STEUBENVILLE – Pat Bailey got her first sewing machine when she was 10 years old. She asked her mom to give it to her for Christmas and mom was not disappointed.
“I taught you how to make clothes.” She said. “I didn’t have anyone to teach me – I just thought it was something I wanted to do. My mother used to take me to find fabrics and patterns, that’s when I realized how creative I was. I started when I was 10 years old, making my own clothes, not what my mother liked. That’s where it all started.
By age 13, Bailey was working shifts for two major cleaners in Chicago. Two years later, she was making prom gowns and wedding dresses.
“I was interested, I was interested” Bailey said. “I do anything that interests me. After high school, I learned to sew.
She excelled in machine work as well as manual work.
“From then on, anything that interests me, I start the challenge because I’m interested.” She said.
Bailey said she doesn’t remember how old she was when she started making hats.
“I started fixing the hats my mother used to make me wear.” She said she would go to the mill and buy it. “Different Things” She wanted to add to them. “I’d take the nose of the radiator and put the hat in front of it and all the steam would come out, changing the shape of the hat. Or I’d get bored of a hat and make a new hat.”
Bailey said she made her own steam generator. “Until one time I caught him steaming out of the bedroom.”
“I haven’t stopped making hats, I’m just not busy designing them anymore.” she laughed.
It was during those early years that she developed an interest in what doctors were telling people to put in their bodies.
I was nursing a baby when I was 12 and I didn’t take a book with me. She reminded him. “I looked around the lady’s house and the only book I could find was the ‘Physician’s Desk Reference.’ After I started reading that, I didn’t like it. What I found was crazy. What it was used for, what it was prescribed for, then pages (side effects, interactions and warnings) were a little You get a clause… If it can do more harm than good, why bother? Why take those chances, that was my question when I was 12.
She convinced the woman to let her take PDR home, then continued calling. “Every neighbor and family member I know has a prescription.”
“I made an appointment for them.” She said. “I let them come and told them about that medicine. I just didn’t trust grown-ups.” If they knew what they were doing to them, they would put those drugs into their bodies.
Bailey said she had no idea the information she gave her friends and family had changed their lives, but it definitely shaped hers. Bailey, who is prone to allergies, says she has developed a lifelong passion for skincare. Being able to make products for people with immune problems. She did her homework “Studying the ingredients, trying to narrow it down.” What caused her allergic reactions.
“I was always inquisitive. I’ve read a lot since I was little.” Bailey said.
She also worked as a cosmetologist at a store in her hometown of Chicago, where she took advantage of cosmetology training provided by manufacturers and began making her own all-natural products.
“I did all the research myself. I started when I was very young, buying one ingredient and promoting those, until I knew, ‘Stay away from this, that’s that,’ but as long as you have cocoa butter, you’re fine.”
She has learned to make shoes and has everything she needs to make her own.
“I’ve made a couple.” Although a few years have passed, she said. “Every year I went to the ball and made my own gown and shoes.”
In the year In 2014, Bailey married those early interests — sewing, crafting and skincare — into her own business, Vontries Couture, located at 739 N. Fifth St., Steubenville. During the pandemic, she began sharing her knowledge of essential oils, hand washes, and pedicures with the local community to help people with autoimmune diseases while socially distancing.
They forced her to rethink her business model. She started making personalized face masks and was searching online for designs when she discovered new types of design files, svgs and pngs.
Craftsmen know that those files can be made with electronic cutting machines like Cricut and Silhouette, but Bailey admits then; “I didn’t know what these were.”
Bailey’s ignorance didn’t stop her from getting the answers she wanted. She did her homework and bought herself a cutter, a Silhouette. She knew how to use it and what it could do more to the point. After learning how to cut vinyl, she got herself a heat press and started making T-shirts.
“I had no problem learning. I love learning.” She said. “I learn what interests me. I enjoyed it. I enjoy a challenge.”
She made the jump from vinyl to sublimation printing to transfer designs to clothing, mugs, signs and more. Sublimation printing uses heat and special colors to permanently apply designs.
“I’ve been doing it for a little over a year now, it’s a lot easier than other things like vinyl, embroidery and sewing.” She said. “It’s instant gratification, you see it right away and it’s permanent, like vinyl it doesn’t fade in the wash, it doesn’t change at all. And it’s fun to do. I’m always on the lookout for things I can carry around – mugs, charms, notebooks, journals, mousepads, coffee mugs, coasters, wine glass coolers, dishes, wine bottle caddies, ties, apparel, any type of clothing, even shoes. I am trying to incorporate sublimation with shoe making.
Bailey says you are only limited. “With your mind and your wallet.”
“Some of the new items I’m making are lunch boxes, small carriers. I was looking through my laptop bag yesterday. Faucets, sinks, toilet seat, carpet and rug in front of the sink. Wood signs. Bailey said.
“I do things that interest me – if I buy something, I buy it in size and demand. If there’s enough demand, I carry it in other sizes. I don’t look at it as ‘this person will buy it,’ it has to be something I like.”
She said the outbreak almost ended when she sent her clients into quarantine.
“I was ready to give up, to give up.” Bailey said. “I was in the process of closing down because I didn’t see how I could live after the epidemic. Now I had no desire to try, it was too difficult. I just didn’t care – then I found something that interested me, Sublime Printing. A client walks in and says she might be going to a business meeting.
That meeting was in Steubenville with Thrive, a business incubator program that aims to break down barriers to entrepreneurship. Paramount Pursuits, the Pennsylvania consulting firm behind the program, helps income-eligible entrepreneurs build a foundation for their businesses by creating business and marketing plans, providing digital marketing assistance, helping them understand finances and access funding and networking.
Participants must be residents of Steubenville and the business they operate or intend to operate must be based within the city limits. They must also meet income guidelines.
Once approved, they are assigned mentors who meet with them twice a month. You will learn how to write a business plan and network with other small business owners. If they have a question, all they have to do is ask, and Paramount staff will find a professional who can.
Bailey said her friend was at the store. “I was buying things for her business, essential oils, and helping her. She asked me if there was anything I needed and gave me information (on Thrive), I’ve been there ever since.
The boom in Steubenville forced her to rethink her business model.
“They encouraged me, taught me how to manage everything, all the things that I didn’t learn (earlier in my career) that needed to be in place.” She said. “They cover all aspects of your business, they’ve encouraged me to go further, they’ve taught me how to grow this into a business. There’s always something you don’t know and there’s always something you don’t know to ask the public.
Better yet, give her access. “I couldn’t afford all kinds of resources without that, or if I knew I needed information, I wouldn’t know where to find it.” she added. “They’re teaching the basics of starting a business—what needs to be done at each step.”
Bailey would have been at home if it hadn’t been for the incubator. “Having fun on my own, in my own home.”
“Without Paramount, it would never have expanded to this level.” She said.