It all started with a tutu and a mom’s desire for her unique daughter to have something unique to wear.
Missi Jean’s daughter, Ava, was born with Down Syndrome on Down Syndrome Day (March 21, 2014) and has a heart defect. She wanted to dress her sweet daughter in something besides the typical “Wal-Mart clothing” that all of the other children were wearing.
So, she crafted a tutu for Ava and posted a photo on social media of her daughter wearing the tutu.
Instantly, her friends wanted Missi to make tutus for their children, and a business was born.
Tutu Little, named after Ava because her nickname is “Little,” has now expanded to include onesies, tutu dresses, baby shoes, pants and her extremely popular unicorn outfits, which have recently boosted her sales by 157 percent!
Starting a Businesses
Prior to starting Tutu Little, Missi worked in retail and had recently managed a retail store.
When Ava was born, her life turned upside down. Not only was she adjusting to a newborn, but she was adjusting to parenting a child with special needs.
“We didn’t find out for sure that she had Down Syndrome until the day she was born,” Missi said of Ava. “With her being my first child, it was already a whirlwind, and we knew from what the doctor said that her immune system would be weaker.”
Because of Ava’a health concerns, Missi had hoped to stay home with Ava for as long as possible. So, when the tutu orders started coming in, it was a blessing.
“At first, I didn’t know this was going to turn into a business,” she said. “When it did, it was a happy surprise.”
The business, which she operates from her home in Grand Island, allowed her the flexibility to take Ava to six physical therapy sessions per week and other doctors appointments yet still bring in an income.
Missi is also a single mom and is grateful for the help her parents provide in watching her children (she now has a two-year-old son, Eli) and with the sewing and operating a home-based business.
Missi said she learned to sew from her mom and grandma. She and her mom sew all of the clothing for Tutu Little and ship them around the world to places like New Zealand, England, Canada, Puerto Rico, Germany and Australia.
She has spent countless hours learning Photoshop and refining her sewing skills by researching and reading. She also joined GROW Nebraska, a non-profit organization that exists to support and empower local entrepreneurs. Missi sells Tutu Little clothing at the GROW Nebraska store in Kearney.
She learned great business tips from GROW Nebraska’s monthly training opportunities, including a session about becoming licensed to sell Husker-themed clothing.
“I was blown away by how complicated everything is with trademarks,” she said. “The trainings helped so much in that aspect of the business.”
Unicorns & Superheroes
While the business first started with tutu’s, Missi has a keen eye for keeping up on the latest trends. She is often asked to make birthday party outfits and noticed a trend with unicorns. She created her popular unicorn outfit to fill multiple requests for unicorn-themed birthday clothing. The outfit includes rainbow sparkly leggings, a tutu, a shirt that can be personalized with the child’s name and an elaborate matching headband complete with a unicorn horn.
“They can have the full matching outfit for their birthday or they can just wear it for fun or play or whatever they want to do,” Missi said.
She also makes a lot of superhero outfits, newborn hospital homecoming outfits, Halloween costumes (including the popular Wonder Woman outfit) and other special occasion clothing.
With the holidays coming up, Missi is ready to bring on the glitter.
“For Christmas, we do a lot more glitter and sparkle and a lot more red and green,” she said. “We will be doing red and green tutus. And, we will probably do some really sparkly outfits for New Year’s.”
She sells her clothing on her Etsy shop (www.etsy.com/shop/tutulittles) mainly in sizes 2T to Age 6.
For more information or to order, visit Tutu Little on Etsy or on the TuTu Little Facebook page.