From single working mother to proud owner of her own wholesale clothing company. It’s a remarkable story that began with an unremarkable event: responding to a newspaper ad.
Mary Works sat down in 1975, as she did most days, to read the newspaper. Only that day was different. She didn’t turn to the front page or the news section or even the comics. She opened it straight to the classified section and started searching through the help-wanted ads. With four kids, no husband, and no job, she needed to find work.
After finishing Duchesne College, a small all-girls Catholic college in 1960, Mary was married just two months after graduating and moved to Dallas, Texas. She became a proud mother of four and cared for them deeply. But that all changed after her divorce. In addition to having to find work to support herself, the burden and responsibility to care for her children fell entirely on her. With no extended family near her in Dallas and no means of hiring a nanny, she had to perform the ultimate balancing act of being a working single mother.
Sitting at that table faced with adversity, her father’s advice for dealing with obstacles rang loudest: “keep your head down and keep on trucking along.” The only place she could go was forward and there was no sense in waiting; the longer she waited the harder it would get for her and her children.
So that’s exactly what she did. She noticed an ad in the paper asking for a seamstress and was immediately struck by it. She had always had a passion for sewing and especially loved the feeling of wearing homemade garments. Her mother had sewn coats, skirts and other garments for her and her sisters before Mary started sewing things for herself when she was nine years old. There was something about working with her hands to create something that appealed to her.
She began working for a mother and her daughter who owned a clothing shop and were starting their own small line. Mary worked long hours sewing before she would come home and care for the kids when they came home from school. They would only later realize how much she did in a single day. She was so committed to her kids that she made sure they never felt neglected. This continued for a while before Mary started noticing her boss having difficulty with some tasks. It became more difficult for her to oversee the day-to-day operations of the line. When Mary’s kids entered into high school and were able to care for themselves a little more, she gradually started to take over more aspects of the company.
Finally, by 1989, when her kids were all but officially grown up, Mary made the decision of a lifetime: she was going to buy out the mother and take over the company. She recalls how funny a decision it was at the time. By that point she was familiar with most of the operations of the company. but she didn’t have any background in business. She had no understanding of proper accounting techniques or how to manage finances. She was getting into something that, on the surface, looked way out of her league. But her pesky stubbornness prevailed: in her words she “just didn’t have a reason to think [she] couldn’t figure it all out.”
27 years later, although she refuses to admit that she figured it all out, it’s safe to say she at least figured out the important stuff. Still the principal owner of the company, Funtasia Too is one of the most successful wholesale providers of children’s clothing in the country. She’s had the privilege of being able to work with some of her children. In fact, one of her sons became their bookkeeper after deciding to leave the culinary industry. All of Funtasia’s clothes are 100% made in America.
Looking back on her story, Mary doesn’t believe that there was one remarkable moment of inspiration where she had a change of attitude. There were certainly instances where the odds were stacked against her. But every time she was confronted with adversity she simply “kept on trucking.” It was what her father had taught her. It was what she taught her children. When there’s challenge in your way, the only thing you can do is keep working. If it doesn’t end up right, you pick yourself up and start again. If it does end up the way it was supposed to you still keep moving forward. A relentless refusal to stop working is how Mary stitched together her American Dream.