”
Shoulders has developed a business plans and is in the process of establishing patents and trademarks for the purses. Her next step is to establish a manufacturing process for a line of stock handcrafted purses, hire employees and set up a permanent dedicated website for the purses. Shoulders also plans to continue doing custom orders as well, possibly teaming up with Grabowski to create custom purses as a package deal to match the custom restorations he completes.
Currently, Shoulders is taking custom orders on a limited basis via her Facebook page until the full business is up and running.
“It’s turning into a huge thing in a very short amount of time,” Shoulders said. “There’s so much in front of me and it could get so big, so fast.”