BETHEL — Emma Kozlowski is busy these days. She is expecting her first child in June, works a full-time job, is a board member of the Scotty Fundand is trying to bring her design business nationwide within the year.
For Kozlowski, 26, her business is more than putting a product in a box and shipping it out. Emma Lyn Designs products — including clutches, wristlets, lanyards and key fobs — are personally designed online by the customer and homemade by Kozlowski and her seamstress.
So far this year she has shipped products to 30 states. She is hoping to make it to all 50 soon.
“It’s a unique idea and I want to bring it nationwide,” the Bethel resident said. “I would love to do this full time because I’m passionate about it and love it. This year is off to a great start.”
Not only are sales doing well this year, but Emma Lyn Designs also received a boost recently by being chosen as a winner of the 2017 American Small Business Championship, a program of SCORE. Kozlowski is one of two winners in Connecticut and 102 nationwide.
SCORE is a network of volunteer mentors for small-business owners, especially those with new businesses. It has offices throughout the U.S. and its services are free. SCORE’s regional headquarters are in Norwalk; it also has offices in Danbury and New Milford.
Kozlowski received a $1,000 gift card from program sponsor Sam’s Club and is eligible to win one of three $25,000 prizes. She also earned an expenses-paid trip to Dallas for small-business training, but will not make the trip because she is pregnant.
“The winners come from all across the United States, and provide diverse products and services for their clients, but all share in their dedication to making their dreams a reality,” SCORE CEO Ken Yancey said. “It is our pleasure to provide the mentoring, tools and resources that will help them continue to grow their businesses and enhance the communities they serve.”
Kozlowski said she will use the prize money to purchase a new computer and update her website. Emma Lyn Designs prompts customers to make choices online about fabric design, interior color and monogram style. The interactivity and shopping cart feature of her website, www.emmalyndesigns.com, requires a powerful and reliable computer, she said.
“I was lucky I found SCORE. I don’t have a business background and it’s nice to have someone to run ideas by. I’ve learned so much by talking to her,” Kozlowski said of her counselor, Deborah Newkerk. “I really needed help with marketing and that’s her field of expertise.”
Kozlowski started Emma Lyn Designs about two years ago after making small accessories for herself. Her passion for designs and colors were evident in her work and she began giving clutches as gifts. She then launched her website and felt it was important to allow customers to personalize their orders with colors, designs and monograms.
“One of my favorite things about the customization of the products is seeing what each individual customer chooses,” she said. “I love seeing what different designs people select and it is so exciting to hand-make the accessories and see the designs come to life.
“Having the products custom-designed and made by hand is part of the brand,” she added. “It’s definitely different than mass-produced products.”
Kozlowski donates a portion of a select pattern sales to the Scotty Fund, which provides financial support to children with life-threatening illnesses. Kozlowski’s family started the fund 20 years ago after her younger brother died from cancer.
“I’ve been involved with the fund for more than 20 years. Now, to be an adult and be able to support the fund financially and as a board member, is special,” she said. “Community is very important to me. As the business grows, the goal is to keep everything handmade right here in Connecticut.”