A fashion faux pas at a Husker football game turned into a successful business for a young Lincoln woman.
When Hayley Stamper was 16, her dad took her to a Husker football game.
“Not only was I wearing a generic screen-print tee, but I was also matching with a group of grown adults, mostly men,” Hayley said of her attire that fall day. “That’s not something a 16-year-old wants to notice. So, that was my problem, and I needed a solution.”
The next week, she bought a black Hanes sweatshirt at Target and planned to create a better Husker shirt in her clothing and textile design class at Pius X High School in Lincoln, where she was a sophomore.
She borrowed some scraps of polka-dotted material she found in her mom’s craft room, cut it in the shape of Nebraska and sewed it on the black sweatshirt for her class project.
She was just happy she had a new Husker shirt. But, when her friends saw the cute shirt she had made, they wanted one, too.
“After about a month, it seemed like everyone at Pius, even the teachers and faculty, had a sweatshirt from me,” she said. “And at that time, I only had three designs, and it was all on a black sweatshirt.”
She continued making the shirts for the next year as a hobby.
But soon, the fast-talking young entrepreneur who used to paint bricks and sell them to her neighbors, realized she had stumbled upon the beginning of a successful business.
Now, at age 20, Haley is the owner of the successful H. Flynn apparel business that employs nearly 20 people and provides women with stylish and unique shirts that set them apart from the crowd. In addition to her own website, her apparel is sold at Scheels stores in Lincoln and Omaha and at more than 40 boutiques across the Midwest. Next month, she will open a store at Lincoln’s Gateway Mall.
How Her Business Grew
After Hayley’s first few years of making shirts as a hobby, she decided to take it up a notch. A neighbor introduced her to a wholesale website where she could buy shirts in bulk. She discovered a whole new world of design possibilities that expanded beyond the basic black Hanes sweatshirt.
She took her new designs to a craft show in Lincoln and sold out in an hour. She invested her profits into making more shirts, and a business was born.
“It just started as a hobby of mine, and I never thought it would go anywhere,” Hayley said. “It was just me making a shirt for my friends.”
She had spent her childhood watching and learning from her dad, Dave Stamper. His company, Glass Edge, has offices in Lincoln and Norfolk and employs about 75 people. His company’s work is featured at the Pinnacle Bank Arena, Memorial Stadium, the Cooper YMCA and at many other major venues in Lincoln and beyond.
“I watched him as I grew up,” she said. “I just really admired his hard work and his work ethic. I don’t know the last time he took his day off. He just really loves his work.”
Her dad was there to advise her on marketing, legal issues and other questions as she worked to grow her business.
She also learned about persistence and put that character trait to work when she would spend her evenings emailing stores and boutiques every night to encourage them to sell her apparel.
“In the beginning, I had about 10 people bite,” she said. “Now, I don’t reach out to them. It’s all of them reaching out to me.”
Understanding the Market
Flynn customers are typically women ages 20-50, and they are drawn to Hayley’s designs because they are unique and can be customized.
“People, I have learned, are tired of the generic tees, and they are tired of matching with their husbands who are sitting in the stands with them,” Hayley said. “The way we customize the apparel does really appeal to our customers. Women are looking for something other than the generic tee that they’ve always had.”
Customers choose their shirt style and then select from more than 800 different fabrics and 1,000 stencils for the design. The fabric is cut and appliqued on and then sewn to last. Nebraska and high school sports team apparel are popular among her fans. Hats, blankets, beach towels, stadium seats, beach bags and other products can also be customized. She also sells youth and infant apparel, including onesies.
In October, Hayley launched her line of breast cancer awareness apparel. Twenty percent of proceeds from the sale of the apparel will be donated to the Susan G. Komen Foundation.
The Future of H. Flynn
Hayley is currently studying business at Southeast Community College in Lincoln and will graduate in March with a degree in business administration. She is also engaged to be married, and they are building a house.
She manages her busy schedule with the help of about 20 employees: 10 full-time designers who work at the downtown Lincoln store, four full-time seamstresses and four part-time seamstresses plus the new staff she recently hired to work at the Gateway Mall location. Several employees are in their teens and twenties, while others are grandmas.
“We are like a close-knit family,” she said of her employees.
She’s learned to trust her employees so she can keep some sort of balance in her life.
“The hardest part for me was giving my job to other people and then hoping they do it the right, which so far it’s been good,” she said.
Hayley works about 10-12 hours a day, waking up at 5:30 a.m. to start sewing. Then she works at the downtown location from about 9 a.m.-5 p.m. After supper, it’s more sewing. Her fiancé is supportive of her business and often comes over and studies alongside her when she’s sewing.
“We don’t get out as much as I’d like to, but that’s fine with me,” Hayley said. “I just like spending time at the store. I like the atmosphere. I like what we’ve built. On the weekends if I have nothing else to do, I will come down and clean.”
The store, located at 711 J St. in Lincoln, is actually the production facility. During the week, it’s a work zone for designing apparel. But on weekends and other occasions, it’s easily converted into a store or a place for bachelorette parties or other events.
The website is where most of H. Flynn’s business takes place. But, the company’s presence in retail stores continues to expand. H. Flynn apparel can be found in Scheels locations in Lincoln and Omaha, at The Fort western store, in 40 boutiques across the country and soon at the new H. Flynn store at Gateway Mall.
Hayley won the mall’s first ever “The Challenge: Battle of the Pop-Up” contest, which gives her six months of free space in the Gateway Mall.
Hayley hopes to continue the Gateway store after the six months and then continue to expand H. Flynn stores to Omaha and beyond.
With stores full of clothes to choose from, the girl who once felt out of style at a Husker game will never feel that way again. And, she is grateful for the wise advice her parents once gave her:
“They always told me to pick something you like, and you’ll never work a day in your life,” Hayley said. “And, so far, they’ve been right.”
For more information, visit the H. Flynn website at www.hflynndesigns.com or H. Flynn Designs on Facebook.