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Jennifer Pierotti Dunavant

Jennifer Dunavant is the owner of Fussbudget.com. She grew up and remains in East Memphis, with her husband and their six children.

She turned the name 'Fuss' into a business asset

By Published: April 06, 2019 4:00 AM CT

Growing up with a name like Fuss, I had my share of joshing.  But I recognized my unusual moniker could be used positively. Fussy, after all, is defined as fastidious about one’s needs or requirements; hard to please. I created Fussbudget to appeal to those who, like me, are drawn to things that are unique and striking.

<strong>Jennifer Dunavant</strong>

Jennifer Dunavant

My father, Tim Fuss, first recognized my entrepreneurial spirit when, at the age of 8, I started a miniature dollhouse company. He and my mother were my chief advocates, though they attempted to gently prepare me for rejection. I remember my dad saying, “Don’t be disheartened if nobody buys them.” He chuckles remembering my reply, “They'll buy 'em!” And they did.

I married a man who encouraged my entrepreneurship, and I created Fussbudget.com in my garage in 1998 as a basket purse company. I had fond memories from childhood of playing with my mother’s purse, and commissioned artists who would paint a customer’s home and family on a purse, with a penny glued inside for luck.

When my oldest daughter went to her first sleep-away camp, I talked with other parents and the idea of offering camp care packages was born. Our family assembled hundreds of packages for campers across the country, and my late husband, Tom, was my No. 1 stocker. We spent hours in the garage-turned-warehouse fulfilling orders; my husband would join in after having worked a full day at his office. We evolved once more when I experienced the phenomenon of going to market (I was like Ponce de León, but my quest was goods) and our best sellers became indoor sleeping bags. 

In the spring of 2008, Tom was diagnosed with ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s disease. It was clear that he and our three young girls could be my only focus. I allowed Fussbudget to go dormant. Our worlds shifted dramatically and became all about the quality of life.

ALS crept into our lives like a thief. It robbed Tom of the ability to speak, walk, eat, use his arms and hands, and finally, to breathe. We were powerless as a beloved father, husband, son, brother, brother-in-law and dear friend was ravaged by this disease. It took Tom from us just 18 months after diagnosis, on Feb. 5, 2010, three days after our youngest daughter’s fifth birthday. Through it all, though, Tom was his good-natured, lionhearted, adoring, kindhearted, humorous self. 

Having lived through loss and heartbreak, I realize each day is a gift. It forever changed my perspective on what is truly meaningful. Other than raising our resilient daughters, being his caregiver will always be my greatest accomplishment.

I have been fortunate to have not one but two great loves, and I remarried in 2014. This year, after a 10-year hiatus, I decided to relaunch Fussbudget.com. My new husband, John, is a wonderful product tester with a great eye himself. With our blended family of six children (by the way, they are not cheaper by the half dozen), we find ourselves decorating their dorms and homes, and buying more than our share of graduation, birthday and baby gifts.

Our best sellers are handcrafted "Women We Love" pillows (Dolly Parton, Maya Angelou and Ruth Bader Ginsburg to name a few), Ben Caldwell's copper serving pieces with enamel horn handles, “stacked” paintings by the artist Stephanie King, and children's duvet covers with optical illusions from the movie "Wonder."

Many of the artisans and vendors on Fussbudget are women business owners who mirror the entrepreneurial spirit I recognized in myself as a child. In the words of Helen Keller, “The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched; they must be felt with the heart.”

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