Stitching Success With Every Opportunity

Partnership

1/24/2019 / USA
Around the world and across Instagram, Laela Holden is known as Lulu of Dugz Welding Caps, a brand she has built over the past six years. Custom-fit, handmade welding caps are the foundation of her business and what she’s best known for, but with the addition of her new business, Savage Blonde Garage, and a recent partnership with Fronius USA, Lulu is creating her version of success, one stitch at a time.
Lulu
Laela Holden

Being married to a third generation boilermaker gave Lulu insight into what welders want from their personal protection equipment. A common complaint was the poor fit or shape of the caps they wear under the welding hood. She learned how to sew a basic welding cap in 2012, but her business goals were more than basic. She spent the first two years designing a custom-fit welding cap and testing the product with friends and family. Once she was satisfied that she could make caps to fit every customer, she began selling the caps on Instagram with easy measuring instructions. The photo-based social platform includes a large community of welders and fabrication enthusiasts. She credits a lot of her early business growth to the online community, but Lulu’s fun personality and her quest to provide the best caps on the market to keep customers happy.

“I’m always learning new tricks and ways to make the caps better. Sewing a one-size-fits-all type cap might take ten minutes, but that’s not what I sell,” she said. “I work with each customer to get their correct measurements and create a cap just for them.” Her fitted caps take an average of forty-five minutes to sew plus time for a pre-shrink wash. Additional time is needed for any embellishments and embroidery the customer might want. The time invested is well worth it. The average off-the-shelf cap lasts about six to twelve months of wear, but her handmade Dugz caps last three to four years. This top quality has led to an avid fan base of over twenty thousand engaged followers on Instagram where she does most of her business.

Interacting with the welding community online helped deepen her understanding of welders’ needs, but it also awakened curiosity about the process. “I would see these beautifully crafted, functional pieces of furniture—like art—on my Instagram feed and I wanted to learn how to make them.” At first, welding was just a hobby, a break from the sewing, but it quickly became more. She learned through trial and error by designing and making her own worktable, and a few other pieces for her shop, but the real education came after a lucky win.

An Instagram friend told her about a contest hosted by a nearby welding school. “I entered the contest and got to see the owner of the school draw my name on Facebook Live.” She won a full scholarship to the school’s master welding program. It was a lucky break, but adding school to her full-time business schedule had its own challenges.  “When my husband is traveling, which is often, I get up around 6 or 7 am, grab a cup of coffee and sit at the sewing machine. I’ll work until I can’t work anymore, head to bed and do it all over again the next day.”  

The new welding classes added five hours of class time and two hours of commute per day to her schedule.  Since Dugz Caps keeps regular business hours for customer service, she had to take classes at night. After a while, the other night students either graduated or quit and the administrators asked Lulu to switch to daytime classes.

“I run a business during the day. It isn’t a hobby to put off as some people assumed. So I had to take about a month off school until they offered night classes again.” Though she missed a few in-class lessons during the transition, her hard work and practice ensured she passed every certification offered.

With a growing business, successful social media presence, and fledgling welding career, her professional life was full. That didn’t stop her from recognizing the opportunity presented when Fronius USA contacted her. The welding equipment manufacturer had learned about her and Dugz Welding Caps from other social media influencers. As someone who tackles every challenge head-on, Lulu appreciated the Fronius way of meeting challenges by identifying the problem and creating a solution that works for the end user. “It was easy to see how passionate they are about their products and I really clicked with that,” Lulu said after a visit to Fronius headquarters. “I have a strong passion for my work too. It makes us a good fit.”

After several months evaluating Fronius’ line of Professional Welding Tools, Lulu certainly has her favorites. “I like aluminum and that MagicWave 230i is just made for TIG and aluminum,” she said. She makes time almost every day to get into the shop and weld. Expanding her experience with the Fronius machines has helped her fine-tune her welding dreams. She’s still committed to creating beautiful and functional furniture, but she sees more options for how she wants to design and build the pieces. She’s currently working on an end table of steel and reclaimed wood using the MagicWave.

She had more to add about the ease of upgrading Fronius products, “My friends were showing off these beautiful, consistent welds on their furniture and I asked how they did it. Their secret was pulsed welding. The only pulse welding I’d done was manually using the foot pedal, but all I had to do was call up Fronius technical support to add that feature to the machine.”

This modularity is one benefit of the Fronius machines. Customers can purchase most of the Fronius machines with only the features needed now, and then add other features, such as pulse, later when necessary. They activate the upgrade with a simple code or software download, requiring little to no technical assistance from the company.

The Dugz Welding Caps product line is expanding, and online ordering may be a future option. She’s recently released a new line of headwear, a one-size-fits-most beanie style hat for those who don’t need a welding cap. Through the Savage Blond Garage brand, she and her husband offer mobile welding repair. Some of their most recent projects include fixing snow plows to handle the heavy Missouri winters and repairing brush guards for police vehicles. With the portable Fronius machines, it’s easy to grab the gear they need for on-site repair. The battery-powered AccuPocket, a TIG and stick welder, ensures they can weld anywhere, even without a power supply.

When asked what the future holds, Lulu replied, “Always learning and creating new things. Just as I like it.” She’s got that right. Whether using thread or welding rods, Lulu keeps stitching success out of every opportunity.

Written by Rhonda Zatezalo, freelance writer for the fabrication industry. www.rhondazatezalo.com   Dugz Welding Caps on IG @dugzweldingcaps Savage Blond Garage on IG @savage_blonde_garage