There is a growing movement that values the work of the artisan and the craftsman. Whether it is beer and wine produced in small batches, baked goods, or furniture, high quality, often hand made goods are in high demand.
In Old Town Mankato a new micro-manufacturing business is thriving as people all around the world respond to the high-quality children’s clothing being produced by Jenna Odegard and her team at Bumbelou.
“We do everything from scratch,” Odegard explained. “We are designing our own fabrics and designing our own garment cuts. Then right here in this building, at 405 North Riverfront Drive, we have a team of women who work together to create these unique products.
“When you’re buying something from Bumbelou you’re buying something of quality. You know right where it’s coming from. From the sewing machine to hanging on the rack, you can see the whole process right here.”
Birth of a vision
After Odegard first became a mom, she experienced a time of uncertainty about her purpose in life. “I was given an opportunity to sit down at a sewing machine and do some contract work for a friend,” she recalled.
“As soon as I started working at that machine, feeling the whir and my hands making something it was like therapy. It helped clear my mind and gave me a purpose. It brought me back to life in a lot of ways. I just knew at that moment that I needed to create this brand.”
“I started making products and putting them on Instagram and Facebook. Then we added a website,” she said. “We started with really small batches. If I had a pink dress, I’d make 14 pink dresses. Sometimes we’d make 5 red dresses. It was all under 20 of each style. There were 15-20 different products at first.”
I was getting emails saying things like, ‘My daughter loves this dress so much she’s wearing it every single day. I have to wash it at night, so she can wear it the next day.’
It wasn’t long before demand for the clothing Odegard was making grew to be more than she could produce herself. “I worked alone for, I think about six or nine months,” she recalled. “I started to reach out, especially through social media, to try to find people to work on my team.” Initially, that team worked out of Odegard’s home.
“It was easy to find what was working,” she said. “I was getting emails saying things like, ‘My daughter loves this dress so much she’s wearing it every single day. I have to wash it at night, so she can wear it the next day.’”
After the experience of finding new hope in her business, Odegard felt strongly about helping others. “I felt so much gratitude for discovering a way of healing for myself. Right from the beginning I also knew we needed to use this to do good in the world. Our mission statement is Because clothing should be more than just beautiful!” That core value drives the company.
“We share 10% of company profits, whether that’s from a Bumbelou product that we made here, or one of a the few other products we sell,” she explained. “We’re supporting Compassion International to help girls all over the world who are now given a chance to go to school, they are being given food and clothing, and in some cases, they are given a safe environment.”
Top Notch Location!
When you visit Bumbelou on North Riverfront Drive, it’s quickly apparent that Odegard’s passion for excellence goes beyond the clothing she makes. The shop, remodeled largely by her husband, John, would be at home in the best boutique districts anywhere.
“I’m especially proud of this building,” Odegard said. “It was a lot of hard work, a lot of sleepless nights. My husband put in a lot of effort. It feels miraculous and I’m super proud that we made it through all the challenges that came our way.
“I’d like to share my gratitude for my husband, John. He works full time, and then he would come down in the evening after tucking the girls in bed and he would work another shift. Often, he would work until two or three in the morning to get everything done on time!”
The work was done in time to open for the MSU 150th anniversary homecoming celebration on September 29th. “There was a parade passing right in front of our store,” she recalled. “What better time?”
Recently the production crew moved from the Odegards’ home to the new work room in the back of the shop. “I am loving it,” she said. “We’ve had our sewing operation under the same roof as our retail space for just under two weeks.”
We only get one life here. I want to make sure that I’m living my passion and that my employees can live their passion.
What about that name?
“I love to share that story,” Odegard said.
“Early on, I realized I needed a brand name. I was thinking and thinking and then it came to me! My then 14-month-old daughter’s favorite game was to be a bumblebee! She’d run around the house and buzz! Daddy was the bumblebee catcher. When she got caught it was just the cutest laugh ever! It was so sweet.
“That’s where the Bumbel side came from. The Lou side is a family name. I’m Jenna Lou. Lexi Lou is my daughter and Linda Lou is my mom.”
Being wrapped in the embrace of this growing Old Town community has been just wonderful!
Quite the community
About the Mankato area, Odegard had this to say, “We’ve been here for over a decade and I love Mankato for so many reasons. Having a family, there are so many wonderful parks. There are getting to be more and more opportunities for entertainment, for music, and kid’s activities in the summer.
“We’ve always felt at home here. It’s such a great community. We love being part of it.
“And now, as a business owner, we are experiencing so much support from other businesses,” she said. “Every day I have people who come in and say, ‘I was sent over by Whimsy and Weathered,’ or the ‘Coffee Hag said there’s a new store you should check out!’ Our next-door neighbors, Gallery 512, send customers over all the time.
“Being wrapped in the embrace of this growing Old Town community has been just wonderful!”
“We only get one life here. I want to make sure that I’m living my passion and that my employees can live their passion,” Odegard said. “We also care deeply that the result of what we’re doing is helping other people. Hopefully the children we sponsor through Compassion International will grow up to be able to follow their passion as well.”
Bumbelou’s products are available in their retail shop in Mankato as well as on their website.