Sometimes the best business ideas grow from the imaginative seeds one unintentionally sows. In Sarah Jagger’s case her thriving business, Domestic Objects, was born from a lifelong passion for sewing.
An advocate of imaginative play for children, and knowing how much her kids like to hide in and play under things, in 2014 Sarah Jagger started looking for an indoor teepee play tent but was unable to find one that appealed to her. This did not deter her; she set to work and created one. Pleased with the results, she posted a photo on Facebook. Her friends and family loved it; they encouraged her to make more so she created an online business through Etsy and sales instantly took off.
At the time her business was born she and her husband Stephen Jagger and their two young children were on a four year overseas work adventure involving Stephen’s business. During that time they lived in Manila followed by time spent in Singapore. Sarah Jagger had enjoyed a fulfilling career in cardiology information systems with Vancouver Coastal Health, and looking for something to do while away from home, threw her creative energy into her new enterprise. She quickly realized this was something she could do anywhere in the world they travelled.
She reflects, “Looking outside of comfort zones opportunities can arise. I had the idea and jumped in.”
The fabrics she has collected from her travels range from 100% cotton to poplin and natural, unbleached canvas. Sarah Jagger is drawn to classic patterns such as the grey and white striped fabric seen on her Etsy site, which happens to be her top selling tent. She chooses attractive timeless fabrics prints to complement a home’s interior and reckons children don’t mind what the tent looks like on the outside; it’s the good times they create inside that count.
The frames (which are not visible) are constructed from PVC pipes, a flexible and safe material so children won’t hurt themselves if they bump into the tent. The lightweight design is also beneficial for shipping. Etsy customers from all over the world have been ordering from her.
To date the tents have shipped to 25 countries, although the primary market is Canada and the United States. Orders have been placed from as far away as the Maldives, Norway and Pakistan.
Since the company’s inception she has sold thousands of tents. In addition to online sales, Domestic Objects wholesales to businesses and customers can also purchase directly from Sarah Jagger.
Domestic Objects began as a one-woman show, however, with the company’s incredible success Sarah Jagger could not keep up with the demand and hired five families in Manila to assist with production. She mentions that her employees were formerly factory workers and now they sew from their homes. They are extremely well paid and have become the envy of their community. She also continues to create tents at home in Vancouver.
In addition to the teepees, Domestic Objects has introduced accessories including throw pillows for the interior and an adorable Happy Camper felt/plush campfire comprised of realistic looking stuffed granite rocks, stuffed felt fire logs, jumbo marshmallows and felt covered roasting sticks.
“I test all of my new products out on my kids first to see if they like them, and if they do, I make more.” Sarah Jagger
Two years after the initial play tent was created her kids still play in them. Stuart (6) likes to read inside his teepee and other times his imagination transforms it into an elevator or spaceship. Meanwhile Tamsen (4) can often be found hosting tea parties for her dolls. Sarah Jagger is delighted to see the cloth structures constantly being used in different ways. “Every day it’s something different. The tents inspire their imaginations,” she says.
While the family was away from Vancouver they chose to not own a television set. In extreme circumstances, such as a long flight, they would offer the kids a tablet to play on. It is her belief that some parents rely too heavily on technology and her intention is to stimulate imaginative play and communication. She feels there is beginning to be a push back against technology as parents are seeing the loss of communication skills.
The family returned to their Dunbar home in June and is happy to be back. Sarah Jagger missed the clean air, familiar foods and her running routes. She also missed her family’s favourite Dunbar hang outs such as Chaldecott Park, Jethro’s Fine Grub and Kokopelli Café.
Released this summer, Sarah Jagger has authored a book titled “The Play Tent of Imagination” about two siblings and where their creative minds wander off to as they play in their tent. She mentions the illustrations by Lenny Wen are beautiful. The book will be sold on Etsy and she imagines parents will cuddle up in the tent and read to their children.
Based on the success of her company, which began with a needle pulling thread to create a single tent, imagination can indeed take you to wonderful and unexpected places.