'I really wanted to help those families': Bizzy's Boutique grows from Huxley home to Ames mall storefront
Just two years ago, Sydney Petersen started a business in the basement of her Huxley home. Her company has evolved to become Bizzy’s Boutique, which will open at North Grand Mall in late September or early October.
Offering children’s and women’s clothing, Bizzy’s Boutique is a joy-filled company born of a trying time for two parents.
“We started in July of 2019, after our daughter Izabelle — Izzy — was born,” Petersen said. “When she was first born, she was diagnosed with something called Pierre Robin Sequence — PRS — and it’s super rare. One in 30,000 girls are born with it, and one in 10,000 boys.”
Sydney and her husband Jordan didn’t know about the disorder until Izzy’s birth, so they were not prepared.
“She was born at Mary Greeley here in town, where my son Masyn was also born — actually in the exact same room,” Petersen said.
Masyn just turned 4, and Izzy turned 2 in May.
“When Izzy was born, she came out purple and she was not really breathing very well on her own,” Petersen said. “It was super traumatic.”
Izzy was quickly taken to Blank Children’s Hospital in Des Moines. Her parents were separated from her for about 14 hours while her treatment began.
“She wasn’t able to wear clothes for the first four and a half weeks of her life. She had her first surgery at 10 days old to fix her jaw, which was set back too far when she was born and not fully developed,” Petersen said.
Little Izzy was on a ventilator, and her parents could barely touch her. They couldn’t hold her or dress her.
“I was that mom that had dreamed about having a girl and dressing her in all the clothes and stocking up on all the things,” Petersen said. “And then I couldn't dress her. In my mind, I felt like it shouldn't have been as big of a deal as it was, but it’s part of that bonding. A month is a really long time to not be able to put your baby in any clothes or hold them or take them home or take them outside.”
Izzy was almost five weeks old before she could be outside and feel a breeze on her face.
“You just don’t realize what it’s like until you’ve been through it,” Petersen said.
The Petersens spent a lot of time in the neonatal intensive care unit, the NICU. They had a lot of time to think.
“We knew we wanted to do something to give back to the NICU and those families,” Petersen said.
Sydney is a social worker, and she’s worked with families since she graduated about 15 years ago.
“I knew I wanted to help other families not feel what I was feeling,” she said. “I wanted to help them with that bonding experience, to make it more typical rather than foreign and sterile.”
Hospitals have blankets for babies like Izzy, but they’re not the kind of blankets that are personalized and feel special to a family, Petersen said.
“Receiving a swaddle that’s a print is special. It’s something you can take home and something you can use for kangaroo time,” she said. “They can get that scent of the parents and can leave it with the baby.”
About two weeks after they got home with Izzy, Sydney went to Jordan with an idea: She wanted to do a legacy project and donate colorful, cuddly swaddles to the NICU.
Sydney started a business she called Bizzy Izzy’s, and for every swaddle a customer purchased, a swaddle would be donated to Blank Children’s NICU.
“I really wanted to help those families not feel so alone,” she said. “Blank took amazing care of us, which is a huge reason why we’re partnering with them.”
Bizzy Izzy's grows through Facebook Live videos
In just two years of selling online, at the Ames farmers market and for a time at The Local Supply Co. in Huxley, Bizzy Izzy’s donated nearly 2,000 swaddles. “We were at The Local Supply Co. for about three months, but we were so busy, we had trouble keeping things in stock,” she said.
The philanthropic endeavor is called the Love, Izzy Project and donations will continue as Bizzy Izzy’s has evolved into Bizzy’s Boutique. It has grown to include a special T-shirt for children and adults, which also creates the donation of a swaddle.
Recipients of Love, Izzy have also grown to include the University of Iowa Children’s Hospital, and the Petersens are working to partner with Mary Greeley Medical Center, as well.
“The Blank NICU has an average of between 900 and 1,000 babies a year, so that was our goal, and we met that goal before our first year was over,” Petersen said. “We’re really thankful that we get to partner with them, and we’re excited to add two more hospitals.”
Each swaddle is accompanied by a photo of Izzy and a letter telling her story.
“We’ve had families reach out to us afterward, and they were like, ‘I started crying when I got it because it felt like such a relief to know that someone else was feeling the way I was feeling.’”
Sydney Petersen custom designs children's clothes
The swaddle program is how Petersen’s business got started, but it certainly didn’t stop there.
It quickly grew to Sydney custom designing children’s clothing.
She designs some clothes for moms too and has a "Mommy and Me" collection, but much of her women’s clothing inventory at Bizzy’s Boutique will be from other brands she loves.
The boutique is taking over the former Dress Barn location at the mall.
It will have two entrances — one from the mall and one from the parking lot. The double entrance was a dealbreaker for Petersen, who insisted that busy moms have easy access to the store.
Petersen’s business started with just a website, and part of her success is her creative use of Facebook Live videos, which show her creations on kids and on women of all shapes and sizes.
“We are very size-inclusive,” Petersen said. “The average size for women is a 16, so it’s really important to us that we carry all sizes. We have models of all sizes and all shapes.”
The Facebook videos created a large, enthusiastic and interactive audience from across the country and even across the world.
Bizzy’s Boutique has sold products in all 50 states and seven countries.
The store has its own free app and a VIP Facebook group with nearly 5,000 members.
“At first, there were just a couple friends watching the videos, and then it grew pretty quickly to 200, 300, 400 people at a time,” Petersen said. “I would say about a fourth of our customers are from Iowa. We have a ton of customers in the South.”
She’s looking to expand and have other Bizzy’s Boutiques elsewhere in the country and already has women who’ve expressed interest in getting them started.
Sizes for children are 0/3 through 10/12, and for women, the sizes are S through 3X.
Those Facebook videos will remain an important part of Petersen’s business, and she has allotted space in the front of the store where they’ll be produced and recorded. Mall customers will be able to see them live through the front windows. They will also be able to see workspace where clothing can be custom-printed.
Bizzy's Boutique to offer Cyclone apparel, custom eating utensils and Bizzy Beauty line
Bizzy’s Boutique will also sell Iowa State apparel — and some Hawkeye clothing — as well as its own custom Cyclone spirit wear. Recently Petersen unveiled a popular T-shirt with cardinal and gold colors that reads: It’s A Sweet Caroline Kind Of Day. buh, buh, buh.
The boutique will offer an extended family-sized fitting room.
It will offer a selection of drinks and snacks — including wine. There will be comfy couches and fun music.
There will also be beauty services available, such as facials, eyelash extensions and massage. “All of those positions we're currently hiring,” Petersen said.
Bizzy’s will have its own line of beauty products, Bizzy Beauty, which will be vegan. “I’ve been working on it for about a year, and it’s really great stuff,” she said.
A line called Bizzy Nibbles includes silicone bowls, cups, spoons and snack cups.
“They've been super popular,” Petersen said. “We have different custom colors that we carry and some of them have specialty grips on them so they're easier to hold. The lips on the bowls and the shape of the bowls help kids learn how to eat and put things on their spoon. It really encourages independence.”
With more than 1,400 buying options available based on product, color and size, part of the 10,000-square foot store will be remodeled to function as a warehouse, she said.
“We are so excited to have a storefront, especially in Ames, where Izzy and Masyn were both born,” Petersen said.