Grant Recipient

December 17, 2021

Bonus $25,000 Grant Awarded To StepStitches

StepStitches

Woman Entrepreneur:
Stephanie Dean

Amber Grant Winner Update

Some super exciting news for our January 2021 Amber Grant winner, Stephanie Dean, founder of StepStitches:

Stephanie was recognized in November by Oprah Winfrey in “Oprah’s Favorite Things” for her Cinnamon Annie Dolls.

Yes, the same Cinnamon Annie Dolls that caught the attention of our WomensNet judges back in January!!

To help Stephanie with the oncoming rush of orders, we gave her another grant of $25,000. And after few weeks, we caught up with her via Zoom to check in and see how her life and business were going.  Here is what she had to share with us — and you!!

Video Transcript

WomensNet: Hi everyone. This is Jama Hernandez, and I am so excited because today we are going to be chatting with Stephanie Dean from StepStitches. So you may remember her from January; she was our January $10,000 Amber Grant winner.

And we are so excited because she got in touch with us about some awesome news. So we did award Stephanie a supplemental Amber Grant. And we’re gonna find out all the amazing things that have been happening since January. So we’re beginning with you and now we’re ending the year with you. What’s been going on?

Stephanie: So much I have to stop and think about it. But…my business is StepStitches and I make and sell Cinnamon Annie dolls. And so a lot has been going on since I won the $10,000 grant, which was a phenomenal boost for my business, in so many ways. A few of the things that I was able to do was, I was able to publish 2 books this year. One was a children’s book. And then I was also, especially with the $10,000 grant, able to recently publish a companion coloring book to the children’s book.

I used the same illustrator to just expand out the book into coloring book form. So that was a big thing that the grant definitely helped with. And so, um, wow. Then, as the year rolled on, I got a chance to participate in some markets and things like that.

I was able to get a really nice sew machine and cutting equipment. Scissors are very important, so really high quality scissors, all sorts of things that just help out in the studio. And also, you know, since the holiday season is my biggest season, as far as sales is concerned, you know, I was able to really prepare for the holiday season a lot better know one, the biggest things was I was able to do was to hire a seamstress well. She helped with making some of the dresses and things like that for the dolls, which was an enormous thing.

So that was a huge help because my business was featured as one of Oprah’s Favorite Things. So that was an amazing thing that happened. It was so unexpected. I tell everybody, I was just basically minding my business, minding my own business, and I got an email and I think it was early August….

I didn’t really pitch them or anything like that. They contacted me. So you kind of go through process and all of that. So on November 1st — that’s when all of that started, it was featured in Oprah’s Favorite Things, which is a phenomenal kind of thing. It is amazing. It was stressful because you gotta get prepared in a way that I wasn’t necessarily thinking like before. It was very affirming though, you know, to be recognized like that. But the grant was just instrumental in me being able to, to do that, you know, and not be strained by it financially.

WomensNet: Well, that is so exciting. To be recognized by Oprah and some of her favorite things in that November issue was amazing. And we’re so happy that it was all positive for your business. And more importantly, we’re so happy that you had the chance to prepare well with better equipment, with some help, because that really helped get you to where you are.

Stephanie: It has. When you have that kind of support, you’re able to make better decisions. Equipment things and materials. You would not believe how much material, how many supplies it takes to make this one little doll…as far as fabrics and threads and yards and stuff. I mean, there’s so much that goes into that. So many different materials that go into that one doll. And so it is been life altering.

WomensNet: Well, you’ve certainly put in the work. I remember during your last interview, you talked a lot about customer service being at the heart of your business and really honoring that. So we can see that all your hard work is really just paying off and keeping you quite busy.

Stephanie: Busy is the word right now, but the whole year’s been busy, especially now, so it’s been quite the journey. From starting just as a hobby… just for fun. I never thought when I first started making dolls, I never thought that someone would want to buy [them]. I just couldn’t imagine anybody else would want this type of doll, such a vintage doll. I just thought they really cute and a lot of fun to make. When I was a little girl, I was like a real big doll lover. And I did have a doll like that.

So it just kind of grew from there, just basically organically.

WomensNet: I know that you had an Etsy store. Do you still sell through Etsy primarily?

Stephanie: Yes. I sell through Etsy primarily. I also have my website stepstitches.com where you can find out information. But primarily I sell through Etsy now. With Oprah’s Favorite Things I had to open up an Amazon page.

My goal after all this [the Holiday season] is over in January to continue to stay on Etsy and to add my own product selling pages to my website. So now when you go to my website, you get all the information. When, when you click shop, it takes you to my Etsy shop. But I wanted to add my own page, directly through my website, as well as through Etsy.

WomensNet: We can also find your books there?

Stephanie: Yes, they’re on Amazon. I sell them directly through my shop through Etsy right now. And then it’ll be through my own website also.

WomensNet: Great. And how can WomensNet fans, supporters, all of us help to support you?

Stephanie: I tell people now to pray for me more than ever. I think I’m learning that you actually need to be more spiritually grounded and you have more need in a sense of prayer and spirituality when you’re kind of at the high. Because even though it’s a high, there’s still so many things that come with that. You know, there are a couple of sayings that come to mind, and I don’t know where these came from. But one is called new levels, new devils.

The more issues and problems is wonderful, but it’s not problem free. You come upon issues and things that you hadn’t had to consider in the past, but when you weren’t quite as big or doing quite as much. So, so those were, that was an unexpected surprise.

WomensNet has been fantastic. Just wonderful, and the things that you do for businesses and women-owned businesses in particular is really phenomenal and much needed. So I definitely appreciate it. You definitely have made a true impact this year on my business, most definitely.

WomensNet: We’re so excited about everything that you’re doing and your products, and we just love you. The challenges we know are there, but we know that that you’re gonna come out stronger and with some skills, and then you’ll be able to mentor others women and girls. And so we’re so excited to continue hearing about you. We were so excited to get the update. So thank you for keeping us posted with what’s been going on with your business. It’s really important for us to know these things because we love to cheer you on too.

Stephanie: I appreciate it.

WomensNet: Stephanie, really thank you for all of your hard work. You bring a lot of joy to many families’ homes. That’s why you keep getting doll orders, and all sorts of orders. You really do bring a lot of happiness. And so thank you for bringing happiness, especially in some of these troubling times that we’re all going through right now with this pandemic. So thank you. We look forward to seeing what 2022 will bring.

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Forbes

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“The Amber Grant Foundation was launched in 1998 to honor the memory of a young woman. The grant was formed to help women entrepreneurs reach their goals when Amber could not.”