40 Thoughts from Bear Paw Creek Founder at age 40

The Gift of Giving



January 6 marks my fortieth year on this earth.

My parents tell me I was an unexpected surprise and I love to tease them about what they would have all missed out on!

So I’m giving away a Bear Paw Creek t-shirt (made by a great friend) and one of my favorite children’s artists CDs, “Welcome” from Miss Carole.


Just leave a comment and share to be entered!


I’m also going to share my list of “40 Thoughts at 40” from my personal blog.

40 Thoughts at 40 by Bear Paw Creek Founder


  1. Without faith, I would be lost in this journey called life.
  2. I believe relationships are our main purpose of being here. Be intentional with and take care of them. The first relationship to take care of is with God, the rest will fall into place when you have that one right!
  3. All people have a reason and purpose for being created, from conception to death.
  4. The way you were raised and your experiences in childhood become the foundation of who you are.
  5. Life is short, you are always one phone call away from a truly life changing event.
  6. Material things don’t matter, they can be gone in a second.
  7. People matter.
  8. I still love snow!
  9. When you have two children (esp. one of each), and are pregnant with your third, the most common question is, “You have the perfect family, why would you have more?”
  10. I’m glad social media wasn’t around when I was young!

Head on over and read the next 30!  Leave a comment and share away to be entered into the giveaway. 



[Tweet “Bear Paw Creek Founder Shares 40 Thoughts at 40 plus gives away a tshirt and cd!”]

Janet Stephens is the founder and creator behind Bear Paw Creek’s creative movement props and bags. She is passionate about learning and sharing along the way.

Janet from Bear Paw Creek turns 39 1/2

Janet from Bear Paw Creek turns 39 1/2

Janet Stephens is the founder and creator behind Bear Paw Creek’s creative movement props and bags. She is passionate about learning and sharing along the way.


So today marks the day I turn 39 1/2 years old.  I don’t suppose many of you think much about your half birthday, do you? Since my birthday falls so close to Christmas, my Mom started sending me half birthday presents when I was older.  I don’t receive them every year, but some

Yesterday I received one and it reminded me that I have six more months until the “big” 40!  That birthday seems to be counted as a big one and some people dread it, bit I’m actually looking forward to it.  Perhaps on the day I won’t feel that way.

It does make me ponder my life up to this point, and I wanted to share a bit of my story with you.  Where did the idea of Bear Paw Creek come from?  Read on!

From Wisconsin, to Alaska, to Missouri

I was born and raised in the great state of Wisconsin, the youngest of three.  I had a wonderful childhood and was always creating something and loved to be outside.

After graduating from high school, I set of on my great Alaskan adventure. I was able to contact an older sister of a high school friend who had recently moved to Alaska and she graciously offered me advice and said I was welcome to stay with her while I found a job and place to live.

We had great fun together and she offered for me to live with her and pay rent. She had just purchased a log home bordering the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge.    It was simply an amazing place to live and experience part of what Alaska has to offer.  I worked at Subway and also started some nanny jobs and respite care for those with special needs.

Both those jobs lead me to meet my husband and our family journey began!  After our first son was born we decided to make the move to Missouri , and headed down the Alcan with a 24′ Uhual and car trailer.  Flat tires, engine fires, and we eventually made it to Springfield, MO!

[Tweet “Count down to turning 40 – what a life!”]

Bear Paw Creek is Founded in 2000

After our big move I was looking for a way to bring in some money so I could stay home with our son.  After a talk with my sister, the idea of creating movement props, instrument cases, and bags that music therapists had a need for – Bear Paw Creek was started in January of 2000.

We picked up our first wholesale customer in 2001 and while our family grew, that was our main focus.  We added three more children before picking up two more wholesale customers in 2008. We continued to add to our family and made a move out of the city to the country in 2011.

In 2012 I started to dive into the retail market and building out a website.  I was hooked!  I love the one on one connection with our customers and sharing ways to use our products. 

We currently have eight wonderful children – so it’s always an adventure and busy at our place!

That’s a bit about my story – I wonder what the next 39 1/2 years will bring?



Leave a comment and enter to win one of our fabulous t-shirts made my Now That’s Bold.

Bear Paw Creek tshirts by Now That's Bold




Why American Made Matters to ME!

Why American Made Matters to ME!

Today, November 19, is American Made Matters Day! For several reasons, that matters to me personally and for our business.  A few years ago I learned that one of our customers had taken two of our products and was getting them manufactured over seas.  It was a hard time both personally and in business, but as what happens through many difficult things in our life, the silver lining is shining through.  It put me on an amazing path of learning and growing, building a new wholesale customer base, and reaching our customers on a growing retail basis for the first time since 2000.  It’s been the proverbial “kick in the butt” I needed!  (FYI: they came back to us and are carrying ours once a again.)

There are several organizations/movements that are helping spread awareness of the importance of buying USA made products. I appreciate all of their efforts!  American Made Matters struck a chord with me from a manufacturing and consumer perspective. 

I am proud that Bear Paw Creek is a member of American Made Matters.  I appreciate Don Rongione and the team at AMM for their efforts and what they are accomplishing.  Their mission is to “Educate consumers that buying US-made products strengthens the American dream.”  You can learn more about them here.  

American Made Matters

As in all things, there are two sides.  It’s pretty hard to find some products that are even capable of being made in the USA.  Some products may be finished here, but with imported materials.  American Made Matters standards for being a member are: The AMM logo can now be found on thousands of products that comply with our standards which are at least 50% of the cost (labor, materials, and overhead) is incurred in the United States and the final assembly or transformation takes place in the U.S.

All of Bear Paw Creek’s products are manufactured here in the USA 100% of the time with the help of our team.  I have a goal of using 100% USA made materials and am always on the look out for it. There are some hidden mills out there that are still making material state side.  As of now, we have several products that are 100% USA materials!  The Q Chord Gig Bag and hoop streamers are two of them.

I am giving away an AMM hat and a set of our scarves (minus the plastic cord lock – all USA materials!)  Leave a comment here or on social media and you’ll be entered.  @bearpawcreek or #bearpawcreek


The Influence of Mister Rogers

The Influence of Mr. Rogers

This blog post will be a bit different than my norm, so I hope you’ll allow my ramblings a bit.  I hope it encourages you in your work with the individuals you serve, young to the aged. It all started when a video clip on Mr. Rogers came through on my Facebook feed.  The video got my thinking wheels spinning.  First it reminded me of how much I loved Mr. Rogers as a kid. Mr. Rogers, Sesame Street, and Reading Rainbow (did you know it’s coming back?) were a big influence on me as a young child. Second, it made me go to my lovely Amazon Prime videos, and play an episode for my little ones.  I just happened to pick an episode that brought me to tears again.  Season 1, episode 12 “Making an Opera, How People Make Sweaters.”   While I was sewing hoop streamers, and the kids were watching it, I learned that it was Fred Rogers’ mother that knit all the sweaters he wore!  Perhaps you’ll take the time to watch the complete episode, but if not, here’s a two minute clip of him talking about the sweaters.

Mr. Rodgers Sweaters made by his mom

I can’t begin to describe all the thoughts that have gone through my head by watching that episode and the following one from my Facebook feed.  I never imagined the beauty that creating the products Bear Paw Creek has brought to my life, by connecting with people all over the country/world = neighbors. While I am sewing up products, I love to imagine and think about the hands that will touch them and who will use them. I loved how he always showed how things were made, as I was always creating things, even as a young child.  The “Neighborhood of Make Believe” was an inspiration and for a while I dreamed of going to California to be a puppeteer. I didn’t realize until my children started watching Mr. Rogers, that his voice was behind most of those characters! Below are some quotes that really struck me.  As you are reading them,  think about it beyond television, as really, wherever we are placed in life – we are the influencers and shapers of the people we meet. “Fame is  a four letter word, and like tape, or zoom, or face, or pain, or life, or love, what absolutely matters is what we do with it.  I feel like those of us in television are chosen to be servants. It doesn’t matter what our particular job is, we are chosen to help meet the deeper needs of those who watch and listen. Day and night.” “..by doing whatever we can to bring courage to those whose lives move near our home. By treating our neighbor at least as well as we treat our selves, and allowing that to inform everything that we produce.” “Through television we have the choice of encouraging others to demean this life or cherish it, in creative, imaginative ways.” The video features a clip from a TV Hall Of Fame ceremony where Jeff Erlanger, who appeared on Mister Rogers Neighborhood in 1981, surprises Fred Rogers. During Jeff’s appearance in the program, Mr. Rogers had changed his life through a very simple yet important message. And now after almost 20 years, he has come onstage to thank and appreciate Mr. Rogers’s effort of changing the world through kindness. It’s about a ten minute video clip, but well worth the time.

Mr Rodgers Influence

I am humbled to be able to connect with so many wonderful people that are influencing and shaping the lives of so many through music, movement, and being an influencer.  Thank YOU all!

BPC Insiders Facebook Group

Bear Paw Creek Insiders Facebook Group

About a month ago I started a closed group on Facebook.  If you participate in groups on Facebook, you will surely know the value and connections you get from them. I have thoroughly enjoyed the knowledge and encouragement I have received from the groups that I participate in.

I am hoping it will be a place where lovers of  Bear Paw Creek products can share the creative ways they are using our products, so we can all benefit from each other. Also for input and advice on product creations and take part in special giveaways and know about sales.

Bear Paw Creek Insiders Facebook Group

Click to join!

I am thrilled with the sharing that has been going (as of this writing only 35 members) and I hope it will grow and become a valuable resource and encouragement to many. I hope you’ll come join us and invite others to join as well!

If you aren’t a part of Facebook yet, I hope to be able to share some of the ideas on our blog so you won’t miss out completely.  You might want to consider getting on Facebook to join in some groups though!

Guitars and Granola Bars Interview

Janet Stephens Guitars and Granola BarsI was excited to do my first guest interview this week! Rachel Rambach over at Guitar and Granola Bars interviewed me. This was a special honor, as her podcast is all about “Motherhood, Music Therapy, and Everything in Between.”  Out of her 32 interviews to this date, I’ll be the “one of these things is not like the other one”.  While I love to sew products FOR music therapists, I am for sure not in the league of being a music therapist.

I thought of a few things I wish I would have added or said differently, and I should have taken my sister’s advice and bought a better microphone.  Note to self: listen to big sis!

Here are a few of things I wish I would have talked about.  I skipped over part of my work life that influenced me greatly. After moving to Alaska, I worked at Subway, a couple nanny positions, and then started working as a respite care provider for children with special needs.  After getting married, I also worked at a day care in the toddler room before having our first born son.  The people I met at these jobs, still influence me greatly today.

I also would add, that is helps me to remember that there are different seasons in our lives. I am working harder and longer hours now, than ever before.  But I expect it to be a season and have a great vision for the future of Bear Paw Creek.

Here it is.  Includes a special link to sign up for “Music Therapy Makes a Difference” tote bag giveaway and my favorite granola recipe!  Take a listen and leave a review on itunes to help Rachel out!



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