SHELTON, Conn. — The Giggling Pig, an art-and-party studio started by a cash-strapped single mom in a 350-square-foot downtown storefront, is vying for a prestigious international business award with organizations from California and Dubai.
Owner Hannah Perry said she was floored to find out her studio was chosen as one of three finalists for a Stevie Award in the Engagement/Happiness Team category. The winner will be announced Sept. 30.
“It’s like family,” the Shelton resident said of her 10 employees. “And this is one of the biggest business awards in the world.”
Originally from Yorkshire, England, where she trained as a nursery nurse, Perry moved to the U.S. in 1999, looking after special needs children in their homes to make ends meet for herself and her young son.
That was no small feat in Fairfield County, where she had trouble finding things for her son to do that wouldn’t break the bank.
In 2011, she pooled her funds and took a serious leap of faith, opening The Giggling Pig, which specializes in art classes, summer camp and other programs for children and adults — including an astounding 300-plus birthday parties a year.
The idea came after she mounted a 2010 art exhibition and found out there was a market for the whimsical style of artwork she’d developed since childhood and showcased in two children’s books she wrote and illustrated.
“I did the exhibition and things sold,” she said with a smile. “I thought, I can do this.”
The business quickly outgrew the downtown storefront and — two moves later — she set up shop in a 2,000-square-foot River Road space. By 2015, the popular parenting blog Playground Parkbench named The Giggling Pig its top birthday party venue.
The business prides itself in keeping costs down so all families can have a creative experience through Mommy & Me, Paint & Giggle, weekly art lessons and seasonal camps.
“If they can’t afford it, they won’t get turned away,” said Perry, who also organizes outreach to church and special needs groups.
For the last four years, The Giggling Pig has partnered with a Trumbull High School program allowing teens and young adults with autism to work at the business, gaining valuable life skills.
The business has been so successful, it’s branching out to a new Bethel location at 178 Greenwood Ave. on Sept. 3. And in January, Perry hopes to have all her ducks in order to begin franchising the brand.
Building the business means Perry and her staff work long hours, passing on a love of art paired with a healthy dose of self esteem and manners.
“When I started the business, I was a single mom with a lot of debt, but I kept going,” said Perry, now a mom of two. “I never wake up and say, ‘I don’t want to go to work.’ It’s just such a good environment.”
For more information on The Giggling Pig, visit its website .
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