Lena Schlabach was born and in Ohio’s Amish Country. She was once herself a little Amish girl. She is now a fashion designer and gets to travel the world with this dream job. Her life is way more than a little Amish girl could of ever imagined. She now gets to empower women with the brand she has developed in the three short years of business. Lena is passionate about making that her patterns fit a size 28 women as well as a size 5. She believes everyone should feel beautiful when they slip the Frock on.
More Faith Than Fear.
Make your decisions on faith not fear.
I was born and raised in Ohio’s Amish country. I grew up in the Amish culture with my family making everything they needed and watching my community farm. As a child, I always had a desire to be creative. I remember sitting in an outhouse restroom by the one room schoolhouse I attended and creating rose flowers out of the toilet paper. I loved the reaction of my friends thinking I was talented. It inspired me to continue finding unique ways to be creative. I think it’s always possible to make something beautiful out of something ugly. It’s that way with life too.
Though I grew up in a naturally beautiful community, I always dreamed of growing up and leaving the Amish culture to live on the beach. I’m sure in retrospect that is because we love the new and mysterious, but it was always something I wanted to do. Today, I no longer live the Amish way of life, but it is the culture of my family. One of my sisters still lives in the community, and I live just next door in Millersburg, Ohio—the heart of Ohio’s Amish country.
Though I always had the desire to leave, one day I heard the saying, ‘Bloom where you are planted.’ That changed my way of thinking and my way of living. Suddenly everything changed and my creativity blossomed. I started sharing a photo-of-the-day and giving people on social media that I’d met at vintage events or fairs a glimpse of the beauty of Amish country. At the same time, I started to dream about the kind of products or business I could create that meant something to myself.
As a plus-sized woman, I have always been frustrated by the reality that there aren’t m any companies that make ‘cute’ clothes for me that look good and fit well. Suddenly, I found myself wanting those bohemian clothes that had become popular but there wasn’t a company making them for me. I decided that if I set my mind to it, I could be that company, and I could make a garment that was just as beautiful and well-built for a size 28 as it was for a size 5.
I had the vision, but as a kid I didn’t really learn to sew. I’d always dreamed about moving out of the Amish country, so any lesson my mom would try to give me went in one ear and out the other. Luckily I inherited the Amish work ethic and resourcefulness. Gathering inexpensive thrift store curtains and fabrics, and enlisting the help of my local Amish community of seamstresses, I slowly taught myself to sew enough to start making frocks. Speaking the Dutch language of these talented women, I was able to build a community with them helping me achieve my dream.
I have been in business as Farmhouse Frocks for going on three years now. It has become a business that feels not only creatively rewarding, but also fulfilling in my ability to create beautiful pieces for other women and bring happiness to them. My garments are an extension of my goal to empower women of all shapes and sizes. I am also lucky to be able to work with both of my daughters. Sydney, my younger daughter, acts as my personal assistant and aids with my online presence and styling, while my older daughter, Felicia, is my lead salesperson.
Six months into our business, we outgrew the basement of my home where we were producing all of our goods. We were utterly out of excess space to work and create, and people were starting to ask us about opening a small space for retail, so I began to look in our historic downtown for a usable location. Eventually, we found our space, with its industrial roots, high ceilings, and ceilings decorated with tin roofing, and using 28 gallons of white paint we painted all of the walls white and found a new home for Farmhouse Frocks.
Wed have grown rapidly, but I feel blessed. My biggest passion has been empowering women from maker to consumer, and I vow every day to make my decisions out of Faith, not Fear. It’s too difficult to make clear decisions that are hard if you’re fearful. That is why I always try to operate with faith. We even started and use the hashtag, #MoreFaithThanFear.
Today, I am happy to say that employ 40 people, and I love that I can involve my Amish community in my business. We now have a great leverage to create jobs in the community for Amish mothers that aren’t able to work outside of the home. Last year the local chamber gave us the reward for Small Business of the Year because of the impact we have had on our community. Now that I have a team that can now help me with all the day-to-day needs, I have more time to travel and feed my soul with inspiration. When I’m not drawing inspiration on the road, I love to browse Pinterest and Podcasts.
I love to think of ways to better my business/events. How can I make it more creative? Sometimes that becomes building new fixtures, or figuring out creative solutions. Generally, I love my work and never feel too overworked. As I’ve always heard, ‘Do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life.’ Always make sure to figure out a way to make money while doing what you love. Sure, sometimes working at fairs or events can be stressful, but my workspace makes me smile and I think that’s important.
Favorite Thing: I don’t like to get attached to things but if you’re talking about material things it’s all of our chandeliers. The huge one in the front of the Studio is my favorite one. The spirit of love that you feel when entering is my most prized possession.