It’s been a whirlwind month for Downers Grove North High School graduate Leo Kowal and his wife, Mary.
The pair spent last week not only celebrating their honeymoon, but also meeting with Martha Stewart and touring her New York headquarters as American Made Audience Choice Award winners.
The Kowals are owners of SVGCuts, an online paper crafting business which sells downloadable designs.
Stewart’s American Made competition aims to honor entrepreneurs for turning their passion for handcrafted goods into small businesses.
Earlier this year, Leo Kowal, 31, who follows Martha Stewart on Facebook, saw her post about the about the second annual “American Made” program.
“I checked it out and saw there was a prize and that you get to be in Martha Stewart Living,” he said. “So I thought, despite the fact that we’ve got a wedding coming up and I’m busy as it is, why don’t we see what happens?"
The couple, who now live in St. Charles, got married Sept. 20 and learned they were audience choice award winners Oct. 7.
Leaf peepers, they had postponed their honeymoon trip to the Berkshires until October to coincide with the fall colors. They headed out Oct. 13 and attended the American Made Awards program in New York last week.
“It was kind of like it was meant to be,” Kowal said.
As winners, they were awarded a $10,000 prize and will be featured in Martha Stewart Living Magazine.
The Kowals began SVGCuts in 2009. Prior to that, Kowal worked in IT for Chrysler but was laid off. Mary Kowal, 32, was working a stressful job as a project manager for a software company and decided to quit.
“She was unemployed. I was unemployed. We were both living in Downers Grove trying to figure out what we were going to do,” Kowal said.
His mom bought Mary an electronic paper cutting machine for Christmas and she figured out how to integrate her own designs. Soon, she was making greeting cards and selling them on Etsy.
“Then one night she said, ‘Why don’t I just sell the digital files instead of the actual final products?’ So we put the digital files on etsy and made a couple of hundred dollars in a weekend,” Kowal said. “We realized that maybe we had something.”
Soon, the couple started a blog and an online store.
“It’s cliche but the rest is history,” he said. “Five years later the site is getting about a million hits a month."
So what’s next for the Kowals?
“I think we’re just going to focus on continuing to bring people the products that they love,” Kowal said. “Right now the future’s pretty bright and the possibilities are kind of unknown. Beyond that, I can’t really see exactly where it’s going yet but we’ll figure it out.”
Learn more about their business at http://svgcuts.com/.