Entrepreneurs: From banker to small business owner, Sadler focuses on fashion

Cynthia Sadler

Signature Cuffs LLC

705 West Magnolia Ave.

Fort Worth 76104


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Cynthia Sadler’s transition from banking executive to entrepreneur was born of frustration at not being able to find the perfect accessory to wear to an after-work party.

The event was in 2015, when Sadler was working as a senior vice president/client advisor for Bank of Texas. She still remembers every detail because it would change her life.

Sadler had chosen to wear a black sweater ensemble that would be appropriate for work yet dressy enough for the important professional after-work event by accessorizing with the simple addition of classy French cuffs.

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“I knew I would start my day at 7:30 a.m. and would be in the same clothes 10 hours later,” she recalled. “If I could a pair of crisp, white French cuffs, I could take my outfit to the next level.”

Determined to make that happen, Sadler began an ambitious search through stores and online shopping sites only to come up empty-handed.

“I couldn’t find them anywhere and I was really frustrated,” she said.

The experience got her thinking about the possibility of starting a niche business creating French-style cuffs that could be elegant as well as decorative tweak to any long-sleeved top, sweater of jacket.

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The idea stuck in her head and she continued to mull the possibility of starting a business while still working at the bank.

Finally, in October 2016, she decided to retire after a 30-year banking career in Fort Worth, which was accompanied by service on about 50 committees and more than a dozen boards, including the executive board of the Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce.

Since her husband was already retired, it seemed like a logical move.

But retirement didn’t last long. By January she was restless and ready to move forward with starting a business. She considered producing salsa but the ruled it because of the many regulations involved in manufacturing food.

So, she settled on manufacturing the cuffs, which had eluded her two years earlier. The only problem: “I didn’t know how to sew.”

But through her long career in banking, she knew a lot about business and budgeting – and she knew a lot of people. Her bachelor’s degree from Stephen F. Austin University in public relations with a minor in marketing added to her skillset.

But mostly, like most entrepreneurs, Sadler was savvy enough to figure it out.

One of her first steps was to visit the office of Dr. Sally Fortenberry, associate professor and director of the Center for Merchandising Education and Research in interior design and fashion merchandising at Texas Christian University.

“I knocked on her door with no appointment,” Sadler said.

Fortenberry directed her to a Jenny Siede, a Dallas-Fort Worth area business owner who helps budding entrepreneurs with fashion product development and manufacturing. Siede helped Sadler develop the prototype for her faux-French cuffs.

After exploring fastening options involving Velcro and snaps, the two settled on buttons to fasten the cuffs together. The result was a cuff that Sadler calls “wrist dickeys” because they resemble the faux shirt collars or turtlenecks known as dickeys that were popular fashion accessories in earlier generations.

Completing the prototype sent Sadler into a frenzied search for manufacturers, pattern-markers, textile mills, assemblers and distributors. She found her manufacturer in the Garment District in New York City but her distribution, fulfillment and assembly contractors are in Fort Worth.

She also enlisted three Texas artists to create hand-painted designs for some of her cuffs.

Sadler managed to introduce two categories of her Signature Cuffs by last fall.

Her holiday collection of six cuffs, featuring reproductions of the work of Amarillo artist Dani Hale, arrived in time to go on sale at the gift shop of Bass Performance Hall during the holidays. Her corporate collection, which can be monogramed to be even more custom, debuted at the same time.

Since then, her line has grown to include 23 designs with four more designs in the productions process. Her designs fall into the categories of corporate, casual, colorful, Christmas/holiday and collegiate. Prices start at $78.

Her first collegiate products have been exclusively for Texas Christian University and are for sale at the TCU Bookstore.

All of her cuffs are carefully curated and produced with top-quality fabric. Each pair is adorned with a custom metal button with the “SC” logo (for Signature Cuffs or Sadler’s initials in reverse).

Every pair is packaged in a designer dust bag tucked into an elegant blue box.

Fine craftsmanship and attention to detail are the hallmarks of Sadler’s approach to business.

Combined with her business acumen and unyielding work ethic, Sadler has already collected some noteworthy honors, including a Top 10 finalist in the Fort Worth Business Assistance Center’s Business Plan Competition. She also received a bronze ADDY Award for packaging design from the Advertising Club of Fort Worth.

Now working out of an office on West Magnolia in the Near Southside district, Sadler and her team of a half-dozen employees continue to imagine new designs and pursue new partnerships to promote her business.

Among her latest accomplishments, the business is working with Texas Highways magazine to feature the artisan-created Bluebonnet design in the publication’s online gift shop.

Sadler also won approval to create a commemorative cuff for the 130-year anniversary of Tri Delta Sorority, of which she is a member.

Sadler also recently was approved to begin selling her cuffs on Amazon Prime.

“It was definitely a lot of moving parts,” she said.

But with so much going on, the mother of two grown sons and grandmother of two still sees more growth potential and marketing opportunities on the horizon. She hopes to create custom cuffs for other colleges as well as high school booster organizations, with Aledo High School in Aledo, where she lives, being at the top of the list.

One important lesson she has learned through the process of starting a company is the value of leveraging personal and professional relationships.

“Relationships matter,” she said. “That’s why we turn to local partners for support services and professional advice on a regular basis.”

One relationship she is especially proud of is with Expanco, a Tarrant County nonprofit that provides jobs for disabled adults. The nonprofit handles assembly and package production for Signature Cuffs.

“Our employees – each with their individual skill sets – have loved the challenge and look forward to working on this job,” said Dena Walts, vice president of operations for Expanco.

With about 5,000 units in production and another 3,000 in boxes, the manufacturing process is coming together smoothly. Yet, Sadler has changes in mind there, too.

“I would like to be able to do all this in Texas so it will be a truly Texas product,” she said.