It was just a routine doctor visit for Melissa Hinnant, who was five-months-pregnant, but suddenly, it wasn’t. In came the doctor with devastating news: without surgical intervention she would give birth within 24 hours and her daughter wouldn’t survive. She was immediately taken into surgery and, though it was successful, she awoke to a difficult reality—she would be on strict hospital bed rest for the remainder of her pregnancy.
The idea of watching TV for the next four months sounded torturous, so she began crocheting, something she could do while laying in bed. She made a blanket for her unborn daughter and that’s when she found it: a passion for sewing that would propel this ordinary girl into an overnight business success. But there were more than just birth pains ahead.
Two weeks later, more devastating news came. Labor couldn’t be stopped and Melissa would have to deliver. Halle was born way too early, and, with undeveloped lungs, she was taken straight to Heaven. Heartbroken, Melissa and husband Rick struggled with the tough reality that the miracle they were hoping for—the miracle they earnestly believed God would do—never happened.
“I felt shattered,” said Melissa. “We had prayed, believed and hoped. We had done all the right things. We thought God was going to be glorified through this, and when she passed all I could think was ‘NOW WHAT?’”
The following weeks were filled with debilitating grief, but somehow they knew God would bring good out of their tragedy.
An Accidental Business
By faith, Melissa and Rick chose to believe God would heal their hearts, and the following year the couple joyfully welcomed their daughter, Sienna. Being a stay-at-home mom and doing real estate part-time was wonderfully fulfilling and everything she had hoped for, but she still loved to sew.
So, Melissa kept practicing her hobby. In the fall of 2011, she created a pair of lacy leg warmers for herself.
“They took nearly eight hours to make and were so difficult, I said to my husband, I will NEVER do that again!” said Melissa.
But everywhere she wore them, people told her how much they loved them, so she posted them on her Etsy online store just to see what would happen. Within a few hours, purchase request emails were rolling in, and in just a few days, there were hundreds of orders. Overwhelmed with the instant demand, Melissa trained a team of ladies to sew and fulfill orders. The queue was long but people didn’t mind the wait, so she embraced the opportunity and continued toward increasing productivity.
Months later, when a request for several thousand boot-socks came in from the mega retailer Nordstrom, she realized her hobby had the potential to become a major business. But what she didn’t know was how to get from startup home business to major production. That’s when the “sharks” came in.
Swimming In The Shark Tank
A successful business friend suggested she apply to the television show Shark Tank to get an investor to take their company to the next level. Grace and Lace was one of the very few companies that made it on the hit ABC show and one of even fewer to get an investment from a “shark.” Barbara Corcoran, a multimillionaire real estate tycoon, partnered with Grace and Lace and within a few days of the episode’s airing they had over one million dollars in sales revenue. To say they were shocked would be an understatement. Their sales were more than eight times the figure Shark Tank experts forecasted.
“I worked nonstop. No time to eat, sleep, or live life,” said Melissa. “It was the craziest time of my life, and I hope to never have to move at such a demanding pace again.”
In the business explosion, they grew from six part-time employees to over thirty. Grace and Lace has now expanded into the clothes market, creating fashionable and innovative designs. The success is thrilling and far exceeds anything they ever imagined, but that’s just a small part of their story.
More Than Just Fashion
Melissa’s story actually begins when she was a teenager going on missions trips. She describes always having a passion for the poor, the helpless, and especially women and children. At 18, she came home from a trip to India wanting to help them, but had no idea what that might look like in the future.
When Grace and Lace took off, her long-simmering desire came to fruition. With proceeds from sales in 2013, Grace and Lace partnered with Angel House to build orphanages in the Andhra Pradesh region of India. This past summer, they fully funded the construction of two orphanages, taking a hundred homeless children off the street.
When Melissa visited the orphanages, she discovered that many of the girls had the same name, Vesya Beti. Her heart broke when she learned that this “popular” name means “daughter of a prostitute.” The girls had literally been named outcasts by their birth circumstances, forever rejected because of their origin. So Melissa and Rick prayerfully gave every girl a new name and celebrated each new identity and now hope-filled future. It was symbolic of what God does for each and every believer—adopting and renaming each of us as a new creation, a child of the King (2 Corinthians 5:17).
One Boot Sock At A Time
God has given Melissa a platform that is more about people than socks, clothes or fashion, and she knows it. The mission of Melissa’s heart is to change the world, and if things continue, that will be far more impactful then they ever dreamed possible. With over 100,000 products sold, Grace and Lace has been featured in numerous top women’s magazines, shows and news media; interviews are requested regularly.
But even without interviews, they unabashedly declare God’s grace in beautiful script on each retail package: “Made with His grace and a little lace.”
Their story is all about God’s extravagant grace, changing the world one boot sock at a time.