by Linda Bontrager, CEO
I will never forget the day I picked up a stamp for the first time. I had bought a little stamp set for my kids and I was showing them how to use it. I remember picking up the stamp, inking it and pressing it down on the paper. As I lifted the stamp and saw the image it was that 'AHH HA' moment. It was one of those moments in my life when I realized I had discovered something amazing and it would shape the course of the future.
Our family for generations back is old-order Amish. Growing up infused with tradition, legalism and living in a Northern Indiana rural farming community was not conducive to thinking 'outside the box' or 'being creative.' We did not have access to any stamp or scrapbook stores in the area and hiring a taxi to shop for stamps was not an option at the time. But the stamping bug had permanently bitten me.
A Growing Entrepreneurial Spirit
In 1997 we built a new house on our 80-acre farm. By this time I had accumulated a shoebox full of stamps from mail-order sources I found. Our family now had more space in our new home and I asked my husband if we could use a small corner of our dining room and get stamping products in for resale. I knew I had some family and friends who would love access to stamping products. I told him we'll just have a few stamps... maybe some ink, embossing powder, and cardstock.
That small start kept growing as word spread in our Amish community. Later that year we moved the store from the dining room to our attached porch area that was 16x20 feet. I have always enjoyed drawing and art, so the next step was designing my own line of stamps. Again I thought I would just do a few. This venture turned into several thousand images.
Around that time we started doing stamp conventions. We hired a taxi with a trailer and hauled our product to shows across the Midwest as a family. We built a large addition to our shop in 2002 and moved our retail store there.
A New Beginning
In the spring of 2004 we sold our Retail Store. We had also come to the realization at this time that who we are in Christ Jesus is not dependent on our dress code, our way of life, and everything else we had been so strictly taught all our life. So at the age of 41 we left the Amish way of life. My husband and I got our drivers' license along with our kids!! Was that scary? YES! We sold our farm and moved to another location.
In 2006 we started another retail store in Nappanee, Indiana (now closed) and in 2007 we started doing conventions again. At this time our daughter Emma Lou and her husband Richard were doing all the shows. As the oldest, Emma Lou always wanted to do everything I did. She was the one who insisted on doing the demoing when we set up at our first conventions. She started demoing glitter at the age of fourteen! Our second daughter, Ellen, started doing most of the shipping and making sure customers' packages were assembled correctly. Ellen would also help at some of the shows. Our youngest son, Harlan, was busy in college majoring in Communication Design. Our son-in-law Richard was doing all of our IT work at the time. My husband Willis was production manager and helped with shipping when we were in a crunch. And I, Linda, was kept busy designing.
An Innovative Idea
A few years after starting conventions again we were looking for a way to simplify the intricate process of cutting out stamped images by hand. Like any new idea, finding solutions was not an easy process. By trial and error we discovered how to match stamps with existing Spellbinders™ dies. Using coordinating stamps and dies, we changed the way people use our products...making stamping more fun and easier.
Where Are We Today?
We design unique line of coordinating stamps, dies and papers. Emma Lou excels in writing blogs, demoing at conventions nationwide, teaching, and demonstrating useful techniques in short instructive tutorials. Ellen works as Creative Administrator creating classes and coordinating travel. Harlan manages social media, marketing and also contributes to amazing artwork for stamps. Willis is the all-around handyman and ensures production is running smoothly. I am the main artist, the passionate scrapbooker and stamper, and the CEO.