Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Interview with Debbie Thelen Miller: inventor of Huggerz boot wraps

A few weeks ago, after a particularly successful "hunting" expedition through Anthropologie's clearance racks, my friend Barb and I wandered down the street to a cute boutique called Oliver's Trendz. One of the very first things we encountered were these faux fur and knitted items that looked like hand muffs. My mind drifted back to early childhood memories of my own genuine rabbit fur hand muffs. {I know what you're thinking but it was the 1970s and we weren't as concerned about cruelty to animals in those days...} But I digress. My mid-day mind fog cleared and we deduced that what we were looking at were boot wraps. I liked what I saw but assumed they were "Made in China" like the preponderance of items in most stores. Boy was I WRONG. It would take just a short time to find out just how wrong I was.

Toddler's hand muffs from Little Muffet on Etsy, $26

About 2 weeks later, another good friend, Angie, sent me a link to Huggerz website. She had watched the local Sunday morning news that features a "Made in Michigan" segment quite regularly. Clicking on the link, my synapses started whirring and sparking. I realized these were the very creations I'd seen a few weeks prior. I was giddy as I realized Huggerz were invented by a clever local lady right here in the metro Detroit area!!! I joined their Facebook page and began drooling over all  the lovely styles.  I HAD to talk to the smart lady who came up with this clever product! Thankfully she agreed to allow me to interview her and share Huggerz with you!


These are my favorite pair of Huggerz: Sand Fair Isle, $34

Rabbit Huggerz, $39 shown with handmade rabbit pom poms,$14

{An interview with Debbie Thelen Miller: 
inventor of Huggerz boot wraps}

Debbie, thank you for allowing me to share your story with my readers. By the end of this interview, I know they too will share my love of your ingenious product.

For those who aren't familiar with Huggerz, please tell us what they are.

Huggerz Boot Wraps are a cover for your boots that make them look like a totally different pair of boots. They do not just look like something added to the leg of the boot.

If you had a tagline for Huggerz what would it be?
DTM: Our tag line is "Wrap your boots to suit your moods." 

Embossed Brown Beaver Huggerz, $39
MHA: How and where did you come up with the idea for Huggerz?

I was in a hockey rink and my feet were freezing. I was wearing boots and wool socks, but not the super warm shearling style boots. I knew then that I needed to invest in a pair, but when I started shopping, I could not decide what style to buy. I loved the ones with the fur. I loved the ones with the knit. I loved the patterned ones. But, I could not buy 3 or 4 different pairs, and I hated to spend all that money and be "stuck" with one look. That is when the idea hit me.

During our phone conversation you shared with me that all aspects of production are done in Michigan. How many jobs were created by your company?

To date, we have created 3 full time jobs!!!! We have also added 3 part time jobs. I hope to keep building from there.

When did you first realize Huggerz was going to be a hit?

Hmmm. Well, I knew that I was on to something when I wore my "test" pair out and about and had people stopping me to comment on my boots. The fact that they could not tell that they were covers, really made me happy. I am constantly thrilled to hear how much people love them and hope that the Huggerz "craze" as it has been called, continues.

**MHA: Deb also shared with me that 1500 pairs of Huggerz was sold in the 3 weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas 2010...that's impressive**

How long did it take from the time you got the idea for Huggerz until they were first available for purchase?

I had to wait until I had my patent pending status to sell any. So, I sold my first pairs 4 months after I came up with idea. But those were just more "test" pairs. They hit the market on our website and in local stores almost 2 years after I first had the idea. There was lots of research and product design, along with all the legal work, that had to be done.

What has been one of the biggest challenges you've faced with the company?

Pulling together the people and the funding to do it right!

Share with us some of the surprising things that happened to you since Huggerz was "born".

Good question! I think that I have been surprised by the overwhelming response to the product. I have been surprised by how hard it is to find products made in the USA. I have been surprised by all of the details that I never would have thought of! Frankly, I am surprised that I am running a company!

How do you promote your product?

Our primary vehicle for promotion is the internet. My marketing firm has sent out some press releases to the media, and we have had some nice responses from those. Our best promotion is from people wearing them!

You sell Huggerz through your website but where else can readers purchase a pair?

There are currently 10 retailers that carry Huggerz Boot Wraps and accessories. They are listed on our facebook page (Huggerz) under the info tab, and they are currently being added to our website.

Do you have plans for eco-friendly and or organic material options in the future?

Absolutely. From the very beginning I have wanted to do a line made from recycled sweaters. I would also love to use organic cotton.

As wife, mother and business owner, how do you juggle all of your responsibilities?

Some days, frankly, not very well! My 13 year old has taken to baking. My husband has learned to do the laundry, and everyone has had to get used to a less tidy home! They also expect my phone and laptop to be attached to me..... I have guilt, but I also know that they will all develop good skills from this, and that one day, I hope, it will all be worth it!
Fun and funky Black Zebra Huggerz, $28


Once again, thank you Deb, for allowing me to interview you and share your cool products with my readers!

Deb has agreed to sponsor a Huggerz giveaway on My Handmade Addiction. The lucky winner will receive one pair of Huggerz of their choice!!!
The giveaway will run through February 14th. To enter, please comment under this post. If you post a comment on My Handmade Addiction's Facebook page, you will also receive one entry!

Best of luck to all entrants!

Stay warm,


Kim Romolino said...

So great to hear a local GP'er is doing something fantastic! I can't wait to go check them out in the village!!!

Karley said...

I love these! Huggerz look gorgeous AND fun! I'm going to check out her website.

CJ said...

Here in Florida, we don't get to wear boots too often. Huggerz are absolutely awesome because they allow us to only own one or two pair of boots and have MANY, MANY looks!! Inspired idea!

Lavanya said...

These look lovely! I love the Sand fair Isle pattern

Michelle said...

I have the sand Fair Isle, and I love them! I get tons of wonderful comments every time I wear them. It is a totally genius idea!

tamiko said...

these look amazing! what a great idea!

Jodi Kozloff said...

I just love these..became a fan as soon as I saw the segment on Fox2..have been raving ever since..great idea..Love the Sand Fair ones

monaohmy! said...

What an interesting product! This would be a great reason to treat myself to some UGG boots - versatility!

monaodegard (at) hotmail (dot) com

Keeley said...

These are awesome, and with these I can't be yelled at for buying too many pairs of shoes ;)

tandphorton said...

These are so cute!!! I love the zebra ones!!!

Brandi said...

I love the idea of the eco-friendly line with recycled sweaters. If she could hold a sweater drive to get materials and donate some of the proceeds to shelter or charity of choice that would be awesome.

B HOLLIS said...

A great product to revamp something old!! I have been wearing some of these boots for years, throw on a pair of Huggerz and you have a whole new pair of boots! What a genious idea!!

The Christensens said...

Sooo cute! I love them and they would make my boots look so fantastic :)

Amy (Kempa) Cherry said...

Hi Deanna...My beloved Ugg boots have a whole in the back seam halfway up and I was having trouble throwing them out but Jill told me about your site and these Huggerz. This is my perfect solution! Love your site, we'll all have to do lunch some time!

Deanna said...

Hi Amy,
Oh my you can't throw them out...the Huggerz will save the day! I have the faux rabbit ones and the Sand Fair Isle sweater design {thanks to Deb, the sweet, sweet founder of Huggerz}. They're genious! People keep stopping me and asking about them! It's such a brilliant idea!

I would love to do lunch with you, Jill & Cheryl sometime since July didn't work out :)

Amy (Kempa) Cherry said...

How mortifying my grammar is! I didn't proofread my post earlier until I hit the "Publish" button and realized I typed "whole" instead of "hole." Believe it or not, I am a medical transcriptionist!! You are such an eloquent writer so I was even more embarrassed! Oopsie!

By the way, at your recommendation on an earlier post of yours, I checked out "The Lamb's Tail Antiques" in Armada. I've been going to the Armada flea market for years and never heard of this place. Loved it!

Maybe in the Spring when the weather is nicer we can all get together and do that lunch!

Deanna said...

I didn't even catch the hole vs. whole typo! Honest! I mess up all the time on here but I can go back and edit my mistakes!

Speaking of The Lamb's Tail, I saw you at the Christmas show. It was ridiculously crowded and I didn't want to yell for you across the place. Your mom and sister were with you :) I love that place too! Funny, we must like the same stuff. I remember running into you at at that little shop out in Columbus. I can't think of the name of it but it was a barn with a greenhouse with herbs and other plants. Do you remember that?