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i broke my hand and i heart makaboo's employees

October 26, 2010 17:42

that's why i've been so quiet... on facebook, on this blog, and even in person. to be perfectly honest, it's been a bit of a downer! but i want to tell the story for posterity's sake and because hopefully some aspects of the story may be amusing to others now, and to me many, many years from now.

so here's what happened:

it was a gorgeous saturday morning, just 8 days after my last trip to the ER for my final rabies vaccination (see raccoon attack posts below for more info), and bill and i decided to go for a bike ride in forest park, just 2 blocks away. it was within those two blocks that i hurled myself over my handlebars, cracked my chin open, and broke my ring and pinky fingers right at the knuckles on my right (dominant) hand.

it's really very simple - and lame: bill is a more comfortable and aggressive biker. he darts in and out of traffic, ignores traffic signals and loves big curbs. i prefer the sidewalk, use the corner ramps as though my life depended on them, and get pretty nervous if any moving object comes within 10 feet of me, whether motorized or human-powered.

but i was following bill, who does everything i just mentioned above. he jumped what appeared to be an enormous curb, and i thought to myself "i can't jump that thing! or should i? maybe -" and then i hit it and went flying.

i remember cars stopping to see if i was ok, which is embarrassing even when you're half a breath away from being unconscious. i remember my hubby pressing a really dirty cloth to my chin. i remember telling him to call my mother to come pick me up, and i remember the ashen look on her face when she saw me. i nearly passed out in the car, but mom opened the windows and cranked the air and made me drink some water and by the time we drove the few blocks back home i had gotten myself together.

our dear friend rob corley the ER doc came over and basically superglued my chin back together. he does great work. on the hand he said that it definitely looked broken and that i'd have to get xrays, so i might as well go to the ER and have them reset it. why not! so back to st. mary's we went, for the 5th time in 22 days.

this time they asked me all kinds of questions like "do you feel safe in your home?" and "have you ever felt that you or a family member was in danger?" i said "you all didn't ask these questions when i was here for the raccoon attack." and they said "of course we did - we ask everyone" which is totally not true. i guess they can tell raccoon bites from human bites. lucky for bill, who was in the room for both interviews.

they xrayed me, confirmed that i had two breaks, put me in a splint, wrote me some scrips and told me to see a hand specialist. in other words, i left without them doing anything to the hand and with no specifics as to how it would get fixed.

i should say now that i am an optimist, and i also have unusually good luck. if i need the last standby seat on an overbooked flight i always manage to get it. if i need a rock-star parking spot in order to make a meeting on time one magically appears. up to this point i'd never broken a bone or spent a night in a hospital. the worst case scenario almost never (knock on wood) happens to me. at this point i was mostly making cracks about vicodin and how to shower one-handed.

in the 5 days following the crash i had a makaboo photo shoot with five kids, an interview and shoot with the Post-Dispatch, and my 34th birthday, all of which which i somehow managed to pull off despite a fair amount of pain and a wooze-inducing amount of meds. i was still assuming that when i finally got in to a hand specialist they'd say it was already healing fine on its own, or would reset the bones and call it a day. which is what i needed them to say because i had 3 straight weeks of travel and six makaboo trunk shows across the country coming up.

so it came as a shock when i finally got in to the specialist and learned that i needed surgery to place pins in my hand in an attempt to properly reset the bones, followed by weeks/months of physical therapy to get the fingers fully functional again. i ended up having the surgery the same day that i saw the dr for the first time. i highly recommend having only 2.5 hours to prep for surgery - there's no time to psych yourself out!

when i woke up from the surgery i was told that it was worse than the dr had anticipated and that he had to put five pins in. the hand was in a temporary cast that would be removed 4 days later when i went to PT for the first time.

there are two huge things that do not occur to people when they hear that your hand is broken and that there are pins in it. the first is that the pins are like sewing needles that are sticking straight out of your hand, with big blue nubs on the end of them. like sewing pins in a pin cushion made of hand flesh. or push pins in a bulletin board, also made of hand flesh. i have to clean the pin sites every day. a good analogy might be when you first get your ears pierced, except that turning these pins would not be a good idea.

the second thing people really don't understand is what a dramatic life change occurs when you lose the use of your dominant hand. here are some of the things i can't do:

  • drive
  • type with my right hand (hence the no caps)
  • write
  • open things, like pill bottles, drinks, food containers, boxes or packages, or anything that requires tearing or scissors
  • dry and brush my hair at the same time
  • put on a necklace
  • open certain doors
  • wear tight clothing (tops can't get over the pins; bottoms can't get on or buttoned/zipped with one hand)
  • cook or eat anything that needs to be cut with a sharp knife
  • cook anything that is in a pot that can't be lifted with just one hand
  • do laundry
  • do dishes

so, i've spent the last 4 weeks mostly at home, mostly by myself. as i said above, it has been mostly a downer, but as an optimist i have to note the positives as well!

  • i am now pretty awesome at typing left-handed
  • i know that i will never become addicted to vicodin - it makes me sleepy and nauseas
  • i get to walk to my twice-weekly PT appointments, which is always a nice break from the at-home workday
  • i will have cool scars on my right hand that will always make it sound like i had this daring bike accident in my 30s
  • i have a new understanding of what disabled people endure every day and of the respect and admiration that they are owed from all of us
  • my hubby felt so guilty that he got me a gorgeous handbag (no pun intended) and wallet for my birthday!
  • said hubby has been unbelievable - he is the ultimate caretaker and i owe him some serious loving and nurturing

the biggest upside by far has been seeing makaboo's incredible employees pick up the slack in my absence, and keep the company humming. i am so, so grateful to my embroidery manager angela and packaging specialist nina for keep everything on track during our busiest month ever. they are incredible assets to the company!

since the surgery i've have PT two times a week (which hurts!!) and have had to exercise the hand myself six times a day. tomorrow i get the pins out, then we pick up the PT hard core. right now my pinky's basically not moving at all (i call it botox of the pinky), and my ring finger will go down but not up. i believe that the worst case scenario is that the pinky doesn't start behaving after 3-6 months and i have to have another surgery to remove the scar tiisue, but to be perfectly honest i don't really know!

more to come. and if you like grody things and want to see photos, i have plenty!



Saint Louis Post-Dispatch Article on Makaboo Founder Cindy Teasdale McGowan

October 12, 2010 17:39

We were so happy to see this wonderful piece in last Friday's Post-Dispatch. See the article here:

Makaboo owner hopes to blanket baby market


buy this photo Stephanie S. Cordle September 29, 2010--Cindy Teasdale McGowan, founder and owner of Makaboo Personalized Gifts located in downtown St. Louis. Stephanie S. Cordle

Cindy Teasdale McGowan

Title: Owner and founder of Makaboo, a personalized baby goods company. It has a website,, and a storefront space in downtown St. Louis at 609 N. 13th St.

Age: 34

Education: Bachelor’s degree in art history and English literature from Washington University

Career: Director of marketing for Second Street Media, director of project management for Momentum, project manager and senior editor for Snapfish, project manager for Fleishman-Hillard

Personal: Lives in the Central West End with her husband, Bill McGowan

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Cindy Teasdale McGowan didn't set out to be an entrepreneur.

"If you would have told me five years ago that I would own my own business or that I would be cutting the backing off of lovies, I would have laughed," she said. "I graduated from college wanting to be a writer."

But life has a strange way of taking us down different paths.

She got swept up into technology and Web development, and left St. Louis in 2004 to move to San Francisco. She took a job there with Snapfish, where she was a project manager and worked on applications for photo books and photo calendars.

An avid online shopper, especially for one-of-a-kind wedding gifts for her friends, she had an "aha" moment one night while trying to buy a personalized lovie, or baby blanket, for a friend. The only online choices seemed to be between impersonal mass retailers like Pottery Barn and mom-and-pop sites that were cute, but not as reputable or trustworthy, she said. She found one site she liked but was frustrated she could not see a picture of what the end product would look like.

So she kicked around the idea of starting a personalized baby goods website for a couple of years. In 2006, she moved back to St. Louis to marry Bill McGowan, a downtown developer. She hopped around between a couple of jobs, then decided to go for it.

In December 2009, she launched, where customers can select colors and text to make personalized baby blankets, pillows, bibs and so on. The company also has a small storefront space in downtown St. Louis. McGowan employs a full-time embroiderer as well as another part-time worker, and contracts out the rest of the work.

While the business is based in St. Louis, it has developed a following among moms in New York after receiving buzz on some baby blogs there. She also has been trying to get more business by sending products to celebrity moms.

About 95 percent of your business comes through your website. So why did you decide to open a bricks-and-mortar store?

I totally didn't decide to have the retail store. My husband's company had this space available. It's only 400 square feet. They didn't know what else to do with it. And I was looking for a space for my office and production.

They were like, "Well, would you like to have this one for the time being?" I was like, "Sure!" And then I realized it was a storefront, and so we had to make it look cute. So we went to Ikea and bought a bunch of stuff really cheap and painted it. And put in a cute chandelier. And then people started yanking on the door. So I literally was like, "Oops! We created a retail store by accident."

Besides street traffic, how do people usually find out about your business?

We have been really lucky to get some positive press from blogs like, which is a New York-based mommy blog. They've been really wonderful. We were just in their newsletter. And we've also gotten some great press from We were on their baby blog in July. So it's been about 30 percent of press and marketing. About 30 percent comes from Google organic searches. Our biggest customer — who, I mean, she's been a really big customer, found us from Google. (That customer, who turned out to be a woman married into a royal family in Europe, bought $2,000 worth of goods in one day.) And then 30 percent is word of mouth — friends and friends of friends. And Facebook I would say falls into that category, too.

Has it been surprising to you that you have been receiving more orders from people in New York than from folks in Missouri?

Yes. And also, you don't really think of Manhattan as the bastion of "Mommydom." But I think in New York, moms are likely to be a bit more tech-savvy. And this is a huge generalization, but I would imagine living in a city like New York — I used to live in San Francisco — your time is a little more valuable and a little more limited because it's harder to get around. It's harder to get your everyday errands done.

So it may just be that they are paying attention to places like more so than your average Midwestern mom.

I don't really know, but it's been a good thing for us. … The orders from New York have higher average order values, and they seem to be growing in a more viral way.

So you have celebrity clients such as Bree Turner (an actress in the movie "The Ugly Truth") and Kevin Frazier (weekend anchor of "Entertainment Tonight"). How have they found you?

There is a company called Jewels and Pinstripes that is sanctioned in Hollywood to send baby and children's gift baskets to celebrities either when they have kids or the baby turns 1. So I pay them to be included in the baby gift bags.

We send personalized baby gear to anywhere between eight and 16 celebrity babies a month. …

The long-term goal is that Will Arnett and Amy Poehler will be at the beach someday with Abel and Archie in their little Makaboo matching sun hats and swim trunks. And a paparazzi will snag a photo, and it will appear in US Weekly or wherever, and we can say, "Oh, my gosh, look at the Arnett-Poehler kids wearing Makaboo!"

But it takes time. We've only been doing it since July.

So what is the story behind the name "Makaboo"?

Some kids call their blankets "boos." So that is where the name came from. It is one of my regrets because people often pronounce it wrong. "Branding 101" is name your company something that everyone will pronounce and won't intimidate anyone. But I got stuck to it. Sometimes you make emotional decisions.

Great Saint Louis Press and Reason We've Been Quiet

October 10, 2010 17:33

Well, this blog has been quiet because the day after my last post, I went for a bike ride and wound up breaking my hand in two places. I currently have 5 pins and 7 stitches in my right/dominant hand.

So, this is going to be short! I have a lot of clever things to say about it but need to install some good voice recognition software.

We have been so happy to get some wonderful press in the Saint Louis community in the last few weeks.

First, a great piece in Saint Louis Magazine's October issue:


Custom Made

A local company goes beyond the monogram.

Photograph courtesy of Cindy Teasdale McGowan

Cindy Teasdale McGowan was logging long hours at her Internet job in San Francisco while her then-boyfriend—Bill McGowan, co-owner of McGowan Brothers Development—was more than 2,000 miles away in St. Louis. A few months after he popped the question, she left her much-loved tech job and moved here.

New to the Midwest, she began looking for a job similar to her previous post in product management at digital-photography company Snapfish, but nothing came close. “What I loved most about my job was the ability for customers to build something online that would show up on a doorstep as a tangible product,” says McGowan. “In terms of this process, I noticed there was a big hole in the kids’ market.”

In her spare time, she developed Makaboo (, an online personalized children’s gift store. “We built our own program that allows clients to play around and create an item by having complete control over font, thread color, and a selection of 80 icons to choose from,” she explains. “The process takes less than 5 minutes.”

With prices running from less than $20 for bibs and hats up to $150, McGowan wants the line to be accessible to all. Since launching in December 2009, she’s shipped to 46 states, with more than 30 percent of her clientele being repeat customers. She’s also opened a storefront at 609 N. 13th, where you can schedule an appointment by calling 877-800-7952.

The steady paycheck’s gone—but McGowan wouldn’t have it any other way. Like Makaboo’s products, the company’s made just for her.

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