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Creative Sisterhood

By REBECCA KONYA
Photos by Dan Bishop

March 2013

Heidi Schmid (clockwise), Heather Hays and Amy Barnum are sisters who are all entrepreneurs.

Growing up in Glendale with six siblings in a single-parent household, the Bendfeldt sisters learned to be resourceful at an early age.

"We were forced to be MacGyvers," says Amy Bendfeldt Barnum. "If there was something we wanted, we had to get creative."

Today, as grown women with families of their own, three of the Bendfeldt sisters have channeled that early resourcefulness into entrepreneurial endeavors. Heidi Bendfeldt Schmid of Whitefish Bay launched Q-Redew, a handheld hair steamer, in October. Younger sister Amy, also of Whitefish Bay, began marketing Quivvers, a line of cross-body straps, in December 2011, and Heather Bendfeldt Hays has been selling a line of organic toffees and caramels for about two years on the East Coast.

Although all three began pursuing their businesses around the same time, none knew about the other’s entrepreneurial aspirations in the beginning.

Now the sisters use each other as touchstones in their business pursuits. The three talk almost daily and value each other’s opinions.
 

Q-Redew (qredew.com)

Heidi Schmid considers herself an accidental entrepreneur. While having new draperies hung in her home a few years ago, Schmid watched the installer smooth out wrinkles with an industrial-grade steamer. That’s when it occurred to her that a steamer would work wonders on her own naturally curly hair. Schmid got online, but her Internet searches turned up nothing.

Not to be deterred, Schmid took parts from different household appliances and fashioned her own handheld hair steamer.

"It wasn’t pretty, but it worked," says Schmid.

Although the concept itself only took five minutes to think of, it took another five years to get Q-Redew up and running. The handheld hair steamer, which uses warm mist to rejuvenate limp hair, boost volume and reactivate curls, debuted online in October. "It’s an organic solution that can turn any day into a good hair day," Schmid says.

The web-based business is relying heavily on social media to attract interest and customers. So far, response for the Q-Redew has been entirely positive with online testimonials touting the Q-Redew as magic and the "holy grail" of curly hair care products.
 

Quivvers (quivvers.com)

For Amy Barum, Quivvers was born of necessity. An active mom of five, the Whitefish Bay resident was constantly on the hunt for a hands-free solution to carry essentials like her mobile phone, money and keys.

Then a few years ago while watching a young man at the airport struggle to stow his cell phone in his messenger bag, the answer dawned on Barnum — a cross-body strap. Once home, she fashioned a prototype out of an old bed sheet and from there Quivvers took off.

Designed to be minimal, yet high-tech, every part of the Quivvers cross-body strap is functional. There’s a clear pocket for your cell phone and dedicated compartments for cash, keys, credit cards, media players and more.

"You never have to repack it," explains Barnum. "Just put it in your purse and go."

On the market for a little over a year, Quivvers has received favorable reviews. The cross-body strap was picked up by the Pro Beach Volleyball Tour last summer and Barnum has secured reps on the East and West coasts. She also was a guest vendor at the Sundance Film Festival in 2012 along with sister Heather. "We’re in a few mom-and-pop retailers, but still mostly web-based," Barnum says.

Produced in Milwaukee using all American-made materials, Quivvers come in a variety of styles, including bold colors, reflective fabrics and fun prints.
 

Charley’s Organic Toffee (charleystoffee.com)

Growing up, Heather Hays spent hours in her grandmother’s kitchen learning to make homemade candy. Years later, Hays continued the tradition with her own family. But after she and her four children were diagnosed with Celiac disease, Hays modified her grandmother’s recipes with local, organic and gluten-free ingredients.

"As we became less likely to eat things that have chemicals and are over-processed, I started making candy organically and people responded positively," says Hays, who lives in Westfield, N.J.

With encouragement from friends and family, Hays began selling her candy at local farmers markets. The response was overwhelming, and Charley’s Organic Toffee, a line of organic caramels and toffees, was on its way.

"Once you taste my sea salt caramels, you’re hooked," says Hays, who sells her candy mainly at farmers markets and by word of mouth. The Village Voice, an alternative newspaper in New York City, described Hays’ caramels as "edible crack."

Following a turn as a guest vendor at the Sundance Film Festival last year, Hays has gained a few corporate clients and gigs at some high-profile weddings.

Currently, Charley’s Organic Toffee is available online and at farmers markets and seasonal markets on the East Coast. But Hays is exploring how to upsize her candy-making operation without sacrificing the quality the sweet treats have become known for.
 


This story ran in the March 2013 issue of: