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Meredith Holt, Published December 18 2012

South Dakota woman turns passion for sewing into handbag business

VALLEY SPRINGS, S.D. – What started as an inexpensive homemade gift idea has turned into a successful business based out of Rebekah Scott’s 135-year-old farmhouse here.

“I didn’t have any money at Christmastime, and I didn’t know what I’d do for gifts, but I knew I had some fabric and my trusty sewing machine,” says the 30-year-old mother of three.

Rebekah, or Bekah to her friends and family, sells her distinctive handbags and accessories online, on consignment at boutiques, and at trunk and art shows under the trademarked name Rebekah Scott Designs.

Each purse is named after a woman in Rebekah’s life, like the Rachel after her twin sister’s best friend or the Pixie after a regular customer at the Downtown Fargo Street Fair.

“A lot of our business comes from regular customers. The art shows are where we pick up new customers,” Rebekah says..

Rebekah follows the fashion trends, but ultimately it’s her innate sense of style that guides her line.

“I try to do what’s different, not what everybody has, so I go against the grain a lot,” she says.

She uses a lot of mustard yellows, oranges, deep earth tones and purples in her designs.

“Right now what’s trending are all these ’80s neon colors, which is hard for me because sometimes I’m more of a traditionalist, so it has to be paired with some toned-down stuff,” she says.

With the help of a graphic designer, Rebekah created 11 fabrics to further personalize her bags.

“I started designing my own fabric so it becomes even more exclusive where you don’t get it unless you get it from Rebekah,” she says.

About 60 percent of her orders come from the website’s “Create your own!” page.

“I wanted people to be able to say, ‘I want this fabric but in this style,’ ” she says.

Rebekah officially went full time with her business in July 2004, and it’s continued to grow since.

“Eighty percent of it is still me, but during our peak seasons, we get a little help,” she says.

Rebekah’s mother, who’s in charge of producing the accessories line, works full time with her, and she has two other seamstresses helping her.

“My mom is a master seamstress, and I would always sew right next to her” growing up in Philip, S.D., says Rebekah, who started sewing at age 4.

She says the accessories line arose from the need for efficiency.

“Because I worked in this little 8-by-10 space, no fabric could go to waste, because I didn’t have room for scrap boxes. We would take every last bit of fabric and turn it into something,” she says.

Nine sales reps do home shows to help Rebekah sell her bags so she can focus on design and production.

“I get to stay home and do what I love, which is sewing and design, and they do what they’re good at – selling,” she says.

Once her children, now ages 6, 2 and 6 weeks, get older, Rebekah wants to venture farther out into the Midwest with her business.

She’s also a motivational speaker, helping others discover what they’re passionate about and showing them how they can turn it into a business.

“You’ll be successful if you’re doing what you love because you don’t drag your feet. I never dread a Monday morning,” she says.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Meredith Holt at (701) 241-5590