SHERIDAN — About seven years ago, Larissa Barth gave birth to her first child, a child who died during delivery. An experience that could have destroyed her instead led her to create a nonprofit and a later a for-profit business that started as an outlet for her pain.
“I wanted acknowledgement of the life,” Barth said, adding that officials would only provide a death certificate, not a birth certificate. “So I went on a search for a memorial.”
She wanted something immediate and personal, but couldn’t find what she was looking for at a reasonable price. So, she bought a cheap hobby metal stamping set and got to work.
After what she went through, Barth noted that doing something productive with her hands helped her through the grieving process.
During that process, she discovered a need to help other families who have lost a baby in the womb, so she started the nonprofit Held Your Whole Life in 2011. She and her husband, Jim Barth, wanted to acknowledge the lives of children lost before they were born.
Since then, the nonprofit has provided free memorial gifts to families honoring and acknowledging their experiences. By 2016, the team at Held Your Whole Life had shipped more than 7,000 gifts.
Barth has since welcomed her daughter Kamari, experienced a miscarriage and given birth to her son, Judah Haven.
Barth still serves on the board of the Montana nonprofit she founded, but has taken more of a hands-off approach recently. She said she needed more time to live and enjoy life, rather than focus on and empathize with the grief cycle at the center of the nonprofit mission.
She started her business Joy in the Morning Designs when Kamari, her “rainbow baby” — one born after a loss — entered the world.
The Barth family later sold their dream home in Powell and opted to embrace minimalism.
She has utilized the income from her business to supplement her family’s livelihood and pay off student loan debt. Her husband works as a pastor in Sheridan.
In addition to running the business, she homeschools her children, helps with their activities and helps with music at the church.
When it came to nurturing her business, Barth said quality of the product and support from the community were key.
Pamela Gable, owner of Twisted Hearts in downtown Sheridan, was the first shop to carry Barth’s work and push her to pursue more. Now, she has a network of other craft businesses in the area on which she relies for advice, support and friendship.
She emphasized that while it’s tough at times, you can be a “momtrepreneur” pursuing a business and raising a family.
Sometimes, she noted, you have to trust that the support is there.
“Sheridan has everything you need to start a business,” Barth said, noting how much exposure Sheridan gets and how many top-notch crafters come to town for the annual leathercrafters show and other events.
And, while it takes research and effort, Barth encourages others to use local businesses and suppliers as often as possible to help keep the craft industry thriving.