Topic: College of Applied Sciences and Technology

February 14, 2016

Samantha Hunt, an apparel design and fashion merchandising dual major, sews together bow ties. She started her own clothing business, Knots for a Kause, to raise money for Riley Hospital for Children.

It’s common for a college student’s bedroom to be overrun with clothing. But in the case of Ball State senior Samantha Hunt, it’s not pants or sweaters piled up in the corner; it’s crates of fabric that are helping her raise money for ailing children.

In 2015, Hunt founded her clothing business, Knots for a Kause. The apparel design and fashion merchandising dual major donates proceeds from the bow ties, scarves and other accessories she makes to Ball State University Dance Marathon (BSUDM), which raised more than $610,000 for Riley Hospital for Children in February.

“I wanted to combine my two passions of sewing and giving back,” said Hunt, of Auburn, Indiana, “and Dance Marathon is something I look forward to every year.”

A creative venture

Since starting Knots for a Kause, Hunt has found a common thread tying her experiences as an entrepreneur back to her course work.

“Sam is learning principles of entrepreneurship at the same time she's applying them outside of the classroom—that’s a real advantage to her.”

Matt Marvel
George A. Ball Distinguished Professor of Entrepreneurship

For a fashion manufacturing class last fall, she was assigned as production leader for her team. Each group had to pick a product, identify its market, obtain supplies and go into production. “One of the reasons I could handle the challenge was that I’d just started my own business,” she said. “I was already mass producing stuff in my bedroom.”

Matt Marvel, the George A. Ball Distinguished Professor of Entrepreneurship and director of Ball State’s Entrepreneurship Center, admires Hunt’s drive to become a better businesswoman. “It’s pretty uncommon to see a college student figuring out how to run her own business while she’s still in school,” he said.

Hunt was encouraged when Marvel handed back her report about a creative venture modeled on Knots for Kause. “He made me feel like I wasn’t stupid for believing that even though I was young, I could still run a business,” Hunt said. “His classes have made me more confident, especially about pursuing my entrepreneurship minor.”

Adds Marvel, “Sam is learning principles of entrepreneurship at the same time she’s applying them outside of the classroom—that’s a real advantage to her.”

Hey, want some fabric?

Hunt makes and sells bow ties, scarves and other accessories through Knots for a Kause.

Another advantage for Hunt is discovering her passion for sewing early in life.

The daughter of a home economics teacher, Hunt said her mother always made her Halloween costumes. She was bitten by the sewing bug her senior year in high school, when she made her own prom dress, a high-low creation of satin and lace. “After I made that, I felt like I’d found my calling,” said Hunt, who dreams of a career designing evening wear and wedding dresses.

An internship with a senior volunteer group in Auburn led Hunt to founding Knots for a Kause. “We’d sew quilts for kids with cancer, and when I left, the director asked if I wanted some fabric from this huge vault they had.” Before long, more people gave cloth to her, adding to her collection. It’s what sparked the idea to start a business with the inventory. “I’m up to about 11 crates now.”

Picking through the yards of paisley, plaid and polka dots, Hunt carefully selects each swath of fabric for her creations. All she needs next is access to a sewing machine. Her favorite spot is her bedroom.

“On a Friday or Saturday night, I’ll set up an assembly line and get into this trance, sewing and listening to my music—usually country or pop. Sometimes a girl’s just in the mood for some Justin Bieber.”

Social media key to business growth

Hunt sells most of her fashion accessories from her Etsy shop but is learning to be savvy about promoting herself on social media. “It’s taught me the power of connecting with people who love what I make. These days, you can’t own a business and neglect Facebook or Instagram.”

Because her materials are donated, Hunt is able to keep her costs low. Now she plans to give away the several hundred dollars she’s raised so far and whatever she makes selling Knots for a Kause items during Dance Marathon.

Max Browning, president of BSUDM, is impressed by Hunt’s commitment. “When I heard what Sam was doing, I thought it was one of the coolest things I’d seen a committee member do in the four years I’ve been involved with Dance Marathon.”

While her life will get even busier when she starts a summer internship with a Chicago evening wear company, Hunt plans on keeping up with her Knots for a Kause orders. “I’ll always have a place in my heart for Dance Marathon, so I want to continue donating to Riley and making things until I run out of fabric.” She smiled. “I think that’s going to be a while.”

Explore Family and Consumer Sciences

Apparel design and fashion merchandising are two of 11 bachelor's degrees offered in the Department of Family and Consumer Sciences. The department also offers seven master's degree, a certificate and more.

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