Like all great ideas, Kacey Ortoski's notion started in her head.
Well, with a pencil in her hair, to be precise.
As a teacher, Ortoski would put her hair up throughout the day, using a pencil to hold it in place. Her students thought it was funny, she said, but the pencil served its purpose.
Still she wanted something stronger, a bit more decorative. So she set out to find hair sticks that fit her vision. And when she didn't find them, she decided to develop them herself, creating a stronger stick with a better shape than what was already on the market.
"People liked them," the 25-year-old Wesley Chapel resident said. So she began selling them at craft shows. Her first show was in February of 2011.
She made a batch of hair sticks 24 hours before the show and "prayed they would be dry in time."
Her work paid off. And her business, A Whirl and a Twirl, was born.
"It was crazy," she said. In the course of two days, she made $800, which she invested back into the business. Ortoski began doing shows every weekend, keeping up her teaching job in the process.
She spent several months without a day off, but it was a sacrifice she was willing to make.
"It was a fly by the seat of my pants kind of thing," she said. "I had to do that to see if my business would work."
And then she had her "Aha" moment.
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People liked the products, which are decorated with genuine gemstones, crystals and pearls, but many remarked that they couldn't wear hair sticks.
That's when Ortoski said she got the idea for her line of headbands, which "have really boosted the business."
Through "trial and error," Ortoski developed a headband that was unlike most found in stores. The flexible composite steel bands are a different shape that come lower behind the ear to fit the head better to eliminate the headaches many experience from other types, she said.
The handmade headbands were so well-received, Ortoski gave up her teaching job to focus on the business.
"It was such a risk to take," she said. "But if you work hard, it will work out."
Now, the bejeweled hairpieces keep her traveling across the Bay area—and the country—decking the tresses of girls and women everywhere.
She hasn't made it to the Temple Terrace Community Arts Festival yet, but she said she's thinking about it.
"It's a great market," she said.
Her friends think she's crazy because she's all over the map—literally—all the time. But it's been worth it.
The young entrepreneur will be hiring employees soon, she said. And she also will be making a move to New Port Richey in the next few weeks, because the business has outgrown her current home.
Ortoski and her husband, Andrew, found a home in Longleaf, a community "which really fosters entrepreneurship," she said.
Ortoski plans to continue working out of her home for the next few years, but has her sights set on an eventual move to a studio or warehouse as her product line, which includes custom work, continues to expand.
In addition to her show sales, Ortoski's products also are available online.
"It's getting way bigger than I ever thought it would be," Ortoski said.
Want to check out her products in person? Ortoski will be at the CraftArt Festival in downtown St. Petersburg (Central Avenue and 5th Street), from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Nov. 17 and 18.
A Whirl and a Twirl also will have a booth at the upcoming GFWC Lutz- Land O' Lakes Woman's Club's Arts & Crafts Festival on Dec. 1 and 2 at Lake Park in Lutz.