What started off as a way to make some extra money has blossomed into a full time business for Ellington resident Linda Welcome, owner of the Heartfelt Ornament Company.
In 1981, Welcome wanted to be home with her small children, but needed a way to make some money. She began making the mice and once people saw them, the demand grew.
Her creations have gone all over the world, were featured on QVC, and were sold in mail order catalogs. In the mid 1990s, these catalogs closed. At the same time, Welcome’s daughter was starting college and so she went back to the real world and got a job as a floral designer, working for Michael’s, JoAnns, and AC Moore.
While she was still doing the mice on the side, it was nothing like what it was before or is now. After 10 years as a floral designer, Welcome returned to making the mice full time.
“You have to really love it if you do it for 31 years,” she said. “You just have to. I really love what I do. Not everybody is into mice and not everybody likes my mouse, but the people that do are just head over heels, they just adore them. I think if I didn’t have a product that gave people that kind of feeling, I don’t think I would be able to keep doing it.”
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Welcome – who calls herself the “Mousemaker” – knows how hard it is to find a job in this economy, especially for people who are older, but instead of doing nothing, she has created a successful business.
“I found myself jobless and I thought, ‘Why don’t I go right back to the mice,’ and so I have and for me, it’s just been a Godsend,” she said. “Not everybody wants a 64-year-old woman no matter how good she is. My mice don’t care. I’m definitely still enthusiastic, I really enjoy making them, and I enjoy having my own company.”
Currently, Welcome is entered into a contest being held by Martha Stewart, will be doing craft fairs again for the first time in 15 years, and will have her mice sold in a retail store. in Hazardville will have them in stock.
“I thought that it would be really nice to have my mice sold in the town I was brought up in,” she said. “It’s nice to have a retail outlet and is a darling little store.”
Welcome produces all the mice at her home and makes them in batches of 30 at a time. Every mouse has a trademark red felt heart on its right foot.
There is very little on the mouse that Welcome doesn’t have a hand in. As a miniaturist also, she makes pretty much everything that is in their hands and even if it is metal and she didn’t make it, she will paint it.
“There are very few things that I don’t do,” she said. “I have to touch every single part of it. It’s all hand done. I’m a perfectionist.”
While things are different now than when Welcome first started doing the mice – including all the new technology – she encourages people to do what they love.
“Economically, it’s really difficult out there, especially for older people,” she said. “I just wish more people would if they have an idea, just start it. I didn’t think about all the pitfalls, I just did it. Little by little it just grew. I definitely didn’t start out to have a business. I just started out needing money. I wish more people did it, even at my age. You’re never too old to start something you really love doing.”