Teddi Cripps never thought of herself as an artist, never dreamed of DIY-ing out of her basement full time. But that’s the option the 26-year-old psychotherapist now faces. What started as a hobby making leather bags has snowballed into a lucrative online business.
“The company (Hustle & Hide Co.) started totally randomly,” Cripps said. The Biola University graduate, who majored in sociology and minored in art design and Biblical studies, found her inner artist by chance after moving back to the Spokane area from Southern California in June 2014. Teddi’s husband, Tyler Cripps, quickly found a job as an emergency room technician. Teddi was bored at the family farm in Edwall, waiting for her graduate program in counseling to begin at Gonzaga University in the fall.
“Staying with my mom and stepdad … we were out there (on the farm) and I was going crazy, facing all that empty time,” Cripps said. One day her mother happened to take Cripps along on a trip to the leather store. “I saw the most beautiful leather hides I had ever seen,” Cripps said. “They were having this huge sale, so I ended up just getting one, and for the next couple months I just started hand-stitching clutches for myself.”
Soon after, Cripps posted her first picture of a clutch purse she had made on her personal Instagram. “The feedback that I got was just craaaaazy, and it all just started exploding,” Cripps said. “So I was like ‘Hey, I have a few months, so I’ll do this and make some extra money by posting some stuff on Etsy and starting my own shop.’ ”
Two years later, the business has skyrocketed. Just three months ago, the online marketplace Etsy featured one of Hustle & Hide’s wrap wallets in an email, prompting 70 orders in just one day from all over the world. More international orders continue to stream in through Instagram and via the company’s business website, hustleandhideco.com. “Last month was the busiest month Hustle & Hide has ever experienced, undergoing record sales and reaching more people via social media and through our website than ever before,” Cripps said.
The Crippses now work out of their Perry District home. Their cement basement is an indie crafter’s dream space, crammed with hides, a large cutting table and a single sewing machine across from the washer and dryer. Tyler is now chief leather cutter. Teddi designs and sews.
“I think what’s different about us is that we offer consumers the chance to connect with the people making their goods,” Teddi Cripps said. “We enjoy sharing all the outdoor adventures we have in the Pacific Northwest, actually using the goods we make on a daily basis.”
A tour of Hustle & Hide’s Instagram (hustleandhideco) is like a nature hike through the Northwest. Shoppers can follow genuine creators as they camp, pet horses and fly-fish, using their own hand-sewn pieces. The closeup shots of the actual products get hundreds of “likes,” with dozens of positive comments on the beauty and utility of the leather bags, which Cripps designs to hold everything from cellphones and credit cards to essential oils and yoga mats.
Cripps’ online savvy is aided by Hustle & Hide’s other two staffers, her brother and sister-in-law, Tobias and Chelsea Hendrickson. It helps that their day jobs involve marketing for high-end clients and agencies. Not only do the Hendricksons handle Hustle & Hide’s website and logos, they also pitch in (along with Teddi’s mother and mother-in-law) to cut leather and sew whenever Cripps hits crisis mode.
The leather designer called an “all hands on deck” event on a recent Tuesday evening to try and produce enough inventory to fill a booth at the upcoming Bazaar, Terrain’s third annual juried art market in downtown Spokane. Bazaar will feature more than 75 booths offering art and crafts for sale Saturday at Post Street and Spokane Falls Boulevard. Most items are priced under $100.
The Crippses, who rarely sell in person, also took part in last year’s event. “The best part about attending Bazaar has been connecting with others in the creative community,” Teddi Cripps said. “And watching people walk up and be stoked out of their minds.”
Cripps’ recurring need for personal connection has prompted her to toy with the idea of opening a brick-and-mortar store in Spokane. Her hope is that Hustle & Hide could use the future studio to partner with other local artists to teach classes, and to offer free vocational training to those who want to learn a trade but can’t afford it. “We are actively looking for a meaningful way to give back,” Cripps said.
Cripps, who has accepted a therapist position in private practice starting in the fall, said she believes counseling and ministering are still the best ways she can help people. She will continue her side business, but said she has never considered herself as creative as the rest of her family. Her father, Joel Weldon, is a longtime singer/songwriter/composer who rose to fame in the ’90s as a Christian rocker, and her brother is a member of local electro-pop band Crystalline. Her mother and grandmother were the sewers and quilters of the family.
It’s now Cripps’ time to shine creatively as more people clamor for her simple leather goods, crafted to last. Her best-selling item, hands-down, has been the fanny pack she designed for a friend who wanted it to ride her motorcycle to a music festival. The only parameters were that it could hook onto her belt loops and that it was not bedazzled. Cripps has since sold thousands of her fanny packs with detachable straps to moms, bikers, hikers, seniors, students and tourists.
“It appeals to so many different groups of people,” Cripps said. “I love that the most.”
Reach Audrey Overstreet at email@example.com.
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