Last time we told you all about what we love about Beluga Baby and today we get to share our interview with Beluga Baby’s founder, Haley Campbell.
What is the story behind Beluga Baby?
Haley: I had my daughter three and a half years ago and before that I was working advertising and marketing in various different disciplines; I worked for a direct marketing agency for a while and I worked a couple non profit jobs, lived in Australia for a while, but when I had Sawyer and I went on maternity leave I started making my own baby wraps. I had tried other wraps and they were good but there were things that I found that were lacking from each of them. So, ‘I thought I’ll make my own’. Usually you end up having kids at the same time as your peer group so I made some for friends and then I thought ‘well with my background in advertising why not see if I can make it into into a company’. I worked while my baby slept instead of sleeping which was a recipe for a lot of postpartum depression and anxiety. I didn’t even realize it was happening to me at the time, I just thought it was normal motherhood, but it was insane sleep deprivation and a lot of pressure on myself. I launched the company when my baby was 5 months old. It went really slowly at first, I had no expectations for it and I didn’t put a lot of money into it. I borrowed about two and a half thousand dollars from family members for start up costs for my logo design, my website design, my first order of fabric, and my first round of products filled. They [the wraps] have always been made here in Vancouver so it was a bit more expensive than manufacturing overseas. I grew organically and I was quite experienced with social media so I learned quickly how to find influencers and work with influencers which was my biggest help with my organic growth. At the time it was really cool because there was a group of women between Vancouver and the Fraser Valley who were all were starting baby companies at the same time: Little More Shop, Baby Deluxe, Glitter & Spice, Tattrd Threads, Remzo and other I’m forgetting. We ended up with this group of 15 of us who met on Instagram and built this WhatsApp group chat and it gone insane because by the end of the day you would look at it and there would be like 1,250 messages to get through. We were all excited that we’re all starting these brands at the exact same time and we all helped each other out. Like if someone found it influencer who is really effective they would tell everyone else about it. That’s how I connected with Jillian Harris, I got all my friends with brands and we built this awesome basket for her and Leo. We all helped each other and it was a really cool experience. Some of the companies are not in existence anymore, some kept it little, and some are big national business is now. My friend Amanda rebranded Baby Deluxe to So Luxury; they have a whole Factory in Mission now. With their help and my background in marketing the company grew painfully slow, but enough that by the time my maternity was over I didn’t have to go back to work.
When you started Beluga Baby what was your goal?
Haley: I had no goal. I was just like ‘okay I’ll see if I can do it and see how it goes.’
Kyle: Now what is your goal for Beluga Baby?
Haley: I would love to get to a point where I can have a nice office with people that I enjoy working with where I can go on vacation and other people can keep the company running for me. It’s still just me; I’m the only one who works at Beluga Baby. I have a seamstress and I have a couple some contractors to help me with AdWords and SEO, and a website programmer but essentially it’s still just me, I package up all the boxes and do all that. So yeah I would love it to be something that serves me instead of the other way around and there is a plan.
What was the hardest thing starting out?
Haley: Other than the classic you work all the time and you also have a new baby, so I’m working literally 24 hours a day, plus my daughter never slept through the night until she was a year and a half until I weaned her. That was probably the hardest thing. Also, at about the 2-year mark, my husband quit his job because he wanted a change in careers, so while he was transitioning he worked for me for about 6 months and it was fine but it was good when he went back to work for both of us. He still will come to the office and pack boxes for me, or pack boxes for me when I’m super busy.
Looking back on where you were and where you are now, what are you most proud of?
Haley: the fact that it is still growing, we’re projected to be 70% over where we were last year. I have a 4 year business plan that is laid out and at that point it should be where I have a really nice office and employees.
Beluga Baby designs and makes everything here in Vancouver, where is your fabric sourced from?
Haley: Our fabric is sourced from overseas as most bamboo fabric is. There is one bamboo mill in Canada that has fabric, they are in Ontario and they are very very expensive. Even at our quantities, if we were to switch our cost would double and it’s already priced as a luxury items. What we do do is work with fabrics that are all Oeko-Tex certified which means that all of the dying process and everything is environmentally sustainable and bamboo itself is an environmentally sustainable fabric.
Have you been over to where your fabric is being sourced?
Haley: No, we use a middleman and they provide us with all the information that we need but I will be going over to China in the next 6 months, which is kind of intimidating. There’s so much I need to find out and so much information I need to do my own research on so that I can go over there and be responsible with the decisions that I make and not just be like ‘I don’t know anything so it’s not a problem,’ you can’t do business like that, you have to ask the tough questions.
This summer Beluga Baby launched a very special product, the Reid and Rhett wrap, what was it like launching that product with such an important story behind it?
Haley: A lot of tears. It was a lot of time, me and Emma, met in very unfortunate circumstances. We had babies within weeks of each other, but hers was stillborn at 40 weeks. We reconnected when she was pregnant with Everett who is a year and a half or two now. We spent a long time developing this wrap; the amount of types of rainbows I’ve looked at, I have hundreds of drafts. I went rainbow crazy for a while, but we’re really proud of how it looks. It’s hard to get a rainbow that is also cool looking. So, when that came out, we spent a lot of time up front working with influencers to get everyone talking about it on the same day and it was the first time I’ve ever launched anything with any kind of plan. Usually, I’m just like “…and we have a new product!” because you don’t have any time because you have a kid. This product was special and we wanted it to have the weight behind it that it deserved. So, that launched and just to see the orders roll in on the first day and for people to share their stories with me and with Emma, we eventually talked to each other and said we could only read our direct messages once per day because so many women, let’s be honest it’s all women writing in, have so many stories and they’re all similar and they’re all so different and they need to be read and acknowledged but it’s just a lot to take in when you’re reading them all day long. There are these women who have never had a place where they can talk about it. The photoshoot in the field, you’ll see a lot of those photos, those are all mothers and one grandmother who have a connection to loss. The grandmother lost her son Adam, stillborn at 40 or so weeks, but back then you don’t talk about it really, so she was there with her daughter and her daughter’s new baby son who is also named Adam after her brother. Chills, right? So the grandma wore her grandson for the photoshoot named after her son that she lost. There are all sorts of different types of loss stories too, like Sky, she’s the one with the little Japanese baby, she’s blonde and totally not Japanese, but she adopted her daughter from Japan, had the baby home with them for several days, was breastfeeding and then the birth mom changed her mind so they had to go back and give the baby back. That’s a type of loss you can’t talk about because she’s alive and doing well she’s just not in their life anymore. It was cool because she was wearing her 5 month old adopted daughter and she was also 5 months pregnant at the time. You asked earlier about what I was proud about, I think being able to tell a story like that and have it connect and mean something to someone other than just a business that makes money.
As a business owner, how do you feel about the second hand market?
Haley: It’s cool. It’s actually on my list of things to do this month, to make a Buy, Sell, Trade, page. Yes, no problem, go, buy second hand. I think it’ll make the community bigger, make the name bigger, you gotta think long term, right? I might miss out on a couple dollars today but more people will get to try it. The only thing that I would worry about is that, we do a lot of limited editions, and there is a lot of carrier Buy, Sell, Trade pages so if people sell it for more than they bought it for I don’t know how I feel about that.
What kind of criticisms or negativity has Beluga Baby faced?
Haley: Obviously I try really hard to be diverse and welcome all types of families and background to the babywearing community. So, I’ve had people who write in and say “there’s no one how look like me on your website” and that’s hard because where we live only has certain amounts of ethnicities and then you’re also looking for a new mom, when you’re doing a photoshoot, with a baby under 6 months old who is available at this time with like 2 seconds notice because that’s how I roll. It was a super valid thing that they were concerned about, having women of colour, people of colour on the website. At that point, it was like 2 out of 12 on the website were women of colour, but none specifically that represented this one minority. You can only do so much, right? But at our next photoshoot we made sure it was more diverse. There are other little ones I won’t mention, but people assume we’re a big company a lot, which is a compliment because it means I’m doing a good job at my marketing and social media,l but ots of times people are surprised when they find out it’s just me doing it.
Kyle: I didn’t know, I thought you had at least one person helping you out.
Samantha: I was very surprised, it’s funny because I messaged you once and you responded right away and I thought, “who is responding that fast?”
Haley: Oh it’s just me, it drives my husband crazy because I’m always on Instagram.
What does the future of Beluga Baby look like?
Haley: Oh, very exciting, the fall collection is out, which is 6 new colours. Then in the next year, we’re prototyped already, I already met with the manufacturer, we’re coming out with a buckle carrier for larger babies like 6 months to 3 years. The weight range will be 15-60 pounds.
Kyle: That was our big issue because both of our kids were massive and we needed a little bit more support.
Haley: I’m really excited about the buckle carrier, that’s a whole other beast because we can’t get them made in Vancouver, but we still want to get them made in either Canada or the US and they’re going to be made from either hemp or linen. The prototypes are beautiful, they’re so soft, so excited.
How much of your success do you attribute to your skill, abilities, and hard work and how much of it was due to luck?
Haley: I don’t think any of it was luck. It was a market that already had products in it. I’m sorry, that might have sounded so egotistical but I don’t think that a lot of people could do it especially at the time of life that I did it with a new baby. That being said, I totally could not have done it without my husband; I would have ended up in the hospital or something. It wasn’t luck but it wasn’t just me, it was me plus my husband, plus my family, plus this network of ladybosses that I connected with, it was a village for sure but I don’t think any of it was luck.
We want to give a final huge thank you to Haley from Beluga Baby for spending time with us to do this interview and providing a swaddle for our Instagram giveaway.
Be sure to check out the Beluga Baby website and follow them on social media:
Be sure to follow us on Instagram to follow along throughout this series!
Never stop adventuring!
Beluga Baby Introduction
Last week we featured Minimoc as our favourite local kids footwear brand and we shared an interview we conducted with Amanda and Jeff Penner, Minimoc’s founders. Today, it’s all about baby wearing. Wearing your baby is something every parents has to do at some point and finding the right piece of equipment to do so can be a daunting task. Wrap or carrier? Front or side? 2, 3, or 4 positions? There are so many things to consider and so many brands out there that it can be impossible to decide between all the options. Well, let us make this simple for you, pick Beluga Baby.
Beluga Baby makes all of their wraps out of bamboo materials, which as we shared earlier in this series, is a very ethical and preferred material for the environment compared to others. Haley, Beluga Baby’s founder and owner, has made sure to keep that a priority in everything they do. We bought our Beluga Baby wrap from a local kids clothing store, who we will feature later on in this series, and we haven’t regretted it for a second. There are so many things to like and so many reasons that it reigns supreme over all the others out there. In fact, being pregnant, I’m actually excited to get to wear it again.
Beluga Baby: What We Love
It’s light. Before we had our Beluga Baby wrap, we had a different brand wrap and it was so heavy. The material was thick and it was not even close to what you get from your Beluga Baby wrap.
It’s breathable. Both of our boys were born in the summer so carrying them around in the summer means it’s hot, especially with a baby on you. That’s why the Beluga Baby wrap is so great, because it’s made of bamboo, it’s really breathable and you get airflow to help keep you cool while you wear it. You can still wear it in winter also, since it’s so light and easy to wear, you can just add layers to yourself and due to its ability to stretch, it will always fit no matter how much or how little clothing you’re wearing.
It’s surprisingly sturdy and durable. Since it’s made of light, breathable bamboo, we thought it might be flimsy and/or not as durable and something heavier wraps or those made of other material. It has held up to lots, even our extra large children.
It doesn’t lose its shape. The wrap is flexible and stretchy but thankfully, when you stretch it to its limits, or wrap it on yourself nice and tight, it doesn’t lose its shape or lose its ability to stretch. It remains the same size and shape regardless of how much you use it or how much you stretch it.
It’s easily washable. Since it’s only made of bamboo material, it’s just like washing any other piece of clothing, you just throw it in with the rest of your clothes. Rather than putting it in the dryer, we always air dry ours as we do all bamboo materials.
It’s soft on baby. The material is actually very soft to the touch, which means even if it’s over baby’s face or baby is tucked up under the wrap while sleeping, it’s soft and comfortable for baby.
It’s reasonably priced. It’s not hard to spend over $200 when shopping for a baby wrap or carrier, this wrap can be had for under $80.
There are so many fun colour options. If you go to the Beluga Baby website, you can see all of the different colours and patterns to choose from. Do you like things simple? There are basic colours to choose from. Do you like things more fun and outgoing? There are stripes, tie dye, and floral to choose from.
You can put it on before you leave the house. One of our favourite things about their wraps is that it saves you time when you’re out. If I know I’m going to need to wear the wrap while out, I will always put it on before I leave the house. This saves me the time and hassle of trying to do it while out, especially if the kids are cranky and because it’s actually comfortable to wear, it’s not an issue while driving and wearing the seatbelt.
It stops your baby from fussing. Don’t ask us to explain how this works but Vanek would always fuss in other wraps or carriers. Even if I was at home and he was cranky and refusing to nap, I would put him in the wrap and he’d be asleep in a few minutes. We’re not sure if there’s some magic she put in the bamboo material or what, but this is a huge positive.
Beluga Baby: Our Minor Issues
It takes time to learn how to wrap it. Admittedly, it took more than a few times to learn how to wrap it comfortably. Thankfully, Haley has done a great job at providing tutorial videos to show you how to do it. Plus, she is super responsive to messages so if you message her with an issue, she will provide suggestions for you to make it easier or more comfortable.
It doesn’t hold bigger kids as comfortably. We’ve had 2 big boys so far. We didn’t have our Beluga Baby wrap when Nixon was born, but Vanek didn’t last in it longer than 6 months when he hit about 20 pounds. It just wasn’t as comfortable to wear him. We know moms who love wearing their wrap well past that weight so it’s not like it can’t be done but it wasn’t our preference and he started to not like it as much.
Beluga Baby Bottom Line
Do it. Go and but one right away, you won’t regret it. There are so many great things about this wrap, plus Haley has kept things as local and ethical as possible which means a lot to us. Baby wearing has been shown to be super healthy for babies as baby stays warm and close to mom or dad. Speaking of which, yes Kyle has worn it before and even he admits it’s super comfortable to wear. And even better, you can win a free Beluga Baby swaddle by visiting our latest Instagram post and entering in the comments.
Be sure to check out the Beluga Baby website and follow them on social media:
Be sure to follow us on Instagram to follow along throughout this series!
Never stop adventuring!
The last part of our Minimoc feature in our Going Local series is our interview with Amanda and Jeff Penner, the founders of Minimoc. The two of them were gracious enough to sit down with us and answer a some questions that we asked them during an interview one morning.
Amanda and Jeff were also gracious enough to bring some of their very first pairs of minimocs to share with us. Throughout the post we will share photos of the progression of the minimocs.
What is the story of Minimoc and how it started?
Amanda: The story we usually tell when people ask that is that we had leather scraps sitting around our house; when we got married Jeff hand stitched leather wallets for his groomsmen and he was at work and I was on summer vacation from being a TA (teaching assistant) for the Abbotsford district and I was playing around with the scraps. We had a bunch of friends having babies so I made that pair, the first pair there, and I sent him [Jeff] a picture and said “look” and we refined it a bit and started giving them away and then started getting requests from friends and then Jeff sort of jumped on it and was like “I’m gonna make a website.”
Jeff: Yeah and then we started dealing with e-commerce and getting into that world. It really picked up once we started doing markets. From some of those markets we got some wholesalers that allowed Amanda to leave her job.
Amanda: Yeah that was two and a half months in I just realized. I went back to work in September when school started. That was sort of like “what’s the worst that can happen?” I quit and it doesn’t work out and then I go and get another position; like that wasn’t really a huge thing but it felt huge at the time. When you [Jeff] quit your job it was like “alright, here we go!”
When you started, what was the goal? And what is the goal now?
Jeff: When we started the goal was just to support our family and doing that we would be satisfied. Now, the goal is running the business. There are certain levels we have to get to to keep it going and keeping that happening is one of the main things right now. As far as going into business and saying ‘we wanna be $100M a year and sell it then go vacation the rest of our lives,’ we’re not doing that. We’re in it more for a family business and making sure we’re happy and everyone around us is happy that’s working for us. It’s kind of an interesting place to be when you talk about hard set goals; of course we’ve got sales numbers we wanna match for doing better than last year but the main goal isn’t to become this massive company that’s just extracting as much dollar from our product as we can.
What was the hardest thing about getting this company off the ground?
Amanda: One of the first speed bumps that I recall was right before I quit my job. I would go to work, come home, sew, ship and then go to work and do all that. Then we started doing renos in our home; we live in a pretty small space, so we decided to close in our covered patio and that would be minimoc. We would get our employee to come to our home every day and sew and that’s a nice little company, that sounds great. Then we got our first very large wholesale order and we were like ‘this is not gonna work’ so we thought ‘okay do we find a company that already makes these and get them made for us or what do we do?’ and then within 3 weeks we moved into our first factory, a giant open space. For me that was the first big speed bump.
Jeff: We were lucky enough that we didn’t have kids at that time so it allowed us to put time into figuring out how to move out of house and into a warehouse space, that was the first hurdle we really had to do, other than that we would still be in our house plugging away at a maximum capacity.
Was there ever the thought of going the Dragon’s Den route or getting outside investment?
Amanda: It crossed our mind a few times when they were in town.
Jeff: Yeah but I don’t think that I would ever want to do that. It’s always been like ‘let’s own it’. It’s never really crossed our mind, I like to keep the control.
Where did the name ‘minimoc’ come from?
Amanda: That happened pretty quick. Thinking back we sat down one evening and went through a million different options.
Jeff: We were just naturally calling them ‘minimocs’ and we tried to find a name for it and it if you go back through my journal I was writing in at that same there are tons of different names and directions we could go for the name of the company and we ended up going for the simplest thing.
Amanda: It is kind of cool because when you think of something like ‘Kleenex’ or ‘Band-Aid’ it’s a tissue and that the brand, it’s a band aid and that’s a bandage. Now we hear people say ‘oh these are the minimocs’ when they’re not actually minimocs, but they mini mocs so it’s been used as a term like that.
Jeff: Minimoc is all one word so it takes it away from being mini mocs.
Amanda: Like Kleenex but inevitably that’s what people call them.
What other names were in consideration?
Jeff: We did some things with our last name and thinking about it now it wouldn’t even make sense.
What does the future look like for minimoc?
Jeff: The big thing is the Voyageurs that we’re coming out with and making sure that the shoes aren’t just functional for the kids but for the parents as well; that’s a main cornerstone in what we do. So, continuing with that style of shoe so we can serve the kids that have grown out of our soft sole shoe.
Considering where you are today, what are you most proud of?
Amanda: I feel proud of our factory and that we’re still going.
Jeff: Yeah, manufacturing in Canada and trying to find that has been tough. The challenge and the reason why we moved out of our house was that we tried to find factories that could do this here and they would have to bring in the same equipment that we’ve built our factory with over the years. So it wasn’t readily available to us. Garment manufacturing you can get in British Columbia, but leather manufacturing, shoe manufacturing, there’s nobody doing it on the scale we wanted to get to.
Amanda: And we can see why now, this is not easy.
Jeff: Building it ourselves, building a supply chain, and bringing it into Canada, there’s been a lot of learning there and I think that’s one thing that we’re pretty happy with and proud of.
Amanda: His former job was in process improvement so I think I would say almost every day there is a new improvement to some sort of process in our factory. Sometimes because I’ve been busy with the kids and everything and I’ll come in and I’ll go into the back and I haven’t been there in a while and I’m like ‘wow, okay, this is new, this is new, this is more efficient,’ it’s pretty cool.
How many employees do you have?
Jeff: We’re about 20 right now. So there are 4-5 people in the front office, all the rest are in the back doing things like cutting, sewing, and dealing with stock.
Amanda: And there’s some family in there, Jeff’s sister works with us full time and then her brother in law, and her cousin, and his parents are super involved.
Jeff: So it’s really a family business.
So everything is designed locally, manufactured locally and shipped from here?
Jeff: Yeah. Building a factory for the Voyageur shoes would have taken a huge investment and wasn’t something we could have done right out of the gate so those are made in China. I’m super heavily involved. I’ve been over there a number of times in the past year to work on design and look at the factories they’re being made in. I’m also learning a ton from that process as well, so I’m bringing that back to our own factories. China has been manufacturing at scale for the last 70 years and they provide that to the rest of the world so there’s a lot to learn from them that we can bring back to our own facility here in CAnada.
So is the plan to move the Voyageur manufacturing back here to Canada?
Amanda: It’s the dream
Jeff: It’s definitely on our minds and it’s the dream. A lot of things factor in to that based on what we can do and handle. The soft sole business is still growing so in order to keep that growing and focus on it in our own factory keeping the Voyageur in China or at another facility is something we need to do to protect our core business right now. There’s definitely whispers in the shoe industry that could bring more manufacturing back to Canada. There’s a lot of popularity right now with Adidas and the speed factory bring manufacturing closer to where the product is actually used so as we see that growing there might be some opportunities for us as well.
What steps do you take to ensure your product is local and ethical and that those remain a core part of your business?
Jeff: One of the major things is we reach as far back into our supply chain as we can. We make sure that we’re purchasing from factories that have good humanitarian practices, good environmental practices, and they’re form countries that have laws that have good human rights. That’s the first place we start and then once we get it to our factory we have complete oversight from how happy the people are to what they’re actually doing and then we make it here locally. Doing it locally gives us that really precise insight into how people in the process are actually doing. For the Voyageur shoes going to China and being in the factories was something we actually wanted to see. You hear a lot in the news about factories and subcontracting out; going there myself and seeing the factories, seeing the workers, it looks just like our own factory. The people are happy there. Learning about the culture and seeing the cities they live in has been pretty fascinating; it’s a different world over there but you can be happy there too.
How did you pick the Chinese factory that you ended up choosing?
Jeff: This comes down to who you know and through doing Minimoc we’ve had some people that have come to us and people we’ve met through association and throught those contacts we’ve found someone who is a Canadian who had been able to mentor me in getting into the shoe business. Meeting him was super pivotable for the business. When you meet someone who is willing to share their knowledge just for the greater good of the next generation it feels like more than a friendship. It’s been a really good mentorship, life changing for me. That’s really what’s coming into the core of the new products that we’re bringing in.
Where does all your leather come from?
Jeff: Most of our leather comes from Italy and America. Places where there are good practices. One of our suppliers, the CEO drinks out of the water at the end so they have $2-3M filtration systems for the water before it goes back into the environment and the guy is sitting there at the end of the tap and he drinks it.
Who is your ideal customer?
Amanda: You guys. When we go places and we see a mom before we see their kids we’re like ‘I bet you that kid is wearing minimoc’ and if they are we’re like ‘sweet!’ and if they’re not we’re like ‘we need to market better haha’. She’s probably tbe mom with the backpack diaper bag with two kids, busy and has her kids in some stylish local clothing and dressing her kids in something that looks good but is super functional.
What criticism have been brought against minimoc over the years?
Amanda: We definitely had a few people question why we decided to make the Voyageurs in China and we can explain to them what we explained to you.
Jeff: Yeah you have to move your business forward and we think with that there’s been some criticism to moving it over there to China but we couldn’t do that. It’s a product that everyone has been asking for, they want that next generation of shoe from us and as parents I think they appreciate that we’re designing the product so when we get those criticisms we can’t offer that product with what our company is doing. We can’t make the soft sole moccasins and shoes without going to China first. There’s that criticism that we’ve dealt with but I think people are accepting of it now that we’ve explained it to them. Other than that, it’s a ruthless world out there with customer service and day to day we’re reminded of how we can get better. We’re constantly trying to improve the customer service aspect of it and making sure our customers are successful with our product.
How does it make you feel when you see minimocs in public?
Amanda: It feels really good still, definitely doesn’t get old. Every once in a while where there is a big event somewhere we will keep a running tally. We were at the Berry Festival and every couple minutes we’re like “we’re up at 5, oh 7, oh I saw Oak, Driftwood, there’s Confetti.” It feel really good.
Jeff: Sometimes we’ll be at a place like the zoo and we’ll see a stroller walk by and Amanda might be 30 feet in front of me and as the person walks by she’ll be like *excited face* and I’ll see them walk past and they’re wearing Confetti or Narwhal.
Amanda: And we don’t show our face a ton on social media so sometimes they’ll just walk by and have no idea we’re associated with their children’s footwear but other times we’ll walk by and see the mom do a double take and then she’ll whisper to her husband and we’re like “yay haha”. It definitely feels good.
Jeff: One thing we wish we could do is interact with people more when that happens but it’s kind of weird to always just start with looking at the kid’s foot and then introduce yourself.
In honour of one of my favourite podcasts ever, How I Built This, how much of your success has been due to your skills and abilities and how much was because of luck?
Amanda: Initially, the product we decided to get into, looking back now, that’s luck. People buy one pair then they grow out of them then they’re back a few months later and they buy another pair then another pair. We could’ve stumbled upon something that you only need one of and the rest is an insane amount of hard work.
Jeff: It’s such a selfish question for me to answer because I feel like there’s a lot of hard work that goes into it so you want to reclaim that by saying it’s not luck, it’s all what we’ve done. I think there’s a certain amount of, I don’t know if you would call it luck but people gravitating towards your brand differently than anybody else’s or the brands that don’t build up in scale. It’s such a hard question to answer. I think that there’s some businesses where they’re making a great product and someone discovers them and boom, it happens all the time in the music industry.
Amanda: Timing was huge for us too. The way social media was at the time as well, we got into just when Instagram was small and growing. Our brand wasn’t perfection as first, now when you start a new business you need the perfect curated feed and everything just for anyone to even take a second look at you.
Jeff: We actually notice a lot of business now starting up and they’re people that don’t really have an Instagram following and it’s a beautifully curated Instagram feed. Back when we were starting that wasn’t even something you thought of first. Instagram didn’t even come until 2-3 months after we started. That social media part if pivotal to any business starting up now.
What year did you sell your first shoe?
Amanda: 2013. September 1, 2013 is when we say we really started. I think the end of August was when I made that first pair.
That was our Minimoc interview with Amanda and Jeff, the husband and wife founders of Minimoc. We want to send them a huge thank you for taking the time to share everything with us and sitting down with us. If you haven’t already, be sure to check them out online:
They’re having their Fall warehouse sale this Saturday and you’ll be sure to find us there. It starts at 10am in Abbotsford. You can find more info on Minimoc’s Instagram post. And if you want to know why warehouse sales are so great, you can read all about how we save tons of money at them.
Be sure to follow us on Instagram to be alerted about new posts throughout this series!
Never stop adventuring!
As we mentioned in our Introduction post for this series, we’re going to share all of our favourite companies in a variety of different kids categories. Minimoc is our favourite company for local and ethical kids footwear. Minimoc is a kids footwear company that started out by Amanda making moccasins out of scrap leather that Jeff used to make wallets for his groomsmen. Almost all of their products are still designed and manufactured at their factory in Abbotsford, BC.
Amanda and Jeff Penner are the husband wife team behind Minimoc and you can read what they have to say about themselves on the Minimoc About page; this post is all about why they’re our favourite footwear company for kids and the things we love about them.
Our boys have been wearing minimocs for 2 years now and we have mocs in all sizes that will continue to be worn by our future kids. That’s one of the best things about Minimoc is that their mocs are so well made that they will last well beyond just one kids. They also have mostly gender neutral designs and patterns but they also have great ‘boy’ and ‘girl’ coloured mocs as well so you won’t ever have a problem finding something for your little one. We’ve been super happy with the service we’ve received and the products we have. The mocs seem to never wear out; even the used pairs we’ve bought still look brand new!
Minimoc: What We Love
Our focus when we shop is to buy from companies that are local, ethical, and sustainable in the way they source, process, manufacture their products. Minimoc is our favourite company for footwear because they adhere to all of those qualities that we look for. We’ll save the details for the blog post about our interview with Amanda and Jeff, but everything they do is as ethical, local, and sustainable as they can. The best part though, is that everything is quality to top it all off. We’ve never actually had a pair of minimocs wear out. Besides the fact that everything Minimoc does is local, ethical, and sustainable, those aren’t the only things we love about them.
They’re local. That’s what this whole series is about and the fact they’re a husband and wife team makes it even cooler as that’s not often a dynamic you see in local businesses; often it’s the wife with the help of her husband but the fact Jeff is so involved is really neat.
They’re easy to get on and off. This is a very important quality of kids’ shoes because putting shoes on kids can be a huge hassle. Minimocs have a tab on the back of the shoes that allow you to pull them on easily. Taking them off is easy by just pulling the heel off and sliding the rest of the moc off the front of your kids’ foot. Sometimes you can get your kids’ pinky toe stuck in one side of the moc when putting it on but if you use two hands, one on each side of the moc, it’s much easier and you can avoid getting the pinky toe stuck. Another bonus, there isn’t specific shoes for left & right meaning it’s super quick to grab a pair and throw them on your kid as you head out the door.
Their leather is ethically sourced. Jeff explains this in detail in the next post where we interviewed them so we’ll save the details for then, but this was a really encouraging point to hear about in detail as leather is often of the the most unethically sourced materials.
They keep as much of their work local as they can. All of the mocs they make are made in the factory in Abbotsford but local employees. This means their employees are all getting fair wages which is great to see because they could easily move that work overseas to cut costs. To see their business also support the local economy by hiring local help is so great to see.
Their styles are classic and timeless. Almost all of their styles are simple plain colours that will never go out of style. Black shoes have never been out of style since even before we were born. They have cute patterns for certain seasons of the year of course, but the majority of their styles are classics that will be in style forever. Also, plenty of gender neutral options which we have personal opted for because we want to be able to pass them down through our kids and hopefully their kids too!
They genuinely listen to their customers feedback. The way the Voyageur shoe came to be was because the customers, you and I, were asking them for a more sturdy shoe that can be worn outdoors. They don’t just send out a survey or ask for feedback for the heck of it, they take it to heart and listen to what we have to say.
Their shoes can be worn all year long. Even as we get ready to approach winter, our kids wear the mocs inside as slippers and even if we’re going over to a friends house we put them in them to wear as slippers there too. Then the Voyageurs can we worn whenever we need to go outside and for playtime.
They don’t make the kids’ feet stink. One thing we were worried about with wearing shoes barefoot is that the shoes and the kids’ feet will stink; well, they don’t. This was such a relief to realize because stinky feet are not okay in our household.
Minimoc: Our Minor Issues
There are only two things we had an issue with when it comes to Minimoc:
Learning how to put the mocs on takes time. Like anything, the more you do it the better you get at it. Learning how to put the mocs on so you don’t get your kids’ toes stuck took several tries before we could easily get them on. Putting the mocs on with two hands, one on each side, and pulling wide when putting them on was a game changer for us.
The Voyageurs can aggravate sensitive skin. This is probably just an issue for a very small percentage of kids out there but for our boys, who have very sensitive skin and also have some eczema, the Voyageur shoes aggravated Nixon’s Achilles’ area of his skin and left some marks. This can be easily combatted by putting socks on, but if you decide to do this we recommend buying the Voyageurs a size bigger to account for the socks.
Minimoc is a fantastic company. We had to get pretty picky to find anything we didn’t like and one of those things will only apply to very few of you. We can not recommend them enough and we will continue to be lifelong customers of theirs. If you have not had a chance to get yourself a pair of minimocs, their online warehouse sale starts today! Hurry over there before everything is gone, though. We shared all about why warehouse sales are our favourite earlier in this series so check that post out to learn how you can save big money. And even better, you can win a free pair of minimocs by visiting our latest Instagram post and entering in the comments.
Come back later this week to read our interview with Amanda & Jeff! And be sure to follow them on social media below!
Be sure to follow us on Instagram to be alerted about new posts throughout this series!
Never stop adventuring!
As we go through this series, some of you might be thinking, “why bother buying local?” or “why does it matter where I shop?”. Those are questions that we asked before we started buying local as well. We used to just find the cheapest thing we could that looked stylish and that’s what we picked. Stores like H&M, Zara, Old Navy, and the likes were frequented by us. But as we started to go local we quickly saw why local clothing was so expensive and why the clothes we were buying were so cheap.
Going Local Pays Workers A Fair Wage
By buying local, we are giving our dollars to support local workers who we know are making a fair wage. As we mentioned in Our Going Local Journey post, we live in a country with labour laws and minimum wages so we can be sure that the workers are being treated well both financially and with the conditions surrounding their work. We are also supporting the business which in turn supports the local economy by providing jobs, tax money, etc.
If we were to buy from the places we mentioned above, we would be supporting fast fashion and the businesses that pay workers very little, provide horrible working conditions, make the workers work long hours, and provide a very poor quality of life. The way they get around this is by contracting the work out to factories and the factories in turn pay the workers. This way the big brands can say that they are paying the factories a fair amount and the factories are the ones that are providing the poor working conditions, low wages, long hours, etc. But the big brands are cutting the factories bottom line so much that the factory has no choice but to do what they do to/for the workers. If the big brands provided proper funding to the factories, then they could in turn pass on the benefits to the workers. If you want a great movie to watch that is both informative, entertaining, and infuriating, watch The True Cost. It was the best movie we’ve watched on this topic and it really solidified for us, why we are on the journey that we are on. Did you know that because of the volume some of the big brands are buying in, it would only cost 20 cents more per shirt from these big brands to pay an Indian worker a living wage?
Going Local Keep The Environment Clean
There are 3 areas to be concerned about when picking an ethical company to buy from: the wages they pay their workers, the way they source their materials, and the impact the products have on the environment Most of the local companies have either kept their work as local as possible and when not possible have gone to certified ethical factories in foreign countries. Most local companies have this information right on their website and if they don’t, a quick email to them should get you the information you’re looking for.
In terms of environmental cleanliness, local clothing companies have decided to produce their clothing with either bamboo or organic cotton. While neither of these materials are perfect, they are the best two options out there in terms of their environmental footprint being as small as possible. Other environmental concerns when buying clothing includes the types of dyes that are used, what (if any) chemicals are used to manufacture the materials, how much water is used in their processes and how much of it can be reused, and how much waste there is at the end of the manufacturing process. When companies that use leather in their products you need to be concerned with the tanning process, water waste, and the dyes used.
Bamboo and organic cotton are both fairly low in their impact on the environment which is great, but again neither is perfect. To get the bamboo as soft as it is some chemicals are used and depending on the specific process, sometimes the chemicals are wasted as much as 50%, some process can recoup over 90% to be reused it just depends on which process the company is using. While organic cotton, reduces soil damage, used less water and uses overall less energy than conventional cotton, it does however have a lower yield which means that in order to produce as much material as conventional cotton it has to use more energy, water, etc to produce the same amount as conventional cotton.
Bamboo, organic cotton, and leather are our go to materials we look at when buying due to their low impact on the environment. However, we do encourage you to get in contact with your favourite local companies and ask them about their processes and what initiatives they are taking to reduce their impact on the environment.
Going Local Makes You Feel Better
By buying from more local companies who are ethical and sustainable, we feel good about it. Whenever I shop at H&M and the likes, I know why their prices are so low; it’s because someone else on the other side of the world is literally slaving away for pennies to make it for me. It doesn’t feel good when you actually think about where your clothing is coming from and who is making it and what conditions they’re making it under.
By lowering the impact on the environment, and making sure workers are being paid a fair wage it feels good to be buying local.
Lastly, we have boys who don’t like to stay clean for very long which means we wash their clothes often. Even with all the washing and drying (always hang dry local clothes), these clothes look as good as they did day one. Local clothing is simply made better and thus lasts longer. So while you might be spending more, you won’t have to spend that much for a long time.
Next week we will feature our first company, any idea who it might be?
What is the most important reason to you that justifies buying more local clothing?
As some of you know, over the past year we’ve put a very conscious effort into buying our kids’ clothes from local and ethical companies as much as we can. It has been difficult as we haven’t been able to find everything local – more on that in our next post – and it is definitely more expensive than going the alternative route of buying whatever from wherever the price is best. We have built up a time capsule wardrobe for each of the boys and we have decided to share our journey and highlight some of the companies that we are most comfortable buying from. Join us on this adventure we’re calling Going Local.
Going Local is going to be a series all about the journey we’ve undertaken to buy as much as we can from local companies who hold themselves to ethical standards. We chose kids clothing and accessories to start the series because it’s a category most of you can relate to as you have kids and we see many of you at the sales and on social media posting about a lot of the same companies we will be featuring in this series. There are tons of businesses out there that are dedicated to kids clothing and accessories and it can be very hard to differentiate between which companies are just local and which are being ethical as well. For Going Local, every business that we will feature in this series we have personally vetted and bought from before we started this series to ensure they met our standard of local and ethical.
What Can You Expect From ‘Going Local’?
Over the course of this series you can expect us to share posts about our journey of going local, our favourite brands we put our kids in, and interviews with the founders of some of these brands. In Our Journey, which will be the next post, we will document our journey in going from international corporate brand our kids used to wear to local, ethical brands that our kids now wear. We will share everything from how much money we spent making the switch, ways we saved money, how we keep track of what we have and what we need, and why we decided to make the switch.
When it comes time for us to write about our favourite brands since going local, we will do it in two parts: the first post will be all about why we love the brand and the second part will be our interview with the founders. The first posts about the company will include which products we like specifically from that brand, why we like them over others in that category, and how moving our kids into their product has impacted us in every way. In the interview posts, it will simply be a transcript, with some commentary, of our interview. We will ask them questions about their journey, what has gone well and what has gone wrong along the journey, why they felt the need to start the company, what criticism has the company faced, and what the future looks like for the company. We are very excited about these interviews and are excited to bring the personality of the brand and the people behind them, to you.
What Categories Will Be Featured In Going Local?
All the companies we are going to feature will be local to the Vancouver and Fraser Valley regions. The categories we will be featuring are:
- Baby Wearing
- Brick & Mortar Store
- Online Store
We hope you’re as excited about this Going Local series as we are. Along the way, we want to hear your story, too. Either in the comments here or on Instagram, let us know your experience with each company that we feature.
Stay tuned for our journey in the next post.
Do you have any guesses as to which company we’ve chosen in each category?