In 2004, while roommates at Bowdoin College, we decided to start a company that offered needlepoint belts. We had each been gifted a needlepoint belt from our then girlfriends and became intrigued with these unique accessories. After looking to buy finished belts, we realized that there wasn’t a company that featured these timeless items. From the start, our goal was to make the belts more available, attractive and affordable. We had always shared an entrepreneurial spirit and after discovering a concept that we were passionate about, we started working on the idea that has become Smathers & Branson®.
Our biggest challenge was finding and training skilled artisans. With our options quickly running out, we decided to spend the fall in Vietnam. Meeting our stitchers face to face enabled us to perfect our product to meet the high quality standards we set. Without realizing it we had laid the groundwork for a cottage industry that, within a few years, would employ and provide opportunities for thousands of people. As our company continues to grow, we have the satisfaction that our artisan’s level of success grows as well.
We began testing the market in the spring of 2005, and quickly, the once treasured gift became the engine of a growing business. The positive response to the needlepoint belts allowed us to expand to a full line of needlepoint accessories. Through our licensing agreements, we now offer needlepoint products for many of the nation’s best universities and colleges, Major League Baseball teams, and fraternities and sororities. In addition, we can create custom products with unique patterns for schools, clubs, and organizations as well as one of a kind Life Belts® and monogrammed products.