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Cover Story

Walnut Animal Society

Lauren Bradshaw

Photo: Rob Bartlett, License: N/A

Rob Bartlett

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Lauren Bradshaw's whimsical menagerie of animal friends – Henry the Fox and his pals – hit that crucial balance between sweet huggability and pristine construction. They're not so much a toy you'd put in the crib with a baby, more something you'd put on a shelf as decor; but once baby grows up, "they're good tea-party size," Bradshaw says. "And they sit up well."

The brand's twee, cottagey feel is the yin to the yang of Bradshaw's business acumen; Walnut Animal Society grew out of the astute realization that her first handmade products, needle-felted birds and cake toppers, required too much of her time (and her own hands) to ever be a scalable business, whereas a stuffed animal could be sewn by others and still retain her personal stamp.

Their almost immediate success took the fledgling company by surprise, and they're ramping up efforts to meet the demands of their first full holiday season. "I just learned that retailers and magazines start to think about Christmas in July," Bradshaw says, laughing. "I don't want to jinx it, but …" – here she drops the name of a national clothing and housewares retailer known to weaken the knees and wallets of women who appreciate all things vintagey/boho/handmade – "just placed an order for October. So we're ordering fabric in larger and larger quantities, trying to get ready for that." They've bought up all the orange wool – two different shades – their fabric supplier makes in the last few months, and Bradshaw is looking forward to the day that she's using enough to be able to order a custom dye lot.

FOUNDED: December 2011

"I was looking and looking online for a fox stuffed animal for my son, or even a pattern for one." Bradshaw realized if no one else was doing it, maybe she should. Designing the pattern "was way harder than I imagined – it kept me up at night. I would just go to sleep trying to figure it out in my head."

"I loved to sew when I was little. I've been crafting and sewing my whole life … [but] I majored in business at UCF."

Bradshaw used to work at Full Sail University, but quit shortly after having her son. She knew she wanted to build a business out of handmade, something she could do at home.

Close to 30 hours per week, mostly "while [my son] is asleep … during naps, at night."

EMPLOYEES: Bradshaw farms out sewing assignments to "a few local ladies" and has a business partner-investor.

SOLD: on their website, and at eight or nine retail shops: "A couple in New York, one in California, and in Hong Kong, Australia
and Korea."

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