Today we are excited to introduce a new series! We’ll be sharing weekly articles from past issues that feature tastemakers and entrepreneurs who are innovating the South, particularly highlighting our favorite girlbosses.
We’re kicking things off with Jennifer Zamudio, owner of Dot & Army. Since the article first appeared in our Winter 2015 issue, Jennifer has moved her space to a new location in downtown Brunswick, GA and also opened an adjacent retail location that exclusively sells goods made in Georgia. When we contacted Jennifer, she offered this advice to other small business owners:
“I never, ever thought I would/could buy a store front/workshop for my business. But I did, and learned that it really is worth the time to go to the bank, talk to local small business advisors and realtors, and see what options you have.
Jennifer Zamudio, the owner of Dot & Army, a Brunswick, GA-based business that makes custom cloth napkins, has always sewn. Both her grandmothers were seamstresses and her mother made outfits for herself and her siblings during her childhood. Now Jennifer runs a sewing-based business and sells her custom napkins to restaurants in major cities such as Los Angeles, Miami and Chicago as well as selling through the acclaimed food brand Food52.
A former kindergarten teacher, Jennifer was an art major in college who has always loved to create. From an early age she nurtured a passion for entrepreneurship, starting lemonade stands, and, in high school, making backpacks. “It feels good to create something, and then somebody wants it.”
She fell into making cloth napkins by accident, or fate. Always a thrift store shopper, she loved collecting vintage napkins and fabric. She decided to go paper-free in her kitchen, utilizing the napkins she had collected and beginning to make her own, using her vintage fabric collection.
With two small children at the time, making cloth napkins was initially a simple and fast project. She realized she could also make themed napkins and began selling on Etsy and at farmers markets. From there the business grew. She started doing mix-and-match napkins for weddings, and eventually expanded to wholesale.
Jennifer’s business is named for her maternal grandparents, Dot and Army. Her grandfather, Army, makes his own elaborate wood holiday decoration and even grinds his own flour for bread, and her grandmother is a quilter. Their creativity and resourcefulness inspired a love of creating and making in Jennifer, and growing up, dinners where the whole family got together at their house were a monthly occurrence. Jennifer loves the idea of turning the modern family dinner into a special experience by pairing a beautiful cloth napkin with a meal crafted for loved ones, so naming her business after her grandparents seemed a natural fit.
Jennifer recently moved the business into a new production space. Her husband and father also pitch in with sewing, and she recently hired another part-time employee to sew. With Food52 and major restaurant clients, the business is growing fast. In addition to the vintage-inspired designs she started with, Dot & Army’s inventory includes napkins in a variety of colors and prints, seersucker napkins, seasonal napkins, embroidered napkins and more.
“I’m my own boss and I’ve never worked this hard before in my life. I probably worked seventy hours this week, but it feels really good…I see when I put energy into it what comes out of it.”
This article originally appeared in the Winter 2015 issue of Paprika Southern, which also features a profile on Jessica Duthu of Strawberry Moth, a visit to Daufuskie Island, fashion inspired by film noir and more. Order the issue now.
Written by Bevin Valentine Jalbert / Photographed by Siobhan Egan