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Made Right Here: House of Minerva

By Amy Unger, Reporter, AUnger@wfmz.com
Published On: Feb 26 2012 06:00:00 PM CST
Updated On: Feb 27 2012 07:40:20 PM CST

Kate Elfatah says her mother always told her she should have become an engineer.

LOWER MACUNGIE TWP., Pa. -

Kate Elfatah says her mother always told her she should have become an engineer.

"Whenever I read people's instructions, I'm like, there's definitely an easier way," said Elfatah.

Lately, she's writing her own instructions for "how to succeed in the fashion business."

Even though she first picked up a needle and thread at the tender age of 10, turning her passion for design into a paycheck hasn't been easy.

"I actually went to school for design. I wound up getting married, having children at a young age," said Elfatah. "I got into the insurance industry and did that for almost 16 years."

Elfatah re-connected with her creative side with the help of her second husband.

"He told me to quit my job and do my passion," she said.

And so, last year the House of Minerva was born.

"Minerva is actually the Roman goddess of poetry, music, arts and crafts," Elfatah explained. "We make handbags, totes, clutches, cosmetic bags, children's clothing, baby ware and aprons for both adults and children."

Elfatah gets some help from her daughter Annabella. Otherwise, she's a one-woman show. She buys her own fabric, designs everything from top to bottom, and measures, cuts, stitches and sews her way through one creation after another at her makeshift shop inside the family's Lower Macungie Township home.

These days, business has been especially brisk, thanks to a pair of high profile invitations.

Elfatah's brightly-colored, retro-inspired wares became "swag bags" for celebrities at the Sundance Film Festival in Utah, and the Academy Awards in California.

"As people entered before they got on the red carpet, they gave them my bag and their picture was taken with it," Elfatah said.

And so the future looks bright for the House of Minerva. Elfatah says she wants to expand from web-based sales to brick and mortar stores that will carry not just her designs, but the handiwork of other independent designers. She is also hoping to help future designers find their niche.

"I would love to teach little girls or little boys how to sew," said Elfatah.

It's all taking shape one stitch at a time.