A million years ago . . .
I had a dream to take my creative, inventive abilities and ideas seriously. I can see now, as I look back, how much I got in my way of that. Mostly, the negativity of my own mind, mimicking others, and then blaming them for my not going forward.
What I wanted then and still want now is to make products that will mean something in the long run. That will last. That will help people in their daily lives. That will make them smile. To produce my ideas, like a script coming alive on stage, inclusive of the audience and contributing to them.
The whole process of building Howda Designz was about learning trust in others and in myself. To learn to listen to what people say and to let their words be the guide but not the determiner. There are so many reasons to do what I do and so many of them don’t compute in the book of rules. It is a matter of intuition, trust, faith and the wonderful guidance I receive. The key, I found, is to hear what is in my heart louder than what rings in my ears.
I was afraid to make the leap in 1976 when I invented something. I did not follow through bringing it to market. Looking back I see that timing is so much. Even if I had brought that idea to market I would have been two years too early. And it happened that two years later I witnessed, once again, an idea of mine flourish through another’s hands and make it to the market. What I learned was what I really wanted.
I made a promise: When my next good idea hit, I would produce it, no matter where I was, what I was doing or how much money I had. I believe, that with this promise, which seemed to spring forth from me in a second’s flash, I sent out a message, a clear and uncluttered message. That promise was heard and at that moment in time, whether I knew it or not, the deed was done.
In 1988 I found a wood and canvas seat, originally made some 60 years before for back support on the rumble seats of the first motorcars and on circus benches, under the big top. This seat, made in 1928, was ready to make a comeback through me.
I had moved to a small seaport town in Massachusetts where I commuted to work in Boston. Through the connections of my friend Richard, from Kansas City, I found a 300-year-old house with 27″ wide ship’s floorboards in the charming little city of Newburyport right on the coast just below New Hampshire and Maine. The dream of this house is, yet, another story.
Starting my company in this house added the to authenticity of my entrepreneurial dream. It was just the inspiration I needed to create new things from old ideas. It is from this house that past met present and brought to me the name given the seat. (See “HowdaSeat Story”).
At night and on the weekends I worked with passion to bring about my dream. I spent most of my time alone on this journey but the people that popped up along the way were like angels hidden behind my own walls, ready to be active just at the nick of time. I worked on the pros and cons, the hows and which ways .. to make this little seat work again to support people’s backs.
I researched and developed new and better ways to make the seat, more suited to body frames of today. It took over two years of trial and error and testing on people in one fair after the other all over New England.
I was determined to make the seat in America and I was determined to improve the original design. I found great New England craftspeople. I started a cottage industry with just 2 people to work along side me. I traded 6 HowdaSeats for one month’s rent in an oversized closet of a space in a warehouse where many other upstart business’s and artists were located. I found support from lenders and friends who gracefully offered help in many areas of business.
Eventually, I collaborated with another woman, who owned her own sewing business in Boston, and we built my designs for fleece-lined accessories to accompany the HowdaSeat (See HowdaSeat “Accessories”). Next, the small wood table (See “Little Table Box”) and HowdaSeat stools were created, again with collaboration, right here in Newburyport.
Then came the canvas bags (See “bags”) after being asked by a customer to make a bag with many pockets. Fashioned from a LA friend’s set design utility bag used on Hollywood film sets, I made the new “BucketBag” that could be used everyday by both men and women.
Since 1990 I have made products that help people in their everyday lives. I have so many people to thank. The process of building a company from scratch, seeing it flourish, with product and people was the finest experience of my life.
The difficulties arose around holding onto ideas. I saw one of my bags taken by a catalog, leaving my company broke with hundreds of their orders in my stock as they began making my bag for themselves. There are more stories along this line, but eventually it brought me to the understanding that there is no “holding onto.” but only holding open, holding faith and a view open, seeing the possibilities that transcend the obstacles.
This website is a very exciting upstart. And the timing is right. I’m embarking on this journey knowing that, even though I cannot see my customers, they are there supporting me as I sell my products in support of them.
I have Dick to thank for his patience and his timing and ability. He and his partner, Christian, built our first site. Dick has never stopped believing in me and my work. For this I am forever grateful.
Please keep checking the site for more products to show up because they will. I promise.
In case you are wondering, it has been worth it, even if it did take me a million years.
- Leslie Aisner Novak