Have you ever wanted to try a new craft but thought you were past the point that you could learn how? Julia Meyers, the owner of Baboo Bee Children’s Clothing, shows that not only is it never too late, but it’s also possible to turn it into a thriving business.
Julia, who is the mom of Elsa Marie, 4; and Bennett Martin, 2, started her business after teaching herself how to make clothes with her sewing machine just a couple years ago! I don’t want to give too much away in this intro because she’s going to share her story with you below, but I am blown away by how quickly she went from having barely used her sewing machine to setting up her online shop. Not only that, her clothes are absolutely adorable. (I’m eyeing a sweatshirt to get Eve for her birthday next month.)
Julia’s story just goes to show that not matter what you think your skills are, it is always possible to learn a new craft and the importance of having a creative outlet.
Tell us a little bit about your business and how you got started. What inspired you to start a handmade business?
I make children’s clothing using ethically and sustainably produced organic cotton. I make hoodies, leggings, infant sleepers, loungewear/jammie sets, and hats. I have had my shop open for just about a year now.
I have always been creatively inclined but didn’t know how to sew very well, so I never really imagined trying to make a garment from scratch. After my son was born I purchased a few pairs of leggings both from a store and from some handmade shops online. After looking at their basic construction I had this random idea to attempt to make a pair from an old shirt I had laying around. I had no idea what I was doing or even why because I was happy to just buy them but something in me really wondered if I could do it. My brain just wouldn’t let go of the thought.
So I dusted off the sewing machine that my mom bought me years before (that I had used maybe 2 times) and went for it. I constructed my first pair of toddler leggings for my daughter Elise (aka: Baboo) in just under 2 hours. I pulled the seams apart and put them back together so many times as I figured out what to do.
I was giddy with excitement and my husband was completely impressed (but not surprised, he likes to say)! So I made another pair the next day for my son, who was around 6 months old at the time. They got so many compliments that I started making more. I watched YouTube videos and consulted with a local seamstress for some tips. My friends started asking if they could pay me to make them some pants for their kids, so I did. Then, after barely 6 months I decided to put up a website for my friends to look at and “order” from. I got an order from a girl who I didn’t know and looked at my husband and said, “What do I do?” He said, “Make them!” So I did. Right after I shipped them off to her, I realized I needed to either go for this or stop while I was ahead. Everything in me just knew this was right for me so I went for it and haven’t looked back since!
The name Baboo Bee comes from our daughter, Elise. We had a foster daughter who was with us until just before our first biological daughter, Elise, was born. While I was pregnant, our year-old foster daughter couldn’t say “baby” and instead said “babe. That name stuck after she was born and is still sticking to this day. When I made Elise’s first pair of pants she ran around the house saying “You made these for me! Baboo Bee!!!” My business name was born.
What do you like best about having your own business? What are some of your biggest challenges?
What I like most is the flexibility I have working for myself and working from home. This allows me to still be a wife and mother, first and foremost, and to schedule work around those priorities. If the kids get sick, I can move around my schedule to accommodate that and not have to “call in sick.” My husband is a pastor, so working for myself also allows me to attend services, mission and service projects, and available when people are in need. It has even allowed me to take a missions trip overseas and bring some of my clothing there to children and families in need!
Some of the biggest challenges come from the actual “business side,” which is a whole new world for me. Thankfully, I married a guy with a Bachelors in Business so I’ve got a great partner in all of this as I learn my way through it. But it really has been a challenge to learn all of that as I go. I’ve made some rookie mistakes but have been determined each time to learn from it and move on with even more knowledge and determination. I’ve also really enjoyed learning from others who have gone before me in growing businesses themselves.
Another challenge is that sometimes it’s hard to say “no” to taking on more than you can really handle. You think “Oh, this is so great; I’m getting so many orders!” But if you’re so busy that you can’t fulfill them at the highest quality (or even fulfill them at all!) then it’s not good for business. Figuring out how to create realistic timelines and workloads has been a big learning curve for me.
How do you manage being a business owner and being a parent? What tips would you offer for other moms thinking about starting their own business?
This is a tough one, since the answer is so different for every person. I think I’m constantly learning how to manage balancing business and parenting because it changes as the needs of my children change. Right now my kids are active and need me to be hands on with a lot of the stuff they are doing. Because of this I only get creative and work during nap time, after they have gone to bed, or when my husband is home to be with them. At the times when my workload is really heavy, I hire a babysitter and sometimes even a housekeeper, too!
For my husband and I, communication is absolutely crucial. We have to be able to sit down and talk about practical things like household and parenting obligations, and how to divide them to provide time for work. If a babysitter and/or housekeeper can fit into your budget then decide on how frequently. If those helps are not budget-friendly, then brainstorm about ideas together on how you can get help you need when you need it. Maybe you have family around who can step in and help you out with childcare, which is such a blessing when that’s an option!
I would also say – be patient with yourself and give yourself a break from time to time, too! You can’t do it all, even if society makes it seem like you should. It takes time to grow a successful business, to raise healthy children, and maintain your own health and sanity in the process. Give yourself space to learn, grow, and breathe through the process.
How does having these creative outlets benefit you in your role as a mom? How do you involve your children in your creative work?
I get so much satisfaction and enjoyment out of what I do, which I think is so important for our children to see. I want my kids to grow up seeing me do something I love in hopes that it inspires them to do the same. The process of sewing this clothing is often very relaxing to me, too, and it’s so crucial for moms to have that kind of outlet. Earlier this year I did a “One for One” buying event. For every item purchased, I made and donated a pair of leggings to babies and children in the Dominican Republic (where I went for a mission trip in March). This caused my workload to increase significantly, but it also created a great discussion with my kids about how so many children don’t have clothes and that we can help to change that even with just one pair of pants.
Believe it or not, I often get the kids involved by asking my daughter for her own design advice! She helps me pick out fabrics she loves and even helps me choose fabric combinations based off her own 4-year-old preferences. I love that, since that is the crowd I want to please! I love watching their responses to the fabric swatches or photos I get when I am buying. If they don’t love them, I don’t buy them. They also both help me vacuum my studio, take out trash, sort through fabric scraps to save the pieces I can still use, and play with those that I can’t.
And, of course, my kids are my most important models! I think I’ve gotten more business through conversations with strangers who love the kids’ clothes than through any other source. Elise and Bennett get so excited every time I bring them a new hoodie or pair of pants to try on, and they love telling people that their mom made their clothes. Free advertising and happy kids – can’t beat that!
When you are not working on your business, what do you like to do with your time?
I love anything that I get to do with my husband and kids together, be it a trip to the beach, a day at the park or even just a day at home, I truly love to be around them. I love to spend time with family and friends, seeing new places, meeting new people and learning more about the world. I love sushi and all types of Asian cuisine so anytime we can go try new restaurants or dishes I am all for it! Going out and serving people in our community is one of my favorite things to do, too, especially with our kids. I enjoy playing guitar and singing, going on walks with good friends. I also love photography and I am often that person taking “too many pictures” wherever we are (though everyone loves reliving the memories later).