A Minky Couture blanket is a security blanket…and so much more. It is stitched with love, covered with kindness and has created an improbable business success for the company´s owner and the dozens of stay- at- home moms she employs to craft them.
Sandi Hendry’s demeanor isn’t what you would expect from a woman with close to one hundred employees and 5 locations in Utah. She is calm, relaxed and warm. Also confident. She defied the standard logic saying that local manufacturing of textiles in the United States is all but impossible.
At an early age, she knew she wanted to start a business, but her life took a more conventional route and she taught school for 30 years. But 10 years ago her life changed when her 27-year-old daughter suffered liver failure and was hospitalized for five months. She asked Sandi to bring her a soft, cozy blanket. “I could find really beautiful quilts, but they were not cozy. Then I could find baby blankets that were soft but they weren’t big.”
Sandi decided to make her own. Minky fabric (a synthetic microfiber that felt very similar to mink) was fairly new on the market and Sandi had given minky baby blankets as baby gifts. She purchased minky fabric and had a large blanket made for her daughter.
“Everybody loved my daughter’s blanket and would sit by her and borrow it,” Sandi said. “They kept asking where they could get a blanket like that.”
Sandi commissioned fifty more blankets sewn to give away. Fifty then became five hundred. Different fabrics styles and colors evolved to match family members’ preferences and special occasions.
“Then people wanted to buy them.” After two years she opened up a store, which required a few deep breaths. “Everybody goes online,” she said. “Even eight years ago, I was nervous if people would go to a brick and mortar storefront.”
She considered doing wholesale and selling them to boutiques. But the problem was with the standard mark-up. By the time the boutiques added their margins, the prices became too high for Hendry’s comfort. “I thought I would rather sell them myself and sell them for a little more reasonable price, so more people could afford them.”
After meeting with business executives, she was told that she could not juggle being a manufacturer, retailer, store owner, website distributor, and the shipper. So much for expert opinion. “The minute somebody said I couldn’t, I knew I could. I would. So, we have,” Sandi said with satisfaction.
She bravely opened a store, hung blankets, and the people came have kept on coming.
“People said they needed gifts for showers, birthdays, weddings, anniversaries and holidays. It just started to snowball. I do really well online, but you can’t see or feel the blankets online. When you come in, you can feel the texture, the softness and the warmth of the product. People come in and put their cheeks on the blankets to feel which one is the softest. I think it’s kind of fun for our customers.”
Jenna Houston, who sewed the very first blanket for Hendry’s daughter in the hospital, is now production manager over 40 seamstresses, most of whom are stay-at-home moms.
“Being in the education system, I knew how many moms struggle with the 9-5 and daycare until their kids are in school, so I wanted to reach out to them,” Sandi said. “We have so much talent here in the state, and I wanted to keep it local as much as I could. These moms are so talented, and they’re so excited to provide extra income for their family. They don’t have to get daycare, they can do it at night when the kids are in bed, they can do it while the other kids are at school. Some of my seamstresses have been with me the whole time.”
Sandi feels that the love and care put into the blankets by the seamstresses is transferred to the recipients. “I know that sounds weird, but when people ask me what I do with the blankets to make them so fabulous and stand out from other blankets. I give all the credit to the seamstresses.”
Minky Couture’s staff meetings have also become a source of love and caring.
“We have our Tuesday morning meetings with staff from our 5 stores, and when things get really tough, we have one of these meetings and we just let it out,” Sandi said. “It’s a place I can vent and everybody knows what I’m going through. Everybody knows our challenges whether it’s a money crisis because we’ve over-ordered, a promo that hasn’t gone well, or personal challenges. We have a safe place to share. It’s very confidential, and you can kind of just be who you are and vent for a few minutes.”
Sandi also attributes her success to her father, who taught her to surround herself with great people and do not try to do it all herself. “Minky Couture is really a collaboration of ideas. We have the most fabulous women in my company.”
He also taught her that the more you give, the more you get back. “I just really believe in giving to the community, whether it’s to a scout troop, school events or donating to an auction to help pay someone’s medical costs.” Minky donates 20 to 30 blankets a week for various causes. “I believe in just giving and being part of a community and blankets are one of the few products that everyone in the world uses every day.”
In many cases, the blankets have become far more than just blankets. She told the story of a woman who received a Minky Couture blanket from her husband who was deployed in Afghanistan. A love note said, “Wrap yourself in this blanket and think of me. I’ll always love you.”
Sandi also recently received a photo from a husband whose wife had passed away from cancer. In the photo, she’s wrapped in a Minky Couture blanket, with her granddaughter next to her in her own Minky Couture blanket. A message accompanied the photo said, “Thank you for this fabulous product that gives my family so much comfort, and gave my wife so much comfort in her passing. She asked that she be buried with her Minky.”
“You can’t even fathom the hundreds of stories and peoples lives that they’ve touched. It makes me so very humbled. It just makes me want to give more,” Sandi said.
Minky Couture is a business success with 40 to 60 percent growth each year.
Sandi dreams of everyone in America or perhaps even the world having a Minky blanket to provide a dash more love in their lives. She also wants to have a store on Fifth Avenue in New York.
“I think that would be fun, and something different that people would come and embrace. It would be a great souvenir to take home,” she said.
Minky Couture blankets range from $10 to $250, and 30 to 50 percent off coupons can be found on third-party coupon sites such as RetailMeNot, through following Minky Couture’s social media channels, or by signing up to receive email promotions through the company’s website.
Visit the website for store locations, online ordering, and product care.