Economic woes and pre-planned travel trips seemed out to destroy sophomores Julianne Raasch and Kelly Carlquist’s hopes for reliable employment this summer before the season had even begun.
With a year overseas looming in the distance both girls were on the lookout for money-making opportunities that could weather family vacations and a serious lack of help wanted signs in their Los Gatos Calif. neighborhood. Project Funway an original sewing camp endeavor was engineered out of this predicament.
“We [Julianne and I] were thinking we could get an $8-an-hour job and work all summer or we could try this Carlquist said. We needed to make a lot of money fast but I had no idea what it would turn out to be.”
“My mom has sewn all her life and it was pretty much her idea said Raasch. The camp was the brainchild of Linda Raasch. Her daughters Julianne and McKenna Raasch, a senior this year at Westmont College, and Julianne’s friend Carlquist provided the muscle of the operation. Carlquist’s mother Kathy Carlquist arranged the fashion show portion of the camp.
Raasch estimates that between 70 and 80 girls between the ages of 7 and 17 participated in the four cycles of the week-long sewing camp. Each week-long program offered morning, afternoon and day-long classes that cost campers $250 or $400 respectively.
Participants were taught basic sewing skills, including fabric identification, pinning, and sewing seams and buttons. By the end of the camp, each participant completed a sewing supply tote bag and either a skirt or pair of pajama pants.
The Raasch family provided the facilities for the camp. Raasch and Carlquist transformed an above-garage studio into a workspace fit for teaching and entertaining campers.
We were lucky to have great facilities that we didn’t have to pay for commented Carlquist.
The camp made a connection to the Bravo-turned-Lifetime television series Project Runway with the performance elements of the camp. Participants modeled their outfits in a photo shoot and fashion show for their parents. In this way, they took on the dual role of designer-model, a role that has obvious appeal for the 10-and-up age group to which Project Funway advertised.
Raasch, a public relations major, and Carlquist, a business major, were responsible for Project Funway’s publicity. Hardly any library windows or storefronts in their Los Gatos neighborhood were left untouched by the Project Funway crew. A family friend contributed to the camp’s Web site, Projectfunway.com, and the girls created and posted fliers all over Los Gatos according to Raasch. It was quite a process.”
In addition to advertising in their younger brothers’ elementary and middle schools directly targeting the “tween” age group Project Funway received plenty of free advertising from their local paper Los Gatos Weekly. The paper featured a story on Project Funway halfway through the camp boosting community awareness of the project.
“It’s an unusual camp said Carlquist, commenting on the appeal of a summertime program centered around sewing instead of sports or outdoor activities.
Project Funway incorporated its creators’ interest in sewing with an element of entrepreneurship. It fostered creativity and required dedication of the girls in an entirely new way. At the end of the day, the project was a business endeavor.
We ended up doing really well even though we didn’t know if it would actually work said Raasch. She estimates that Project Funway yielded almost $20,000 in revenue over the course of the four weeks. We were not expecting that at all. It was a shock to us.”
Carlquist and Raasch leave Thursday with Pepperdine’s Lausanne Switzerland program. They will spend both semesters overseas enjoying the fruits of their labor and knowing that in addition to having run a successful experiment in small business they have contributed to the personal growth of dozens of children in their community.
“Every girl just gained so much confidence which wasn’t part of the plan Raasch said. It was so great to see.”
“I loved hearing back from moms [of campers] said Carlquist. They would tell me that so-and-so’s still sewing.”
Carlquist reported that the rave reviews of the camp from participants warrant a Christmastime session of Project Funway.
“I’ll need money then too she said. I’d love to do it again!’