From Initial Inspiration to Sustaining Success

Jennifer Ledford, owner of Initial Inspiration in Waynesboro, VA, sets up a shirt for embroidering. Photo by Norm Shafer.

Initial Inspiration runs what founder and owner Jennifer Ledford calls an “Idea Factory.”  Curious customers with t-shirt concepts, costume ideas, Pinterest images, embroidery designs, and more are welcomed into the business’s production studio for collaborative and personalized fabric and design creations. “If you’ve seen it on the Internet,” she says, “We can make it here.”  With full service color printing on everything from fabric to vinyl, productions runs from one to many thousands, and a retail storefront full of personalizable gift items, your wardrobe and accessories can be as uniquely customized as your imagination.

Growing Up in Waynesboro

Jennifer began her creative embroidering and printing business in her Waynesboro home 17 years ago. She was inspired by a quilting hobby, an embroidery machine, and a friend who requested she make a patch for their son’s backpack. With these simple ingredients, she said “I knew I could make this into a business.”

Laurie Lafferty peels off part of a vinyl overlay that will go on one of their products at Initial Inspiration in Waynesboro, VA. Photo by Norm Shafer.

Then called Kids & Sew On, she opened her first storefront on Wayne Avenue right downtown, during the 2007 Fall Foliage Art Show. Expanding beyond monograms and embroidery, she added vinyl and full color digital printing as well as rhinestones.

The business’s “Growing Up” year arrived in January 2011, when it moved to a downtown Main Street location, adopted the new name Initial Inspiration, added production space, and officially expanded beyond a kids-focus to include jewelry and lines like Scout Bags and Simply Southern. Today they offer monograms on in-store and customer-supplied items like baby blankets and wedding presents; custom embroidery and printing for sports teams, major events, companies, and schools; and a customer service philosophy that complements their product line: Make It Personal!

 

Finding the Perfect Fit

Six years ago, Initial Inspiration decided to fully invest in downtown Waynesboro and bought their 412 West Main Street building.

“My business doesn’t fit anywhere else,” says Jennifer. “We’re not a strip mall business. We provide personal attention, customizations, and more. The architecture downtown matches the culture of our business.”

Fellow downtown businesses became part of a cross-referral network for Initial Inspiration. Mountain Laurel Studio provided the graphic design for Initial Inspiration’s signs and car wrap. Their downtown landlords partnered with the expanding business for customized buildout in their rental years. “For my business to be part of downtown, it means I’m part of a greater whole,” says Jennifer. “I see the potential here. There’s been so much that’s happened in the last ten years, and so much that’s on the verge of happening still.”

 

Jennifer Ledford, owner of Initial Inspiration wearing shirt from her Dare to Be line. Photo by Norm Shafer.

Following Her Own Advice

Asked what advice she might have for fellow entrepreneurs, Jennifer says use available community resources and grow gradually — expanding inventory, enlarging your footprint, and taking on new lines after initial successes provide the momentum to do so.

Thus, 17 years after Jennifer Ledford launched her initial business, she’s launching her second one with business planning support from the Staunton Creative Community Fund and by using the resources of Initial Inspiration to build connections and to showcase her new products. Her new clothing and accessories line hopes to “Inspire women to shine through their own stories.” Featuring graphically designed calls such as Dare to Shine, Dare to Be Grateful, Date to Be Joyful, and Dare to Be Blessed, these new items are available at both her downtown storefront and in a growing number of Hallmark stores as word and enthusiasm for them spreads.

Newly launched Dare to Be line. Photo by Norm Shafer.

Through it all, Jennifer says the most rewarding part has been the support of her community. “Owning a small business isn’t easy. I couldn’t do it if people didn’t come into my shop, to experience this as a place to purchase their most intimate and thoughtful gifts,” she says, referencing the many baby blankets and bridal shower gifts that have passed through her hands over the years. “It really was a partnership that created this space.”

 

To learn more about Initial Inspiration, visit them online at www.initialinspiration.com or at their downtown storefront at 412 West Main Street, Waynesboro, Virginia.  To learn more about Jennifer’s fellow entrepreneurs who are growing and creating Waynesboro’s local economy, check back regularly at www.growwaynesboro.com for their stories and interviews.

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