Sandtricia Strickland has fond memories of traveling with family as a child. She remembers frequenting gift shops with racks of souvenirs that were printed or embroidered with names.
“On our travels, I could never find a pencil or anything with my name on it,” said Sandtricia. “My sister, Theresa, was able to find a product with her name on it.”
These experiences of frustration inspired Sandtricia to pursue a career in custom embroidery. In the 1990s she became a successful monogrammer at Evans Furriers.
“I didn’t know a thing about sewing, but I asked my mom to teach me to sew really quickly the day before my interview,” Sandtricia said.
She quickly excelled in her new job and eventually, she was receiving coats from across the country to the Chicago factory when they needed a special touch. Finally, in 2000, Sandtricia took a leap of faith and ordered her own sewing machine off eBay.
“I sent the lady $5,000,” Sandtricia said. “I was afraid I would not see that money or the machine, but I stepped out on faith and that was the beginning.”
This led to her starting her own business, Essential Creations Chicago, out of her family home. She was able to grow the business with the help of her family, especially her husband and children who acted as designers and sales personnel. Today, Essential Creations is one of the leading custom embroidery and silk screening companies in Chicago. Sandtricia’s business creates products for clients big and small, from family reunions to the U.S. Olympic team.
In 2021, Sandtricia received a small business loan from Allies for Community Business. She secured a huge job with Skims clothing line last fall but wouldn’t get paid until January 24. The loan funds helped her business manufacture products for the U.S. Olympic team, expand outreach, and hire additional employees.
Despite the obstacles that come with running a business, Sandtricia believes pursuing her passion makes the journey worthwhile.
“I enjoy creating products my clients love and keepsakes that will probably be passed down,” said Sandtricia. “Our clients enjoy coming in, talking with my parents, and chatting it up with my husband and grandson. Those are the days that make my struggles worthwhile.”