Before becoming the “Christmas Queen,” I never had visions of gumdrops dancing in my head, or the skill set to pursue commercializing them even if I did. My love of the Christmas season was passed down from my Grandmother Georgia. We spent every Christmas Eve and morning with her, and it was magical. Her house was not grand, tucked away in the small town of Poughkeepsie, Arkansas, but she believed in making the home eloquently warm and welcoming- anyone who walked into her house felt an immediate sense of belonging. I wanted that for my home and have discovered that desire is in everyone.
Growing up in Pine Bluff, Arkansas with both parents in education- my dad was a basketball coach and my mom was a kindergarten teacher-I had a fairly typical southern upbringing.
Teaching allowed me to freely use my creativity to make learning engaging. I am grateful to have gotten to teach my daughter- pictured here with me for a book project based on Narnia.
I went to college and, like many daughters, followed my parents’ lead and became a teacher. Teaching invigorated me- facilitating pathways for my students to conquer challenges that they themselves once believed impossible was the highlight of my career. After getting my Master’s in Reading, my passion became not only for my students to derive a love of reading, but to instill a love of learning in each child. Lifelong learning is my superpower. This led me to start teaching teachers at a collegiate level how to become superheroes themselves and to champion the love of learning for their students as well. Learning is the thoroughfare for change and reinvention, unlocking better versions of ourselves the more we know. So, I guess it’s not a surprise that I found myself wanting to expand this passion into fields outside of education. In hindsight, I was teaching kids and teachers to do what I am doing now.
Around 2015, my little sister, Emily Gemma, asked me to help her decorate her Christmas tree. That whimsical tree, influenced by my nontraditional mother’s good taste, with gorgeous black and white ribbon with eclectic patterns and a pop of color and glitz, went viral. The problem was: everyone wanted to know where the designer ribbon came from, but there were no online boutiques that we could link. As is often the case with problems, this birthed an entrepreneurial solution. While I envisioned timeless, tradition-breaking trees welcoming families into the Christmas season, I had no confidence that I was the woman who could be a part of making that a reality. Emily, however, believed in me from the beginning and, without her encouragement, Hello Holidays would still just be an idea discussed over chips and queso.
Beyond cheerleading support, my husband, Chad, saw my Christmas vision as an opportunity for me to capitalize on my creativity. He was more than willing to agree to risking our personal finances on my endeavor. To say I had a phobia of failing is an understatement. In March of 2018, I remember crying all the way home from Dallas Market (where I meticulously chose high-quality designer ribbon to stock my store with), berating myself for being so reckless with our money.
In November, my store went live online and my sister shared Hello Holidays with the world. My anxiety was lessened when, while sitting at my daughter’s soccer game, I heard the first dings from my website notifying me that people were placing orders. I’ll never forget my first order: Heather from St. Louis bought two rolls of black/white foil striped ribbon (which sold out that first year) and one roll of the glitter diamond jester pattern. It was so humbling to realize that other people liked what I liked and found my products worthy to help make their holiday season magical.
While my house was filled with boxed orders and I made frequent trips to the post office, it became obvious that this was more than a side-hustle. A wise mentor put it into perspective when he quoted the repeated advice on Shark Tank: Go all in. Thus, I stepped away from what I thought would be my lifelong career of teaching and “Merry Making” became my full-time business. With tree decorating requests coming in from all over the country, I knew I needed help. Enter the MerryMakers: people just like me with an eye for Hello Holiday’s flare.
Although we’ve outgrown my garage and are expanding into other holidays and reasons to celebrate, I still feel an emotional connection to every order. When Hello Holidays decor decorates a home, it’s like a welcome mat for Christmas Magic. It is fulfilling for me to be a small contributor to that magic and to bring out the spark of it in others. If Hello Holiday's products can help make someone comfortable enough in their space to have the confidence to invite others in, to help foster that universal sense of belonging that we are all looking for, then I have accomplished my goal. Together is just a better place to be.