This month, we're celebrating our 10 year anniversary! 10 incredible years of designing women's apparel that not only helps you look and feel great, but that also helps to change the world for the better. We are so thankful that you've chosen to join us on this journey!
Running a small business is an adventure to say the least, and we have experienced highs, lows, and everything in between over the last decade! As with any special moments in life, we believe that sharing our stories and experiences only makes us stronger together- not only as a company but as a Grace and Lace community. Take a walk with us as we stroll down memory lane and reminisce about those early days with some of our original team members.
Grace Cowden - Executive Assistant/Operations
Team member since 11/27/11 (Grace and Lace's first hire!)
I'll never forget having my condo HOA representative come to my door to say that neighbors were complaining about all the trash I was leaving out front. I explained it wasn't trash, but trash bags full of packages and that the mail man was coming to my house daily to pick it up. He paused, looked at everything and said..."Wow, business is good!" And he never showed up again!
A special memory to me: my daughter Becca was 4 months old when Shark Tank aired. Working from home during that season was not an option as I needed to be at the office, so she came with me! When she wasn't napping, I was wearing her or holding her on the boppy while nursing, running around the office, packaging orders, and answering emails! Melissa brought me her hand-made cradle to use at the office. Every staff member took turns holding my baby when I needed to get something done. The support and love for my family was amazing.
Lyndsey Slaton - Marketing
Team Member since 2012
When I started with Grace and Lace, I was a one-woman show running the wholesale department out of my home. I took orders over the phone, pulled product from the Hinnant's garage every day, and packed and shipped orders out of my living room during my son’s naptime. USPS and UPS had daily scheduled pick ups from my front porch. One day, while prepping an order that needed to be shipped that same day, I realized I had run out of large boxes and UPS was due to pick up any second. I grabbed the first box I could find - an empty diaper box! It worked beautifully and I gave the boutique owner a heads up her order would be coming in a really colorful way!
Judy King - Customer Care
Team Member since 2013
One of my funniest moments occurred in July, 2013. My daughter was working for Grace and Lace at that time. We were returning from Port Aransas after a mother and daughter vacation and she asked "Hey Mom, would you be interested in a part time job?". The rest is history -- I'm still here. I began working out of the Cowden's garage three to four days a week from 9 - noon fulfilling orders. My first day we processed 24 orders.
In late August 2013, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I had been working with Grace and Lace for a month. Needless to say, I felt as if my life had been turned upside down. With my caring husband's support and encouragement, I continued to work until my surgery. My fellow employees at Grace and Lace saw to it that I remained busy keeping my mind and body occupied until my September surgery. Though small in number at that time, everyone cheered me on through surgery, radiation, and recovery. We had only known one another for a brief time, but their support was a vital part of my complete recovery. This goes to the heart of the Grace and Lace core values. Among all of us it has been a beautiful example of life. We have all been touched by G&L in so many ways.
Jane Thompson - Operations
Team Member since 2013
When I began working at Grace and Lace, there were 5 of us in the office. My coworker and I would fill the orders, placing the items on top of the order slip. There were no bins or warehouse labels like today! We would QC items, package them and ship them. As Grace and Lace has grown, so has our apparel line. When the Ultimate Everyday Jeggings (aka Happy Pants) first launched, I loved how they looked and felt. So I went upstairs to thank the designers by doing my "Happy Dance" as a "well-aged" employee. Melissa laughed and caught me on camera!
In 2013, Barbara Corcoran became our "Shark". One day shortly afterwards, we were able to have a conference call with her. She told all of us to take a deep breath: "we were on the ground floor of something BIG!" She was so correct, and so friendly, humble and witty. It's a blessing to be part of such a caring Christian company that helps so many others. G&L has been like a family. They are one of my biggest blessings!
Heidi Blakeney - Marketing/Operations
Team Member since 2013
Little known fact about Melissa - since we met in 1998 she has *despised* the word 'romper'. She also swore to me for years that she would never join the horrendous skinny jean fad. Turns out times change, because here we are 23 years later and she has not only worn, but designed both skinny jeans and rompers!
The day after Grace and Lace's Shark Tank episode aired on TV, Melissa called me in a panic because despite her and Rick's greatest efforts to prepare well for the influx in traffic they knew they'd have, it was way above and beyond what they (and Barbara) expected and they were scrambling to keep up. I asked how I could help and she asked me to start responding to emails. Little did I know that my offer to dive in and answer "some emails" that day in an effort to support them would turn into a long term job working with my long time friends, Rick and Mel. From my start in customer care to my current role in marketing, it has been such a joy to be able to be a part of Grace and Lace for all of these years even though I am 1,000+ miles away in Michigan. I am so grateful for an incredible team that is extremely talented and is forever going above and beyond to crush goals and support each other.
Clairann Terry - Wholesale Account Manager
Team Member since 2013
A funny memory to share: a couple of years ago at one of our holiday live event shows, a mannequin fell on my face from a "second story" display. After getting over the shock of it and shedding a few tears, I got to work the sales floor for an entire day with only half of my eyelashes. The mannequin landed just so that it took my eyelashes with it. It didn't feel good at the time, but I don't know anyone else that can say a mannequin stole their eyelashes before, so now I just have to laugh at it ;).
My journey at Grace and Lace started while I was in the middle of a cross-country move. I received a somewhat urgent phone call asking if I can help for, and I quote, "only two weeks" with getting through the Shark Tank surge. I happily worked from our extended stay hotel in the midst of our moving craze while we waited for our new house to close. That was 8 years, three houses, a baby, and several positions ago now, and my "two week" stay is going strong! After that, our sweet little wholesale department officially became a two-man-show, and I was blessed to work side-by-side with a dear friend (shout out, Lyndsey!) for several years. Now our department is a many-man-show, and I get to work with some amazing people. We have a very special and hard-working team, and they mean the world to me. Working for years together through good times and storms makes for some sweet relationships!
Chris Cowden - Leadership/Operations
Team Member since 2014
I was filmed as part of a Shark Tank update for Grace and Lace and had a very small speaking part. I get very nervous on stage or on camera but it ended up going really well!
One of the best memories I have of working here is at the original Shark Tank episode viewing party we had on Black Friday 2013. We had been warned that we really REALLY did not want our website to crash during the airing as that would be huge lost traffic and sales for the business. We had been working with our website platform very closely for months to have the site as rock solid as possible. While everyone was enjoying viewing the episode at the restaurant, I was anxiously checking the website to make sure everything was okay. When the Grace and Lace segment aired, sure enough our site went down. I was scrambling! I made phone calls to support, and I was refreshing and checking that page as fast as I could. Thankfully we only ended up being down for 15 minutes and we ended up doing quite a bit in sales that launched the business to new heights. Praise God!
Debbie Spell - Wholesale Development
Team Member since 2016
You should always be careful when you offer to help someone out: you never know where it might lead! For me, it started with wanting to get my Toggle Poncho and Lace Tank Extender. My friend worked for G&L at the time and let me know because of a Shark Tank update airing, packagers were working to catch up on all of the orders coming in. At that time, I already had a part time job, but I said I could come for a few weeks in the afternoon and help get things repackaged so I could get my order!
Nearly 6 years later, I have not only gotten my order, but made wonderful friends, worked a ton of different jobs in the office, had the opportunity to work live events and meet the most wonderful and loyal customers, and now friends, a company can only wish to have. For me, the journey is in the hard work. When a whole shipping container arrives and you have to unload it in 2 hours (with all women and 1 man in those early days!). Or when there are so many orders you can't see the end, everyone pitches in to get them out the door, even if you have to chase down the UPS truck in the work neighborhood to get that last package out. Or move an office 3 times one hot summer to keep the company seamless for your customers until your permanent place is ready. I've been so fortunate to work with and call friends to so many amazing women and men. It's been a great journey.
Rick and Melissa Hinnant - owners
The original team members! - 2011
A great memory is our preparation of the Shark Tank pitch. Once we found out we were going to film, the producers started working with us on weekly calls for 2 months. Melissa and I are great because we compliment each other. She's strong in areas that I'm weak in and vice versa. I'm more organized and she's more in the moment. So as you might guess, I had my portion of the pitch memorized and Melissa not so much :). As the months turned into 1 week before flying out to LA, Melissa still didn't know her portion. My nerves were growing big time. Once we arrived, we were set to give our pitch to about 30 producers with full stage lights focused on us. 5 minutes prior, Melissa was still fumbling. I was in a little bit of a panic and asked Jesus what in the world I was to do. I heard Him say, "Tell her that when it counts she'll be great”, so I told Melissa those words right before we went out. Melissa killed it and things went great! The producers gave us some pointers and sent us away. I was so relieved as we had 4 more days to practice before appearing before the sharks.
Our scheduled day arrives, and Melissa isn't doing well with remembering her part of the pitch. We were told we had an hour and a half before it was our turn and from our dressing room, and we could hear the pitch before us loud and clear. It wasn't going well at all. The sharks were eating these guys alive and the next thing I know, the producers burst in the door to tell us we now have maybe 10 minutes. I looked at Melissa who was wide eyed, and asked to go over the pitch once more. She was paralyzed and didn't even remember her name - she missed the "Hi I'm Melissa" opening portion of our pitch! We're minutes from walking out and I'm freaking out. “Jesus, what do I say?!” I again reassured Melissa that when it counted (and it was about to big time), she would be amazing.
As the doors opened for us to enter the tank, the oddest feeling kicked in...total peace and total confidence despite Melissa not knowing her name. Faith kicked in that this was of God and things would be fine. When you walk out on the set, there is a place where you stand and remain quiet for about a minute so the dozens of cameras can get all kinds of shots. We're staring at the sharks and they are sizing us up. When it was time, my beautiful bride started us off and sure as the sun rises, she was incredible! We filmed for an intense 1.5 hours but we stayed laser focused and made it through, with Melissa being a true superstar. Together we made a great impression that landed the exact shark I felt Jesus had told me we would.
The rest is a developing story. What will the next few years hold? Only God knows and our plan is to follow Him. This is His company, and we simply steward it to the best of our ability. Flawed, yes. And messy at times. But we couldn't be more thankful for the journey with an amazing staff and such incredible customers. Thank you all!