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I am a Hudson Valley Parent: Sarah Omura



A momtrepreneur in a community of makers


Sarah Omura found her calling as a designer and entrepreneur - as a leading maker in the Hudson Valley's burgeoning "maker's world" - after her son Benjie was old enough to crawl and play.

"He got interested in cars and trains and I started looking around for things he could play on but couldn't find what I was looking for. So, I started to make him things," she recalls.

Crafting a business out of exactly what she wanted
Omura's company SOhandmade came into existence as others started asking about the play mats with roads and train tracks Benjie would unfurl whenever he wanted to play, or the storage rolls and utility belts he carried his cars and choo choos in.

READ MORE: Top tips from moms in business

"I've always been crafty. I went to art college and worked as a textile designer," says British-born Omura, who met and married her husband Peter while working in Peace Corps and its British variation in the African nation of Namibia a decade ago. "I did screen printing along the way and then realized I could do something different by making my own fabrics. I could design exactly what I wanted!"

Allow business to grow organically
The business started as an Etsy online shop, grew into a craft fair phenomenon and now has its own online presence at SOhandmade.com. Omura makes sure the materials she works with are organic and well-sourced; she finds that the parents who buy her creations appreciate such things, even when they cost a bit more.

"At first everything I was making was quite boyish, but then my daughter Phoebe came along and a whole line of girl things appeared," she adds. "I didn't raise the kids differently, but Phoebe was just so into dressing up, pretend play and unicorns."

Now, with the kids aged nine and five and both in school for full days, Omura is finally able to give herself over to SOhandmade full time. Her husband, a middle school math teacher, has always been able to look after Benjie and Phoebe when mom needs to attend a craft fair.

"It was all very challenging at first, getting the time to do anything," she adds. "But that in turn allowed everything to grow organically."

Using her past to find comfort in the present
That difference between the genders, Omura adds, was a surprise to her and her husband. But so was the sense of claustrophobia she had when first moving to the Hudson Valley from the desert-scapes of Namibia, where she and Peter would have loved to stay if they could.

Among her responsibilities in the Peace Corps was to teach groups of women how to make their crafts into marketable products for their nation's growing tourism industry. She eventually applied these lessons to her own
crafted product lines.

Now, Omura loves everything about her life in the Hudson Valley. She finds the village atmosphere of Woodstock comfortingly familiar to where she grew up on the southern coast of England. Her dentist dad did woodworking on the side and her nurse mother "was always making stuff." She loves the community of fellow makers she meets at crafts fairs throughout the area.

READ MORE: 10 strategies for working parents to create a balanced family life

Encouraging her children’s creativity with her own
As for the mix of her work and home life, Omura is pleased to have been able to work Benjie and Phoebe into her business as models. And just as importantly, to have helped their creativity with her own.

As her son moves into pre-teendom, she's having to explain to him why she can't infringe on others' copyrights by making Lego or Minecraft-like products.

She's looking to expand her lines by working with other maker-moms she's met. She is currently designing kids' scarves with a knitwear designer from further up into the Catskills.

"Things definitely speed up during certain times of year, especially around the holidays," Omura adds. "Etsy takes off with its sales and I end up at craft fairs every weekend up until Christmas."

Has she thought about hiring help?

Omura laughs. We joke about how much Phoebe loves helping out,
wondering whether such enthusiasm can be seen as a form of child labor.

"We'll see how things evolve naturally," she replies.

Paul Smart is a father who writes for a variety of publications in the Hudson Valley.


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