The Story of Little Kims
by Christine Kim
The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step...
When you read stories about brands in articles or magazines, you usually only hear the cliff notes version of how they started and how they achieved such success. You're often left wondering what it was really like, and how exactly they went from zero to where they are today.
I've decided to finally begin this blog --- it's a little late in starting -- a little over 2 years into this journey of building this brand, but better late than never... right?
In this blog, I've decided to make it a little more personal than the blogs you see on brand websites out there. Rather than trying to give you parenting advice, of which I am no expert, although I have my own philosophies, I've decided instead to share with you all the stories in between the beginning and the end of building a brand.
I'll share the moments of inspiration, the struggles, the milestones achieved, and feature amazing people I meet along the way... to give you deeper insight into what it really takes to build a brand.
Little Kims is still a work-in-progress, and like many entrepreneurs, I wish I was farther along, so I have to remind myself that this brand is still just a toddler. There are many more years to come. I'll share with you the journey that it has taken to get me to where I am today, and where we are going. I have big visions for its future.
It has been a very, very long road for me in trying to build this business. It's not just the 2+ years you see here of when we've actually been "in business." There were many, many years before that trying to figure out which business to start, with several failed starts before starting this one.
And of course, I live a life just like other parents, where a lot of "life" gets in the way of business. Mom solopreneurs have a lot to juggle, and balancing it all is no small feat. If you are a mompreneur out there, just know that I get you! Kudos for even going down this road. We're in this together!
So, here begins the story...
Like many brands, I started this children's brand with a vision.
It was a simple vision to fill a void I saw in the market. I wanted a modern children's brand with designs that were more stylish than I was seeing out in the market, and one that was eco-friendly.
After giving birth to my baby girl, as I shopped for baby items, I had a hard time finding items I liked. As a product and fashion designer, I thought I would be able to bring some elevated designs into this baby market (which was then saturated with neon colors and clip-art type graphics and prints), while also producing products in an environmentally and socially conscious way.
Little Kims began with a design + sustainability mission.
Good design, quality products, and sustainability are our guiding principles.
Why care about the environment?
While studying product design at the Institute of Design, I learned just how much a designer's decisions on materials used for a product could have detrimental effects on the environment if they chose something toxic. Product designers design for mass production, after all. Shouldn't they be responsible for where all those products end up? Or at least make decisions that would be less detrimental to our Earth?
In business school, while taking an Environmental Management class, I learned about running a sustainable enterprise using a model of sustainability that involved economic viability, social equity, and environmental impact. I resolved that one day, when I started my own business, I would keep everything I had learned about sustainability at the forefront of my business as a social-eco-entrepreneur.
It seems as though life has taken me on a journey of learning about the state of manufacturing practices, and this time it was in fashion.
After grad school and working in tech and user experience, I decided to go back to school once more to do something more creative with my hands and something more 3D than the 2D digital world I was living in. This led me to a series of synchronistic events that led my husband and I to a big move to New York City to embark new career paths for the both of us. I ended up studying fashion design at Parsons and fulfilled my dream to learn how to sew like a pro and to be able to make my own clothes.
It was here in fashion school that I learned about the detrimental effects of the fashion industry, not only on the environment with tons of textile waste and pollution from factories, but also the negative impact it had on people with sweat shop labor and the horrible conditions some factory workers have to work in... some without being paid overtime pay, and others enduring abuse to deliver faster, cheaper, with greater work output.
In 2013, the Savar Building in Bangladesh (also known as Rana Plaza) that housed factories collapsed, killing over 1100 people and injuring ~2500 people. Learning of this tragic event ripped my heart out. I mourned the tragedy and I decided that one day, when I created my own fashion brand, I would be sure that those that worked for me were well cared for.I also heard of the stories of factory workers collapsing and dying out of sheer exhaustion from over-working.
How can an industry promote these types of working conditions? It is a version of modern day slavery, that perpetuates the cycle of poverty and abuse... it is just unacceptable. The problem begins with fast fashion, and wanting things faster and cheaper, to the point of squeezing factories into pay below living wage to their workers. I resolved to create a company that made sure to take care of the well-being of our employees and workers.
The Birth of Little Kims
The beginning of Little Kims took many years before it finally began. The idea to create a childrenswear line was seeded while I was studying fashion design at Parsons while pursuing a career change. I was pregnant towards the end of the program, and gave birth shortly after graduating.
In the beginning, I thought I could take care of my baby full-time and build a new business. Boy, was I wrong. I was a new mom. I knew NOTHING about taking care of babies.
Taking care of my baby was all consuming. My baby had day-night confusion. She slept all day and was awake all night. I was breastfeeding, and she refused to take a bottle. I was tethered to her with no break in sight.
This was my new mom life.
Balancing Motherhood and Starting a Business
For those who have been able to build a business while taking care of a newborn, you are my hero! I wasn't able to do it. During naps, it was chores. The moment I decided to focus on work, my daughter would wake up wailing.
The reality is that when you are a new mom, it's impossible to juggle it all. Everything you are doing is brand new. It's physically demanding, and emotionally draining, and you lose yourself in the struggle. All you can dream about is sleep.
This was my reality, and so, I postponed this dream...
It was 6 years later before I finally launched this business. There were several other business that I tried to launch in between while dealing with some health issues, and even ended up going to culinary school before starting this business. I decided to put the other businesses on hold to focus on the one that would make the most sense for the life stage I was in, which was kids and babies.
Once I decided to pursue this direction, it was still an uphill journey. Life throws so many curveballs at you, and I had to power through each of them to really get this business off the ground. From health issues, a big move, surgery, being a chauffeur to my daughter's school and class schedule, and going through a death in my immediate family, it was definitely not easy getting this business off the ground. And then, as soon as I was about to launch, I was pregnant again.
But, I did launch, fatigued and pregnant, and made the most of the time and energy I had.
My point is... it's not easy starting a business or being a parent. It takes a lot of energy, learning, work, patience, and tons of grit. It's ok to go slow, as long as you don't quit.
Parents are Superheros
If you are reading this, you are most likely a parent. I know that life is not easy. Being a parent was the hardest thing I've ever had to do, superseding my dual masters degrees (which was incredibly intense and hospitalized me from over-working) and even pulling the many, many all nighters in fashion school. Have you watched Project Runway? Yes, it's really like that!
But still, being a mom is the best and most rewarding thing I've ever done, hands down.
If you're new on the parent journey, give yourself some grace... it's definitely not an easy journey. Take care of yourself, and if your dreams are on hold, just know that your time is coming. Right now, the little ones need you. This stage won't last forever, even though some days it does feel like time passes so slowly. They grow so quickly when you look back, and you'll miss the moments when they were very little.
All parents are my heros. I'm always inspired by the dedication of parents. It's hard. You don't get a break. And you're sleep deprived.
I get it. I've been there.
This brand was created for you.
My hope is that our products make your day a little brighter, whatever you are going through.
Cute babies and kids in adorable designs can put a smile on anyone's face, no? It did for me, at least. Our products are designed for you to brighten your day!
Sending you lots of love on your journey. ❤️
P.S. Leave me a note to let me know you were here. I'd love to hear from you in the comments below!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world;
indeed, it's the only thing that ever has.
— Margaret Mead
What's in a Name?
Author Christine Kim / Category Behind the Scenes / Published: Apr-27-2019