Working in retirement

Posted January 8, 2014 at 10:12 am

Monticello woman hits it big with online business

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PHOTO: Diane Vick of Monticello shows off some of her apron styles she makes and sells on Etsy.com. Vick retired a few years ago and stays busy filling hundreds of orders from her online shop, “Lizzy’s Biz.” (Photos by Kim Brooks)

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PHOTO: Some of Vick’s most popular items she makes and personalizes include her aprons, travel pillows and pocket workout sweat towels. Vick does the sewing, while her daughter Missy Henderson, generates the ideas.

 

By Kim Brooks, Express Editor

Walking upstairs in Ray and Diane Vick’s home here in Monticello, anyone would be impressed by what you see. The Vicks turned the entire upstairs portion of their home into Diane’s workspace for her business, Lizzy’s Biz.

Vick and her husband Ray moved to town in September from Marion. Diane said they wanted to be closer to their grandchildren in town. When they lived in Marion, she simply used a spare bedroom as her craft and workroom. After their daughter, Missy Henderson, found a house for sale in town, Diane said they knew it was a perfect fit.

Lizzy’s Biz, named after Diane’s mother who was a pro in the kitchen, specializes in handmade aprons, among other one-of-a-kind items. Diane said the aprons she makes are her number one seller.

Working with her daughter, they each have a niche within the business, which has an online shop on the popular website Etsy.

“Missy is the creative one,” explained Diane. “She pairs the colors and fabric together and I do the sewing work.”

Working primarily with chevron patterns, Diane said the look is the big thing right now.

“Ninety percent of the aprons we make are from chevron,” she said.

Diane is a whiz at the sewing machine. She made her children’s clothes when they were growing up, something her mother did as well.

“I’ve been sewing for over 30 years,” she said. “My mom made quilts, so I was always around it.”

With her own mother cooking so much, Diane said she always wore aprons. That was the inspiration for Lizzy’s Biz.

“One thing just led to another,” Diane said of starting the business, even though she is now retired.

In 2008, Diane and Missy’s Etsy shop went live.

“We started selling a lot of items, until we’ve narrowed things down to our best-sellers,” explained Diane.

Along with the four styles of aprons she makes, you can also find personalized minky travel pillows, measuring 12-by-16 inches. Another popular items Diane specializes in are personalized pocket workout towels. Everything Diane makes is personalized for her customers. She sews a zipper pocket onto the towels, perfect for holding your keys, cell phone and iPod while at the gym, on the golf course or playing tennis outside. The towels measure 16-by-29 inches with an 8-by-8-inch pocket.

“People buy my items for all sorts of reasons like baby showers, wedding gifts or the holidays,” she said.

In fact, Diane’s business has boomed so much since 2008 that she has secured customers from all over the world! Her pocket workout towels were featured in the Australian Fernwood Fitness magazine. Her aprons were also featured in the Florida Ocala Style magazine as well.

“Both publications called me and said they saw my page on Etsy and asked if I would like to be included in their magazines,” Diane said of the rare opportunity. Both have led to increased sales and exposure for Lizzy’s Biz.

Still, at 62 years old, Diane stays busy with custom orders left and right. She’s made aprons for restaurants in California, for brides in New York and small shops all over the world who turn around and sell them again. Her merchandise has been sold in Japan, Australia, Norway, Guam, New Zealand, France and Ireland. One of her aprons was also worn by a contestant on Cupcake Wars, a popular reality TV show on the Food Network.

“It boggles my mind!” Diane said of her worldwide fame. She explained with overseas shipping costs so high, it definitely doesn’t bother people to pay the fees to have one of her creations. “The post office here has gotten used to me by now.” When shipping, Diane puts extra TLC into her packaging. Everything is wrapped and includes a personalized note, thanking the customer for their business. She also includes washing instructions as well, a nice afterthought.

“I am huge when it comes to customer service,” Diane said, something that is lacking when purchasing things online. Diane used to work for the Disney company at their store in Cedar Rapids, before it closed down. She was in charge of training employees, and she was a stickler for treating customers right.

She also notifies all of her customers when their order has been received, shipped and how to track it before it reaches their mailbox or doorstep.

Sitting down and talking with Diane, on occasion the sound of a cash register could be heard coming from cyberspace. She explained every time an order is placed on her Etsy page, her iPad registers the order.

Right before Thanksgiving, Diane was so inundated with orders that she had to shut down her site just to keep up and get orders out by Christmas.

“I’ve made 175 aprons since October,” she said.

Her biggest order to date was for 80 aprons for a sorority club’s fundraising event.

However, she doesn’t let Lizzy’s Biz run her life. She does take time to attend her grandkids’ school activities, and the Vicks travel to Hawaii during the year to get away. During that time, she also shuts down the site as well.

“I would get board if I wasn’t doing this,” she said of the work. “I don’t hesitate to have a life, though. I know what I can accomplish in a day.”

All of the work Diane puts into her products is top-notch.

“I stand by my work 100 percent! I want people to be happy with what they buy. It’s all about quality”

Everything is elegant looking, yet simple in design. The mother-daughter team works well together.

By reading over the reviews on her Etsy page, all of her customers, many repeats, have all been pleased with what they’ve received. Many comment on the quality, packaging and fast shipping.

To see all that Lizzy’s Biz has to offer, check out the Etsy page at www.lizzysbiz.etsy.com.

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