BEACON FALLS — It happens to many in their 20s, but Adrienne Hofmann thought the symmetry was uncanny. Four of her cousins and two of her girlfriends were pregnant simultaneously. All six were due in October 2010.
That’s a lot of baby gifts.
The problem for Hofmann, 29, of Beacon Falls was that she couldn’t find anything appropriate.
“I couldn’t quite find something that was special enough,” said Hofmann, a graduate of Chase Collegiate and Southern Connecticut State University. “There’s something nice about getting something handmade from someone you know rather than just going to Target or whatever.”
So Hofmann, an art history major with an associate degree from Paier College of Art, went to the drawing board. When she had finished, she had not only satisfied her need to create homemade baby outfits for her friends and family. She had also created her own business. Chirp is an online clothing store that sells baby outfits Hofmann has designed.
Hofmann started Chirp with 100 percent cotton onesies and moved onto classic polos on which the undersides contain colorful fabric patterns. Wear the polo folded down and it looks like an ordinary polo shirt. Wear the collar up and it reveals a surprising array of vibrant patterns, from a cow motif, to a peace sign, to preppy plaid motifs. The shirt is embroidered with a red cardinal, the company’s motif, on the chest.
“I feel very close to this product,” Hofmann said.
Hofmann started her website in September of last year and hopes to grow Chirp’s clothing line to be able to dress babies from head to toe. Already she has added bows, ties, baby hats and burp cloths. The baby attire is folded neatly into large, see-through plastic tubs stuffed in the corner of Hofmann’s tidy ranch house basement, which Hofmann shares with her 9-year-old English bulldog, Rocky.
Hofmann began her business as an “Esty” shop, an online site that features handmade and vintage items. Armed with a $12,000 loan, lots of trepidation and several clothing ideas, Hofmann, who is single and childless, began hauling her merchandise to craft shows, heritage fairs and the like, passing out business cards and showing off her designs to groups she said were uniformly appreciative.
“Everybody remarks on it and thinks it’s really cute,” she said.
Hofmann grew up in Oxford, the youngest of three children. Her father was in the construction business. Although her older sister sewed, Hofmann had no real experience until she came up with the idea of handmade baby clothes.
“I kept thinking, ‘How hard can it be, right? It’s just a straight line,” she said.
Hofmann soon discovered her seams were short of the professionalism she wanted and soon hired Signatures in Waterbury to handle the embroidery and sewing. The red cardinal that inspired the Chirp insignia is a bird that frequently alighted on a windowsill near her office.
Hofmann began her education in the fall of 2001 at the Pratt Institute in New York. She was in drawing class when a teacher alerted the class to the first terrorist strike on the World Trade Center and had run to the roof with her other classmates only to see the second plane hit. She was unable to contact her parents for nearly two days or cross the Brooklyn Bridge to return home.
The experience unnerved her.
It was intense,” she said. “Really intense. It wasn’t really the place for me. Everything was in such chaos that I really didn’t want to stay there. It was my dream to go to art school. I was excited to get in. But it was scary. I wanted to be back home with my family.”
She graduated from Paier in 2003. Hofmann worked a variety of jobs, including as a preschool teacher, secretary in a school system and alumni relations specialist at a private school before finding her passion in designing baby clothes.
Chirp offers onesies in sizes newborn to 18 months and sells four toddler sizes of its colorful polo shirts, from 2T to 4T and 5 and 6. The shirts come in white with a cow fabric collar, pink with a floral collar, light blue with a peace sign and navy, white and pink with a madras collar. For more information, visit www.thechirpshop.com.