MEET TALIA HENDRY
OF FABRIC FUNHOUSE
by Lexie Teel
Many life stories from members of the quilting and textile world involve recollections of childhood memories spent crafting and creating, and adult years working to find their niche and perfecting it.
This is not one of those stories.
What began as an innocent visit to a local fabric store eventually led to Talia Hendry securing the title of the largest supplier of cork fabric, straps, and piping in the United States through her company, Fabric Funhouse.
Hendry was born in Peru and immigrated to the U.S. when she was two years old. The first 10 years of her life were spent moving between California and Saudi Arabia; taking trips to see the world when the heat of Saudi Arabia was too much to bear. Talia and her family eventually settled in a small suburb outside of Houston. After just a year of college, Talia was already itching for something new.
“I joined the Marine Corps in search of an adventure, and quite an adventure I got!” she explains.
Hendry served four years in the Marines, which included training on the East Coast, deployments to Kuwait and Iraq, and duty assignments in both California and Okinawa, Japan. “The Marine Corps is where I learned how powerful mentorship, initiative, and courage can be,” she says. “With all three, you don’t need to be afraid of risk, or the unknown.”
These were lessons that Hendry would carry on into the venture of opening her own business.
The Christmas before her first son was born, she was gifted a sewing machine by her mother. She was determined to make a tiny quilt for him. Little did she know, this project would inadvertently impact her life forever. “I thought I would walk into a fabric store and pick up the fabric ‘really quick,’” she laughs.
What was meant to be a short trip to find fabric quickly turned into hours of walking around the Honey Bee Quilt Store in Austin, Texas, admiring the selection of fabrics from which she had to choose. She had no idea there were so many variations of fabrics! And her love of fabric officially began that day.
With a desire to further her journey into the vast world of fabric, she opened an Etsy shop, selling only a handful of bolts of hand-selected quilter’s cotton. She wanted to contribute to her family without compromising precious time with her children. She decided to focus on stand-alone prints rather than collections, which brought her a specific type of customer: bag makers and those seeking children’s prints.
“I liked the social-yet-productive outlet it provided,” she says. “I could live vicariously through people who had time to sew.”
She cut and shipped the fabric for her customers during her children’s naptime. “I would wrap the fabric in tissue paper, seal it with a logo sticker, and a treat,” she recalls, “I wanted my customers to feel like they were receiving a luxury item.”
Hendry’s care and attention to the presentation of her products impressed customers so much, they began to showcase her hard work on social media. They would regularly share pictures of the mindfully wrapped packages, their fabric order, and the piece they created with her hand-picked fabric. In no time, her friendships with her customers blossomed through those social media posts and her Etsy shop. But one conversation, in particular, stands out for Hendry: the one in which a customer introduced her to cork fabric.
“One day a customer and I were chatting on Facebook and she asked me if I’d ever heard of cork fabric. I said no, but I was intrigued!”
She dove into researching this new, fascinating fabric, and fell in love with it. She is especially fond of the fact that cork fabric is both environmentally and animal friendly.
Hendry dove headfirst into all things cork fabric, and after a little trial and error, she opened her second Etsy shop with her focus shifted from quilter’s cotton to exclusively cork products. With an established customer base from her first shop and rave reviews from her loyal customers, her new fabric shop took off, and eventually led her to attending her first-ever Quilt Market in Houston in November 2016.
“I was a visitor with a cork purse, in awe of the magnitude of the event, and star struck by the designers,” she recalls.
In January of 2017, she stepped away from Etsy, rebranded, and started her own website for her growing company. “This was the best risk and decision for Fabric Funhouse,” she adds.
Her willingness to take risks was rewarded; only a year after her first visit to Quilt Market, she says she was granted a “lucky break” and was accepted as an exhibitor.
“I remember personally delivering my exhibitor application to the Quilt Market office in Houston,” she says. “I was so nervous. I brought a cork duffle bag that a customer had made, and the ladies in the office passed it around!”
A year later, she was accepted as an exhibitor again, and this time—she says—a much more prepared one.
While others may find Hendry’s story inspiring, when asked what most inspires her, she says, simply, “The talented people who make beautiful things with the fabric from our shop.”
And perhaps even more endearing is one of Hendry’s fondest memories of her business: seeing the name Fabric Funhouse on her company’s medical insurance cards.
“My employees would tell you that I just now think of Fabric Funhouse as a real business,” she explains. “I guess I feel that way because, this year we started using a payroll company with direct deposit, and now I look forward to payday. I didn’t pay myself for some time; it was a fun hobby for a couple of years.”
Through her adventures in fabric and launching a successful company, this business that was once just a hobby has changed Hendry’s life forever and taught her much about herself.
“Some things I used to see as my weaknesses turned out to be my strengths. I think a lot of people should self-reflect and become mindful of their strengths and passions, and let that lead them to their own career path,” she says.
Next on her creative journey: creating Fabric Funhouse’s own line of colors and prints of cork fabric. They also plan to expand their waxed canvas colors, and head to Paris for the Premiere Vision show to find the next interesting fabric to add to the shop.
“I can’t wait to discover fabrics I never knew existed,” she adds.
And what advise would Hendry offer to aspiring business owners or others new to the industry?
“Don’t get distracted by Plan B. If Plan A doesn’t work, then find another Plan A. If you’ve ever thought of starting a creative career, just remember that most people are afraid to take risks.”
See more at FabricFunhouse.com.
International Quilt Market/Kansas City
Classes and events begin May 16
Kansas City Convention Center
Kansas City, Missouri, USA
International Quilt Market/Houston
Events begin October 24
George R. Brown Convention Center
Houston, Texas, USA
International Quilt Market/Pittsburgh
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David L. Lawrence Convention center
International Quilt Market/Houston
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George R. Brown Convention Center
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