RENO, Nev. (KOLO) -- A young CEO in Reno has a powerful influence on the entertainment world. One of her products adorns the actors in New York's Broadway show "Hamilton."
The CEO says she provided the buckles for the actor's shoes. Her shoes have also appeared in movies such as "Hellboy" and "Ghostbusters" (2016) and television series including "Outlander."
"If there is a moment where someone is doing up their button boots or they stick their foot out. It's like a screen shot. There's our boots! Awesome! Oh, it's really exciting," said American Duchess CEO Lauren Stowell.
It all started with a spark that inspired Lauren when she was a student at Swope Middle School in Reno. Mr. Chris Harris took a different approach when teaching social studies to his 7th grade classes.
"We put aside tests and quizzes and we just dressed up. We lived history. We performed it," Mr. Harris said.
He turned his classroom into a building common to Nevada and the west more than 100 years ago. He surrounded his students in history. He would dress up as a rough rider and stay in character during the entire class, teaching his students about cowboy poetry, roping and what it was like to live long ago.
Lauren's experience with Mr. Harris provided her fist tangible glimpse into the past. It was during this time that she began her quest to understand not only what life was like long ago, but also to understand their clothing and the rich story each article can tell about a person.
"I'm really flattered that someone had been inspired by something I'd done. Just a little seed, and look where it developed into something that's pretty cool," said Mr. Harris.
"The company has grown by about 100 percent every year," said Lauren.
American Duchess began with $250, a dream, and Lauren's garage in 2011. Her shoes quickly outgrew her home, forcing her products into a storage unit, and then in 2016 she moved into a building near the Grand Sierra Resort and Casino.
Her shoes fill several racks in a storage room. Her business now supports three full-time employees and one part-time worker.
"I never thought I would be sitting here. When I look around at this room I can't even believe that this is my office. This is nuts," said Lauren.
"I love this shoe (she's holding a shoe nearly 100 years old). It's one of the first ones I ever got. Tried to cram my foot into it. That was a mistake. Most vintage antique shoes are really really narrow," Lauren said.
Combine this passion with the year Lauren graduated summa cum laude from San Jose State in 2007 just before the recession and it was the perfect recipe to force her to find her own way.
She used her computer to turn to her peers with similar interests. "You talk to your friends, your thousands of friends all over the world and say, 'What do you guys need? What's missing? And what was missing back in 2011 was footwear. Shoes. And so that's what I got into," Lauren said.
Specifically shoes made before the 1950s, dating to the 1800s and earlier. Lauren loves holding up shoes that she has purchased from long ago next to her brand-new replica made to be historically accurate to the smallest detail.
She uses her skills as an illustrator to draw up a spec sheet or what you could call a blueprint for the factory to follow.
"I'm calling out certain aspects of it like there's a screen on the back. Here's where the heel stiffener is," Lauren said as she points to the spec sheet, but there is a problem Lauren wants to solve. No one in Nevada or the United States can make the shoes she designs, so she travels to China where her shoes are made.
"It's hurdle after hurdle after hurdle. I would love to manufacture here. I want everything to be here," Lauren said.
But she says she doesn't have anywhere close to the amount of money to set up a factory and she says there are no machines in the United States to make her shoes and there are few if any skilled people to make the shoes she designs.
"I hope that someone here or a group of people here in the United States will bring back some small-scale manufacturing for women's heeled shoes," Lauren said.
This is her next dream that seems impossible to make reality, but then again she never thought she'd be such a young CEO, essentially resurrecting shoes from the past for the hottest plays, movies, and TV shows today.
Lauren is looking to hire a full-time employee to make videos and pictures to sell her products online. The right person will know how to use Adobe Premiere.
Click here to contact American Duchess to express your interest in the job opening. You can also go there to look at the shoes Lauren and her employees produce.