By Heather DeRosa
Puyallup Herald (Puyallup, Wash.)
Once South Hill resident Desiree Burgess found out that she would be a single mom, she started figuring out ways to buy time to spend more time to stay at home with her then newborn daughter, Hartley.
While on maternity leave, she began making items for Hartley, and quickly after wherever the two went, everyone would ask about Hartley’s headbands she notoriously wore.
From there, Burgess’ business, Harts and Pearls, was born. Three years later, the entrepreneur’s business is still going strong.
The intrigue around Hartley’s headbands sparked the idea that this could be her ticket to stay home with her daughter.
“At the end of my three-month maternity leave, I decided I just wanted to try this,” she said. “I started just trying to see if I could make something happen, but initially I thought I’m going to do this to buy time to stay home with her a little bit longer. I thought maybe it’s only going to be a little while, but I could see once I started that there was something there and it just wasn’t going to be short term.”
Years ago, Burgess attended the Fashion Institute of Design Merchandise in Los Angeles, and went to business school but her career took her on a different path in medical spa sales. Her lifelong desire to become a mom eventually happened — just not in the way she predicted.
“My story looks so completely different than what my dreams were,” the 33-year-old said. ” I always thought I would be married and have everything all perfect and then I would have my first kid. I had no idea that I would be a single mom and be a single mom that was doing it all alone. My daughter has never met her dad — he’s never been a part of her life or provided anything for us. When you get put in situations — especially the first time being a mother — it’s really amazing what you can do to make it work.”
Harts and Pearls was solely online during Burgess’ first year of business. In the second, Burgess thought she take a stab at getting her product into a store. She was so afraid to do the pitch, she sent her sister and brother-in-law on her behalf.
“They walked away with a check,” she said. “They called to tell me and I just started balling. This is a store that I wanted to get into someday, but not as my very first store. That made me realize that if we could get into that store, we could get into any store we wanted. Now we are in 18 different stores in Washington, Oregon and Arizona.”
Burgess says that someday she will accomplish her goal and get her headbands in major retailer Nordstrom, a goal she has built her high-end, handmade product for the fashion-forward female since day one. The headbands range from about $20 for the baby wrap to $26 for adult wraps.
“I always knew that when I bought something at Nordstrom and walked out of the store, I always felt good,” she said. “It was because you can’t go and shop at Nordstrom everyday. It’s a special thing, and that’s what I designed my headbands around. It’s not everybody is supposed to have 15 of my headbands. I wanted it to feel like a special thing, like walking out of Nordstrom.”
Combining her background from FIDM and her degree in business administration, Harts and Pearls combines Burgess’ passion of creativity, providing for her daughter and helping women in similar situations to herself.
“Before I was a single mom, I would have never have had two thoughts about single motherhood,” she said. “When I got put in the position, it was very humbling. My position at the beginning looked like it would be a tough road but it didn’t mean that I needed to throw my dreams out the window. Single motherhood is one of those things that can be so scary. It’s the fear that makes you stop and think, ‘I’m not able to do this.'”
Burgess says that the first ten months in business were the most challenging, and she was at times unsure if she would be able to keep it going. It was ultimately the advice of her brother-in-law that kept her going. He told her the only way she would fail is to give up.
“Sometimes our heads can make things so complicated but I go back to the simple things … the only way I fail is by giving up, so I move forward,” she said. “What I’ve realized is that the gift is right beyond the hard spot. Most people can’t get through the hard spot because it’s scary and fear stops us. I went through so many hard spots that now it’s an illusion that it just feels bad but it’s just temporary. It’s going to be gone by next week.”
The entrepreneur ultimately credits the fate of having Hartley to kicking off her success in fashion. Having no family or her daughter’s father to depend on meant she had no other choice but to survive.
“It’s amazing when there is no other choice to fall back on what you will do to keep going,” she said. “It’s still hard for me to believe. When I started I knew it would be amazing, but I had no idea it would be this successful. If it was easy, everybody would be doing it. The people that are willing to fight to get through those challenges and to not give up, you get to see those miracles.”
Harts and Pearls was voted No. 1 out of 46 entries in King 5 TV’s 2014 Best of Western Washington in Best Women’s Accessories.
For more information on Harts and Pearls, visit hartsandpearls.com