I have always been drawn to lovely things, and although not a mommy yet, I do appreciate seeing well-designed clothing and accessories for babies and kids. And so, I will be featuring children’s shops for the next couple of weeks beginning with this adorable baby shop called Ollie and Tate.
Ollie and Tate is owned by sisters, Cait and Laura who both share a love for all things handmade. As moms themselves, they know firsthand how important it is to choose only the best, safest products for their babies. Parents would be glad to learn that they only use organic cotton fabric for their super stylish swaddles, bandana bibs and beanies, and their teether rings are made from maple wood sealed with organic olive oil and beeswax.
In this interview, Laura tells us how they started the business, the challenges of being a mom / entrepreneur, her favorite shop items, and some tips for parents on choosing baby products.
What’s the story behind the shop name?
My sister and I started the shop together two years ago. When we were coming up with a name, we threw around a lot of ideas, but easily decided to go with Ollie & Tate, named after two of our own nicknames we’ve had since childhood.
Love the fact that all the items are made from organic / natural materials, could you tell us more about this?
We love using organic materials as much as possible. A lot of parents want the absolute best for their babies, and we feel with organic you can’t go wrong. Every single bib is lined with 100% organic cotton French terry, and we source from mills right here in the US.
For me, the most important things to be natural are the things that baby puts in their mouth. That’s why we only use natural wooden rings that are sealed with organic olive oil and beeswax for our teethers. They are free from any harmful chemicals, and you don’t need to worry about lead, or anything else that could harm your baby when it comes to other plastic teething toys on the market.
What are your top 3 favorite picks from your shop?
My favorite items from the shop are any of our monochrome bibs! I love the simplicity of black and white. They’re so versatile and go with any outfit, and suit both boys and girls. We proudly source our organic French terry from US cotton mills, which line the back of every bib, and acts as an absorbing layer.
Second choice is our wooden ring teethers. I love the idea of giving babies a natural option when it comes to teething and chewing. The rings are solid maple, and are sealed with a mixture of organic olive oil and beeswax. We’ve added “ears” with modern designs of organic cotton to give the baby something to grasp, and help soak up any of that teething drool.
I also love our newborn top knot beanies. They are lightweight and breathable, and they are designed to cover baby’s ears and neck, but not slip over their eyes. Plus, they look so adorable on!
What has been your biggest challenge so far and how did you overcome it?
The biggest challenge by far is finding balance between running a shop and running family. I’m a mom to 5 kids, the oldest being 10, down to our 3-year-old twins. That in itself is a full-time job, and I have to be careful not to spread myself too thin. It’s easy to become wrapped up in working too much, and taking on more than I can handle.
In the beginning, I wanted the business to grow fast, so I let myself become overwhelmed. I worked late hours every night and got to the point where I was just exhausted and burned out. While I’m all for working hard, I came to the realization that I just couldn’t do it all, so allowed things to slow down to a more manageable pace. If it meant closing the shop every now and then for a few days to take a breather and avoid feeling stressed, that was OK!
Us mamas need to take care of ourselves so we have the energy to take care of our families. For me, it has to be a very deliberate and intentional choice to step back from work, and make sure I’m not overlooking any of my kids’ needs. It’s a constant balancing act, and I’m a work in progress!
What do you love most about what you do?
I absolutely love being able to work from home, set my own hours, and be my own boss. I get so much satisfaction in creating items that I know are going to be used by babies all over the world. I’m humbled to think we’ve shipped to all 50 states and over 25 countries!
It’s such a thrill when a customer comes back for another order, or returns to purchase something as a gift for a friend. That’s the greatest reassurance in knowing customers are happy with their items, and it lets me know I’ve done my job well.
I also love making connections with people, and have had customers who have been with us from the beginning who have come to feel like old friends. The world of Etsy allows me cross paths with so many people, who I would otherwise never get a chance to meet. Even if it is only through email conversations.
Is there anything you dislike about it?
The only thing I dislike about my job is not having enough time to see all my ideas come alive. Between keeping up with my family and running the shop, it’s often difficult to make time to add new products. I’d love to expand our line of baby items that we offer, but I’m realizing I want to do way too much, and have to pick and choose what is physically possible for me at this time.
Can you share with us the process of creating these items?
The very first, and possibly most important step in creating my products is selecting fabrics that will appeal to buyers. While I do offer prints that follow certain trends, I also like to carry some designs that are a little more unexpected. Prints you might not typically picture being made into baby products. A lot of parents do not necessarily want babyish looking designs, so I look for patterns that are a little more subtle.
There are actually quite a few steps when it comes to making the bibs. All of my fabrics are pre-washed and dried to minimize shrinkage, and then it’s on to tracing patterns, cutting, pinning and stitching. Next I trim the excess fabric before I flip them right side out, iron them, top stitch, add the cloth labels, and finally the snap.
But my favorite process is when it comes to packing the orders for shipment. I like to wrap them in an attractive way that shows how much effort and love went into creating someone’s order. And I always top it off with a handwritten note expressing my appreciation for the support of our shop.
It must be wonderful to be sharing a business with your sister. Who does what for Ollie & Tate?
As sisters, sharing a business together has been wonderful. We used to live about an hour apart, but Cait recently moved, and we are now literally less that 3 minutes apart! When we first opened, I (Laura) was handling the bibs and moccs (which are hopefully coming back again!) and she was making amazing cloth diapers. Due to her move, she is taking a bit of time off to get settled, so I’m manning the shop solo for the time being. But she is always there to help keep me caught up on orders. And being so close now, it’s so easy to get together and let our little ones play while we put on a pot of coffee and trace patterns, cut bibs, organize inventory, answer emails, or anything else that needs to be done.
Where do you find inspiration?
Like most moms who start a shop, my inspiration comes from my own little ones. I like to think I was born a maker by nature, and when I see something I want, I would rather try to make it myself. It took quite a few attempts to create a bib with a great fit, and my kids were my testers until I came up with something that worked just right.
I had never even heard of bandana bibs until we spent some time living in Germany a few years ago, and I noticed all the drooly babies and toddlers wearing these little kerchiefs around their necks. I thought… when we get back to the US, I’m going to open an Etsy shop and that’s going to be the first thing I want to sell!
Little did I know, by the time I finally got around to opening the shop, bandana bibs were already being sold everywhere and were wildly popular in the world of babies. So although my idea is in no way an original, I like to keep things fresh by trying to offer some prints that you might not find in another shop. And I think that has helped contribute to the success of Ollie & Tate.
What tips would you give moms / dads on choosing products for their kids?
My number one tip for moms and dads shopping for baby items, is to take the time to read shop reviews! You’ll get a wealth of information in finding out just what kind of shop you will be potentially buying from. How quickly do items ship? Are the customers happy with their purchases? How is the quality? A lot of these kinds of questions, plus more, will be answered from real buyers who have had first hand experience with the shop.
Your message to customers and friends:
The most important thing I’d love my customers to know is how much I appreciate each and every order. When we first opened, I had no idea what to expect. There was already so much competition, so I had no clue if anyone would like what I had to offer.
I think I remember doing quite the happy dance when the first order came through the day we opened. I wanted to give that person a great big hug and say THANK YOU!
Two years later, I still feel the same way each time someone makes a purchase. There are so many amazing shops out there, so when someone chooses Ollie and Tate I feel so grateful that they were willing to put their trust in a product they’ve never seen in person. I try to maintain that level of gratitude everyday, and recognize that this little dream would not be possible without the love and support of so many amazing people.
Thank you so much, Laura!