Melissa Odegard grew up with a mom who loved to sew and remembers there always being some project in the works for friends and family. As an adult, Odegard followed her mother’s footsteps, and as friends started having kids, she would make baby blankets. “I kept getting, ‘Oh you should go into business!’ and I’ve always kind of been an entrepreneur,” Odegard says. So in 2006, out of her Woodbury home, she founded Bebe Bella Designs.
Still working a full-time daycare out of her home to stay home with her 3-year-old son, the single mom traveled across the United States to expos for pregnant women in order to market her baby blankets and accessories. During this time, she also decided to outsource the cutting and sewing to local independent contractors in St. Paul so she could do the marketing. “I traveled for about a year while working full-time, being a single mom with a 2-year-old,” Odegard says. On the weekends she traveled, her parents took care of her son. “They were phenomenal,” she says.
By 2008, Odegard had collected enough emails and created a wide enough market base that sales were booming and she was able to close the daycare, devoting herself to Bebe Bella Designs. This transition helped her focus on growing the company, and in 2009 she moved the offices and warehouse to its current location in Woodbury, moving all production and cutting in-house. She now uses local independent contractors for sewing, but still does all the cutting herself, making all the products 100 percent locally manufactured. They range from baby blankets, crib sheets, bibs and booties, to hats and mittens for kids and adults, and cozy adult-sized blankets as well.
The growth allowed Odegard to spend more time at home with her son, who’s now almost 13. “I have so much freedom now,” she says. “And I centered my business around that. I have two full-time employees, both moms of small children. If their child has an event during the day they want to be a part of, that’s okay.”
“Melissa has always been very flexible when needing to take time off to care for my family and for family events,” director of sales and marketing, Katie Eaton says. “It’s great to have a boss that understands the importance of ‘family comes first.’” And this flexibility is not only appreciated, but respected by the employees. “[It’s] not taken advantage of,” purchasing and production director Jackie Mitchell says. “We are each a piece of this company and rely on each other.”
Part of the reason this flexibility is possible is because the company is based in Woodbury. “My mom lives a mile down the road,” Odegard says. “My office is a mile from my house, my employees are close to the warehouse.” But it’s not just about convenience. “I like the parks and I like the trails, and I like the fact that you’re out of the cities, but you can get there.”
The brand has grown, with products being shipped throughout the United States, but for Odegard it will stay local. A successful business and healthy work/life balance is possible, and it appears Odegard has found it with Bebe Bella Designs.
Melissa Odegard’s favorite Bebe Bella Designs products:
Hats: Infant & child ($20), adult ($24), in a traditional beanie style with a flipped-up brim.
Baby blanket: Double-sided with the minky chenille ($52), 29” X 29.”
Baby booties: Featuring a stay-put design ($30); they really stay on!
Throws: Double-sided throw, petite ($108-$127), standard ($150-$180)