Most people dream of being able to take something they enjoy and turning it into a career. What started out a fun side project for Jackson natives Hilary Armstrong and Elizabeth Winkelmann, owners and co-founders of Lazy Bones Beds, quite unexpectedly blossomed into an exciting new business venture. As their success has begun to take on a life of its own, the two business partners have found themselves making plans to become the leading provider of fashionable dog beds that merge both practicality and elegance.
“Both Hilary and I are dog lovers and owners,” explains Winkelman, who is the proud owner of a Bernese Mountain dog named Linus. “Like most southerners, we are attuned to the décor of our homes. However, Hilary and I were particularly frustrated by the limited options in dog beds –we were tired of bringing in these ugly brown beds!”
Winkelman credits Armstrong –owner of Riley, a golden retriever – as the creative genius behind the business. Armstrong began covering her old dog beds with colorful upholstery fabric. During a get together at her home, friends took notice. “They commented on how great the beds were and really encouraged me to do something with the idea,” she commented.
Armstrong approached Winkelman about the possibility of taking the idea retail. However, both women hold demanding full-time jobs – Armstrong as a nurse practitioner and Winkelman as an airline pilot. “We knew we couldn’t sew the beds in our homes!” explains Armstrong.
In their spare time, they researched local manufacturers that would be open to taking on the production. Both were adamant that only Mississippi manufacturers and suppliers be used. “We think our state is so special and we wanted to bring more attention to the region,” said Winkelman. “We know how special our home is and we think more people need to know about it as well.”
Each bed is covered in upholstery weight designer fabrics that come in a variety of patterns and colors. A waterproof liner protects the inner core, making the bed not only pretty but functional. The beds are overstuffed to ensure they hold their shape over time. Armstrong and Winkelman decided to take the connection to their Southern ties even further by naming each design after Southern writers, towns, and landmarks. Customers can choose from the multi-colored Eudora, named after the brightly colored gardens found at Ms. Welty’s estate; the stately Mark Twain design, inspired by the brown and blue waters of the Mississippi River; or the muted colors of the Natchez, named for the trellises and latticework found on many of the old homes that have made the town famous. Other patterns include the Peabody, Mardi Gras, Mr. Faulkner, Charleston, and the St. Francis.
Once the finished products were in hand, the two decided to test the waters at the 2009 Mistletoe Marketplace. “That was really our debut,” adds Armstrong, “and we had such an amazing response! All the vendors were very helpful and made great suggestions on how we could build on that momentum.” After an encouraging response at Mistletoe, Armstrong and Winkelman applied to the January 2010 Atlanta International Gift & Home Furnishings Market. There they were able to secure several wholesale accounts across the country including retail outlets in Jackson Hole, Wyo.; Aspen, Colo.; Austin, Texas; and Asheville, N.C.
Says Armstrong, “This really just started as a fun project and we are surprised at the success we have already had.” The pair have since launched a website – and are planning to make an appearance at the Dallas Home Market in July. They are also looking to expand into Nashville, Boston, New York, and Charleston, South Carolina.
In five years, both would like to see LazyBones Beds become one of the top retailers of dog beds. “I don’t think we want to quit our day jobs because we both really like our jobs,” laughs Armstrong. “But it would be nice to see the brand take off and become a viable source of income. It started as a hobby – a creative outlet for us both. I would like to see it become a career, but stay fun at the same time.”
Lazy Bones Beds, LLC