An Interview with Stefanie Woods-Weakley

Portrait of Stefanie Woods-Weakley

Entrepreneur/designer/creator/Army-spouse Stefanie Woods-Weakley is all about making people’s lives simpler. Especially around the holidays (maybe you even have a spouse deployed right now or you’re PCSing), who doesn’t need a little simplification right now? You can find some help in Stefanie’s designs and creations.

MilspoFAN: Tell us a little about yourself, your journey as a military spouse, and where you are today.

Stefanie: Hey friends!  I’m Stefanie. Creator, Designer and Entrepreneur. I am the founder of Abby Maddy & Company, a handmade ladies accessories brand. Wife to Ben and mama to Abby and Jack.  We’re currently doing life in Northeast Tennessee in my little girl dream house with a mischievous hound named Camo. 

My husband and I met at the University of Tennessee when we were juniors in college.  We married the weekend after he commissioned into the Army and PCS’d to Ft. Leonard Wood five weeks later. Our Army life took us coast to coast from Washington State to Washington D.C. 

Following retirement in 2019, we moved to my hometown, bought an old house, and began our next adventure. 

MilspoFAN: How did you become an artist? 

Stefanie: I have a complicated relationship with the word artist because I am not professionally trained, and the traditional mediums of paint, pottery, and drawing never came naturally to me.  But I’ve been a creator all my life, and some of my earliest memories involve using soda bottles as mannequins to shape and alter doll clothes. In 2010, with my husband deployed to Afghanistan and two small children at home, I began creating children’s accessories. I had just lost my father to cancer only months before, and sewing became a sort of therapy in those early days. But as my children grew, so did the shop, and eventually I transitioned to a ladies’ accessories brand, which is the Abby Maddy you see today. 

MilspoFAN: How has your role as a military spouse impacted your work as an artist- creatively, logistically, or otherwise? 

Stefanie: The logistical issues of running any kind of business in the military are nothing short of a nightmare. I knew early on that I would have to establish my business around our PCS schedule, and I allowed myself tons of grace. I leaned heavily on the military spouse community for support and inspiration and surrounded myself with other small business owners at each duty station. Still, there were times when I simply had to hang a “closed for PCS // training // deployment” sign on the website and allow my family the space and transition time we needed. 

I also worked to educate my customer base early on about the challenges of the military lifestyle, and I can honestly say I have never experienced anything but love and support from my clientele.

MilspoFAN: How do you cultivate your creativity? 

Stefanie: When my children were little and I was just starting out, I used to take apart baby items that didn’t quite function as well as I wanted and remake them. I was constantly looking for ways to make life simpler. That’s what happens when you have an infant, a toddler, and a deployed spouse. As the brand has evolved into ladies’ accessories, I’m still looking for ways to make life simpler – just in a different season.

Right now, I’m particularly inspired by classic styles: seersucker and chinoiserie, ribbons, bows, and brass.  All these things have found their way into my designs over the past year. I’m also completely in love with crisp, clean, style and the marriage of fashion and functionality. If there is a way to make daily life easier, and still look good doing it, I’m all in. 

MilspoFAN: What’s next for you? 

Stefanie: In the past year, Abby Maddy has taken on a brand identity that is the most authentic it’s ever been. That’s in part due to my husband being retired, and I have more uninterrupted time to work. But it’s also due to me getting incredibly clear on what I want the brand to be.  In the beginning, I was just throwing spaghetti at the wall and watching to see what stuck.  Now I am less concerned with what sticks and more interested about why it sticks. I am diving deeper into what our customers want and exploring new ways my designs can make life simpler. As we head into 2023, I feel a massive shift coming in both the brand and my designs, and I can honestly say that I am more excited than I’ve ever been about the future of Abby Maddy. 

MilspoFAN: What is the most practical piece of advice that you would give to other artists? 

Stefanie: Just start. Done is better than perfect. Not everything you make will be a masterpiece, but you will learn from each and every piece. Don’t overthink it too much in the beginning. If you’re planning to sell your creations, great. If not, that’s fine too. There is no direct line to success, and your creativity will ebb and flow. Organic growth is slow, but it is far better to build a loyal and supportive following. I had no idea when I began Abby Maddy twelve years ago, that this is what I would be doing today. But I am here to tell you, there are no shortcuts. Be willing to put in the time, passion and work. And most importantly, make what YOU love. 

Find Stefanie online at:
Instagram: @abbymaddyandcompany and @stefaniewoodsweakley
Facebook: @abbymaddyandcompany

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