Sharmon Cate Hardin and I attended the same Chattanooga, Tennessee area high school, but we didn’t really get to know one another until we became Facebook Friends a couple of years back. Since then, I have grown to admire her warmth, her generous spirit, and her amazing artistic talent with knitted creations. So, when I began my quest to source Authentic Winners to feature in my blog, Sharmon rose to the top of the list! Not only is she a successful proprietor of her own small e-business, Now You’re Covered, but she also donates a significant portion of her time, as well as her beautiful creations to the young patients of St. Jude Research Hospital.
WBG: How and when did you learn to knit? Did someone teach you, or are you self taught? And what made you decide to make a career out of it?
SCH: I first began working with yarn when I was around 10 years old and loved it. I was taught by my maternal grandmother and my mother. I am more of a watch and learn than read and learn which lead me to creating my own patterns today. I had always worked with yarns over the years as a hobby or making gifts for friends and relatives. Blankets, aka Afghans for new baby, bridal shower, etc. Never stopping with my need to create with yarn…
Several years ago I was deemed partially disabled. That is to say my health now prevents me from being able to hold a job that would be considered ‘gainful employment’. I was told that I was allowed to continue to earn some monies in addition to my small disability income. (My pride has stopped me from ever even trying to see if I qualify for any other assistance.)
One day my daughter asked if I could make her a lavender hat & matching scarf. This began my attraction to hat making. While beginning to sell my wares on Ebay http://myworld.ebay.com/handmadeintn/ I also began to substitute teach where my children attended school. There I was dubbed ‘The Yarn Lady’ by the students (in a very loving way of course). They were amazed at my ability to work while looking at them. After so many years of doing this, most stitches are easily felt while working in addition to viewing while working. I have been lucky enough to not have my hands and fingers affected by the arthritis that continues to deplete my abilities. I thank GOD for this! Just this year (2011), I was told I have carpal tunnel, but a small wrap renders that a non issue.
As I began to sell more and more on Ebay, I decided it couldn’t be that hard to create a website of my own, could it? I had already started sending business cards with each order! So the webpage www.nowyourecovered.com was born. I struggled with naming my business as I knew there were several items I had ventured into making. Hats of course are my true love and where I get most excited in the designing. I even considered the business name: NogginToppers, but this did not cover all items. Since I began making blankets (Southern Name: “covers”:-), this is where the name idea was decided. Keeping with being grammatically correct, I kept the word: “you’re” in the web address. This has been my biggest issue when folks can’t remember where to find me as they type: “your” instead. I did toss around the idea of changing that, but I like it being unique too. I am entirely happy with where I am now. I have accepted my lack of ability to be out in the world working for others and have gladly embraced my God given talent to be used for making others happy with their orders.
WBG: You offer a very wide variety of items to your customers on your website—I even noticed knit bikinis on there! What is the craziest or most difficult item you’ve ever made to fulfill a customer’s order?
SCH: Hmmm, this may take some thought to think of the craziest. The one hat that took me the longest time to create was when our youngest daughter asked me to make a raccoon hat for our youngest Grand~boy, Levi.
Now that I think about it….The craziest thing I’ve ever made was an umbrella for Mikey. Mikey is a Build-a-Bear turtle that belongs to our oldest Grand~boy, Connor. What I wouldn’t do for my grands!!!
But then again… it could be the crock cozy too! A friend of mine is the most wonderful esthetician and keeps her warm moist towels in a huge crock pot. Together, she and I (shout out to Julie Shelton of “The Body Remedy” in Chattanooga, TN) decided how wonderful it would look if it were covered AND had non-slip polka dots added to the bottom. I receive a lot of ideas by dreaming them.
This is the reason my home page reads: Don’t just dream it, ORDER IT! I’m game to try to create ALMOST anything!
WBG: I’m intrigued by your professional association with St. Jude Research Hospital. Your website states that for every hat you sell, you donate one to St. Jude. What motivated you to give of your time and resources in this way to a charitable organization, and why St. Jude?
SCH: I was watching a St. Jude commercial one day and just knew this was what I was meant to do! Children have always had such a special place in my heart. I have never personally known a child that was in need of St. Jude’s help, but what a wonderful thing they are doing! How could anyone not be touched to help so that St. Jude’s research Hospital can continue to treat AND house these families during the scariest time in all their lives FOR FREE? If I have this ability to make hats for others to buy, why would I ever NOT want to share this ability with these precious children too? I could not imagine being selfish in that way.
I only wish I could see the faces of a few children that picked out one of my hats and the smile it could bring to their little angelic face. There are certain criteria for donating hats. There’s a list on their webpage on what steps need to be taken not only for the children to be able to have a FREE hat, but to protect their possible allergies, etc. I JUST ADORE ST. JUDE! www.stjude.org
WBG: You offer quite a large selection of what you call “Chemo Soft Hats”, presumably for cancer patients who are losing or have lost their hair to chemotherapy treatment. What is different about these hats, and what sort of difference have they made in the lives of your customers who are cancer survivors?
SCH: I’m so glad you asked this question! My mother is a cancer survivor x 3 and just recently learned it is back again. Some of the yarns I have are incredibly soft and what I refer to as ‘skin friendly’. I have learned so much as one of mom’s caregivers—the scalp can become extremely sensitive due to the chemotherapy. Also, my very best friend since 1st grade went through a double mastectomy due to breast cancer. (shout out to Paula Shelton – SURVIVOR!!) I sent Paula a box full to have all the choices she wanted during her hair loss. What a giving person she is to take her hats and donate them to her local area for women who may not be able to afford super soft hats for themselves too. I have given lots of these hats to local places in need of hats for cancer patients as well as personal friends. One man in particular is a HUGE UTK fan, so I made him what we called ‘orange hair’. A yarn called ‘fan-pel’ or ‘eyelash’ mimics hair that would stand out. Larry (a/k/a Lar~Dog) wore his ORANGE HAIR proudly to church, work, out to eat, wherever! Oh how I wish I had a photo of him in his “ORANGE HAIR”!! He even had me make another for a friend of his that was also battling this unfair disease. This took me in the direction of making all sorts of colors for this style so anyone can have exactly what they would want.
There are several other materials I like to use in the creating of hats for cancer patients. Some of which are: cashmere, boa, 100% cotton & Sherpa. These are some of the yarns that are best used for sensitive skin, or really anyone who wants that exceptional soft or plush feeling hat, scarf, etc.
To see my mom still wearing the chullo style (this is the type hat with the braids that hang down on either side) made with Sherpa tells me how much she loves it too. She has been wearing it since I first made it even when her hair came back! When Paula practically squeaked with joy over her new hats, my heart began to dance. Now and again I get an email from those who have purchased chemo hats from me telling me how much they love them. I get a lot of repeat business from cancer survivors who come back and buy another for someone they know who has to battle cancer too. I do hope that whoever has one of my chemo hats, if they decide they don’t need or want them after they battle is over that they would be so kind as to donate them somewhere to a cancer treatment center so that another person can have one too. (Now if I could only figure out how to work in my sleep to get a hat to every cancer patient in America….)
WBG: You and Now You’re Covered are associated with the 3/50 project, an organization which supports independently owned small businesses. Tell us a little more about the 3/50 project, and how the Recession and sluggish economy has impacted you as a small business owner.
SCH: The 3/50 project is a nationally run nonprofit organization that focuses attention to small businesses. There are supporters & independents. I am a supporter, listed here: http://www.the350project.net/states/states_t.html
The best explanation for the 3/50 project is this (snagged from their FAQ page): “The idea is to commit $50 each month to locally owned businesses, total. Maybe that means rethinking where you currently invest your money, opting to pick up that birthday card or pair of jeans in a locally owned business instead of the big box you’ve been going to. Or maybe it means eating out once a month because you realize slamming the brakes on all spending stalls economic recovery. It’s just that simple.”
The recession has definitely had a large impact on my business. My items are hand created which most folks consider ‘an extra’. The ‘extras’ are the first thing to be reduced or cut from most everyone’s budget. I am a giver by nature and make many donations in several areas as well as conducting contests on my Facebook Now You’re Covered fan page http://www.facebook.com/pages/Now-Youre-Covered/104613663623
I know the recession is affecting everyone and I want to know I’ve made a small difference along the way as well!
WBG: And finally, Sharmon, as a female entrepreneur with your own successful small business, what are three pieces of advice you have for other women who may have a hobby or idea that they dream of turning into a successful new venture?
1. Be prepared with your knowledge of your hobby and/or idea. KNOWLEDGE IS POWER!
2. Dream BIG, but expect disappointments along the way. Remember when one door closes, another opens. Have a good support system: Friends, family, etc.
3. Think about how you can impact the world with what you have to offer. Follow your heart. Women are much stronger than the credit we are given. Believe in yourself and believe in what you want to do.
WBG: Thank you so much, Sharmon, for taking the time to talk with us—it has been a real pleasure to offer my readers the inside scoop and back story on both you & Now You’re Covered!
Follow Sharmon on Twitter: Sharms Hardin @nowyourecovered
To Browse and/or Purchase one of Sharmon’s beautiful and functional creations, please visit the Now You’re Covered website at:
or Sharmon’s Ebay page at:
For more information about St. Jude Research Hospital, please visit their organization’s website at: http://www.stjude.org/about
or follow St. Jude on Twitter: @StJude