I often get asked, ‘How do you find the time?’
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.
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’.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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…
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.
What has this connection meant for you?
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.
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?
All images copyright Katrina Ward (title not specified) 2013.
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