Humble Beginnings

Smidgens…Our Humble Beginnings


By: Rita Villa

Rita & Gary

It all began way back in 1984. I was attending art classes at the University of Missouri and Gary was the manager of the photo lab at Hallmark Cards. I had always dreamed of owning my own business. I’m sure growing up watching my self-employed father love going to work everyday was a big influence. Working for someone else never gave me the sense of pride and accomplishment I saw in him. But at only 23 years old, starting my own business seemed like the impossible dream.


One day I was going through some old books and came across one on making dollhouse miniatures. It brought back a lot of memories of the craft shows I used to do with my mother and grandmother when I was little. Immediately, I started to wonder if I could make something like the miniatures in the book and sell them.


Over the next few weeks I started designing my own miniatures. At the first show I was a nervous wreck, but people loved them. Soon after, we took my designs to a local dollhouse shop. The owner placed a huge order. At first I thought this would be a part time job while I attended art school. But within a few months I was so inundated with orders that I left school to work full time on Smidgens.


Back then dollhouses were extremely popular and soon we had so many orders that even working fulltime I couldn’t fill them by myself. Gary would come home from his job at Hallmark and help me all evening. At some point we had to make the big decision. We decided we wanted the challenge of running a business more than we wanted the corporate job and the money that came with it. We realized there was more to being happy, like spending our days together. And so we went for it!


Here we are 30 years later. Business has changed greatly over the years. We no longer make dollhouse miniatures. But we create things every day. Whether that’s laser cutting parts for an industrial client or helping an artist grow their business. You’ll still find Gary and me together, helping customers, running the lasers, or packing orders. Following that impossible dream I had 30 years ago has been a remarkable and interesting journey. I hope our story of Smidgens humble beginnings inspires you to follow your dreams.