From aprons to stardom

Tanner Joy models one of his custom-made aprons. (Photograph by Maleyia Vaughn)

Tanner Joy focuses on sewing one of his custom-made aprons. (Photograph by Maleyia Vaughn)

MHS grad’s love of sewing makes for business venture

Whether he’s playing sports or sewing aprons, Tanner Joy just wants to make headlines.

“He always says he wants to be famous,” said Shelby Hazelbaker, habilitation training specialist for Joy.

When asked what he’d like to be famous for, Joy said he wants to be famous for everything.

“Famous dude, I just want to be on the news,” Joy said.

Joy is a 21-year-old with Down Syndrome who graduated from Mustang High School, where his mom teaches special education. Joy does powerlifting, plays basketball, plays video games on his Play Station 3, cooks and sews.

“He used to run the football team out too,” Hazelbaker said.

Joy loves to cook. His favorite things to cook are pizza and brownies, so Hazelbaker decided they should make him an apron with her grandmother’s sewing machine in November of 2014.

Joy loved it, and after that decided to make his mom and two grandmothers aprons for Christmas that year.

The aprons were posted on social media “and it just exploded” so Tan Man’s Aprons began in January 2015, Hazelbaker said. The aprons can be ordered on tanmansaprons.com. They come in kid and adult sizes and have different fabrics to choose from.

A kid apron with a pocket sells for $9 while an adult apron sells for $12 without a pocket or $14 with one. Joy also sells aprons with monogrammed pockets for $17 each and an up charge of $2 for more than one word.

Joy uses different stitching for the aprons, and the one he calls “the mountain stitch” is his favorite.
“He likes to change up the stitches and choose different ones,” Hazelbaker said.

Joy and Hazelbaker have sold about 180 aprons, and it only takes him about 20 minutes to make each one.
“He focuses very hard,” Hazelbaker said.

Joy said he’s just happy to make them for other people.

“I work with him on life skills, household skills, money skills, so like going to the library or sweeping the floors,” Hazelbaker said. “And I still do that, [Tan Man’s Aprons] is just the cherry on top.”

News 9 did a story on Joy and put cameras right in front of where he sews.

“I like it a lot,” Joy said. “I want to be famous for Tan Man’s Aprons.”

The Down Syndrome Association of Central Oklahoma is sponsoring Joy and Hazelbaker to attend the National Down Syndrome Conference as a self-advocate in Florida next month. They decided to have a booth to sell aprons and talk about Tan Man’s Aprons at the conference.

Hazelbaker set up a go fund me page to help raise money for a banner, fabric and promotional items for the conference.

“Anything that you can give will go directly to supply the things we need for this adventure,” reads the bio on the go fund me page. “We are so excited to share our experience with you all and so honored to be taking Tan Man’s Aprons nationally.”

Joy and Hazelbaker have raised $1,075 through the go fund me page in 20 days, exceeding their goal of S800. Visit gofundme.com/TanMansAprons to donate.

Hazelbaker will be a full-time special education teacher at Mustang in the fall so she’ll no longer be Joy’s habilitation training specialist.

“I told him I wish he could be my assistant or something,” she said.

Joy said Hazelbaker isn’t going to school every day because she has to stay with him. Although that’s not the case, Hazelbaker said she will keep Tan Man’s Aprons going with Joy.

“There’s no stopping us now,” Hazelbaker said.

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