No Day of Rest for GirlSunday Designs; Making Lunches a Little Greener

Originally published Aug. 18, 2010 in the Daily Sound.

There’s no doubt that the Internet has been a boon to the entrepreneurial minded, not just the tech-heavy services, but for decidedly non-tech business as well. Etsy.com, an online marketplace for handcrafted goods, was founded in 2005 with the mission of enabling “people to make a living making things, and to reconnect makers with buyers.” And that’s where anyone with an Internet connection can find Santa Barbara’s Susan Torrey and her venture, GirlSunday Designs. Torrey’s Etsy store (www.etsy.com/shop/GirlSundayDesigns) opens her to a consumer base beyond Santa Barbara, and increases the viability of what is currently a part-time, home-based business. But for those who’d prefer to observe the quality of GirlSunday’s handcrafted, kid- and family-focused products up close, they can certainly do so locally.

GirlSunday Designs’ main product line — bright and whimsical cloth-based replacements for disposable plastic sandwich and snack bags — can be found in local stores, including Peanuts Maternity & Kids in Santa Barbara and June Bug Baby Boutique in Solvang.

“Our customers are crazy about the GirlSunday line, especially the snack bags,” said Peanuts’ Nicki Zuchowicz Horne. “One customer gives a snack bag with all of her birthday presents.”

The snack bags are food-safe nylon, washable, and employ Velcro to ensure snacks, sandwiches, or whatever you like stay “locked,” even minus the plastic version’s “zip.”

While Torrey is passionate about her projects and products, GirlSunday was not some dream she pursued with a laser-like focus from the get-go. Rather, a series of fortunate events provided the initial spark. Completing a Santa Barbara City College sewing course, taken only at the urging of a friend who didn’t want the class canceled on low enrollment, gave Torrey the sewing skills she never knew she’d need.

Torrey had been using plastic zip bags when packing lunches for her four-year-old daughter, Sophia (“Fia for short”). In an effort to be greener, she made a habit of washing the disposable bags. Even so, she recognized it as “a waste all the same.”

“I said ‘I’ll just make my own’,” she recalled, utilizing her recently acquired skills from the SBCC course to do so. Shortly thereafter (about 18 months ago) came her first snack bag prototypes.

A friend with a child attending a different preschool than Fia — one with a “green lunch” (no waste) policy — showed interest right away, and helped spread the word among other parents at that school. Torrey also received some positive feedback when attending craft fairs. Suddenly, a personal project had the makings of a business, appealing both to parents cognizant of being a little greener and those whose children’s schools required them to be so. Although Torrey may well have nailed a large part of the appeal when she proclaims them to be “so stinkin’ cute.”

Torrey’s family is no stranger to entrepreneurship; Torrey cites her mother (real estate; importing) and her grandmother (ownership of a general merchandise store) as inspiration. The name GirlSunday Designs, in fact, pays homage to her mother’s maiden name, Domingo (Spanish for Sunday).

GirlSunday also offers bibs, burp cloths, and fabric covered ponytail holders, which Horne describes as “adorable” and says “are snatched up by locals and tourists alike,” at Peanuts Maternity & Kids.

Torrey gets much of her material online, but does keep it local when possible, using some material from Craft Essentials in Santa Barbara and Fabric Quarter in Goleta.

Torrey has an idea of where she wants to take the business if the cards fall the right way. Ideally, she says she’d ramp up the scale by employing production help so that she could concentrate on sales and designs. The challenge, Torrey says, is in finding the time, between being a wife, being a mom to her four year old, and her day job, working part time as a media buyer for a local company. Her solution is “lots of late nights,” and Torrey regrets that she doesn’t have as much time as she’d like to promote GirlSunday, which she refers to as her “neglected second child.”

So, for now, her expansion plans are relatively modest, rolling out new, larger sandwich-size bags to complement the snack-size ones — even as she envisions a day where her entrepreneurial aspirations translate to having more control over her schedule and financial future.

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