Southern belle Lynn Watkins’ humble steps towards entrepreneurship began as moral support.
Watkins, originally from Atlanta, Ga., created Bling Canes, a business which gives canes a more chic look with crystals.
The idea stems from Watkins’ mother, Barbara Beegle, who began losing her mobility in 2006 and needed a cane. Beegle didn’t like the appearance of the canes.
“They are depressing looking,” Watkins said in agreement with her mom’s sentiment.
Watkins decided to class up her mother’s cane the same way she’d begun decorating motorcycle helmets. She used shiny Swarovski crystals from New York and a secret adhesive to apply the jewels to the cane. Beegle loved the cane so much that she asked for more.
“(My mom) started with a T-handle cane and now has a whole wardrobe of canes,” Watkins said. “She tries out my canes first before anyone else.”
Lynn Watkins stays up some nights until 2 a.m. working on her Bling Canes. She started decorating canes for her mother before making a business of it in August 2010.
Sequim Gazette photos by Matthew Nash
Word of mouth spread as the two went around Sequim and Watkins began making canes for other women who “oohed” and “aahed.”
She sold her first batch of wholesale canes to Deb Ferguson, owner of The Buzz and Beedazzled.
“I really just started in August 2010,” Watkins said. “Deb really pushed me along.”
Other businesses bought Watkins’ canes, such as Olympic Medical Center, Frick’s, Kelbi’s World in Sequim and Jim’s Pharmacy in Port Angeles.
She coined the name “Classy Canes by Lynn.”
Watkins’ next step was investigating branding her concept, at the suggestion of a First Federal manager. She met with Sequim attorney Jacques Dulin at his Innovations Law Group, Ltd.
“He asked how many I had sold. I said 30,” Watkins said.
“‘You need to be protected and change your (product’s) name,’ he told me. I have never done a business. I didn’t know. I was a stay-at-home mom for years.”
She thought about a name and so did Dulin.
“People would say to me, ‘Look at the bling on those canes,’” Watkins said.
“I came back to Jacques and we both came up with names around bling.”
Thus Bling Canes was born.
Watkins works on the canes at home and sells them at events like the Seattle Gift Show, where retailers buy wholesale. She sold nearly 200 canes to businesses like hospital gift shops.
“I overheard a woman say, ‘It’s about time somebody did this,’” Watkins said. “Ladies love these. I get lots of positive responses.”
Meeting an array of great people is one of the draws to decorating canes, Watkins said. The memory of one particular customer, a woman Watkins believed to have multiple sclerosis, nearly brings her to tears. The woman in a wheelchair with two friends walking beside her approached Watkins at A Victorian Country Christmas Festival in Puyallup. The woman was ecstatic to see the canes.
She had Watkins bring out all of the canes available and spent a considerable amount of time narrowing her choice to two. The woman had her two friends pick her up so she could try out the canes. She made her decision, but the friends agreed to buy her the second one as well.
“This gives such a joy to ladies that it’s rewarding,” Watkins said. “God has directed me to people I need. I’m not a businesswoman, but I have learned prayer has changed things.”
Most of Watkins’ success with Bling Canes is attributed to God and her faith.
“I give God praise for this business. I never imagined I could have done something like this,” Watkins, an admitted dyslexic, said. “I didn’t try to do this. It’s people encouraging me to go forward.”
Watkins said she was raised in a godly home and her father was a retired naval officer. She has three grown sons of her own who live in North Carolina, South Carolina and Atlanta; she has four grandchildren.
Watkins’ canes all come with a Bling Canes card inscribed with Psalm 19:14: “Let the words of my mouth, and the meditations of my heart, be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my strength and my redeemer.”
Watkins is expanding her horizons with a new website, www.bling4canes.com, by selling canes on eBay and by adding more events, such as the Sequim Lavender Festival Street Fair, to her agenda. She boasts 20 different designs on T-handle canes, offset canes, walkers and quad canes. Watkins tried selling nondecorated canes to men, but they didn’t catch on.
“God has given me a simple concept and it’s such a blessing for people,” Watkins said. “These ladies want to feel beautiful.”
Reach Matthew Nash at email@example.com.