Former Amish Woman is Now CEO of Successful Heartfelt Creations

by Linda Bontrager 

The Discovery

I will never forget the day I picked up a rubber stamp for the first time. I had bought a little stamp set for my kids and I was showing them how to use it. I remember picking up the stamp, inking it and pressing it down on the paper. As I lifted the stamp and saw the image it was that “AH-HA!” moment. It was one of those moments in my life when I realized I had discovered something amazing and it would shape the course of our future.

Our family for generations back is old­ order Amish. Our education went up to 8th grade in a one room Amish parochial school. Growing up infused with tradition, legalism and living in a Northern Indiana rural farming community was not conducive to thinking “outside of the box” or “being creative.” We did not have access to any stamp or scrapbook stores in the area and hiring a taxi to shop for stamps was not an option at the time. But the stamping bug had permanently bitten me.

Previously I had done a lot of bake sales, sewed handmade quilts to sell and even tried my hand at painting. Anything to help us make a living on our little farm where we milked cows by hand, worked the fields with horses and we worked from dawn to dusk.

A Growing Entrepreneurial Spirit

In 1997 we built a new house on our 80-­acre farm. By this time I had accumulated a shoebox full of stamps from mail­ order sources I found. Our family now had more space in our new home and I asked my husband if we could use a small corner of our dining room and get stamping products in for resale. I told him, you know, just a few items for some friends and family. Maybe a few stamps…some ink, embossing powder, and card stock.

Linda Bontrager Rubber stamps,dies, paper and projects made with them.That small start kept growing as word spread in our Amish community. Later that year we moved the store from the dining room to our attached porch area that was 16×20 feet. I have always enjoyed drawing and art, so the next step was designing my own line of stamps. Again I thought I would just do a few. This venture turned into several thousand images.

Around that time we started doing stamp conventions. We hired a taxi with a trailer and hauled our product to shows across the Midwest as a family. We built a large addition to our shop in 2002 and moved our retail store there.

A New Beginning

In the spring of 2004 we sold our retail store. We had also come to the realization at this time that who we are in Christ Jesus is not dependent on our dress code, our way of life, and everything else we had been so strictly taught all our life. So at the age of 41 we left the Amish way of life. My husband and I got our drivers’ license along with our kids!! Was that scary? YES! We sold our farm and moved to another location.

Starting Over

In 2006 we started another retail store in Nappanee, Indiana (now closed) and in 2007 we started doing conventions again. At this time our daughter Emma Lou and her husband Richard were doing all the shows. As the oldest, Emma Lou always wanted to do everything I did. She was the one who insisted on doing the demoing when we set up at our first conventions. She started demoing glitter at the age of fourteen! Our second daughter, Ellen, started doing most of the shipping and making sure customers’ Linda and Willis Bontragerpackages were assembled correctly. Ellen would also help at some of the shows. Our youngest son, Harlan, was busy in college majoring in Communication Design at FIT in NY. Our son-in-­law Richard was doing all of our IT work at the time. My husband Willis was production manager and helped with shipping when we were in a crunch. And I, Linda, was kept busy designing.

An Innovative Idea

A few years after starting conventions again we were looking for a way to simplify the intricate process of cutting out stamped images by hand. Like any new idea, finding solutions was not an easy process. By trial and error we discovered how to match stamps with existing Spellbinders™ dies. Using coordinating stamps and dies, we changed the way people use our products…making stamping more fun and easier.

Where Are We Today?

The Bontrager Family: From l-r: Ben, Ellen, Willis, Linda, Harlan, Emma Lou, Rich.

The Bontrager Family: From l-r: Ben, Ellen, Willis, Linda, Harlan, Emma Lou, Rich.

We serve a global community that continues to grow. We design a unique line of coordinating rubber art stamps, coordinating dies and papers. Our oldest daughter Emma Lou excels in writing blogs, demoing at conventions and on TV, teaching classes, and demonstrating useful techniques in short instructive videos. Her husband Rich is our CFO and works with our larger accounts and customer relations. Ellen works as Creative Administrator creating classes, card kits and coordinating travel. Her husband Ben is Operations Manager, oversees manufacturing and ensures that everything is done correctly and efficiently. Harlan manages social media, marketing, does typography, graphic art and also contributes to artwork for stamp designs. Willis does all of our custom built cabinets, storage and shelving units and maintenance. I am the main artist, the passionate scrapbooker and stamper, and the CEO. Together with an amazing team of employees we make the world more beautiful one image at a time.

Some things we learned in this process of growth in business, stay humble and teachable, and surround yourself with people who are good at things you are not. Technology is not my thing, but I have two amazing people on our team that are very patient with me and have taught me so much in this area. We are always learning and growing.

//

Linda Bontrager is an artist, CEO and founder of Heartfelt Creations in Goshen, Indiana. Being raised Amish with an 8th grade education, she left that lifestyle in 2004. She is married (32 yrs.) to Willis Bontrager and together they have raised three children, and a fur baby Chanel. They are a part of Grace Community Church. She loves to do art, scrapbooking, card making, gardening, landscaping and to go for long walks.

Visit the Heartfelt Creations website and join the nearly 120,000 followers on their Heartfelt Creations Facebook community.

 

51 thoughts on “Former Amish Woman is Now CEO of Successful Heartfelt Creations

  1. Terry Mays on said:

    What an amazing story, and an even more amazing family. They and their company are founded on strong beliefs and it is reflected in the way they manage their company and treat their customers. A true success story!

  2. Annette Tremblay on said:

    Just absolutely love your products, and really enjoy the YouTube videos. I just started card making not too long ago and boy am I hooked. I just love your story

  3. Liliana Hurst on said:

    What a beautiful family history,you must be very proud of yourself and your family, as well you give them the best start in life, love and training in what they are best, I love history and stories of successful people that work hard and obtained their dreams, I am already love your family and creative ways to share with the world, trough love,art and example, I met Emma Lou in Sydney and like so much her bubbly personality, I wish even more successful future with all my heart.
    Thank you for sharing, I feel like I am a part of the Heartfelt creations family,join together for the live of art.
    Yours faithfully
    Liliana Hurst

  4. Mary on said:

    Wow, an amazing backstory. Emma Lou is my favorite crafting icon. She is so beautiful and I always had a sense that her beauty is not just on the outside, I know now I am seeing Jesus reflected in her life. I love Heartfelt even more now that I understand your humble Amish background.

  5. Gretchen Wilson on said:

    What a wonderful story about Linda and her talent in the art industry, as well as the rest of the family. I have been a part of Heartfelt Creations for along time, I’m the one that buys the product! The monthly card kits, paper, stamps and dies have grown so much and they are a delight to work with! I love making the paper flowers. Great company, great products and great family!

  6. I love your products. I usually only get to use them when I go to card classes at the Moments to Milestones Scrapbook store in Sturgis, IN. We have been making beautiful cards with your papers and stamps. I just recently bought one stamp and one die, hopefully I’ll make a card at home. I just wish they weren’t so expensive. Maybe I can ask for gift cards for all my special occasions! Lol! Keep up the good work!!

  7. Colleen Kennedy on said:

    I enjoyed your history of your wonderful company! Your products are wonderful. Enjoy your website for learning techniques. Bless all of you.

  8. Meraj Zaidi on said:

    Truely an inspirational and motivational real story….i had read about it on HC website and i have all the more respect for Linda and her family .. how beautifully they have taken up their creativity with entire family around, each one contributing the best services through their varied talents…what an inspiration to build a crafting company with passion,dreams,love and togetherness…Truely Heartfelt 🙂

    Everyone can flow with the winds….the real challenge is to Fly Against the Winds…thats what Kites do….they fly against and not with the winds . MY heartiest congratulations to Linda, Emma and the entire family and i wish them good luck and successess forever n always. To be creative with a beautiful heart and always being humble and down to earth is a very rare combination. Heartfelt Creations is close to my heart not just because of their awesome products but also for the wonderful people who always inspire with their beautiful aura of grace and humanity. I may not have met them in person but even if a flower is not visible or held in hands, the fragrance of flowers can never be hidden…it always perfumes the air..its presence is felt around 🙂

    My best wishes always to HEARTFELT CREATIONS beautiful family 🙂

  9. Kari Beneck on said:

    Thank you for sharing your story. Your strength of spirit and faith are inspiring, as are your products.
    I love the videos on YouTube with Emma Lou demonstrating and teaching. She is great!
    May God bless you and your family with peace and prosperity always!

  10. Emily on said:

    What an inspirational true story. From a humble beginning and drive you have all successed in not only business but in growth with the Lord. Wishing you continued success. From your creations, emails and blogs I feel you are a friend. Thank you.

  11. Susan D'Souza on said:

    Had tears reading your inspiring story!!!.. So glad we can be a part of the bigger family in Jesus!!..Absolutely love your blog and the videos since I too enjoy card making etc…God bless n love the way you are a blessing to so many.

  12. Wendy Gift on said:

    What a wonderful story. I love all of your products, even if I go broke. I just wish I had more time to stamp and create cards. One day when I retire at least I will have everything i need to make beautiful cards thanks to Heartfelt Creations. Keep designing.

  13. What a wonderful inspiring heartwarming story!! I have the pleasure of being a small part of the Heartfelt Creations family just as a design team member using their products! They are truly my favorite! It makes my heart happy that Linda was able to grow a business with the help of her family. Having met most of the family at CHA, I can tell you they are all the sweetest, most kind and creative people I have ever met. Heep Designing!!! You make the world a prettier place!!! xoxoxo

  14. What an amazing background history! I had the pleasure of designing for them for a year and they still are like family to me! They are amazing family and I can definitely see why they have been so blessed

  15. Renee DeSchane on said:

    I love your story & your samps! I purchased some 2 years ago at the Scrap-Expo in St Paul, MN. My friend & I will be going to it again the end of April & are taking two of your glasses. Looking forward it. Keep up the beautiful designs.

  16. Lori Manicho on said:

    Thank you for sharing your story and Heartfelt Creations, my favorite stamps, dies, & papers!
    Love Emma Lou’s videos and techniques. Please continue sharing your inspiration!
    Keep creating!

    God Bless,

    Lori

  17. Thank you so much for all your love and kindness.
    Surrounded by an amazing team around us, it is our privilege to help make the world more beautiful one image and project at a time. Each one of you is very important to us. May you all be blessed in return! [[[hugs]]]
    ~ Linda Bontrager ~

  18. Lorraine on said:

    I love your inspiring story Linda. I was fortunate to meet Emma Lou and attend her class in Melbourne Australia a couple of years ago. Emma Lou is the most beautiful and careing person l have met. Love all your products, you are a very talented family. Thank you for producing beautiful stamps.

  19. Jan Davis on said:

    Amazing story. I first saw you at the CKC convention. I can’t remember if it was in the Houston/Woodlands area or the one in San Marcos. But, it was a number of years ago and I got hooked on your dies and stamps. Now you have the paper, also. Great stuff. I mainly purchase at the shows, but the last two I couldn’t wait for, the flip album and

  20. I loved reading your sweet life story. I love your products, but I will admit that the manner in which you handle your business and your response to post on your FB page keeps me wanting more, seeing more of your designs and interacting with you on your page. Your designs are amazing, your talent is never ending, your family business is so giving on levels that other companies do not have. I want to express a heart felt thank you for your Christian beliefs and caring for others. Every day I check for your post and always look forward to the encouragement I receive from them. God bless you and your family and I pray for many years of continued success.

  21. Lorrayne Ingram on said:

    Thank you for sharing your story and trstimony. I love your faith circle stamp set. I have had it for a while. It is hard to find Christian stamps.

  22. Heather Merrell on said:

    I loved hearing your story. I went to college in western PA, surrounded by Amish country.
    Thank you for sharing your story. I love your product line!

  23. Marianne Kessel on said:

    What an inspirational and amazing story. I didn’t realize this was a family business. It doesn’t surprise me though. Your products just seemed to be made with love, and I never miss Emma Lou’s new videos. I also admire your God centered core. I will now think of all of you when I enjoy using your stamps and dies.

  24. Candi youtsey on said:

    Thank you for your wonderful story. I have many special Amish talented friends I can’t wait to share your story with them

  25. Debs Ayling on said:

    Wow! Such an amazing story! Thank you for sharing 🙂
    I love your range of stamps and dies, they create such stunning cards. Thank you,
    Debs x

  26. Terry urban on said:

    What an amazing story your very blessed and blessing many other your showing its never to late to know the Lord and to share what God is doing in your life I love your product I have abortion 8paper pack of yours I love it becuase you put God word in the paper pack it is just beautiful to see your light shine for Christ and your smile show the love you have for him and for life it’s self keep creating such beautiful stuff .may the Lord bless you everyday.

  27. Rahel on said:

    So good to hear your testimony, God’s favor is all over you and your family, be blessed and be a blessing to many more! You’re such an encouragement and Heartfelt Creation is a wonderful eg. of His faithfulness!

  28. Lois D. on said:

    Thanks for sharing. My father was raised amish. He left that life when he wanted to go to college. I love your products and your customer service is wonderful. I think I still have relatives in IN. I want to have a home based business. This was an encouraging article.

  29. Anne on said:

    Thanks for shareing your awesome family and story! I found your line of stamps at a scrapbook convention in Sacramento last year and I can honestly say that I am hooked! I plan on taking your classes this year so that I can learn to make beautiful cards instead of just collecting the stamp sets! Thank you for shareing your Awesome talent,your family and your love of God with us!

  30. Patsy Eccles on said:

    Like others here, I have been purchasing stamps and dies and these lovely papers for a long time. Emma Lou’s happiness and enthusiasm is infectious and always makes me smile as I watch her videos. She is a beautiful lady inside and out and is very professional as a business woman. Reading this story makes me happy that this is where I spend so much of my money! Harlan put a personal note of greeting in one of my last purchases which totally floored me that someone would take the time and interest to do this!

  31. Carole Strawn on said:

    Thank you so much for sharing your story. I love your products and the videos. Emma Lou is beautiful and does such a great job demonstrating your products. I am even more excited about your gorgeous products after reading how you started your business. Your family is truly an inspiration.

  32. Nancy Marston on said:

    Yours is a wonderful account of God’s great grace. I knew you were people that loved God by the way you run your company. You share how to use your products in the best way! I am also a Christian and use your stamps, dies, and ideas to bless people in my Bible Fellowship. I make the birthday cards and anniversary cards for everyone. I work at making them very personal and always with scripture. This year I actually made 50 holiday cards. I kept it simple but with lots of heart & the Word. Thank you for your inspiration.

  33. This is a perfect example of how passion, hardwork and consistency can lead you to the path of success, there’s nothing more you need if you sincerely keep working and believing 🙂
    So impressed! __/\__

  34. Annie Alder on said:

    What a wonderful story and so inspiring. We are all given gifts from God, and so to share that gift is wonderful. To do it with family members is even more special. You are all truly blessed xx

  35. Sue Louis on said:

    I just read your incredible story. Wow! I think your products are wonderful and so inventive. It is also nice to see a family that is happy working together. Love to all.

    • Linda Bontrager on said:

      Thank you so much Sue ! My prayer is that it would inspire and encourage others, no matter where they would find themselves in life.

Leave a Reply

You can use these tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>