Home-grown toy business taking off for mom, daughter

Sean C. Morgan

What started as a home-based business producing crafts and monsters for kids has turned into a much more diverse enterprise and a full-time job for a Sweet Home woman and her daughter.

Julie Wolfsong and her daughter, Shiloh, 15, started Groovy Moods six years ago when they spent their last $40 in a desperate move to make ends meet.

Wolfsong is a part-time housekeeper at Lebanon Rehab, she said.

“The business is my full-time job. It used to be the other way around. We’ve just gotten really busy in the last three years. ”

Most of their business is online sales, but they recently did a holiday bazaar at the Vets Club.

The vast majority of the business is tie dyed clothing and felt toys, Wolfsong said.

“It started out with just bandannas.”

Now it’s “everything that’s wearable, even shoes,” she said. The tie dyed clothing is available in “onesies” through size 5XL.

“Our toys are all made out of felt, from cuddle toys to wearables,” Wolfsong said. The wearables include a wide variety of costume pieces that let kids play at being pirates, dragons, wizards and more. Jet packs and hats are available too. All of it is hand-crafted.

Turtle shells, specifically the green turtle shells, are the most popular item Groovy Moods. The company also makes giant felt board games. The centerpieces of it all are little felt monsters.

“We call it ‘magical make believe,'” said Wolfsong, whose first job was in a toy store when she was a teenager. “We wanted to base it on things I played with when I was a kid.”

Their toys don’t require batteries, she noted. They just require imagination.

It all started when Shiloh was a little girl and Wolfsong was trying to make her a toy monster. Mama’s Monster was their first toy.

“Every toy is unique,” Wolfsong said. “We don’t use a pattern. It comes out the way it wants to be.”

The monsters are still a hot item, selling for $1 to $4, she said.

Since the early days, they’ve added toy food, burgers and fries and tacos, Wolfsong said. “We just came up with the idea. We’re constantly thinking of things.”

Groovy Moods primarily sells through its Facebook page and Etsy, she said. The company doesn’t attend as many craft bazaars as it used to.

Groovy Moods is the first Sweet Home business to use the Regional Accelerator and Innovation Network.

“They’ve been amazing for us,” Wolfsong said.

RAIN has provided valuable marketing advice and information about what to expect as a business. She praised RAIN venture catalyst Corey Wright for his continuing support, which includes classes on how to run a business successfully.

“We went from a hobby business to something we depend on, almost overnight,” Wolfsong said. That happened about two and a half years ago about the time Groovy Moods started offering tie dye hoodies and started promoting its wearables, toys and hoodies. The growth has come regularly in periodic spurts.

“Now we ship literally everywhere. Someone contacted us from England. The last two years, it’s really grown. We feel like a real business.”

People attend events just to shop at Groovy Moods, Wolfsong said. People have heard of it “everywhere we go now.”

Wolfsong, who serves as president with her equal partner, Shiloh, the vice president, would like to continue growing the business. When the time comes, which she said would be “amazing,” she’ll probably hire someone to help out with the toy line, but the two of them will probably continue to do the tie dye line themselves because it is more artistic, with the personal touch and energy of the creator.

Their focus now is far different than when they started six years ago.

They had made and sold a few monsters, and for Shiloh’s ninth birthday, they tie dyed some bandannas.

“It was our first experience, really, tie dying,” Wolfsong said.

Soon after, they ran into an acquaintance, Andrea Culy, at Thriftway. She asked if they were selling the bandannas.

“We said, ‘Yeah,'” Wolfsong recalled. “How much? We said ‘$3’ at the same time.”

Instead of charging Culy, they traded her for unicorn horns Culy was making.

Wolfsong said they were facing a “pretty desperate” financial situation.

“We needed to do something now,” she said, and they looked to the City of Sweet Home’s Harvest Festival as a way forward.

They spent their last $40 on bandannas and dye and gathered every scrap of felt they could find to make bandannas and monsters, and they came up with a name.

“We tried to keep it as light as possible, but there was a lot of tension,” Wolfsong said. They just hoped to make back their $40 investment.

It turned out better than that – by a long shot.

“We sold out at the Harvest Festival,” Wolfsong said, and they had a business.

“It was overwhelming, the response we got at the Harvest Festival.”

People were lining up waiting to get into the Groovy Moods booth, she said.

“We named the business before we went,” Wolfsong said. “My favorite word is ‘groovy,’ and Shiloh was playing with a mood ring.”

They were in the backyard, and they started pairing the word ‘groovy’ with every word that came to mind, Wolfsong said. She found the name when she noticed Shiloh’s ring.

The whole thing fit together nicely, Wolfsong said.

The toys are 1970s retro, and tie dye just makes “you feel groovy.”

Since then, Groovy Moods has continued to do well, she said. Children save up their money just to visit the booth.

“I think the most fun about it is I get to do something I absolutely love,” Wolfsong said. “I’d do it anyway, and I get to share it with other people. And we get money. It gives me every creative outlet I could ever want.”

And she gets to do it with her best friend and daughter, she said. “It’s fun.”

Her absolutely favorite part of it is seeing a customer’s face light up, that moment “when the customer finds exactly what they want.”

“I really like creating and tie dying is really fun,” Shiloh said. “I like learning how to run a business. I really like working with my mom because she’s really cool.”

Groovy Moods has seen some ups and downs since that Harvest Festival, Wolfsong said, but it’s been awhile since they’ve been able to take a break.

It was a huge leap of faith, she said, but they’ve got the feeling – “We can do anything.”