As I prepare to expand and integrate COO BABY into a new platform called Motherhood for Me, I find myself reflecting back on the journey so far and all of the steps it’s taken to get to this place. Over the coming weeks, I’ll be sharing a four part series that gives deeper insight into the background and inspiration for both COO BABY and Motherhood for Me, why I feel so passionately about them both, and my vision for how things will look in the future. If you’re interested, please follow along!
CREATING COO BABY
I can’t really explain it, but within just a few (long but short) weeks of becoming a mother I felt a strong calling to begin forging a new path for myself both creatively and professionally. I have been in software and advertising sales for close to 9 years now - and I’ve worked for both large companies and small start up organizations in that timeframe. When I began my professional career, I had no idea what I was doing - but I am a hard worker, quick learner, and extremely process oriented in my job. This allowed me to absorb a lot of information and a fair amount of business acumen that I definitely didn’t have coming out of college - as well as confidence in myself that I could build something of my own from the ground up someday. Being in sales can be very rewarding and has taught me a lot of life skills, but it can also be extremely stressful. Here I am, 9 years in, and even though I’m not necessarily cold calling 100 people a day anymore (those were the days!) I still get frustrated customers who take it out on me and it bothers me to my core. I’ve always felt that if I’m going to be taking that type of stress on or if I’m going to be doing activities like calling 100 people/day - that would be fine - but I wanted it to be for me. To build up a life for myself and my family, and to have a greater purpose that I felt a calling to.
With all that in mind, I had long been tossing around ideas, but nothing ever seemed to be the right thing. A lot of people have great ideas, but I believe the idea, timing, the ability to execute, and a little bit of luck all have to align in order to get your idea off the ground. Having my son was, in my opinion, the universe’s way of pushing me in the right direction and getting all of those stars to align.
Loving my son unconditionally and being forever grateful to be his mother did not instantly equal that new mommy bliss we often see portrayed in the media. Everyone’s experiences are different, but for me I felt completely overwhelmed and lied to by society. I was utterly unprepared both physically and mentally for what I would soon find out was called “The Fourth Trimester.” Amy Schumer put it pretty perfectly in her recent documentary “Expecting Amy.” She said “I resent everyone who hasn't been honest. I resent the culture of how much women have to suck it the f--k up and act like everything is fine..." I felt exactly the same way. Because of this, I started really trying to process the “new mom” culture and how I could help bring more transparency to it. I started writing personal blogs / essays that I wasn’t sure I’d ever share - but putting everything down on paper really did help me to feel a release. Talking with other moms who felt the same way also made me feel infinitely better and like I wasn’t alone. It wasn’t that I needed or expected anything about that newborn phase to change - I just wanted there to be a greater awareness, a higher level of respect, and a more public camaraderie amongst all mothers so that we didn’t feel like such lunatics when it felt hard or isolating.
In addition to feeling all of those things, there were obviously a lot of really beautiful moments I remember from that time as well. Dressing my son in his first piece of clothing, taking newborn photos of him, watching my husband read and sing to him when he was just days old - those are moments in time I’ll always cherish and be so grateful for.
My husband and I quickly learned that we had strong preferences when it came to the clothing we were putting him in. Anything that wasn’t functional was immediately buried in the bottom of the drawer. We also realized that he was most comfortable and slept best in his sleepers that were made from a bamboo blend. Beyond just being soft, I learned that bamboo was breathable as well as temperature regulating. This meant it was perfect to wear under swaddles and/or sleep sacks - and great for both hot and cold temperatures. When they’re newborns, they have a hard time regulating their temps, especially at night. I noticed that anytime we put him in cotton or something else he would sweat through them. Another option would’ve been to just put him in a diaper or short sleeve cotton onesie under the swaddle but I feared that then he wouldn’t be warm enough (my husband likes to keep our house ice cold at night!) So - bamboo sleepers were the perfect fix - and we never had any temperature issues once he started sleeping exclusively in those.
One day we were out shopping and I found a cute bamboo sleeper in the brand we’d been gifted and loved at a retail store - and it was insanely expensive. A quick search online showed me that I could get it for a bit less through their website, but I’d still have to pay shipping, and it was so frustrating to me. There were also functionality issues that never seemed to be resolved in any one pair of pajamas. Either the fabric was great, but they didn’t have a two way zipper for easy middle of the night diaper changes. Or they’d have a two way zipper but no optional hand mittens to prevent scratching. Why was it so hard to find everything we wanted in one pajama? Needing an outlet and to feel like a real person again - I told my husband that I had figured out what I wanted to do - I wanted to create a better bamboo pajama.
I started out by researching product and garment development online during the baby’s nap times. I made an ideal timeline and action item list and then just started checking things off. Even when I’d check things off though, the list kept growing. The more I got into it, the more I realized how many pieces to the puzzle there were in physical product development. Sourcing fabric and finding a reputable manufacturing facility was really challenging. I started by trying to source and manufacture in the US - which ultimately wasn’t possible for our small business and little budget. We would’ve had to commit to much larger minimum order quantities, and we would’ve actually lost money on the first several orders even if we sold out because of how expensive it was to source bamboo and manufacture in the US.
At that point, I opened up our search to India and China, where a majority of bamboo garments are made. I was able to locate several facilities, vet them, make contact, and then began narrowing down who we thought we may want to work with from there. I had initial test samples sent to me from five different facilities. All of them came and only one was close to the level of quality that we wanted, and so at that point I selected that company as my manufacturer and we went to work on bringing this pajama to life. I will say, they have been absolutely lovely to work with and I am extremely grateful to them for helping me so much through this process.
Prototype after prototype came and understandably, edits always needed to be made. There were so many more things to consider than I’d ever dreamed of - fabric weight, sizing, stretch, zipper quality, gripper quality, compliance standards and safety regulations, flammability requirements, hang tag requirements, heat and care label requirements, packaging requirements...the list goes on and on and on.
I won’t bore you with all of the details but that went on (along with all the legalities and backend logistics of starting a new business) for 12-15 months before we finally had a sample in hand that was exactly what we wanted, and I was ready and in a position to place our first order. Now I had to learn how to import goods from China. :)
The same way I figured everything else out, I figured out how to import those pajamas. I was making my way through airport security on a work trip when I got the call from my husband that the pajamas had arrived and they were stacked safely and neatly in boxes on our doorstep. Tears of pure joy streamed down my face (and I am not a crier). I can’t tell you what a sense of accomplishment it was or how rewarding it felt that I had created something out of nothing, and they were finally here. I practically skipped through the airport, made my husband send me 100 pictures, and texted all of my friends that they were finally here. I got home later that day and ripped the boxes open - excited but also extremely nervous. Once I saw that it was real and they were exactly what we had ordered, I was fully ecstatic. The next 10 days or so were spent doing QA, taking inventory, finalizing and updating our website, trying and failing to take our own lay-flat photos, etc. We were finally ready to ship to Amazon (who would be handling our logistics through their FBA platform).
It was a pretty awesome feeling.
GOING LIVE ON AMAZON will be shared next Monday! Stay tuned :)