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Small Business Highlight: Crimson Willow

Crimson Willow has got you covered for unique, high-quality, genuine cowhide and leather handbags and accessories. Rachel Dake is the powerful woman behind Crimson Willow, from Missouri she’s a wife, a mom to her four-year-old daughter, Ella, and has worked incredibly hard at building her company from the ground up. 

The western world has always had a place in Rachel’s heart, she was nine years old when Rachel got her very own horse. From ten to nineteen years old Rachel participated in 4-H, showings, and different projects through there. Once Rachel got married she convinced her husband to get a horse whose barn name was Willow and she’s registered as a red rhone. Willow is the face of the business. When creating the business name, Rachel wanted a catchy name to describe red and after some searching she discovered crimson. From that point forward her business was named Crimson Willow. 

Rachel started Crimson Willow in 2014, she started her company making horse tack. She initially started the business to bring in some extra money to pay for entry fees to barrel race at jackpots and vet bills. At the time, Rachel didn’t know Crimson Willow would take off in the long run. She was a college student at the time, didn’t have a lot of money but found a way to start buying some tools little by little. Rachel taught herself everything she needed to know from books, YouTube videos, and trial and error. She started out with small things like nosebands and then worked her way up.

When Crimson Willow started in 2014 Rachel had also been going to school, finishing up and graduating with her second degree in occupational therapy. Rachel ended up canceling her boards because her mother had passed away from cancer. From there, Rachel turned her career path and decided to put her full focus on her business which consisted of making tack for a couple of years then switched over to only making bags as she loved being able to be more creative with the bags. At the beginning of 2017 things took a turn for Crimson Willow, Rachel found out she was pregnant with her daughter and ended up having to step away from the business. Rachel’s pregnancy had taken a toll on her and it was in her best interest to step away and focus on herself and becoming a new mom. She actually ended up selling all of her tools, she felt discouraged and thought she was done with the business.

Once her daughter turned five months old in 2018, it hit Rachel that she needed to continue her business. She was upset with herself for letting it go but jumped back into it. With the support of her husband Dustin, they went out and bought another sewing machine. Rachel came back home and got to work. She had to build her business up again, and it started to grow little by little. She started building up Crimson Willow in her laundry room, she’d cut leather on their kitchen table, eventually, she moved her work to the basement of their home taking up the entire space. In 2019 Crimson Willow got a booth at the NFR (National Finals Rodeo) in Las Vegas, NV where she operated the booth by herself which was hard work but a wonderful experience. For a couple of years, Rachel worked countless hours on making bags from her home and growing her business by herself. She made it happen while raising her daughter and having support from her husband. With a lot of hard work and dedication, Rachel has taken a leap and moved her business into a big storefront and a big shop in Oak Grove, Missouri where she has put together a small team for this new chapter of Crimson Willow. The storefront opened to the public in May 2021. Rachel has come a long way, there were many challenges but she pushed through and never gave up, and her business has taken off. 

Rachel’s love for western fashion has grown more and more as she started making bags. “Western fashion is what speaks to my soul and it’s what I like. It’s definitely a good fit for me,” stated Rachel. She loves designing her bags with a lot of neutrals, sometimes she’ll add in some pops of color but she sticks with styles and designs in a western flare that can be used for everyday outfits. On some bags you’ll see genuine turquoise and sterling silver, she’ll find buckles or pendants and turn them into a concho. Rachel stated, “I would say my style is kind of playing with a little wow twist.”. From looking through her grandfather’s old magazine collection of Cowboys and Indians to seeing western fashion on social media, Rachel has gotten inspiration from many aspects. But sitting down in the shop and just putting leathers together and seeing what works and what doesn’t work is where the magic happens, a lot of it is trial and error. Rachel is always purchasing new cowhides, leather, and materials all the time and always coming up with new ideas. 

Each and every bag is handmade with so much love. First, the materials will be cut by the cutter to a certain size depending on the item. Then the cut materials go to Rachel or her other seamstress to be sewn. Afterward, the hardware will be put on and then the finishing touches will be added. Each bag varies in how much time it takes to complete, it could be anywhere from taking a couple of hours to taking all day depending on the type of bag being made. 

Crimson Willow has several different style bags right now from crossbodies, totes, runaway, backpacks, round bags, downtown, and saddlebags. As well as many accessories, a planner, binder, wallets, and travel bags. Her signature bag is the Runaway bag which is offered in three different sizes. It’s a duffle-style bag but Rachel has modified it to be more western and threw her own spin on it. She adds in the side pockets, fringe, a hard bottom, purse handles, a wide shoulder strap, and western leather. For a majority of the Crimson Willow bags, Rachel finds a regular general sewing pattern and then puts a twist on it that would work with cowhide and leather. She’ll make it more western, more user-friendly where it will stand up on its own and you can just reach in and grab your stuff and go. Rachel’s favorite thing to do is come up with a bag style and then offer it in different sizes so that way it fits a variety of different people.

Looking to purchase an item from Crimson Willow? The Crimson Willow business is very active on social media, a majority of sales happen over on Crimson Willows Instagram and Facebook page. Every Wednesday is Willow Wednesday and Rachel will go live on Instagram at 7:00 pm CST for a live sale for the first three Wednesdays each month. The last Wednesday of the month is live auctions. Rachel recently started doing the auctions and has been making them even more fun by having a theme each time where she will get dressed up. Every Friday Rachel does a silent auction on the Crimson Willow Facebook page. If you shop during the live sale or auction, the first who comments and claims get the bag. You’ll send a message to Crimson Willow with your email then Crimson Willow will send you over an invoice. You’ll have 48 hours to pay then the item will be shipped once paid. Crimson Willow also has a website where bags are added onto the site randomly and you’ll be able to pay directly on the website. All of Rachel’s current bags and accessories are advertised on both Crimson Willow social media pages to purchase. Be sure to check out Crimson Willow’s Facebook, @CrimsonWIllowLLC,  Instagram page, @crimsonwillow_ as well as the website, crimsonwillow.com. Or come on down and visit in person at 1204 S Broadway, Oak Grove, MO 64075. 

Some advice from Rachel is to don’t ever give up, don’t be afraid to chase after your dreams, and take those leaps. Rachel went through many hurdles, she put in a lot of time, energy, determination, and dedication to growing her business. Rachel stated,

“Crimson Willow has always, ever since I started it, has felt second nature to me and something that I’m supposed to be doing. So I’ve always found a way to do it. I’m still growing, you know it’s never done. New things are always happening and changing. It’s definitely been a journey, one that I’m happy to be on and very blessed to be on.” 

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Howdy, I'm Megan deFabry, I grew up in Reno, Nevada & I now live in Austin, Texas. I'm very passionate about digital marketing and journalism, especially within the western industry. I have a love for agriculture, rodeos, country music, and maintaining the western way of life!

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