Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Moms on Mondays - Sara from Vivie and Ash

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I discovered Sara's shop when Lemon was part of her brand shoot with Qiana K. Photography.  I instantly fell in love with the pieces, and knew I wanted this mama as part of this series.  She is so talented, has such inspiration behind her business (to be home with her kiddos!) and makes the cutest clothes.  Read her post below and then go shop!  :)

Photo by Qiana K. Photography

What is the name of your shop and how can we find you?  

Vivie & Ash is my website and I am also on Facebook and Instagram

Tell us about what you make/sell in your shop. 

I make children's clothing using a lot of organic fabrics in both fun prints and solid colors, that are meant to mix and match. Since launching my shop, one of my favorite things is sourcing fabrics that coordinate so that buyers have the option of buying a complete outfit if they want. Especially with separates like our tops and bottoms, I want parents to have the option of easily grabbing two things out of the dresser that look great together, or can be paired up with things you already have so that you end of with lots of outfit options from one purchase. 

All images above by Qiana K. Photography.

How/why did you start making these products and open this shop?

To be completely honest, I needed a job. Well sort of . . . I desperately wanted to be able to stay home with our two small children. I worked full time out of the home after we had our first child and I loved my job, had great benefits, and there was a lot of potential; but it was awful for me to be away from our son. I felt like I was missing out on so much! My husband and I spent a lot of time talking about what we were going to do once our second child was born. We didn't have any family in town, so full time daycare was going to be the only option so we ended up deciding that I wasn't going to go back. 

I had always thought about having an Etsy shop but I didn't know how to sew! I had a few part time job options but none of them worked out, we still would have had to have childcare and it just didn't make financial sense. I desperately wanted a job where I could set my own hours and do anything work related with our kids in tow. I ended up teaching myself to sew and opened an Etsy shop, selling primarily leggings. A year later, I launched our website and was making just about every type of garment: Shirts, pants, dresses, hats, bloomers and skirts. I never ever dreamed I'd be able to come as far as I have in two years. 

How long have you been in business? 

A little over two years, I started in January 2014. 

What is your background (college/career/etc.)? 

I was a professional ballet dancer, straight out of high school for 5 years and spent pretty much my entire youth in the dance studio. When I was dancing professionally, I changed companies almost every year, moved a lot, and I was just tired of the whole thing and really got the itch to go to school. Dancing was an amazing experience, I was able to do so much and travel in ways that would have otherwise not been possible. I met so many amazing people, from all over the world, but when I was done, I was just done. I went to Business school and got my degree at the Indianapolis campus of Indiana University. 

Tell us a little bit about your family. 

My husband and I went to high school together but lost track of each other during my dancing years. I moved back home and worked in a restaurant to save some money to go to New York for a bit, when I was still dancing. My (now husband) came into the restaurant while I was working, and we reconnected and have been together ever since! He has been very supportive of my venture and was really the one that encouraged me to stay home with the kids. We have two little ones that have inspired the shop in so many ways. Asher is five and half and will start Kindergarten in the fall, and Vivienne will be three this summer. 

How does this company help your family?  Or you?

We have come to really rely on the income from the shop to pay bills, and also for extracurricular activities for the kids: soccer, gymnastics, karate, etc. (Not all at the same time!) We stay pretty busy! Aside from financially, it really helps me keep my sanity I think. While there are many times, sometimes daily, that it seems like "too much," I am happiest when I am busy. I think I am a better mom because of my shop. I love that I have a creative outlet, and it's important to me that I am showing our kids that you can do whatever you want if you put your mind to it. Also, that it's possible to start your own business and work from home, if that's what you want to do! They might not fully understand that aspect yet, but I think they're starting to and they do understand that sewing is my work and it's how I contribute to our finances. They also understand that the reason we're able to stay home and be together all the time is because I started this business, and that the alternative is that I work outside the home and then someone else has to take care of them. I think it's important that they understand that even at their age, because we all love the set up we have, even if it isn't always easy. 

Did you ever think you'd be doing this?  What did you think you'd be doing instead?

When I was going to business school I pictured myself at a corporate job wearing a business suit in some sort of marketing profession. I didn't have kids at the time, but I just thought when I did that I would drop them off at 7:30, pick them up at 5:30 and repeat the next day. I had absolutely no idea how being a mom would change and affect me. I didn't want to quit working, but I didn't want to be away from our kids. For a very, very long time I have wanted to own my own business, and though I have always loved clothes and fashion, I never ever dreamed this would be the business I'd end of up having. 

Does anyone help you with your shop? 

The only help I have right now is with my wholesale orders. but I'm hoping to change that soon. 

How do you find time to run your shop and create products? 

That is probably the biggest struggle. If being a business owner and work from home mom has taught me one thing, it is to be flexible. I might start out thinking one product will sell well and it ends being something different, so I run with it. That is kind of true with daily life too, I get up thinking my schedule is going to be one way, and it ends up being something totally different. I am one of those people that always thinks they have so much to do and that it's never going to get done. But, it always gets done, one way or another. 

I work almost every night after dinner, once my husband is home from work. I work a lot on the weekends right now, which I would love to be able to change within the next year because it cuts into our family time. And, on top of those hours, I work whenever I can during the day. Some days the kids are ok with it and sometimes it just doesn't work and that's ok too. When I am not working at home, we make the most of it by going to do something fun and taking advantage of the fact that I have a very flexible schedule. My schedule has changed so much since I first opened because we don't have anyone in the house that naps anymore and because I am a lot busier. 

What do you love about this businesses? 

I love kids and I love clothes, so in that regard it's a perfect fit. For as long as I can remember I have always been drawn to things that were not mainstream, and this small shop community is exactly that. I have totally fallen in love with it. There is so much talent out there, people that are creating things that just absolutely amaze me, so many inspiring stories of success, so much support and people rooting for each other; not just in business but in motherhood too. And then, there's the idea that when I started this business, I never dreamed I'd be creating things that parents would want to use for special occasions so I love that too. Getting to be a tiny part of that first birthday, or fifth, or Christmas traditions . . . it kind of gives me goosebumps just thinking about it. As a parent I know how special those moments are, so it really makes me incredibly happy to see those things unfold through social media. That makes me think it's more than just clothes, it's a small part of a family's memories.   

What is the most challenging part of this business? 

For me, personally, I think my biggest challenge has been creating a cohesive brand. I have a very eclectic taste so it has been difficult for me to decide what exactly I want to do with my brand. It's just been a learning process, and with each season I feel like I get a little closer to where I want to be. 

Where do you see your shop in the future? 

I always wanted to be a handmade shop, I have no desire to get away from that. I take a lot of pride in being a handmade shop, but I'm going to have to have help sewing very soon. I can't do it all, and there are so many aspects of growing the shop that I would like to focus on that aren't possible when the sewing takes up so much time. So, I just want to keep growing the business and be able to focus on designing, and some of the other things, that I just don't have time for right now. I want to be a shop that parents come back to time and time again, starting with the newborn phase until they outgrow what we make!

Tell us your favorite product or your most favorite thing you've created? 

I actually really love this collection that is in the shop right now, SS16. I am busier than ever and it's kind of funny because, for the first time in two years, I really love the look of everything I'm making. I feel like, for the first time, I just really went with my heart, stopped worrying about what anyone else was doing or whether anyone would like what I was doing, and just went with my heart and it has paid off. My favorite piece in the shop is probably the Floral Dreams Dress. 

Do you have any advice for future mom-entrepreneurs? 

Just go for it. If you want to do something just start and see where it takes you. If you're loving what you're doing, don't give up. There have been some really hard times in the last two years, there have been many many times that I felt like I was working for nothing. Financially everything was going back into the business. If someone would have told me three years ago that I would work THIS hard for the amount of money I'm making I would have laughed, I never would have signed up. Finally, it is starting to pay off because I just kept believing I could get there, and this was the right thing for my family. 

There's a saying that goes around a lot, "remember why you started" - it is so hard when you get caught up in the craziness. I started for our kids and that's hard to forget when they are literally at my side almost all of the time. I feel like if anything will light a fire under your ass to go after your dreams it is being a mom. There is nothing in the world that could motivate me more than the happiness and well being of my kids. 

What are some of YOUR favorite shops/products, besides your own? 

Oh my word . . . there are sooo many: Crew & Lu, Duchess and LionThief & Bandit, Kid + Kind, Rylee & Cru and many many more! 

Thank you Sara, it was a pleasure to have you and get to know you and your shop!

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