Last month I was poking around Etsy (I love that that counts as working!) searching for back-to-school items when I came across an adorable lunch bag from Island Picnic. After a little more looking around their shop and I realized that they made an array of beautiful, adorable, and functional environmentally-friendly products for kids and home. One of the things I like to do when I come across an Etsy shop that I like is to find out more about the story behind the shop and the makers. Instantly I felt connected to this mother and daughter (and granddaughter!) team, Leah, Janis, and Jillian, and the story of why they started their shop (which you will read about in just a moment).
Although I haven’t talked about it much here, over the past few years I have been making the move to be more conscious of what I put into and on my body, especially since becoming pregnant. I’ve made the switch from using commercial cleaners to mostly making my own (and I’ve discovered that vinegar is just about the most magical liquid on earth, perhaps just after water), am very particular about what soaps and beauty products I will use both for myself and especially Eve, and try as much as possible to eat food that organic and/or locally sourced (though, I’ll admit, I’ve got a ways to go in this department….curse you, sweet tooth!)
That is why I was so struck by Island Picnic’s story, and Leah was very sweet to allow me to interview her today on my blog and share a little bit about it with you today.
How did you get started making eco-friendly products for children and home?
It all started back in 2006 when my daughter, Jillian, was diagnosed with multiple severe food allergies. It changed our lives drastically. Her allergies were (and still are) so severe that just a touch of milk residue, for example, will cause hives, itching and discomfort – while ingesting even a trace amount results in anaphylactic shock. For nearly two years, I tried to figure out why she, and so many other kids, had these allergies and what I could do to help her now and prevent them in other children I might have the future.
All the research about the rise in allergies, asthma, ADHD and autism (called the 4 A’s) pointed to the toxins in our environment that just weren’t there a few decades ago. Pesticides sprayed on foods and crops – cotton, in particular – harsh chemicals we use to clean our homes, etc. In short, we are breathing and ingesting tons of harmful toxins each day, and it’s breaking down our bodies.
First, we cleaned out our own environment, and then we decided we wanted to help others do the same. We wanted to provide a 100% safe, non-toxic and allergy-free alternative for everyday items you and your family use. And we wanted to do so with style!
What is the story behind your shop’s name?
My mom, Janis, and I work out of our shared home on Anna Maria Island in Florida. We love the island lifestyle and all that it brings – sunshine, beach days, biking around town, relaxing in the shade… So that’s where “Island” comes from. And “Picnic” is because we make a variety of things that all go together, much like a picnic basket full of yummy eats!
What do you like most about having your own creative business? What do you find most challenging?
Honestly, what I love the most about having my own business is that I can work from home and be around my kids. I set my own schedule, and sometimes that’s hard to stick to, but it does allow for a freedom that not everyone gets.
The most difficult part is that I don’t know many others with a business like ours, so the advice I get is minimal. We have had to learn the hard way and make every mistake possible!
What inspires you to create?
I love to go out paddleboarding or kayaking with some of my friends. We like to take a morning off and explore the Gulf of Mexico or the bay and canals around our homes. It’s during times like those that I can really relax and soak up the peaceful island atmosphere. That’s the best time for my mind to get going in a creative way.
What do you think motivates others to buy handmade?
These days, it can be hard to find anything that isn’t mass produced, especially in another country – and we don’t always know how it’s made or what it’s made of. With handmade items, you know what you are getting, and you know there’s a real person on the other side that took time and care to make your item with love.
What is your favorite handmade item you have bought or received?
I found an amazing set of jewelry organizers on Etsy a few years back. I love a good organizational system, and this one has worked perfectly for me for years. It’s a picture frame converted into an earring holder and a wooden necklace stand. Love them!
When you are not working on your business, what do you like to do with your time?
Spending time with my family is #1. I have two kids, ages 9 and 5. We love to go to Disney World for a weekend here and there. That’s our favorite family pastime. Always has been, ever since I was little!
What is something people might not know about you?
As healthy as our business is, and as we try to be in our personal lives, I have a major weakness for macaroni and cheese! I will eat any brand, any kind, anytime of day. Unfortunately (fortunately?), because of my daughter’s severe dairy allergy, I don’t have it nearly as often as I’d like… but that’s probably not a bad thing!
What is one piece of advice you would offer to others with their own creative business?
Ask anyone who *might* be able to help you for advice – you never know when someone will say something amazing!
Thanks so much for joining me on my blog, Leah, and be sure to check out her shop!
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