20 tips from an organised person with two kids and a small biz

Some days you just have to 'ride the beast' that is a day with two small children...

Some days you just have to ‘ride the beast’ that is a day with two small children…

I often get asked, ‘How do you find the time?’

Honestly? I don’t know. But here are some tips I have used recently to get some things done.
I have two babies and a small business called Outie making knocker frocks, illustrations and more.  My children are small – one is nearly three and the other is one (and they are both still in nappies… )
1) Make more coffee than you need in the morning and keep it in a thermos for later in the day.
2) Use a reusable travel mug in case your kids dictate that you won’t get time to sit down at home. Coffee in the car can actually be more relaxing.
3) Keep a similar routine so that your kids know what to expect each day and you can ‘hopefully’ avoid tantrums by surprising them with an errand and having to force them into the car.
4) Do house chores while they are awake so that nap times can be all business.
5) Always take a picnic lunch/snack pack out with you (we just went to the beach this morning and I took a lunch box of goodies. We had some in the car, I used some as bribery to put seat belts on and then food was all ready to munch when we got home!)
6) Set up safe multitasking zones. 
Right now my daughter is in her high chair on my left (strapped in) and my son is in a small tub inside the bath with his whales on my right and I am sitting between them in the doorway of the bathroom with my pre-prepared coffee writing this. Winning! (Nb I wrote notes at bath time and filled it out later once they were both in bed). Using a decent phone also means that you are not tied to needing a computer to achieve things too…
7) Use help when you can and ask for it. I struggle to be adventurous safely with two babies so small on my own.  So a childless friend met us at the beach so that my toddler could run off safely and she could chase him. (Ever tried wearing a one year old in soft sand and chasing a toddler…?!) I put my hand up and said I wasn’t coping on my own but I love going to the beach – so now we have a help system and everyone wins.
8) Wear them while you can. Sometimes my day naps don’t go according to plan so I wear my baby to still tick off a few small jobs. I have a home made neon woven wrap that is my new best friend.
9) Run them like dogs/tucker them out to make them sleep. Most days we go bush walking and I do brain training with my toddler making him learn new words, play number games or remember picture books by heart. His brain gets tired and he sleeps better later. Today we watched the surfing Nationals at the beach and he sprinted around and climbed rocks and splashed in the stream. I don’t foresee a nap issue today…
10) Organise quiet play opportunities. Sometimes I just have a couple more things that need to be finished and if I can bust out a bag of blocks at my feet, some fabric scraps in a tissue box, some special word cards, or a bin of rice… I might just be winning. I also make my two year old play quietly in his room after lunch even if he doesn’t want to sleep because I need some quiet time too!
11) Write lists. It’s hard to keep everything in your head. Just write it down so you can leave your head clear for fun hunting with your kids and you know where to start on biz related stuff when you do get some time.
12) Read your babies. It’s ok to abandon ship some days if the little people just need a rest day. C’est la vie.
13) Don’t pretend you don’t have kids. I’m a work at home mum. I tell everyone that my business stuff happens in nap times. Most people are understanding if there is a delay and I give myself realistic lead times so that no one has to have a stressed out grumpy mummy or a longer than expected wait time for something I am making for them.
14) Plan errands in a circuit. This is a bit of an economy thing as well as a green thing that I like to do. Later on today I have to pick up fabric, drop off splat mats and go to the post office. I have it planned out to be a neat circle for less time in the car and less environmental impact of silly back and forth errands AND less stress on my kids being in and out of the car.
15) Get a car phone. One of the hardest things I find is trying to find time to call people when my kids are quiet. Strangely they are happy and often quiet in the car. My man bought me a Bluetooth stereo phone thing for Christmas. It’s been amazing and is a real time saver and is actually the best thing ever.
16) Let it go. Last night I found myself stressing because I hadn’t managed to sew four dresses and today I have to sew four more dresses and… Gah. It’s better for everyone if I take my time and do things nicely and prevent myself from rushing. Rushing makes mistakes. One more day won’t hurt but stressing about it will.
17) Make hay while the sun shines. My man is a fire fighter and he is often on long (seemingly endless) shifts. This means I also have long stints of solo parenting. When he is home, I can grab some more time to catch up on things and I have to remind myself that it will even out in the end. I am a mum first and a business owner second after all. I plan my weeks around his work to make things work for me too (and sometimes I take over the whole house when he is gone for a while and I spread out in ways he would hate provided the kids have gone to bed nicely).
18) Get a snow plough. Sometimes I can’t start work because my house is a tip and it stresses me out. So I use a shovel like a snow plough and do a mega scoop up of everything and dump toys back in the crates.  Two seconds down and time to get stuck into the studio.
19) Process your work in batches if possible. I find that I am much more efficient if I do all my cutting one day, all my overlocking and construction together, all my finishing together and then sit down to wrap a batch of parcels. It also saves time because I can do colours together rather than changing threads for each job etc.
20) Keep your work space inspiring. When I get a second during the day I like to nip into my studio to put things away so that it’s a nice space to start work in. I also get creative about where I do things to work in with my kids if I can’t get into my special room. I find a cutting board on our double bed is a great place to cut out a few dresses if I need to and I am still within sight of my one year old. I can sing her to sleep while I work. So do whatever works.
There you go! And this is live so that means the kids are napping and THAT means all my planning for the day has worked!
Maybe there’s something there that is helpful for you?
Leave a comment and let me know and don’t forget to click ‘follow’ before you go. X

OMG! The Best Organic Cotton Baby Blankets Ever!

The title for this post comes from a customer’s review. It’s pretty nice of her. Thanks Katy.x

So what is it about Outie’s organic cotton baby blankets that makes them the best?

1) Designed in New Zealand

I studied Fine Arts at Elam School of Fine Arts at the University of Auckland, New Zealand and I have always loved drawing. Prior to opening Outie, I taught English, Art History and Art (painting) in secondary schools so it makes me happy to still be drawing every day. My inspiration is often locally sourced (Kowhai hearts, NZ native flora) because a good day for me starts with a bush walk and I use my walking time as thinking time of ‘what could be cool’ for someone’s baby.

Kowhai Native NZ designer organic cotton blanket

Native New Zealand Kowhai heart patterned organic cotton baby blanket by Outie

2) Original Illustrations

I am also an illustrator (have you seen my first published book? Squee! It’s a fun practise run for my button baby coming soon.) and I like to keep a hand-drawn vibrant feel to all of my designs. Some imperfections in my drawings are left in as part of the process (sometimes I have a toddler on my knee or I am feeding my baby late at night (we do not talk about sleep club) – and, for instance, now I am writing one-handed with my 11 month old wriggling on my knee). Some drawings start out as scribbles on the back of bills and then I digitise them whenever I can find the time. I love how each drawing has a story that is so much a part of my life at home with my kids. The popular Saurus. Raurus. print, for example, happened because of the way my son learned to say ‘dinosaur’ as ‘saurus ‘ and then called ‘lion’ a ‘roarus’.

aleep aid mini organic cotton baby blanket comforter

Dinosaurs and lions are called ‘saurus’ or ‘roarus’ by our two year old and so this fun little design happened for this organic cotton baby blanket comforter or sleep aid.

saurus mini blanket

3) Made to order

There is a three week wait time for most orders because I don’t like to keep stock stored for a long period of time. I also find it hard to predict what will be popular because I have my own quirky sense of style that might not be to everyone’s taste. Philosophically I also love how each blanket is actually printed with purpose so it is made for the right reasons from the get go. I am also aware of babies and dust allergies so keeping storage time down at every part of the process is important to me.

organic cotton custom baby blanket hippos

A custom organic cotton blanket design featuring hippos for a nz customer . “Hippo Dreams” for Kristin.

4) Certified organic cotton

Fabric is sourced from the United States and it is a natural white organic cotton interlock knit. I love how it is not pristine ‘Persil white’ and that is has more of an unbleached colour to it. They are certified organic cotton baby blankets as the fabric is certified in the USA by Global Organic Textile Standards.

5) Water based inks

Outie organic cotton baby blankets are printed using eco-friendly water based inks. No additional chemicals are used in the printing process so they are a safe solution to swaddling your baby traditionally.

organic cotton kids bedding cot sheets

Custom cot sheet sets and single bed sets available by request.

6) Sewn in my home studio

Outie is currently just me. That means you can imagine your blanket being cut by me and sewn by me and it won’t just happen in your imagination. This is a weird additional detail, but I also never sew when I am in a bad mood because I believe that projects can absorb the energy that was around when they were born. That might be a bit hippy dippy but I can happily say that every single Outie thing is made with love and happiness.

7) Little blankets too

We use all of our fabric and this means that we also offer soother blankets, cuddlies, snugglies or mini comforter blankets to help older children sleep. My organic cotton baby blanket mini blankets can be a great comfort for babies with separation anxiety or to help them to feel secure in general. Mum or Dad can tuck the smaller blanket inside their shirt so that the blankies absorb their smell and this makes the comforter blanket more comforting because it smells like a parent. Some people like their teddies or dolls to have matching blankets rather than using them as a comforter blanket. They are 45cm square.

organic cotton comforter soother woogie cuddly sleep aid

Mini organic cotton comforter blanket or teddy/doll blanket featuring my ‘Little Hunter’ print.

8) Inspired by my children

I never planned to open a ‘baby’ business… but it is all falling into place because my two children are my constant inspiration and I love being at home with them. Everything I make/have made for Outie is because I wanted to make it for them (or me as their mum) first.

comfort blanket sleep aid attachment prop

We call our daughter’s dinosaur organic cotton comfort blanket her ‘woogie’ but they are called all kinds of other things traditionally.

 

9) Custom designs

I can match nursery colours, add names, use symbols or family motifs that are important to you to make your blanket extra special. I love coming up with designs that are special for my customers.

10) Thick cotton

The thickness of our organic cotton baby blankets is like a ‘thick T-shirt cotton’. The organic cotton we use for our baby blankets is soft and foldy and delicious. “I can vouch for how soft this fabric is. It is amazing.” – Melanie

11) Breathable/absorbs smell

As a natural fiber, cotton absorbs smell which is why cotton (and merino) are such staples for babies. Our blankets are also breathable so that babies who like to put their comforter over their face (why do they do that?!) can still breathe. It is best to remove it all the same…

13) Generously sized and suitable for swaddling

The organic cotton fabric we use has a crosswise stretch of about 25% making it a nice soft stretch for swaddling purposes. The size of the big blankets (90cm square) is also a nice swaddling size to give a nice sense of security right from the newborn stage.

14) Matching reusable wipes

I make sets of 6 reusable wipes up out of smaller off cuts of our organic cotton and these make an amazing money saving extra. You can just wet them with water and use them for all things baby. Because they are thick, you will find that you will use one wipe (maybe two) per change. They can be rinsed and washed just like cloth nappies and are a real money saver long term. We have only ever bought TWO packs of wet wipes in nearly three years…

organic cotton reusable wipes by Outie

Organic cotton designer print reusable wipes come in a set of 6.

15) NZ Made and Local

Although we get our organic cotton fabric from the United States (no cotton fields in NZ!), everything else is done right here in our home studio in the Waitakere Ranges in West Auckland, New Zealand. It’s all done by me (Katrina) from design through to packaging… so you can feel good about supporting a local business and a stay at home mummy (me) doing her thing too.

 Get your designer organic cotton blanket here.

Sweet Connections – Laulipops Shop and Hemp Breastpads

A bonus of running a small business in New Zealand is that it allows me to meet other work at home mummies doing their thing. These connections are really quite special.
The hemp breastpads we stock on the Outie website are made by our ‘new business friend’, Laura. Here’s a little more about her and her business Laulipop’s Shop. hemp breastpads by laulipops shop
What is your business?
My business is Laulipop’s Shop, named so as Laulipop is a nickname of mine!
What do you make?
I make a range of vintage inspired children’s clothing, Breastpads, Baby Bibs and Embroidered Keep Sakes of children’s artwork! (These are our favourites! – Outie)
What is the best thing about your breast pads?
They are made from hemp which is a super cool renewable resource and they get more absorbent the more they are washed! (That’s why we stock them! Love! – Outie)
How did you find out about Outie?
I met Katrina through a business group we are both in. (Katrina was introduced by Suzanne at Bundle)  I discovered Outie through there!
What is your favourite Outie product?
Definitely the Splat Mats! So wish these were around when my kids were little! Best invention ever!
What was your first Outie product experience?
I bought the Everything Batwing pattern. I love it, so simple and easy to make up, easy to resize if needed!
How many Batwings have you made so far?
So far I have only made the one but have plans for many more!

What has this connection meant for you?

When i was in Auckland last Katrina and I arranged to meet and meet up. It was my birthday and we spent it going round ALL the fabric stores buying up a storm! It was the best day!!!!
What else do you have in common with Katrina?
We both have 2 kids …. we have both had Mohawks in the past and we both love sewing!!! Oh and a …. button addiction!
Thanks Laura!
You can connect with Laura on facebook, via her blog, on instagram as #laulipopnz and here’s her shop.
Here’s a pic of Laura in her Outie Everything Batwing dress. Her face is hiding in the shadows a bit – but she’s sneaky like that. You can read Laura’s review of our pattern here.
laulipop batwing

Forks in the Road, Mental Spooning and Bullsh*t Job Titles

Sometimes you find yourself thinking, how did I end up here? And you realise that there are a multitude of things that can contribute to any final destination.

When I was young I wanted to one day have an interesting job title. I wanted to be an interior designer at first. (I knew that I liked drawing and I went mad for colouring competitions).

Later on I wanted to be an artist and during university days I even fancied the title of Artist Extraordinaire.

Later on, still, I wanted to be an Actor, then an Architect, then an Academic, then a Teacher and then… somehow I ended up as a work-at-home mum with far too many hobbies running a boutique maternity clothing and baby goods business in New Zealand. There isn’t really a title that goes with it, is there?

Life can’t be planned out in advance – but appreciating the little bumps in life’s journey/forks in the road can force you into a new direction that might (one day) become a destination that is really right despite (perhaps) seeming really wrong to begin with.

The funny thing about me wanting to ‘be’ so many things growing up is that I just hadn’t seen the ‘working mum’ job as a desirable outcome. This job doesn’t really come with a title – so how could I have wanted it?

A small epiphany: Today I spent my day doing fun things with my toddler, teaching for a couple of hours (exam strategies in my old teaching role), writing for a small portion of the day (copy writing and proofing) and just now I am settling in to do some drawing and design work for my other project Desk Drawer to sketch some nursery prints and complete a fabric design I have been toying with for a while. Some of these things might seem a bit humdrum but, all together, they have actually been fun.

Huia on a Bike - nursery print from Desk Drawer.

Huia on a Bike – nursery print from Desk Drawer.

Custom printed tea-towel gift. I did not see this type of work coming!

Custom printed tea-towel gift. I did not see this type of work coming!

Fabric design inspired by original Outie maternity tee design (Heartstacked Tiki Baby)

Fabric design inspired by original Outie maternity tee design (Heartstacked Tiki Baby)

Forking Surprise: Within one day I have actually randomly achieved all of the things that I wanted to do when I was growing up (designing/drawing/making/teaching/playing/acting)… yet I just don’t have a title to go with it. Whilst today has not been an atypical day, it is typical of my life – that it is full of many little jobs and hobbies that contribute to the bigger picture.

It is something worth taking notice of. Job titles can get in the way of realising that your own version of ‘success’ might be more attainable than you think. Perhaps ‘success’ just needs to be redesigned and some of the stigma around job titles needs to change…

Looking back there have been several unforeseen ‘forks’ and ‘bumps’ in the path that have led me to this business, this role, this life, this place, this family, this man and I could never have seen any of it coming.

So give the forks in your road some mental spooning tonight – although the road may have been bumpy (and may still be) – the turns you are presented with might yet take you somewhere cool – just don’t expect it be clearly labelled.

Some ‘other’ more attainable titles you could think about just for fun:

Future Identity Strategist

Human Communications Engineer

Dynamic Solutions Officer

Lead Creative Investor

Chief Family Liason Director

*Or maybe liberate yourself and go title free?

(Much less fun is my email sign off as ‘Director’ of Outie: www.outie.co.nz and my as yet untitled role running www.facebook.com/Deskdrawer)

All images copyright Katrina Ward (title not specified) 2013.

Recent fabric design using native NZ Kowhai as repeat.

Recent fabric design using native NZ Kowhai as repeat.

The Business of Babies

notebook on black v2

Before I had my son, very few of my friends had babies. I rarely talked about babies and I found it frustrating when I met friends with babies for coffee dates only to find them distracted and talking in fragmented sentences (interrupted by the needs of their babies). My world was pretty much baby free.
Not so now.
Now I am sitting firmly on the ‘other side’ and my life has become ‘all baby’. Being a mama is now a major component of my identity. I talk about babies and baby things. I look at baby products and I now even run a home-based ‘baby business’ which, lo and behold, means that a lot of my new friends are also in the business of babies.
It’s ok that my life has become ‘all about babies’ but now with a new baby on the way, I have been forced to realise that it also needs to be ‘all about balance’.
When I was first pregnant I couldn’t find what I was looking for. I started drawing and I started inventing… and suddenly I found myself starting a bump and baby-related business. One new baby eighteen months ago + new baby products + new baby business + a new baby on the way all made my life (seemingly suddenly) ‘ALL baby’.
In my excitement at becoming a parent, I also got a bit too excited about parenting products. I launched into making a diverse range far too soon. I filled my studio with things for the new business and started sneaking things into the basement. Storage became an increasingly pointed issue in our household. (Babies bring enough accessories with them without a baby business filling the house with surplus stock as well). Something that was supposed to support and supplement our family life began to threaten to take it over…
Another major problem was the amount of time I needed to dedicate to the ‘other baby’. Some things I was making would take a long time to complete so that when I received an order, part of me would panic at trying to fulfil it on time around my real baby’s very real needs. Trying to run a business within nap times was not an easy task. We found that as a family our overall financial and emotional investment into the baby business was not giving back to us as much we would have liked it to.
Becoming a parent has been a steep learning curve. Growing a new business from scratch has been similarly steep. My original goal of starting a business so that I could support myself to stay at home with my son for his first year has evolved. Now, with another ‘tummy nugget’ on the way, keeping the ‘baby’ of a business afloat has become essential but some changes clearly needed to happen.
Baby Business (office) vs Baby business (home) was and is a tricky equilibrium – but thankfully we have found some solutions to make it more manageable.
At the start of this month I had to stop and take a deep breath. My home-based business turned one and it seemed a good time to reflect on what was working and what really wasn’t. My son turned one and a half and the third trimester of my second pregnancy was looming (and still is). The very real countdown to having a new little person in the house with us was beginning. So it was a good time to begin to change things.
Two very real problems had presented themselves. There was not enough time in the day to continue with the diverse range we had started with. Similarly, there was not enough space to store products when working work from home – especially if you still wanted your home environment to be ‘homely’ and not ‘officey’.
I had to prioritise and pare back my range. If I was too busy to snuggle up with my son and just enjoy his deliciousness without diluting the moment with mental lists of orders to complete, marketing pitches and accounting spread-sheets to fill in – then I was too busy.
Our new baby on the way has given us all a kick in the right direction.
What we needed to fix were the problems of time and space. I had begun to feel like I was employed in a sweatshop of my own creation. The ‘simple’ solution was to free up time and to free up space.
We had to clarify what we wanted the business to be. Thanks to my previous life as a teacher, I had kept good records and the paperwork helped us to make the right decisions. We are now sticking with the products that were popular from the get go, sell consistently, and are far less labour- intensive. The rest of the range has had to go for sanity’s sake – so that we can have more time as a family, and more space to be a family in.
We had forgotten our original goal within our very busy new lives as working parents – and that was for the home business to enable me to be at home with my babies.
Whilst we may be settling for a drop in turnover due to some of our changes with the ‘other baby’, there is also a much larger drop in time, space and money invested. For that we gain time, space and a bit more sanity for our family of real babies.

“Life is an exciting business – and most exciting when it is lived for others.” – Helen Keller
Check out the results and have your say at http://www.outie.co.nz