A birthday gift changed Carol Miller’s life.
It was 2017, and the Teays Valley resident was excited to receive a birthday package in the mail from her parents. When Miller unwrapped the box, she let out a whoop like a child.
It was a Cricut!
While some may not understand the appeal of an electronic cutting machine with a name whose pronunciation belies its spelling (it is pronounced “cricket,” not “cry-cut”), to others it is the Holy Grail of crafting.
To others like the birthday girl, Carol Miller.
“My parents’ gift of the Cricut literally changed my life,” Miller said. “I loved party planning and making decorations for my three daughters, but always found myself buying the supplies from other small businesses on Etsy or asking friends to cut things for me with their Cricut.”
The Marshall University grad adds, “Once I had my own Cricut, it led to my small business being born.”
Excited by all the possibilities of a machine that could cut designs from vinyl, paper, and card stock — along with her new heating press — Miller jumped into party planning.
“My first ‘big’ project was making decorations for my youngest daughter’s second birthday,” Miller recalls. “The more things I made and experimented with, the more my friends started asking me to help them with their party decorations, custom shirts, etc. My personal hobby quickly turned into a way to help other mommas plan and decorate for various events.”
Miller officially opened Parties and Peonies, LLC, in 2019, with the intention of creating and selling party décor (“Peonies” was included in the business name to pay homage to Miller’s wedding flower).
For awhile, Miller relished the party décor business, which she ran out of her home. She enjoyed the flexibility of working from home and of being free to go to her kids’ schools for lunch or class parties.
But, as happens sometimes, business plans change.
For Miller, it was because of that birthday gift again. The Cricut. She kept experimenting with her machine, and in so doing, created a design that would transform her business.
“I grew up in Fairmont, where pepperoni rolls originated at Country Club Bakery in 1927,” Miller explains. “My husband and I came up with a Pepperoni Rolls® T-shirt design on a whim one day, and that changed the course of my business. We even went through the federal trademark process to get the design protected.”
She adds, “It started with a shirt and now we have everything from aprons, onesies, and dog bandanas to magnets, decals, key chains, and more!”
And by “more,” she means more. Miller makes West Virginia-themed tees, throw pillows with hometown coordinates, coasters, Christmas ornaments, tic-tac-toe sets, flour-sack towels, and wine glasses.
Even though Miller’s business rarely creates party décor or custom T-shirts anymore, she kept the Parties and Peonies name since that is the name her customers know her by.
“My customers have become my friends,” she says. “One of the best things about what I do is getting to meet so many great people. West Virginia truly has so many talented people and I love to support my local artisan friends and their crafts.”
These days, you will find Miller selling her West Virginia-themed wares alongside her artisan friends at local events like Valley Park Night Market, Market in the Park in Fairmont, and the West Virginia Strawberry and Cupcake festivals.
“You will also find me at events across West Virginia, like Bridge Day in Fayetteville, Rolls on the River in Charleston, and the Pumpkin Festival in Milton.”
Various local shops also carry Miller’s items, such as Brown’s Antiques in Nitro, The Boone Magnolia in Danville, Shipwreck Collection in Huntington Mall, Bear Wood Company in Hurricane and Charleston, and Babe and Honey boutique in Bridgeport.
“I am so thankful for my community’s support of my dream,” Miller states.
In a short time, Miller has had many triumphs to celebrate. Like her tic-tac-toe sets and flour-sack towels being included in West Virginia Living’s subscription boxes. Or Rock City Cake Company featuring her Pepperoni Rolls® design on one of their cookies in their annual West Virginia Day cookie boxes.
But perhaps Miller’s greatest honor to date was receiving publicity on CBS Sunday Morning.
“A few years ago, we sold our shirts at a pepperoni roll tasting event in Morgantown,” Miller recounts. “CBS was in town filming a segment on pepperoni rolls for CBS Sunday Morning. When the episode aired, my husband was shown wearing his Pepperoni Rolls® shirt. People saw the shirt, googled where to get it, and I shipped shirts to 11 different states the next day!”
She continues, “To date, we know that our shirt has gone to people in at least forty-three states and eight countries besides the United States: Australia, Hong Kong, Japan, Germany, Puerto Rico, Spain, Canada, and Kuwait.”
Four years ago, when Carol Miller opened that Cricut on her birthday, she would have probably called the machine “life changing” from a crafter’s perspective. It would make her life easier. But she truly had no idea to what degree that one gift would change her life.