Ashlyn Parker learned to sew as a child in her “hippie crazy” Waldorf School in Sandpoint. Now the 20-year-old supports herself through her business, Good Hoods, while she trains to become a commercial helicopter pilot.
Good Hoods are tall hoodies. What that means to people over age 20 is that they’re very, very long sweatshirts, with hoods or without. Parker also creates T-shirts with heat-pressed designs that are, likewise, a little longer than normal and a little thinner around the middle.
She’s been a sole proprietorship since October 2011, launching with a serger machine her uncle gave her and a couple of hundred bucks in supplies, she says.
Since then, she’s sold about 120 of the garments, which range in price from $20 to $70.
Her workshop: Parker cuts the hoodies on the floor of a bedroom in the home she rents with her boyfriend, Trevin Spencer, who works in advertising. “I vacuum first because of the hair,” she says, referring to the couple’s German shepherd, two cats and ferret. Finished products are packaged for shipment with a dream-catcher, which she buys in bulk on Amazon. “I figure all these kids who like skiing like dream-catchers too.”
She also has an embroidery machine for her Good Hoods logo (which changes frequently) and a heat press for T-shirts.
Her inspiraton: A former snowboard cross racer, Parker noticed skiers and snowboarders wearing tall hoodies when she traveled to competitions in Michigan and California. The very long look “just started with skiers being weird,” she says.
How much extra length? From shoulder to the bottom, hoodies range from 30 to 44 inches long or more, depending on whether they’re tall, towering, extreme or Metal Knights. There’s also a summer hoodie collection featuring brighter colors.
Relying on her needlework skills and trial-and-error pattern-making, “I started sewing them up and friends just liked them,” she says.
The market: She has sold hoodies all over the West Coast and in Canada, and last summer sold a handful to customers in Australia. Her boyfriend sewed those, because Parker works on a wildland fire rig with her father during the summers.
“Mostly they go to ski states,” Parker says, “although some do go to weird states like Louisiana and Kentucky. I’m pretty sure they don’t have snow there.”
Production varies: She juggles sewing, Scotchgarding and shipping hoodies with air time at Inland Helicopters as well as online aviation courses at Utah Valley University. She skis on the weekends.
Parker filled 24 orders in the two weeks before Christmas by sewing hoodies all day. A more typical rhythm – “I usually make a couple hoodies and go watch TV.” It takes 20 minutes to 45 minutes to sew a hoodie, depending on how many colors are involved.
Web commerce: She set up a WordPress site on her own. All of her sales are made via the Web, although she’s talking with a retailer in Banff, Alberta, as well as Spokane Valley-based Sports Creel about carrying her hoodies. The people shown modeling her products on the website are friends and family.
The website presented her biggest challenge in getting into business, she says. “We had everything ready and were waiting for the website. It’s attached to my PayPal account, but everything was in euros for the longest time and I couldn’t figure out why.” Finally, some “coder friends” helped her iron out the kinks.
Biggest misconception: “Most people think we’re like a big business,” Parker says. “You can tell by the emails.” Her customers typically are surprised and pleased that the hoodies are made in the Pacific Northwest, she says.
Devoted to her following: Good Hoods has a Facebook page, and every time it reaches a milestone number of likes, Parker offers a discount code. Sales of hoodies always spike, she says, “even if it’s just a little discount.” She also offers a guarantee so that if a seam breaks, the buyer just needs to return it and she’ll fix it.
The future: “I think I’ll keep it going as long as I can,” Parker says. She expects to spend another one to two years obtaining her commercial helicopter pilot license, then hopes to get a job flying in the North Dakota oilfields. For now, Good Hoods “supports me eating and living,” she says. “It’s good for paying the rent and food and the dog’s food.”