Christmas in Alicia Storbeck’s childhood home meant annual traditions sprinkled with a few surprises. “We’d have the annual decorate the gingerbread men to sell at craft fairs to earn extra money to pay for Christmas presents, but we also loved to give pranks,” says Alicia. “We’d do an ugly sweater swap with extended family. My dad worked hard to surprise my mother, who hated surprises, so one of the major highlights for us was knowing where he’d hidden her gift to keep her from sneaking a peek.” The holiday season centered around gift giving, but not in the sense of extravagance, more for sentimentality.
“We would ride around looking at lights, attending every Christmas caroling at nursing homes, craft shows and Christmas Home tours. One of mine and my sisters’ favorite presents was a dollhouse that daddy built, complete with electricity and wallpaper. There’s no telling how many hours they both poured into that gift that thrilled us all, and one that we still have to this day,” says Alicia.
The Auburn resident has taken her love of gift giving and poured the same countless hours into the company she owns with husband Jim. The couple began their monogramming venture in Heartstrings, an Auburn boutique owned by Alicia’s mother, Jean Thrash. The company began selling personalized gifts and sorority items. In 2006, Beth Reeves joined the team while in college, and the trio began to see beyond the cash register on North College Street. They envisioned a business in which other women could start their own personalization journey.
Initial Outfitters was born.
The company, in its new home on Skyway Drive in Auburn, works with thousands of women across the country, including Alaska, as support for the exploding home-based business venture. “We currently have anywhere from 70 to 150 part-time and full-time consultants in almost 50 states. We still have way too much room to grow in the U.S. to even think about going international,” says Alicia. “We haven’t even scratched the surface of what we can do right here at home.”
The Storbecks initiated a for-profit business with a social-minded agenda. The company began by donating all profits from its most popular line and continues to do so today. Alicia had always felt compassion for the needy, and Jim often felt the heart tug toward the impoverished around the world. The couple decided to use the Initial Outfitter platform to make a difference.
“When I was a little girl, I dreamed of being a famous singer. But I always said, ‘God, if you let me do that one day, I will use that stage for you – to share your love with the world.’ Well, the plan was absolutely not for me to be a famous singer. But He did give us a stage of sorts, and we are committed to building a business that makes a difference,” says Alicia.
The company has funded more than one million lunches for impoverished children. The new initiative “IO Loves” will feed and educate at-risk children in the United States, Central America and India. “IO Loves” will be funded by donating all the profits from the sale of embroidered lunchboxes as well as the new personalized backpacks. Lunchbox profits are currently being donated to two charities – Charlie’s Lunch Ministries and their international feeding programs as well as Blessings in a Backpack and their weekend lunch program for hungry children here in America.
While Alicia’s heart remains in missions, she’s quick to say what she loves most about the company. “Our people. I love our field, and I love our home office team. It is a very special group of people who are loyal, hard-working, fun loving, and like family. They support each other, share, encourage, and genuinely care in a way that makes it a joy to come to work every day,” says Alicia. Taped to her mirror is a note Alicia received from one of the consultants. It reads, “Thank you for believing in me and for never giving up on me!”
Alicia says some favorite Christmas gifts from Initial Outfitters include cutting boards and coasters, personalized ornaments and mugs – especially for teachers. Wooden monograms for the door/décor, jewelry, clutches, men’s socks and ties. She laughs, “Santa sacks and stockings, monogrammed apparel, handbags. It’s impossible to name just one or two things because it all explodes at Christmas!”
Initial Outfitters consultants bring the gift-buying to your home or online, but they also bring a purpose – a way to personalize your gifts with a monogram and a message mirroring a portion of the company’s creed, “I believe it is possible to make a living while making a difference.”
To read more about the company, learn how to start your own business or find the perfect Christmas gift, visit www.initialoutfitters.com.