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Creative passion fuels new endeavors

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CREATIVE STITCHING: Elit Hoover puts her sewing machines through their paces as she creates one of her originally designed handbags.
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ROANOKE ENTREPRENEUR: Elit Hoover launched her designer handbag business, Anacleta Designs, in February.
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Photos by NANCY R. ELLIOTT/ nelliott@h-ponline.com DESIGN STUDIO: Elit’s design and sewing lab, housed in a garage, is jam-packed withcreativity, from an inspiration board to fabric to sewing machines.

By NANCY R. ELLIOTT - nelliott@h-ponline.com

They’re made in America, alright. They’re made right here in Huntington County.

The fashionable handbag and accessories that shout ‘quality’ are the products of a brand new business just launched in Roanoke called Anacleta Designs. Entrepreneur Elit Hoover brings a wealth of professional experience to the endeavor.

“I always had that passion of creating things and making stuff,” said Hoover. Anacleta is actually Hoover’s Christian name, although she generally goes by Elit.

The businesswoman is launching her new enterprise after a 25-year career with Vera Bradley in Fort Wayne. She started there in 1991 as employee number 28. She began as a monogrammer, but her abilities were quickly recognized. Before the year was out, she moved on to a position they created for her in product development. In 1996, she became a senior designer.

“I loved what I did there. I loved the people,” said Hoover.

Hoover acquired the foundation for her career as a child growing up in the Philippines. In the third grade, she started sewing on a hand-cranked Singer, creating an outfit from rice sacks.

She attended Xavier University and became a teacher. Much to her surprise, however, life got in the way. She met and married Stephen, moved to the United States and became a citizen. The couple had two children, Angela and Christina, now adults, before Hoover went to work at Vera Bradley.

Now, Hoover has taken her inspiration and skills to her own home-based studio. A garage on the property of the home she shares with Stephen has been converted to her business headquarters. It’s full of ideas, products, fabrics and sewing machines.

“I call it my sewing and design lab,” said Hoover.

Hoover keeps an inspiration board on the wall which includes tear sheets from magazines and projects in the works. At another end of the room, an array of finished products splays across the wall. The rest of the space runs the gamut of the processes that Hoover uses to realize her ideas.

Currently, Hoover’s line includes a hobo bag, zip tote, cross body bags, small cosmetic bags and key fobs. Each bag bears Hoover’s signature – a contrast diagonal incorporated into the design along with the metal label that punctuates the high end flavor of the product line.

Hoover starts her design process with ideas and research. She keeps a book that she fills with drawings and notes. Market research and demographics come into play.

Hoover makes a pattern and cuts the pieces. Finding the right fabrics is a key part of the process. Hoover’s handbags use a combination of solid colors on the outside, and prints on the inside.

She makes a prototype of the bag, using three old industrial Singer sewing machines. She notes that her favorite fabric foot attachment for her machine is 3/16-inch, the measurement she uses for the topstitching on the outside of her handbags.

“It dawned on me last week. Why do I love 3/16? John 3:16,” laughed Hoover, referring to the Bible verse. “There’s a little bit of that in every bag.”

Ultimately, Hoover creates drawings with specifications to facilitate her manufacturing process. As Anacleta Designs grows, she anticipates involving other workers.

“It’s made in America. It’s got to be made here.... to create jobs that we lost,” said Hoover. Right now, it’s mainly Hoover. Sometimes that might translate to a 12-hour day, but that’s okay with her. “I can just work, work, work. I just love what I do.”

Husband Stephen handles parts of the business, as well.

“He’s my COO – chief operation officer,” said Hoover. That may involve making phone calls, or it might translate to something like modifying a drill press.

Hoover admits that launching her own business is a big step.

“It’s just scary. There’s a lot of competition.” Still, Hoover has her experience, her moxie and her goals to keep her motivated.

“I love what I do,” said Hoover. In addition, she points out, “I love to continue the passion that I have to help the mission field.” She and her husband have had a longstanding priority of supporting missions work. They are active in their local church, Emmanuel Community Church.

Hoover is hoping to get her products into boutiques and retail stores. Currently, Hoover’s products are available through her website, www.anacletadesigns.com, or through her Etsy shop. For more information, call 260-481-0500.