The following article was written by Kari Kenner of the Daily Herald in Utah on January 22, 2018.
If you’ve ever been in a room of costume-clad little girls around Halloween, you’ve probably noticed the light dusting of glitter that works its way into the carpets and onto a variety of surfaces like the first frosts of winter. But … it’s a lot harder to clean up. And another downer? Those costumes weren’t meant to last forever, so one wash will have your machine littered with glitter and sparkly shreds of fabric.
When it came to dress up clothes, mom duo Jenny Harrison and Heather Granata recognized that outside of Halloween, poorly made costumes wouldn’t survive, and started on a unique adventure to create Little Adventures, an imaginative play company now based in Pleasant Grove.
“I was given the great gift from my parents of fearlessness; if I was crazy enough to think that I could be a costume designer, that I should go for it,” Granata said of the company’s beginnings. “Little Adventures is the manifestation of that dream.”
Little Adventures has been growing for more than 16 years now, but it all began at a daycare in Jenny’s basement.
“Jenny and I were neighbors,” Granata said. “She had a little daycare out of her home. My oldest daughter would go over there twice a week for a few hours so that she could play and I could run errands. During that time she was a total dress up queen. She could destroy a dress up faster than anything because she really didn’t want to sit and quietly play. She wanted to be in the trees with the boys, but look pretty doing it.”
Though Harrison offered art projects, sidewalk chalk, finger painting, teddy bear picnics and more, a highlight for many of the kids at her daycare was her dress up trunk.
“Jenny struggled to keep the dress ups clean with so many kids wanting to wear them,” Granata said. “Her daughter was particularly sensitive to the itchy ones. The need was obvious. Creating dress ups that were washable and comfortable as well as durable was simply answering to a need we both had. Since we both knew how to sew, we thought, let’s try it!”
According to Harrison, a key point of Little Adventures from the start has been to share the message that “Childhood is an adventure,” so knowing their work is inspiring creativity in children is the ultimate reward.
“This is the best part of owning Little Adventures,” Harrison said. “When I see kids playing in our dress ups, it brings an immense amount of joy. Whether I see a child playing at a local city park wearing a Little Adventures dress up or see pictures of kids in orphanages wearing our dress ups, the joy is the same. All kids throughout the world deserve to enjoy the many adventures childhood has to offer. Regardless of whether they live in a dirt floor hut in Africa, a high-rise building in New York or a farm house in Idaho, they all find joy in using their imagination and dressing up. I love that I get to play a small part in providing dress ups that help promote creativity and imagination for children throughout the world.”For Harrison, though, it all started at home. She is the mother of 10 “uniquely different” kids — five biological and five step-children.
“In my heart they are all equally mine,” she said.
Harrison said that managing a business and being a mother was not easy. When she and her husband were first married, all 10 kids were living at home. She said that as the kids grew, and entered high school and junior high, keeping up with their assignments for so many kids was quite a task. She had to quickly learn how to balance life and business.
“In a blink of an eye it seems they have all grown up,” she said. “A year ago life at our home was busy with kids constantly coming and going. But over the past year we have found life has taken a sudden turn with two sons getting married, one daughter moved into her own home, a daughter left to serve a mission in Oregon, a son left to serve a mission in Italy and a daughter left to go to college. Life with only four kids is going to be a bit of an adjustment. I will only have to cook one casserole dish instead of three and I am sure the washing machine will be running a lot less. While I will miss having so many kids around, I am also looking forward to a little slower pace.”
Granata has five kids total, including four girls who helped inspire the company in the first place. Though she said she’s grateful for her work with Little Adventures, motherhood was always her real goal.
“I do not remember a time that I did not want to be a mother,” she said. “I planned on three or four kids, had my third and said, ‘I think I’m done.’ Well, fate had a different plan. I later had the opportunity to help raise two nieces for a grand total of five children. I feel like they are all a great blessing to me.”
Balancing business and family can be tough, but it’s a task both Harrison and Granata said has been worth it.
“As I got older I knew raising a family would be important so as I chose a career I was careful to choose one that was compatible with being a mom,” Harrison said. “I was determined to be there for my kids and running my own business seemed like the best way to ensure that could happen. The motto at Little Adventures has always been ‘Family First,’ and this always surpasses all the detours that can happen in a day.”
That motto got put to the test early on for Little Adventures, when Harrison was diagnosed with an arachnoid brain cyst. At the time she was still running her home daycare and attempting to get her new company afloat.
“It required immediate surgery with a long difficult recovery. Heather stood by my side helping move the company forward and my mom stood by my side keeping the daycare running. A big part of my healing process was knowing this business was on the horizon. It gave me something to do that distracted me and got me excited.”
The business has grown from a one-basement operation to a Pleasant Grove warehouse that, as Harrison mentioned, is “bursting at the seams.”
As the company grows, goals for the future include more charitable work, a wider variety of designs and the creation of jobs that help to support families in positive ways. Both Harrison and Granata also have some solid goals and hopes for their children.
“I really hope that each of my kids will see that they can do anything that they want to do,” Granata said. “The world will tell them differently, especially my girls. The truth is that if we can dream it, we can live it. I also hope they will choose to live a life that also includes bettering the lives of others in some way; real joy can only be achieved through service to others.”
“My greatest hope is for them to be happy,” Harrison added. “Over the years I have learned that happiness comes in many shapes and sizes and I cannot determine what will bring them happiness. I can only encourage them, support them and love them as they go on their own journey to discover happiness for themselves.”
As Little Adventures continues to grow, Granata said they hope their products can not only help their own children dream, but also provide creativity and hope to others.
“The time that children spend in a given day being creative, dreaming up new ideas and really having adventures is getting to be less and less,” she said. “I love that we have a company that really inspires creative play. Our company motto is ‘Because childhood is an adventure.’ My best memories as a child are playing in the playroom with my sisters, making up plays and digging through the dress up box. I hope that our products continue the tradition of making believe. This precious time of life is so magical, but it is so short-lived. As a company we hope to add many wonderful memories to each child’s life.”