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Creations by Lena: Healing One Stitch at a Time

Jessica Frederick

To Jessica Frederick, creating specialized pieces by use of embroidery and screen printing is much more than a hobby. It is a way to honor her late mother.

She described her mother, Evelina (“Lena” for short) as someone who possessed beauty, style, and creativity. Jessica grew up in Buffalo’s Fruit Belt neighborhood where Lena would volunteer at the Community Action Organization center that her young daughters attended, teaching crafts. At this same location, sewing lessons were taught and Jessica continued to carry on those skills into adulthood.

In the early days of the pandemic, Jessica recalled spending the long in-home days crafting with her mother. “We sewed masks, and made various embroidered items, from totes to pretty much anything- just to keep ourselves occupied,” Jessica explained. “We would give the items away to friends and family that suggest we sell it. At some point, we agreed and thought we should turn our passions into some sort of family business.”

Sadly, before that could happen, Lena suddenly fell ill and passed away.

Jessica named her business after her late mother Lena, pictured here.

Jessica found herself at a standstill and struggled to work toward finishing her master’s degree, let alone the thought of crafting. “I had to find a way to push through, so getting back into embroidering, sewing, crafting was a form of therapy for me, and it allowed me the opportunity to heal one stitch at a time” she noted.

She pressed on, earned her degree, and began working as a Mental Health Nurse practitioner, while continuing to craft in her free time, but longed to find some sort of way to be able to carry out her mother’s legacy.

In 2022, Jessica found a way and Creations by Lena was established. “We specialize in custom embroidered and screen-printed items for various apparel and accessories. We believe in the freedom of expression through custom creations and what better way to represent yourself or your brand, than to wear it!” she said.

Shortly thereafter, through her contact at the Buffalo Small Business Development Center, Jessica was introduced to Mauricio Canton Diaz who is Program Director of the Buffalo Purchasing Initiative (BPI), an initiative of the Racial Equity Roundtable’s Business Leaders Task Force. BPI was developed to create a convening resource for Buffalo’s large employers to explore strategies and share resources to expand purchasing opportunities with local businesses owned by people of color.

“I collaborated with Mauricio and was given the opportunity to do a sales pitch in front of some major organizations affiliated with the BPI,” Jessica said.  From that presentation, she started receiving helpful feedback directly from BPI members. “I still run into some of those affiliates with BPI, and they have passed my information along to others which has materialized into potential contracts.”

To date, Jessica has worked with Independent Health and University of Buffalo, two of the 14 large employer BPI members committed to investing in the entrepreneurial small businesses owned by Buffalonians of color that enrich our community. She has additional deals in motion with other members as well. Jessica appreciates the exposure that being in partnership with the BPI has provided her and values the connections she continues to make because of it.

She has expanded her business to include a “Love Mom” collection, which features an embroidered version of her mom’s signature. “Creations by Lena was started by a homegrown Buffalonian, so it’s only fitting we give back,” Jessica noted. “We seek to foster hope through the business by donating a portion of the proceeds from the Love Mom collection to local soup kitchens and shelters in the Buffalo area.”

As she looks ahead, Jessica hopes to grow her business to be international as well as add to her “one woman band” and provide job opportunities for others. “Creations by Lena is a way to carry out my mother’s memories,” she said. “This is special for me; this is big.”