With no experience making baby clothing, an out-of-work new mom shares how you can turn a setback into a comeback with an open mind and a sense of passion.
In 2008, two things happened at the same time that put architectural designer Paige Lauren on a career path she couldn’t have predicted: 1. The Great Recession, and 2. One of her friends had a baby.
“I did a lot of design work for residential homes, and no one was spending any money at that time,” Lauren told Entrepreneur. She was starting to think about making a move to do something else but wasn’t sure what that would be. Then while on a shopping trip to for a friend’s newborn, Lauren couldn’t find anything that lined up with her design aesthetic. “Everything had hearts and duckies and cutesy stuff on it, and my tastes are more modern and simple.”
On that frustrating shopping trip, an idea was born: “I thought that if nothing were going on with the home architectural world, I’d start designing baby clothes instead.” She had virtually no experience designing and manufacturing clothes, but that didn’t deter her. “When I decide to do something, I go all in,” she explains. “I love design work and being creative, and I think as long as you are doing something you have passion for, you will find happiness and success.”
The Paige Lauren line of super-soft, American-made baby clothes instantly took off, quickly finding its way into boutiques across the country and onto the shelves of Neiman Marcus department stores. But that wasn’t the end of Lauren’s journey, not by a long shot. Entrepreneur spoke with the designer about the mindset it took to start her dream business, to press pause on it to take time off for her newborn son, and then to re-launch in a dramatically different sales universe.
Learning while doing
“My mom always said that learning how to run a business while you’re running it is the most expensive way to get an MBA! I learned about the clothing business by asking a lot of questions. Everywhere I went, I asked a million questions about fabric, what’s involved in sourcing the materials, how it’s woven — every aspect of it. That’s how I learned. I would get three bids for everything and ask questions until I found the right vendors to do what I wanted to do: make simple, incredibly soft clothes for babies.”
Recession-proof industries do exist
“My architectural design business was hurt by the economy, but I had a hunch that what I wanted to do with baby clothes was recession-proof. And after I did my first show in New York, it turned about to be true. No matter what is happening in the economy, people will find money to dress their babies. Because when you have that miracle baby, you will spend anything on your miracle baby.”
Give yourself a break
“In 2015, I became pregnant. And at the same time, I came to a point where I need to make some moves with the business. Online sales really started happening. But to be honest, I just wasn’t in the emotional space to make big business moves at that moment. So when I had my son, I decided to take a three-month break to concentrate on being a mom. And that turned into a three-year break. I needed that time to find the balance necessary for me to bring back Paige Lauren without it getting in the way of my priorities as a mom.”
“I’m a person who likes to touch things and feel things and have that experience when I’m shopping, so I wanted to return with brick and mortar stores. But being a new mother — and every mother experiences this — it’s impossible to even go to the market. So for the new Paige Lauren, I am learning something new again. And I’m talking to ecommerce and marketing experts, asking tons of questions and searching for the right partners.”
Getting the message out
“Since returning to the business full-time, I’ve seen that there needs to be a constant flow of new items to keep customers engaged, and there needs to be the right kind of PR. When I think of influencers, I don’t want people with three million followers who just take a picture of something and move on. I want real moms with a thousand followers who really love these clothes. This brand is all about warmth and togetherness. It is a lifestyle. When my customers buy Paige Lauren, I want them to feel like they’re involved in a community of mothers who are all supporting each other.”