When school restarted this year and the pandemic was raging, a couple of memes were making the rounds. One showed a young child wearing a mud-strewn mask, reapplied after it fell into the playground dirt. Another showed a kid explaining to his mom how he and three friends traded masks like they might swap toy cars. Neither inspired confidence about controlling the spread of Covid, but they generated a knowing chuckle from parents.
Susan Fairchild understood the struggle. While on family vacation in Colorado over the summer, she found herself constantly nudging children Emma, Madeline and Graham about forgetting or dropping or mixing up their masks. They lost four in Rocky Mountain National Park, and she was constantly washing the rest. With school about to start and masks required to return, Fairchild knew she had to get creative.
Fairchild crafted colorful beaded lanyards to secure masks during eating, exercise and other “off” times. Before long, all the kids’ friends at Scofield Christian School wanted lanyards, and Fairly Fancy was born.
“I have always enjoyed crafting and had many beads and supplies on hand to try and fashion something together,” explained Fairchild. “I knew it would need to be cute and unique, but light weight if they would be wearing it 8 hours a day at school. I created several designs – the Pinky Pie, the Girly Girl and the Teacher in their school colors – and called them their ‘mask necklaces.’ My girls loved theirs and asked me to create more for their cousins and friends. I was pleasantly surprised when my 4-year-old boy couldn’t wait to wear his, too (the Ol’ Sport), thanks to the football beads. They were suddenly excited about wearing their masks to school when a few days prior on vacation it had been a fight.”
Fairchild didn’t plan to market the lanyards until a photo of the kids wearing them became a hit on Instagram.
“I got probably 15 DMs asking ‘What are those mask holder thingys, and where did you get them?’ I thought, ‘Is this a thing? Would people buy them?’”
Fairchild was new to being an entrepreneur, but she’s always been a go-getter. She left her career in sales in 2011 when Emma was born and got involved in the Lake Highlands Early Childhood PTA, Moms of Preschoolers, the LHUMC youth program, and Scofield’s parent-teacher group. She recently served as president of the LH Junior Women’s League.
“Fairly Fancy has taught me that you can’t plan for everything, and that it’s OK to just dive in with your idea. I’m a classic over-thinker who likes to re-plan my plan, but for this I saw how much interest there could be and decided – why not?! There are more companies coming out with their own cute lanyards now, but, at the time, I only found one other company out there. If I had waited to plan, I might have missed a window and told myself there is no need for my idea anymore. Within 24 hours, I went from posting a picture of my kids to starting a business on Instagram. I thought maybe my mom and a few friends would want one, but within a week, I’d received 100 orders. On Day 2 I had someone I didn’t know DM me to order and ask if I can ship to Georgia. I cannot tell you how thrilled I was.”
Fairchild created an Etsy shop to facilitate the process of ordering and shipping. Within 4 days, she had another 100 orders. So far, she’s made about 700 lanyards, and she added bracelet creations – an idea by her daughters. She produces every lanyard and bracelet by hand.
“I began in my dining room and have now created an office in our guest room. The biggest challenge is keeping my helpers entertained as I work, but also involved so they can be a part of the fun, too. I still feel new to what I’m doing and don’t always have the best work-life balance yet, but I am learning every day. The most rewarding thing is having my children be just as excited as I am watching Fairly Fancy grow.”
Fairchild credits her husband, Ian, with serving as in-house accountant, tax advisor, legal counsel and HR director during the launch. Friends helped promote the business and cheer her on, she said.
“Lake Highlands is such a wonderful place to start up whatever your passion is,” said Fairchild. “There is an amazing community of working mothers who are so supportive to embrace each other and lift one another up. Whether it is offering their expertise and guidance, or cross promoting, or having a genuine excitement for one another as everyone has successes – it’s been wonderful to have those connections and yet another reason that makes this community so unique and special.”
And Fairchild has advice for others considering launching a small business from home – go for it.
“You have a unique skill or product that only you can offer, so put it out there for everyone to enjoy. You will never be able to plan for every variable that you’ll encounter, so, at some point, all you can do is start. I am still figuring things out, but how much would I have missed out on if I had waited and watched?”
Most Fairly Fancy lanyards cost around $20 and may be personalized for another $5. Shipping is about $3 or you may arrange for an LH pick up. You can shop and order online here.