Like many military spouses Kelly Fox had trouble finding a solid and steady career, so she took matters into her own hands - quite literally. In September of 2014, Fox took her love of crafts and sewing to a new level. She opened her Etsy store, Petite Etoile Shoppe, where she creates and sells her handmade skirts, scarves and kimonos. Her story is one of inspiration, faith and most importantly…passion.
Fox is a New England native who grew up in Connecticut and went on to study at the University of Maine. In 2012, she moved to Fayetteville with her husband who is a graduate of West Point. Before the move down south, the newfound seamstress was working in Manhattan at a hotel in the sales and marketing department. Once they landed in Fayetteville, she had trouble finding a job. Fox explained, “I worked at my church as the communication director, then I had my son and wanted to make sure that I was home for him consistently. Six months after his birth I missed working, so I started thinking of something I could do in my free time that was fun for me and wouldn’t be a chore.”
In high school, Fox worked at the clothing store American Eagle Outfitters and she almost attended the Fashion Institute of Technology, one of the leading fashion business and design schools in the country. She explained, “One day I went out and bought some fabric and made scarfs, after that I started my store. I’ve always liked creative marketing so it’s been fun to tie that in with my blog and shop. I also love working with other small businesses in the area.”
Petite Etoile Shoppe specializes in adorable printed skirts and soft, chic scarves. For the summer, Fox has diverged into the market of kimonos. A perfect beach throw or a light layer for a nighttime walk, the kimonos are both trendy and perfect for any summer occasion. Her creations are made with classic seams that will never go out of fashion. She is a firm believer in the mantra that it’s better to make a quality piece that’s going to last a long time than to make something a person will immediately toss into the back of their closet. The store’s aesthetic is clean lines, classic patterns and items that everyone can wear, no matter what shape or size. Fox explained her vision as “wanting to make people feel beautiful,” She continued, “whether it’s in my handmade clothes or helping people through my style blog, I want to show how they can feel better about themselves by pursing something or doing something that they love.”
Fox’s favorite resource is the online shopping website that hosts her shop, Etsy, a marketplace where people can sell their handmade products at the click of a mouse. One the websites best aspects its the tight-knit community and according to Fox, “the fact that mostly everything is handmade and original. I also love that customers and shop owners have a relationship, you can go back and forth, unlike ordering something from Nordstrom. It’s a good place to give feedback and get feedback.” Fox discovered Etsy because she was using it to purchase gifts and to buy her then-infant son’s shoes. With an influential resource at her fingertips and encouraging friends, Fox was inspired to sell her products online. She explained, “I have a lot of friends (and strangers) who are really enthusiastic about my creations. I like Etsy because it’s a search engine within a shop, if people are looking for handmade stuff, that’s where they are going to go.”
The name Petite Etoile Shoppe has a deeper meaning than “little star.” Fox majored in French literature and history in college. She came up with the name because she was trying to think of something French, easy to remember and inspirational.
She explained, “I wanted it to be something people could relate to – one with a special meaning. Everybody should be able to shine wherever they are. I spent a good year of my life married to my husband and really not happy with what was going on in my life and it took me a long time to realize to not be a victim of my circumstance. I would really like to empower other military spouses and other moms to find something they are passionate about and just do it. Stop thinking about doing it and do it.”
“Before I moved to Fayetteville, I was always a workaholic and it prevented me from realizing I had any hobbies,” said Fox, “Now, I’ve been sewing for eight months and I have established relationships with women from around the country who buy items from my shop!” She has both the experience of creatively marketing her products and a joie de vivre for innovation, so she can offer a lot of expertise when it comes to starting a small business. If you have a favorite pastime, whether it be making homemade soaps or crocheting hats, you can take that hobby and turn it into profit. Besides the initial drive to start an online shop, Fox’s tips include: “Don’t get discouraged if your shop doesn’t take off right away. Find a community of like-minded people to bounce ideas off of. Don’t let your store become an idol and don’t let your shop control you. Your shop, profile and Instagram can become an idol and become more important than what they actually are.”
While preparing to start her projects, Fox comes up with an idea of something she’d like to make and then she buys a giant roll of white paper. Next, she will trace a design on it, buy inexpensive fabric, test it out and make small tweaks to the design accordingly. With more than 35 items currently in her shop, Fox has found a way to keep her interests relevant and make some extra bucks on the side. Although running an Etsy shop and marketing her products is time consuming, she knows how to keep balance in her life. She explained, “I only sew when my son is napping or when he goes to bed. I have a list of things that are important to me that I always go by: God, family and business. Business is always last.”