Don't Miss this Hidden Gem for Kids this Summer....
So, I met Collette walking around the ABC Kids Show in Vegas in 2016. Her booth was amazing, dangling all the most beautiful bonnets I had ever seen. I remember trying to find great hats for my littles and struggling. Problem solved, so I wanted to make sure I shared with all our parents! Wish I had taken a picture with her in her booth....next time :)LOOK AT THESE AWESOME HATS!!!Check out her awesome story and fall in love with her sweet sincerity.
How did you come up with the idea for your invention?
One afternoon, my grandmother-in-law came to help watch my daughter, as she often did. At this time, I was teaching Environmental Studies at Antioch College. When my daughter was really little, I was always looking for things that weren't pink and overly girly... and my grandmother knew this. She brought a little black bonnet made from a vintage floral fabric for my daughter. It was a traditional bonnet, with the poofy back and big prairie brim and long ties. It was adorable, but unfortunately, too small for my gal. I asked her to make another one that was bigger... but I couldn't wait! I thought it was such a great idea-- a baby bonnet with sun protection, but I worried about the long ties. They seemed like a strangulation hazard, and I didn't want that risk. So, I knew the ties needed to be shorter. I went to my stash of fabrics (I'd been collecting them for another art project) and looked at some baby bonnet patterns to get the basic forms in mind, and then made my own pattern and sewed up a little bonnet. The first hat I made was a success! It fit great and was adorable! The little snap straps worked perfectly and my daughter could not get the hat off and there were no long ties. I put the hat on her over the next few weeks, and every time we went out, people made a HUGE fuss over her-- asking where we got the adorable hat! I was flattered by all of the attention and thought that if this many people loved her hat this much, maybe I should make some and sell them. So I did! And... that's how UB2 was born.
What has been the toughest thing to overcome so far?
The toughest hurdle for me has been website design, or rather, coding. It's been incredibly hard to find a development person who's dependable, quick, and affordable. And because we're an online business, problems with the website are hugely important and put a major drain on the customer experience. I am in the midst of re-designing the website now and beginning to work with a new development firm... and I am hopeful that this will be a good fit for us as well as end up being a really reliable way to maintain the technical integrity of the website.
* let me say we totally agree with you girl! It is SO hard to find help in this area!!
What resources have been most helpful to you?
My Nikon and my iPhone 6+! I do more than half of the lifestyles photography for the site. I'm always hosting photo sessions with local folks, where I take pictures of their kids in our hats in exchange for permission to use the photos. The models get to keep the hats they wear and I always send a whole bunch of awesome images to the parents. The quality of my camera and lens is really to "blame" for the lovely pictures I've been able to make. I use a Nikon D7000 and an 85mm portrait lens most of the time. I have some other lenses, but this one is my favorite because of the way it allows me to focus on the subject and blur the background. Believe it or not, all of the product photography on my site is done in my studio with white fabric, natural light, and my iPhone. I've tried expensive and complicated set-ups with fancy lights and flash booms. I've tried paying professionals to do the images... but I get the best results for the money just by using my phone!
Of course, my sewing machine is also super-important. While I don't do much production sewing (I do still do some), I do all of the prototype sewing for new designs. I have several machines, but my go-to workhorse is my Bernina. It's a basic model, no bells or whistles, but it makes a beautiful stitch every time and can sew flawlessly through even several layers of corduroy and fleece... which not many machines can do!
Have you had a lot of support for your idea?
I have! People just out and about were SO generous with their complements in the early years when I was getting started and my daughter was still young enough to wear bonnets. It really made a difference. On days when I was super-frustrated about whatever disaster happened, if I went out, the compliments flowed in on her hats... and I'd feel better... like YES! This IS worth doing! My husband has also been really supportive, helping with trade shows and craft fairs and really anything I need. He's also my go-to guy for new pattern opinions. Whenever I'm in doubt, I ask him... and he's always right on the money with his choices. My daughter has been wonderful too. She's 9 now and getting a little old for our hats... but she's still up for photo sessions and she sometimes will come in to help me in the studio. She loves working along side me and learning about what I do. It's really cool to have a trade to teach her, and to be able to show her an independent business woman on a daily basis.
Have you had any push back to your idea?
I haven't really had opposition, but I have had lots of people copycat my ideas. Although the bonnet form is as old as time, my specific design is not. There was one woman who copied my hats even down to the fabric (which she even purchased from me!)... and sold them on Etsy. There are a few copycats now who use versions of my trade name (modBonnet) to describe their hats... it's hard to see someone take the specifics of your ideas and pretend that they came up with it. But, I suppose that's all part of capitalism.
What has been the best thing about Motherhood for you?
My daughter is growing up. When she was a baby, the changes were huge... but I was SO tired and generally stressed that I either didn't really notice or they just became swept up in the daily changes we see and take for granted. But now, at 9, she's really starting to change. Her body is changing and I find myself face-to-face with the idea that my baby really isn't my baby anymore. So the number one highlight? The sheer delight of watching her change, grow, bloom. I catch myself peering at her now, just staring, thinking about caterpillars and butterflies and the amazing transformation they go through. Trite, maybe. But still true. I love her more than I ever knew was possible to love anything... and watching her body work it's magic is nothing short of amazing.
Has it been tricky balancing work on your business and home life?
Yes, it has. I used to always feel like I was working all the time when my studio was in my house. Now that I've moved it to a location in town (and closer to my daughter's school), it's easier. But Amazon has trained people to expect replies right away. It's hard to put my phone down and step away from customer service for even a few hours, let alone a whole weekend. All vacations have to be planned with access to the internet. Sometimes my family gets upset with me-- and then I know I've pushed it too far and it's time to take a little vacation from technology. Business stuff can wait. Family can't.
What do you love most about being a Mom Inventor?
Hands down-- setting a positive role model for my daughter. I have my own business, I am my own boss, I make lots of decisions and I use my artistic side and creativity everyday. She sees a strong, independent and (relatively) successful woman. I know she admires me for that... and I am so happy to show her what she, too, can do.
Fact fact about you?!
I have purple hair and wear eyeglasses with one round and one square lens. Also, I used to raise chickens. And recently, I found a caterpillar on some pussy willow branches. I let it stay in the house even though it pooped on my counter. It made a cocoon and hatched into a beautiful orange and black butterfly! And in my spare time, I'm an artist.
We loved catching up with you Collette! Thanks so much for sharing your inspiration with us!
Make sure to show her some love on social media and visit her site! https://urbanbabybonnets.com
See? We knew you would love her!