East Texas mother-daughter duo play their hand to ‘encourage’ creative enterprise |
Inspired to put art in the hands of their customers, mother-daughter duo and Tyler natives Kim and Frances Hackney helped promote the creative couple’s interior products company FOSTER.
Playing their hand in this business venture to bring artistic products into homes was a gamble that hit the jackpot, especially with their most popular product to date – custom hand-painted playing cards reflecting various locations, communities and events.
The origins of the Hackneys’ idea began in early 2020 – a time when the two were both entering transitional periods in their lives. The duo’s mother half, Kim, who has worked in interior design for decades, was at a point in her career when she wanted to focus more clearly on her future work goals. She sought advice from several friends and female entrepreneurs, but hadn’t quite set her direction yet.
At the same time, Frances’ final year at university was coming to an end at the start of the pandemic as she also tried to choose one of five art schools to pursue her studies. Having attended the Pratt Institute in New York in the summer of 2019, that wouldn’t be an option that summer.
However, although circumstances sent her home early, she was still able to complete her coursework and graduated in Integrated Marketing and Communications with a minor in Arts. It was then that she decided to stay in Texas and decided to eventually apply to the graduate school of art at Southern Methodist University.
As the two at home weighed their future career options and next steps, they also prepared to embark on a mother-daughter getaway with six other Ole Miss alumni. Not wanting to go on a trip empty-handed, Kim was looking for a unique gift to give her friends when the idea occurred to her to put her daughter’s talent and expertise to work.
“That’s when I suggested Frances design a deck of playing cards that focused on the memories of Ole Miss and the community of Oxford,” Kim explained.
That’s exactly what she did.
Then, two weeks, 80 hours of painting 16 artworks and 250 games later, the duo realized they were onto something when they sold their first order. Building on that initial momentum, Kim and Frances continued to move forward by officially taking their idea into a business and forming FOSTER, LLC.
“The name Foster is very personal to us,” Kim said. “That’s my maiden name. It is also the name of my eldest daughter. It’s very important to our family, but more than that, the word itself encompasses so much of what I wanted my family to come out of the inconvenience of a COVID year, while promoting together what we could, while we could, with friends and family.
“This is the concept we wanted to develop from FOSTER. For us, we really wanted FOSTER to promote what the word truly means, including: promoting fellowship, building relationships, encouraging, nurturing, advancing, caring and reaching further – exactly all synonyms of the name. That’s the whole story.”
Less than a year after the legal creation of their company and more than a year after the production of the first deck of cards, Kim and Frances have set up online forums for selling their products, including a website, Solely Foster.com and the corresponding social networks.
While continuing to develop retail relationships that have allowed them to put their custom designs in physical stores and other leading retail spaces locally and nationally, they have also been busy operating partnerships with college licensing companies like Follett.
For both, having to learn the art of the business on the fly while simultaneously creating each custom piece was a welcome challenge and also evolved into producing highly sought-after companion products like mugs and matching napkins.
After designing and distributing the initial Ole Miss set, FOSTER has to date created officially licensed custom decks and matching products for other major universities including: Auburn, Clemson, Southern Methodist University, Texas Christian University , Texas Tech, University of Alabama and University of Oklahoma. And more are in the works.
Ole Miss playing cards feature iconic college traditions, events and locations like the Walk of Champions. It’s these types of painted familiarities that drive the cards’ appeal and what FOSTER CFO Stacy Evans credits for the success of this specific product, in the college niche.
“The product is second to none in the market,” she said. “Customers love the tiny wearable works of art. More than that, however, they love the story of how this art really fosters friendships and relationships; just creating, just spending time together.
Now that the FOSTER team knows they’re on to something, they said they’re giving thanks to God and taking their success head on, while always keeping their original point and purpose front and center.
“It’s a thrill to collaborate with fans, students and alumni to bring 16 different images of artwork to life on a deck of cards,” Kim said. “But what’s most important to us is that these pieces express the core purpose of why we created FOSTER in the first place – to build those relationships, promote conversations, and provide an outlet that allows others to share memories together.”
In their hometown of Tyler, local customers are also inspired by the success of custom decks, so much so that local businesses and groups have ordered theirs for clubs, events and fundraisers.
For example, one of the most famous annual events, the Texas Rose Festival and last year’s Rose Festival Queen’s family, asked FOSTER to create a one-of-a-kind deck featuring 52 custom paints, with each card depicting a unique festival costume showcasing the festival. theme: Secrets of the Garden.
Whichever hand their custom pieces end up in, the Hackneys are thrilled to have already seen an evolution from their beginnings to now and take comfort in knowing that what they’ve created is sought after, enjoyed and used.
“One of the most interesting things to watch when we started the business was the huge diversity of customers, globally and nationally,” Frances said. “You see, when you open a business, you never really know who will see the value in your product, with absolute certainty. However, as we have developed a clientele from all over America, it has also built confidence in our business plan, the value of its products and its growth potential.
For Kim, building this business and working with her daughter is more than she could have ever imagined.
“I consider it a blessing that even though Frances’ college career ended at home, she is my partner in a growing business that is now regionally and nationally known – and successful. It is a divine gift that she uses her upbringing on a daily basis, learning from real life experiences and putting them to work. Fostering relationships with people all over the world really made the long hours worthwhile. »