Julie Rowland unfolded the pillow case, which was emblazoned with the name Luke in gold and purple letters, Bible verses covering the fabric.
“He really likes LSU, so we designed it with their colors for him. It was the first one we made,” she said, holding the cloth.
It might have been the first product PillowGrace produced. But it was only the beginning in the St. Simons Island-based business’ journey to spread the power of the gospel through their pillows. And, appropriately enough, the inspiration struck the owner Julie Rowland at Bible study. Her group at the St. Simons Island Community Church was discussing keeping the word of God close at hand.
“Our teacher touched her forehead with her Bible and told us we needed to keep the Word that close. I just remember thinking about how it wouldn’t be practical to sleep on your Bible ... but you could sleep on a pillow case with scriptures written on it,” she said.
“And it was in that same group that we heard about a young boy who had just been diagnosed with Leukemia. I just thought ‘I’m going to make him a pillow case.’ I didn’t know how but I was going to do it.”
Rowland set about trying to find the right printing options for pillows. She and her husband, Hank, scoured the country. Eventually, they found a company who would print the pillow case for them.
“That was our first PillowGrace,” Rowland said with a smile.
From there, the business has grown organically with Heather Burrell coming onboard to help with multiple elements of the business. The first recipient wanted to gift a similar design to a friend and that pattern continued. Friends wanted to share the inspirational messages with those they love. And that reception made Rowland want to create more. Saved by grace, she enjoys sharing the message of her faith with as many people as she can.
“It’s not just a pillow case, it’s a PillowGrace,” she said. “People just love to give them to one another. It is such a unique gift because you can customize the pillows any way you want.”
Rowland’s creative concepts adorned with scripture are featured in their storefront on St. Simons Island, as well as in 25 other retailers across the country. Each can be customized with a myriad of colors, trims, fonts, and monogram styles to choose from. They even come in three different types of material.
“Our fabrics are all natural materials-cotton, silk and a blend between the two. We print with environmentally friendly ‘green’ inks and the ink is printed into the fabric, not on it. This keeps the fabric soft so you can’t feel it when you sleep on it,” she said.
“All of our pillows are prayerfully designed, produced, and distributed right here on St. Simons.”
And they are also thrilled to help individuals pick out the perfect gift for a wedding or a birthday. But of course, not all of their customer stories are happy ones.
“We have a lot of people who get them as gifts in memory of loved ones. I actually had one customer who got hers in memory of a twin she lost to cancer and says that she sleeps with it every night,” Rowland said.
“We really love hearing their stories and making those connections and creating that fellowship,” Burrell said. “It is very special.”
One of the most common things Rowland and Burrell have found is that the pillows bring a sense of comfort, regardless of the design chosen.
“Our tag line is ‘rest assured, arise restored,’” Rowland said. “And we’ve found that it’s true.”
Whether the pillows are used to ease travel fears, to remember a loved one or to comfort a frightened child, each one is as unique as the individual to which it belongs. And for the new year the company is working to broaden its reach by seeking Home Show Sales Reps throughout the Southeast as well as planning more trunk shows and continuing to appear at various markets like the Sea Island Market on St. Simons Island.
They have active social media accounts on Instagram and Facebook, where they plan on giving away a Valentine’s Day gift bag. In addition, their designs can be ordered on their website, www.pillowgrace.com.
“We’ve teamed up with five other local businesses who have all donated things that are part of our Love Yourself giveaway. I think that we focus too much on the romantic aspect of it but we want to bring the focus back more toward loving yourself and taking care of yourself, which can be hard to do,” Rowland said.
“But most of all it’s about bringing Christ’s love back to the center.”
That is the entire goal of Rowland’s personal and professional life. It’s through her work that she hopes to share the power and beauty of God’s grace.
“It’s all been a leap of faith ... we just want to keep God’s word active and at the center of what we do,” Rowland said.