A Mother, Seeing a Need, Builds a Popular and Growing Business
By David Liggett, PR
You have probably heard that the Greek philosopher Plato once described “Necessity as the Mother of Invention.” If this is true, then a local
Mara Joy Luker used to have a very different career from what she is doing now. For nearly 20 years she made her living at the piano. She taught piano lessons in her home, performed at restaurants and weddings, and played for dance classes at the
While Mara was an accompanist for children’s dance classes at the well-known Virginia Tanner Creative Dance Program at the U of U, Mara noticed that the leotards, dance skirts, and other outfits worn by young girls at dance class were often faded and worn out, as little girls often wear their favorite dress-up clothes to shreds.
Just for fun, Mara designed a tutu for her own daughter, Lily Anna, who was turning two years old. When Lily wore it to the dance studio, the dance teacher was enthusiastic about the lovely, handmade tutu and suggested that Mara sell her tutus to mothers of dancers at the studio. This she did, with a very positive response from other mothers wanting to see their daughters dance and play in beautiful, high quality tutus, which were clearly made with love and attention to detail.
In a short time, Mara was designing other dance accessories to go with her tutus, including matching leotards, ballerina slippers, tiaras and wands. In fact, before long, she had designed a whole wardrobe of ballerina costumes and fairy dress-ups for little girls, with fairy wings, flower wreath crowns and other unique designs of her own creation.
The demand for Mara’s fluffy tutus and ballet accessories continued to grow. By request, she handmade dozens of tutus for other dance studios and for local holiday gift shows and craft boutiques. Word of mouth created such a buzz about her unique designs and handmade items, soon the full-time pianist closed her keyboard cover and became a full-time seamstress.
In order to offer her tutus and other products to a worldwide audience, Mara had a website designed to serve as an online store for mothers of little dancers everywhere. It seemed natural for this proud Mom to name her business after her very own little girl, Lily Anna. Three years ago, the website of Lily Anna for Girls – Fairytale Creations was launched at www.LilyAnnaForGirls.com.
That same year, Mara and her husband had another baby girl, Ginger, and the two sisters now enjoy being models for the tutus, fairy wings and other dress-up costumes on the website. The interest in the site has grown each year, and as satisfied customers have told others about their experiences with Mara and her unique designs, their friends have visited the site and purchased Mara’s beautiful tutus.
“Many customers order my tutus and fairy wings for Halloween costumes, as well as for Christmas and birthday gifts,” Mara explained. “Not only do mothers fall in love with the variety of my handmade items, but grandmothers have expressed their joy in being able to find unique and memorable gifts for their dancing granddaughters.”
One very happy customer who came upon the site when using a Google® search for “ballerina outfits” was Margo Barry of
After seeing the selection at Lily Anna for Girls, Margo solicited a product donation from Mara for the ballet fundraising auction. Happy to participate, Mara contributed a total of three multi-piece ballerina costumes, including tutus, leotards, tulle skirts, ballet slippers, tights, fairy wings, crowns, fairy wands, and glitter dust for an extra touch of magic.
Mara’s contribution was a big hit with the bidding patrons, who remarked about the detail work in the design and the high quality of the costumes. Margo also was impressed with Mara’s work and ordered two outfits as gifts for her nieces, who she says, “absolutely adore the dresses they received.”
“The costumes were so well made, with lots of detailing, and so impressive as handmade apparel,” Margo said. “I recommend anyone desiring top quality products for dancers to go to the Lily Anna for Girls website.”
Another regional ballet person was also looking for unique products online when she came across Lily Anna for Girls. “I needed to find "some very distinctive and uncommon treasures" for a new boutique we were opening with the first production of Colorado Ballet's 2005-2006 season in the recently remodeled Ellie Caulkins Opera House,” explained Angel Canann, sales manager for Colorado Ballet.
“When I came upon the Lily Anna for Girls website, I was so delighted to find just the kind of wonderfully unusual product that I was looking for. In addition, the site had many useful links to other companies whose merchandise complimented the Lily Anna for Girls line,” Angel said. “This is the 45th anniversary season for Colorado Ballet and I needed to create a very special and beautiful place where wonder and delight are found at every turn; having the ability to offer our patrons beautiful and exclusive gifts was paramount. This is a storybook season, very child friendly with productions like The Sleeping Beauty, The Nutcracker, and Cinderella.”
“When I spoke to Mara, she said she could meet my needs within a short deadline; I am very impressed with her customer service. She customized her products exclusively for our boutique. Mara even sewed "Colorado Ballet" labels into the tutus and leotards,” Angel added. “The items were of exceptional quality, and patrons remarked about the wonderful detail. Within two weeks of the performance we’d almost sold out of what we had ordered from Mara. We'll be offering this custom 'Lily Anna for Girls - Colorado Ballet' line at each of our productions throughout the season,” Angel shared.
“Stepping into the boutique and being surrounded by all those sweet delights kept making me wish that I was eight years old again.” Angel concluded.
Mara is delighted to hear of her customers’ great satisfaction with her products. She continues to design and create new products, and feels very successful as a work-at-home mother. Her young son David joined the family a year ago, and he naps while she fills orders from the website. Just like her family of three children whom she adores, Mara’s home-based business continues to grow.
For the past three years, she has offered handmade tutus, fairy wings, ballerina slippers and other ballet and fairy dress-up costumes and gifts for girls at retail through her online boutique at
Some of her top-selling items this year have been the Woodland Rose Tutu, a fluffy tutu of emerald and mint green tulle, with a pink silk rose at the center of a pink satin sash, Satin Ballerina Slippers of smooth pink satin with embroidery at the toes and long pink ribbons to tie around the ankle into a bow, and a Silver Star Wand with ribbon streamers of pink, blue and lilac satin-edged organza ribbon.
The Lily Anna for Girls website has become a popular online source for unique costumes and birthday and holiday gifts for girls aged 2 to12; and early this year, Mara added a baby line including baby and toddler tutus, rosebud onesies, baby ballet slippers and satin headbands adorned with silk roses. She has received countless compliments and praise from customers pleased with her high-quality merchandise and personal customer service.
So if necessity is the mother of invention, Mara Joy Luker understands well how filling the “needs” of her own daughters and thousands of other little dancers can lead to the “invention” of a unique product line and an enjoyable and thriving business.