Sadie Guffey was tending her booth with her newest product on the table, a super-sized version of her crocheted acorns. When Elon President Connie Book ordered two of the acorns after seeing them, Guffey knew she had achieved so much more than she thought she could, especially for her late grandmother who taught her the craft she practices now.

Guffey only learned to crochet in summer of 2023 after she came back from her study abroad. Guffey’s grandmother had been diagnosed with cancer on Feb. 22, 2022, and had tasked herself with teaching all the grandchildren the craft while she was recovering at home.

“When my Nana got sick, I spent every day, every other day there,” Guffey said. “Then July 8, she passed away this summer, so I was kind of like, ‘Oh, I want to do something more.’”

Guffey started creating more projects as she came back on campus. A crocheted pencil became a favorite among friends and family, eventually kick-starting her business Holes In The Sky by Sadie. Guffey’s roommate Ally Shibata recalls the first time Guffey made a product for her.

“Sadie has always been very crafty and creative so it was cool seeing her develop her skills in this craft,” Shibata said. “She made me a crochet pencil as a gift before she started her business which was really special.”

Elon is home to Oak Originals at the Marketplace, or Oak Originals which is, “an initiative of Doherty Center for Creativity, Innovation and Entrepreneurship” according to its website. Executive director of the Doherty Center Alyssa Martina created the program six years ago, Oak Originals program coordinator Kim Phipps said. Martina did not respond to Elon News Networks requests for an interview. 

“It was an online source that we had at Elon before, but it wasn’t called Oak Originals,” Phipps said. 

The rebrand was introduced in 2022 from a strategic campaigns class, which brought a new name, activities and events for the organization.

HITS by Sadie was built in three days; from her scanning the Oak Originals QR code to tabling in Burlington, she hit the ground running. The name of her business came with some help from her grandmother.

“My Nana had given my mom this book she wanted us all to read after she passed,” Guffey said. “It’s called ‘Holes in the Sky’ by Patricia Polacco.” 

Guffey remembers being moved to tears in one of her education classes when her professor read a book from the same author.

Junior Oak Originals vendor and Doherty Center intern Lucy Horn helped Guffey start her work at the organization. Horn and Guffey met through the teaching fellows program, then Guffey became a frequent customer at Horn’s pop-ups. Primarily working with new vendors, Horn encouraged Guffey to join the organization.

“It took some coercing,” Horn said. “At first, she was a little scared to start it. Once she set her mind on it, she was all in, all at once. She’s somebody where you don’t need to walk her hand through it.”

Communities outside of Alamance County have been able to see HITS by Sadie at pop-ups in Greensboro and in surrounding areas. Guffey said she first struggled to find a way to incorporate her artistic hobbies on-campus, but starting her business reignited her joy in her work.

“I think being able to sell my art and see me have all this joy — then just more joy added to that — it’s not taking away from me, it’s not doing anything,” Guffey said. “It’s all around happiness and bringing that to the community has been such an amazing time.”

Along with personal opportunities vendors can take, Oak Originals provides collaborations on-campus and at local businesses in Burlington to showcase their work. Two of the most anticipated pop-ups are the Oak Originals’ Holiday Market, held every December, and Homecoming Weekend.

“We have students, staff and faculty vendors now that have started working with us and they have their own businesses,” Phipps said. 

Phipps said that the events draw big crowds, even attracting Elon’s president and provosts.

One of Guffey’s best selling products is the miniature crocheted acorns. Guffey was “starstruck” as Book ordered two large acorns that were being prototyped at Oak Originals’ Holiday Market. She was requested to have the pieces done by January, which were carried to the president’s office in a large brown bag with a thank you note and mini crocheted acorn.

Small crochet acorn from Sadie Guffey's Etsy shop. Photo courtesy of Sadie Guffey.

“I get a text from a friend and it’s a screenshot of a Facebook page,” Guffey said. “It’s of Book’s Facebook page. She wrote a whole post about me giving her an acorn and how it resembles creativity at Elon.”

Oak Originals executive team has been trying to find a way to keep students active in the organization as they grow in their academic careers. They hope that student-entrepreneurs and those in business-focused living learning communities seek to join this group in the future. 

“A lot of times someone will get started with us and then they have so many other things going on,” Phipps said. “We need active participants and Sadie is definitely an asset to us.”

As an elementary education student and entrepreneur, Guffey will be student-teaching at South Mebane Elementary School this spring, and said she knows she’ll have to support herself with a second income on top of her selected future profession.

“I feel like I’ve had this passion and I’ve grown it,” Guffey said. “It’s set me up for post grad, if I want to continue it because I do plan to.”

HITS by Sadie continues to sell crocheted items, as well as expanding into new ventures such as blanket sweaters and ceramics. Guffey reminds herself the business is made to remember the last memories held by her and her grandmother.

“I like sharing the story,” Guffey said. “I think it reminds me of why I do this. It reminds me who made me who I am. It’s a way to honor her. It’s a way to connect with her.”