Erica Hager’s sunny, colorful workspace has come a long way from the early days of her home business.

Erica launched her children’s footwear line, Bison Booties, in 2010 in the unfinished basement of her family’s home north of Mandan. She set up shop on a bare concrete floor with just a sewing machine, a folding table and a collection of scrap fabrics. Extension cords snaked across the floor to power her sewing machine.

In just a few years, Bison Booties has gone worldwide.

The phenomenal success of Bison Booties has been the result of a happy convergence of ideas, hard work and expertise.

A native of California, Erica learned basic sewing in home ec and became truly proficient in advanced sewing in high school.

She graduated from the University of Mary in 2004 with a degree in business communication, and earned her master’s in business management from Mary in 2007.

She honed skills in graphic design, public relations and photography during her time as a Mary employee.

While on maternity leave with her firstborn, Kya, now 6, she began making baby garments, including a pair of baby booties.

“When (Kya) was a couple of months old, I realized those cute baby shoes came off too easily,” she said.

So she traced Kya’s foot and reworked the pattern to create booties that stayed on.

“I probably made 20 pairs or so until I perfected the pattern,” she said. “Necessity is the mother of invention.”

Two of her friends were also having babies, so she sent each of them a pair.

They both wrote back immediately — ‘These are amazing. We love them. Can we get another pair?’

“This was the ultimate compliment,” she said, “that somebody wanted to buy something I made.”

Erica had started a blog to keep in touch with family and friends in California. She truly loved the North Dakota experience and so named her blog “Bison Girl.”

So naming her startup business “Bison Booties” made sense, she said.

Erica decided to market on the Etsy website starting in November 2010. She sold all the pairs she had posted and by February, had gotten an inquiry from a woman who wanted to carry the booties in her store.

“This was not in the plan when I left Mary, but everything came together like a perfect storm, with my background and degrees from Mary,” she said.

A vintage North Dakota map was the inspiration for Erica Hager’s custom fabric design.

For the next couple of years, Erica spent a lot of time sewing in the family’s unfinished basement.

When she was expecting the couple’s second child, Gavin, now 2, they decided to finish the basement. The exhausting schedule led to another turning point, another decision — whether or not to slow down the business, pull in the reins.

“I was selling wholesale around the region and as far as Australia, and shipping every day — 20 to 30 packages a day during Christmas.”

Other entrepreneurs asked her, ‘can you get someone to help you?’

Turns out she could. One by one, she found other women, many stay-at-home moms, to do some of the cutting, ironing and piecework.

“Now I have 12 women in Bismarck-Mandan who do contract work for Bison Booties and a couple of quality control people at the end,” she said. “But everything originates here.”

Her graphic design experience has allowed her to create her own attractive packaging, and also create unique and fun fabrics.

“Busy people are more productive, is the saying. I fully believe that,” Hager said. “During the two hours of nap time for Gavin, I get a tremendous amount done.

“The booties are made in batches of 200 pairs and I have about 1,000 pairs in the works right now,” she said.

Erica has come to love North Dakota.

“There are a lot of misconceptions and unknowns about North Dakota,” she said. “I represent North Dakota to a worldwide audience — a positive, tangible representation.

“With my passion for North Dakota, I mention things about it on my blog. That’s how I became connected with North Dakota Tourism, which now sponsors the blog.

“Bison Booties had become a North Dakota family brand without even realizing it.”

While Facebook and Etsy were integral in her startup, Bison Booties has become so successful that it is now a standalone entity at Her products have gone as far as the TV show “Parenthood,” which featured 10 different pairs of Bison Booties.

“The local support for my global audience took it to where it is,” she said.

Businesses like Bison Booties are ‘lifestyle businesses,’ she said, models that can work for teachers or for military spouses — an untapped stay-at-home workforce.

Other entrepreneurs have told her that she could take Bison Booties ‘big,’ she said.

“But that would mean not being here. I’m a homebody. And the moms I contract with need this income.”

Going big would mean drastically changing the business, she said. “I’m not interested in doing that.”

At this point, “I’m happy with where (the business) is,” Erica said. “I’m wanting to sustain it and grow slowly.

“My priority is as a mom.”