Penn State student gets a passion for embroidery thanks to a small business
When the COVID-19 fueled lockdowns hit the country, everyone was probably looking for hobbies to fill their new found free time. Some may have started sewing, learned to ride a unicycle, or just opened a cookbook.
While many of our new hobbies didn’t last, Owen McGee’s did. Creator of Happy Valley SonsMcGee embraced her talent and passion for unique clothing by creating a thriving embroidery business.
A Penn State telecommunications graduate, McGee started embroidering clothes at the start of the pandemic and has since placed 300 orders with Penn Staters and other students.
“I was so bored that I started making clothes for myself,” McGee said.
His hobby took off when people started commenting on his sweatshirt in public and asking if they could buy him one. McGee thought, ‘Why not?’ and created an Instagram page which two years later has over 700 followers.
While McGee started with simple designs, he moved to a larger embroidery machine and can now embroider any design on almost any canvas. He says embroidery gives him a chance to help his clients turn their dreams into reality through clothing.
“It’s kind of fun, like people are reaching out to me with their own ideas and bringing other people’s ideas to life,” McGee said.
Happy Valley Threads, as the name clearly suggests, started just for Penn State students. Now, McGee has received orders from colleges around the country, like Clemson and Syracuse.
McGee is a member of Theta Delta Chi, and running Happy Valley Threads has allowed him to expand his network and meet people in different fraternities and organizations.
“I will see people [that ordered when I’m] get out there, or even wear the hoodie, and spark conversation and get to know people even more,” McGee said.
While McGee is the founder, he gets help from a graphic designer to create stitch files from the designs. The team then assigns colors to the threads and sets the price for the pieces based on the number of stitches required to embroider a design.
Besides the graphic designer, another key figure who continues to help him is McGee’s mother. Not only did his mother teach him all about embroidery, but she herself loves embroidery and helps McGee juggle Happy Valley Threads while attending Penn State.
“I’m lucky to have his help on the back end when I’m in class,” McGee said.
McGee reflects on his own process and urges other students pursuing similar opportunities to find a way to stand out, dedicate their time to their passion, and always learn from their mistakes.
“A year ago I had no idea I would get this many commissions and I just thought it would be a little side thing, but it ended up being something I want to do after school,” said McGee.
After graduation, McGee says he will continue to build his business and work full time as he plans to create his own brand.
“I will have a lot more time to develop the page and do whatever it takes to expand it,” McGee said.
Those interested in placing an order can contact McGee by direct message on Happy Valley Threads. instagram. Orders range from $40 to $70 and take between two and three weeks to receive depending on the design and destination of the order.