Tucked away in downtown Driggs is Burgess Custom, a custom outerwear shop. It's walls are lined with sewing machines, patterns and custom orders. I walk in and am greeted by Sara; one of the most friendly and enthusiastic people I've ever met. Sara is the CEO and head designer at Burgess Custom. She runs the show here; she has 3 seamstresses working alongside her. Her order book is overflowing with handwritten notes on what her clients need. Almost immediately, she pulls out a large roll of blue Gore-Tex and tells me she was saving these colorful pants to work on for the photoshoot.
Q: I know “how did you get started?” is a very typical question, but I’d love to know about your journey. When did you start and when did you decide creating custom outerwear/doing repairs was what you wanted to do professionally?
Sara: I started doing alterations & mending clothes during college at Colorado State University. After I graduated I moved to Summit County and started daydreaming about designing unique outerwear while ski bumming. I started working with a production company in Ohio and we built a couple prototypes of custom patchwork snow pants. They were very well received by ski bums, especially when I made the move to the Tetons in 2005.
Q: Has anyone been a pivotal person/mentor for you personally or professionally?
Sara: Both of my parents, each in their own unique way. My Mom is a very successful business woman and my Dad is a retired painter, truck driver, and free spirit. My late grandmother was a pioneer in her field of business, so I’ve always looked up to her. I’m also very inspired by countless people in the snow sports industry that keep it progressing and growing strong.
Q: There’s so much background work that goes into becoming successful on your own and it’s not all glamorous. What does a typical work day look like for you?
Sara: Cutting fabric, the usual texts, phone calls, and emails. And a lot of driving! I employ 3 seamstresses in Teton Valley that sew from home. I source, design, and cut all fabric and supplies for Burgess Custom’s products then deliver it to the seamstresses for sewing.
Q: What’s your favorite part of your day to day process? What’s your least favorite?
Sara: I love cutting snow pants and creating the perfect fit for our customers. I’d say my least favorite part is pattern making, but I’ve been getting more proficient at that over the past couple years so it’s less intimidating now.
Q: If you you were able to go back and offer gentle words of wisdom to a younger version of yourself - one who was considering or just starting on this path - what would you tell her?
Sara: Be patient and enjoy the slow growth!
Q: Tell me about a moment or a job that made you feel amazing or gave you a "wow this is real?" feeling.
Sara: I think being an integral part of the production of large projects for other companies in the industry and ski patrols throughout the country is pretty amazing!
Q: On that note, tell me about your favorite piece you've ever made!
Q: What is your favorite type of project request to get?
Sara: Burgess Custom snow pants in bold colors with unique features and fit.
Q: Was there any point where you almost gave up? Why didn't you, if so?
Sara: Absolutely - I got to that point about 10 years ago. I took a long look at my life and realized that this IS my path and my dream. I will not give up!
Q: What's a piece of advice you could give to someone thinking about hiring you?
Sara: Let me go skiing, hiking, biking and climbing; nature inspires creativity!
Q: What's something you wish your clients (or audience) knew about what you do?
Sara: We design, cut, & sew every piece of every product here in Teton Valley, Idaho.
Q: Tell me about work-life balance. What does that mean to you? Do you struggle with it or does it come naturally?
Sara: Working for yourself and succeeding in efficient time management can definitely be challenging. It’s tough to decide when to work and when to play. I’ve found a great balance in this aspect of life now that I’ve separated my office/workshop from my home.