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Portrait of a home-based business: Trendy Trachs founder Erin Burr

Welcome to my new series, Portrait of a Home-Based Business!

Today, we'll be talking with Erin Burr, founder of Trendy Trachs.

Erin and her husband

Hi Erin! Thanks for joining us today. Your business, Trendy Trachs, sells homemade trach ties. Can you explain what a trach tie is?

Trach is short for Tracheostomy, which is a surgical procedure in which a hole in the windpipe or trachea is made and a tube inserted to make it easier for a person to breathe.

Many children have tracheostomies for a variety of reasons, but virtually all trachs require a tie, a soft piece of fabric that is worn around the neck and safely holds the tracheostomy tube in place. It loops into holes on the sides of a tracheostomy tube and is generally available only through medical supply stores.

How did you get the idea to start your business?

The idea behind Trendy Trachs began after the birth of my son Graham. He was born with a very rare genetic syndrome called CHARGE, a spectrum disorder which has many different symptoms including abnormal tissue development in major organs, sensory and developmental issues, among others. It's affected Graham in many ways, but the greatest issue was the difficulty he had breathing, which resulted in a tracheostomy tube being inserted when Graham was five months old.

Baby G's tiny foot just after his birth.

Doctors aren't sure how long Graham will need the trach, but it is assumed at least until he is school age. Upon coming home from the hospital we discovered the ties that were available to purchase from medical supply companies where expensive, unnattractive and not meant for more than a single use. Those ties worked out to the cost of $8 a day, and were grey sterile carbon copies of adult ties.

Wanting something cuter and more practical, I searched the internet high and low for someone who makes trach ties and came up with nothing. Using my knowledge of sewing and quilting, I started making ties for Graham in fun boys' prints.

I posted a few on an online community for parents and people with tracheostomy tubes and they were an instant hit. Soon I was receiving many requests from parents asking where they could buy my ties. Not only did I see a business opportunity, but I also recognized a chance to bring joy to the lives of kids and people living with a tracheostomy tubes.

Thus Trendy Trachs was born!

So cute, right??

Tell me more about your trach ties.

We've been selling quilted tracheostomy ties for babies, children and adults through our online boutique since November 2011. Our ties come in many adorable colors and prints, and are more secure than disposable ties making them safer for babies and children with trachs.

Trendy Trach ties are hand-washable and can be reused again and again making them more affordable as well as more environmentally-friendly than the commercially available single-use trach ties.

Erin with Graham as a baby.

What start-up costs did you have?

My start-up costs were surprisingly low! I didn't even need to get a small business loan. I already owned a sewing machine and many of the tools to create my ties, as I an am an avid sewer and quilter. I did, however, need fabric, and lots of it. I buy fabric in large quantities, from Etsy, Fabricland or even quilting stores when they have sales. I bought fabric only when I found the perfect print and when it was on sale. The same went for Velcro and thread. Needless to say I did a lot of shopping!

I saved money by making my own website. Google Sites offers free websites with customizable templates for small business owners. I have the good fortune of having a sister who is also a journalist, and she wrote the content for my website free of charge.

I bought a small portable lighting kit for under $100 which I use to photograph all of my ties. Good lighting can make a world of difference and brings a professional feel to my site. I also created a small office for myself so I had the space I needed to store all of my supplies and create a welcoming place to work. I made a trip to Ikea to outfit my office with everything I needed.

Graham modelling a Trendy Trach tie.

What books or websites did you consult to help start your business?

I had no experience with web design or coding and knew very little about how to set up my own site. I could not afford to hire someone to design my site so I had to learn myself. I found my most useful resource was Google itself, especially the free Google Sites program. When having trouble with formatting or adding HTML code to my site, I simply typed my question into Google. I found that, in almost every situation, someone else had asked the same question and received a good answer.

Two of the most valuable resources I used were Google Sites and Chrome For Dummies and Facebook Marketing: Leverage Social Media to Grow Your Business. Both books had some very useful information for me. I also read "Ten Top SEO tips for your Website Success" to help me learn about search engine optimization.

Additionally, I found an SEO specialist that looked over my site free of charge and gave me some very valuable tips and advice on where to go next. His name is Galen Sonntag from Netnotic Marketing in Saskatoon.

A boy's pack of Trendy Trach ties

How do you spread the word about Trendy Trachs?

I do much of my own marketing online, preferably where it can be done for free, like on this blog :). I also have a Facebook site for Trendy Trachs that helps us reach people that wouldn't have otherwise heard of my business. Specialists and therapists are always good tools as well, as they know all the people in our province that would use my product and can hand out my cards when they visit.

I also put up posters at hospitals and specialists' offices around the city. I am currently working on getting Trendy Trach ties available through some local medical supply companies for purchase.

What tips do you have for people thinking about starting their own home-based business?

The Internet is probably your best resource when it comes to marketing your business, getting the word out and making your products easily available to a wide client base. While word of mouth is still important, with a little know-how and some research you can reach hundreds of potential clients in a very short time with a minimum of financial resources. Having a great website that is attractive, provides good information and is easy to navigate is key.

I would also advise would-be home-based business owners to make sure they set aside a space in their home that is to be used primarily for their business. Having such a space not only helps your business run more smoothly and efficiently, it also reinforces the fact that this is your business, not just your hobby, and that it is important. It doesn't need to be a huge office space -- depending on the nature of your business, you may just need a workspace and a shelving unit tucked into a quiet alcove.

Toddler G in his stylin' glasses!

Does Graham prefer your trach ties to the boring ones?

Graham enjoys bright colours and patterns, like most babies, but my ties are as much for parents as they are for children. When a trach tie is securely in place, babies aren't able to see it without the use of a mirror, but for parents, it makes a big difference that their children are able to wear cute patterns in bright, appealing colours. I think our ties go a long way towards removing some of the stigma around having a child with medical needs and reminds others that these children are just regular kids who enjoy the same things as any other child their age.

Do you do custom themes or orders?

I always do my best to accommodate clients' special requests. It can be difficult at times to find a certain themed fabric in a small enough print to be visible on a trach tie, as they are quite small in size, but I will always try my best to meet my cilents' individual needs.

Thanks for sharing your experiences with us, Erin!

You can read more about Trendy Trachs at, or visit their Facebook page at

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