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Penn State Student Finds Passion In Embroidery Through Small Business

When COVID-19-fueled lockdowns hit the nation, everyone was likely searching for hobbies to fill their newfound free time. Some might’ve taken up sewing, learned to unicycle, or simply cracked open a cookbook.

While many of our new hobbies didn’t last, Owen McGee’s did. Creator of Happy Valley Threads, McGee embraced his talent and passion for unique apparel items by creating a thriving embroidery business.

A senior telecommunications major at Penn State, McGee started playing around with embroidering clothing at the start of the pandemic and has since completed 300 orders to Penn Staters and other college students alike.

“I was so bored that I just started making clothing for myself,” McGee said.

Courtesy of Owen McGee

His hobby took off when people began making comments about his sweatshirt in public and asking if they could buy one from him. McGee figured, ‘Why not?’ and made an Instagram page that now, two years later, boasts more than 700 followers.

While McGee started off with simple designs, he has upgraded to a larger embroidery machine and can now stitch any design on almost any canvas. He says that embroidery gives him a chance to help his customers turn their dreams into a reality through clothing.

“It’s pretty fun like having people reach out to me with their own ideas and making other peoples’ ideas come to life,” McGee said.

Happy Valley Threads, as made clear by the name, began for just Penn State students. Now, McGee has gotten orders from colleges around the nation, like Clemson and Syracuse.

McGee is a member of Theta Delta Chi, and running Happy Valley Threads has allowed him to expand his network and meet people in different fraternities and organizations.

“I’ll see people [that ordered when I’m] out, or even wearing the hoodie, and spark conversation and just get to know the people even more,” McGee said.

While McGee is the founder, he gets help from a graphic designer to create stitch files of the designs. The team then assigns colors to threads and prices the pieces based on the stitch count required to embroider a design.

Courtesy of Owen McGee

Besides the graphic designer, another key figure that continues to help him is McGee’s mother. Not only did his mom teach him all about embroidery, but she herself loves embroidery and helps McGee juggle Happy Valley Threads while he studies at Penn State.

“I’m lucky enough to have her helping out on the back-end when I’m in classes,” McGee said.

McGee reflects on his own process and urges other students pursuing similar opportunities to find a way to stand out, dedicate their time to their passion, and always learn from their mistakes.

“A year ago I had no idea that I’d have so many orders and I just thought it would be a little side thing, but it actually ended up being something that I want to do after school,” McGee said.

After graduation, McGee says he’ll continue to build his company and work full time as he plans to form his own brand.

“I will have way more time to grow the page and do whatever it takes to expand it,” McGee said.

Those interested in placing an order can reach out to McGee through direct message on Happy Valley Threads’ Instagram. Orders range in price from $40 to $70 and take between two and three weeks to receive depending on the design and destination of the order.

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About the Author

Alexandra Pepe

Alex is a sophomore from New Canaan, CT, pursuing the Master's of Accounting program and minoring in both journalism and entrepreneurship and innovation. She spends most of her free time with friends, watching "Curb Your Enthusiasm", or trying to figure out the buses. Her favorite things are getting breakfast sandwiches on a Sunday morning, listening to new music, and... writing for OS, of course! She can be reached through her email [email protected] or Twitter @aalexpepe.

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