… How a macabre turn of fate changed everything and lead to the birth of Sew What? Inc.

I was 20-something when I arrived freshly from my native Australia and found my way into a stagecraft company specializing in amusement park installations and special events.  I hung lights, drew electrical lines, rigged sets and loved the life of a rockin’ roadie.  I’d have gladly continued down that path…but luck intervened.

The specialty event company got an unusual request: build ten coffins for a Halloween attraction at Knott’s Berry Farm.  Although that was a bit afield from their usual business, the company accepted the assignment.  But they had no one to upholster the satin linings into the coffins.  The president asked all employees if anyone knew how to sew, and I spoke up without too much confidence, “I do!”

For a week, I sat in a Carson garage-style warehouse with yards of material, a staple gun and a rented sewing machine making each casket a prop to die for.

In the process, I thought, this could be fun.  I took on other independent projects, starting with sewing drapes and linens for entertainers and party planners, then onto specialty fabric projects for Las Vegas casinos.  With my love of rock and roll, I soon began sewing drapes and backdrops for a few rock concerts.  That brought an end to my work as a stagehand and launched my new company, Sew What? Inc., in 1997.

Since that time, the company has grown into one of the leading providers of custom sewn drapes and fabrics in the concert and theatrical industries, creating spectacular sets for such A-list names as Madonna, Kid Rock, Rod Stewart, Lady Gaga, and even the cover of the iconic 1000th issue of Rolling Stone.   I could not be more thankful for those clients who have trusted and supported us along the way.

I’d like to think that our formula for success is simple – personal drive and a commitment to cutting edge technology.  The results speak for themselves – the prestigious Dell/NFIB Small Business Excellence Award for business innovation, Inc 500/5000 Award as one of the fastest growing privately held businesses in America, PC Magazine’s SMB 20 Award for technological innovation for small and medium-sized businesses, and the Stevie Award for “Most Innovative Company of the Year – Up to 100 Employees.”

Who knew that sewing a couple of coffins could lead to all this?  Sometimes, the secret to success is just being there when dumb luck happens to fall on your head!

Customized coffin, anyone?

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