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City Shaper: Mary Grabenstatter

Grabenstatter launched Needle Sharp, a sewing subscription service, in 2017.

LAKE VIEW, N.Y. — In 2019, we are celebrating the women of Western New York who are part of our region's resurgence. They are our City Shapers, and this week, 2 On Your Side's Kelly Dudzik introduces us to an entrepreneur who made a career change to launch her own company.

Mary Grabenstatter moved back to Buffalo to start her own business and now she has customers all around the world. Grabenstatter started Needle Sharp, a subscription sewing business, two years ago. She got the idea while living in New York City, where she was working in film until the recession hit.

"I was doing Blue Apron while I was in New York because grocery shopping in New York is horrible, and getting stuff sent to my house was really convenient, and even though I knew how to cook, I liked getting everything sent and having a project ready for me," said Grabenstatter.

Credit: WGRZ- Terry Belke

Grabenstatter says she's always been crafty- she knits, she had an Etsy store where she crocheted little dolls- but she didn't learn to sew until five years ago.

"I started making everything that I could, and kind of fell in love with it," she said.

When she was looking for patterns and fabric, it took a lot of time. She decided to start her own company to make it easier for people to sew their own clothes. Needle Sharp boxes come with everything you need except the sewing machine and scissors.

"What was your first kit that you put together," asked Dudzik.

"Everything is themed, so the first theme was wiggle dresses, which are kind of like tight-fitting sheath dresses and it was meant to be for the Christmas season, so you could get this and wear it in Christmas 2017," Grabenstatter said. "It started very small, I think I sold eleven boxes, but the response that I got was really great."

Grabenstatter offers four boxes- from the beginner's box to her luxury box. She has this message for anyone who thinks sewing is too complicated.

"It's a puzzle piece. You get instructions, you put them together, all you have to do is sew a straight line in most places, and then you get to wear it. And, making my own clothes has actually done wonders for my self-esteem and body image, and that's what I've been trying to get to the people who aren't sure if they want to start sewing or not. If you make your own clothes, you don't have to fit into what the fashion industry tells you you're supposed to fit into, and it does amazing things for your self-confidence."

Grabenstatter was also named Protégé of the Year by the Allstate Minority and Women Emerging Entrepreneurs (MWEE) program at the University at Buffalo.

Next, Grabenstatter says she'd love to get a space that customers can visit, so she can move her business out of her home, and people can see the boxes and look at the fabric.

If you know someone who would be a great City Shaper, all you have to do is send Kelly an email.

ICYMI: Check out our profile on Emily Frazer from Bets & Emy

BUFFALO, N.Y. - Each week this year, we're celebrating a woman who is having a positive impact on Western New York. This week's City Shaper is a mom who came up with her own solution to a health problem her newborn was having. Buffalo native Emily Frazer is the founder of Bets & Emy wipes.

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