Critter Corner: Local Businesswoman is 'Sew' Into Cats and Dogs
Close knit family offers ideas and support.
It is not often that opportunity knocks — sometimes it pants, barks and wags too.
Not many years ago Marsha Hotchkiss was working in an office and would go home to be with her two- and four-legged family and enjoy her hobbies of knitting and sewing in her free time.
When the office was downsized, Hotchkiss, like many others, started looking at the job market, but nothing beckoned. One day she was brainstorming with her son, and he said offhandedly "Why not sew coats for dogs?"
The rest may be called history for this burgeoning home-based business.
Although it may seem a straight forward progression, the beginning of the business started with a good deed several years before. When the Hotchkiss Shelties were getting older they asked the family veterinarian if she could recommend a breed of dog that would enjoy walk, yet be calm enough to spend time cuddled at her feet while she sewed. The recommendation was a Greyhound.
After the Shelties had passed, they went to a Greyhound meet-and-greet at the library. Hotchkiss says "I was amazed to see so many dogs in the library peacefully sitting or lying down and not barking. They were so calm."
Soon Toby and Pepper, both former racers, were adopted. They fit well with the family,but were miserable in the cold Cleveland weather." It was impossible to buy them coats that fit" she reminisced. That was when Hotchkiss started designing and making custom made coats to fit her own large chested, narrow waisted Grayhounds.
When her son first made the suggestion she pursue this hobby full time, she shrugged it off, but kept thinking about it. She started out slowly selling to other Greyhound people, then with the help of her husband, at events like Canine Fun Days (put on by Greyhound Adoption of Ohio).
It was time for the next step, and again it was family that came though. Her nephew needed to design a web site for his college class, and asked if he could use Sewing Cats and Dogs as a Guinea pig. He assured his aunt that she would not be obliged to use the site it she didn't like it. The site took off; it seems that Greyhound owners were swift to catch on. It was rare to find custom designed coats and sweaters made in three sizes for both males and females.
Sewing Cats and Dogs currently sells on Etsy and from the site. Based on demand and ability to be "sew" creative Sphynx cat owners have approached her to design vests for their hairless cats. She laughs as she claims to not being a "cat person", but can relate to having a loved pet who is cold.
Orders keep coming from around the country and as far away as the U.K and Australia. There is no more room in the basement, or hours in the day. Hotchkiss says that she is running to capacity as a one-person hand-made shop, and has no plans to go "big box".
The dogs are content sleeping, or playing with a toy as the sewing machine, embroidery machine or knitting machine hum, and a small home-based business makes a big difference; giving racers a second chance at life and a career a fresh start.
Take a closer look at the Greyhound tribute page to see photos of Toby and Pepper a brother and sister team who were also the first models.