SoYoung Mother.. It's all abuzz! The past few years has seen Catherine Robinson's SoYoung Mother company grow from a grassroots beginning, headquartered in Toronto, Canada to the much-coveted brand that it is now and sold worldwide! I am also very fortunate to know Cathy on a personal level as we've known each other since childhood. She is as sweet now as she was then but underneath that sweetness is a tough, strong-willed and intelligent person who persevered and followed her dreams.
I first wrote about Cathy and her products way back in October of last year (you can read that post here) when I ordered and received our lunchbox and cooler bags ready for school and work. I wanted to test them out and put them through the wringer and see how they handled the stress of Keira's kid-handling and myself. Well, the proof is in the pudding as they say. You can see by my photos, the bags are still gorgeous and intact! And believe me, they've been dropped, banged about, tossed around and thensome. They're also a dream to clean up!
|Unbelievable but you can pack a heap's worth of food in these 2 bags.. way more than your stomach can handle. Unless you haven't eaten for a few days...|
I asked Cathy a few questions and although she was in the midst of preparing and heading out for a trade show, she kindly took the time to answer them. Thank you so much Cathy! Here then, are our SMK questions to SYM:
Why did you start your own business and where did your inspiration for it come from?
It's a very long story, but the short version is that, even before I had my first child, I did a lot of soul searching because I was desperately unfulfilled with my career path and wanted to be able to do something that I was inspired by and passionate about. It was a path that took me from working in the financial sector to studying Zen Shiatsu with a buddhist teacher to running a spa and finally to having my first child and one day having a lightbulb moment that I was going to design a diaper bag. It's hard to describe that moment because I have a lot of ideas that come to me, but that one stood out because there was such a strong feeling of determination associated with it. It was like - "I have no idea how I'm going to do this, but I just know I have to!"
How many years did it take to come to fruition?
From the lightbulb moment to actually having a product on store shelves was 3 and a half years! That was part time and also with a second child in the picture, so the going was slow. But the interesting thing is that I was certain that once the product hit the shelves it would be an instant success like I think a lot of people with product ideas believe. I certainly didn't realize how hard it was going to be to gain a presence in the market and had no plan for the scenario where my diaper bags just did not sell very well. But, unfortunately, that is what happened. The bags were not a big flop but certainly not the sensation that I was expecting. I now think back and see that first product as being my practice product into the market. I learned a ton of things (mostly what NOT to do when launching a product) from my first product. I also had to do some more soul searching as to whether I wanted to risk even more capital and take a chance with my next products, which were the lunch boxes, cooler bags and the Charlie bag. But in my heart, I knew I had come too far not to see things through. So I took a deep breath and launched the next ones and what a difference in reception!
|Image credit: SoYoung Mother, The Grey Butterfly cooler bag & The Red Scooter lunch bag|
No, I really wasn't at all until I had kids. I would never have imagined that this is what I would end up gaining so much fulfillment from. But once I had kids, I was totally obsessed with children's products and design. I loved things that made my life easier, and even better, if they looked cool too. I am the Type A mommy who can't stand not having what I need right when I need it. You can bet that if I find myself in a situation where I needed a bandaid on an outing and didn't have one, the first thing I'd do when I got home was put bandaids in my bag, my car, my pockets. I guess it's called being anal. : )
You're a mother of three young children, how do you manage home life with a full time growing business?
Well, it's definitely busy but I am so fortunate because my 2 older boys are in school for most of the day and I have a full time nanny at home to help out with my baby girl. Otherwise, I would be much more of a basket case. Part of my vision in working for myself was not so that I could work less, but so that my work could be flexible. I work at home until pickup time, which is at 3:30pm, then I am with the kids on my own for a few hours and we usually plan something like going to the park or a play date before dinner. Once the kids are in bed, my work day continues, usually until at least 10:30pm or so. I'm so happy to say that I really love what I do so it doesn't feel like work. That is the most important aspect of running this business for me.
|Image credit: SoYoung Mother, The Brown Bird cooler bag|
Well, not so much re-prioritizing what's important but having to remember my priorities. Which of course, is family first. I basically don't even try and work while my kids are around because it makes me impatient and my kids act up even more. But it is also a priority for me to have my own identity apart from being a mother. I might be busier this way but I'm so much more happier.
What is something special that you like to do with the kids on those rare days you have off?
Days off? Hm.. I like baking with the kids but have to remember to turn off the anal button when doing it. "It's not about the muffins, it's about the experience.. it's not about the muffins.." (haha!). One thing we look forward to doing together as a family every summer is getting up early one weekend and taking the first ferry to Centre Island (in Toronto). We LOVE Center Island - it's so beautiful and hard to believe that it's a 10 minute ferry ride from the heart of Toronto. They have a great little amusement part there that has a really nice old world feel to it and we like to ride our bikes on the boardwalk and visit Rectory Café, this beautiful café that's kind of hidden behind the trees off the boardwalk and has gorgeous backyard seating. (SMK: I do believe Meredith Heron of Restaurant Makeover fame styled the interior! Ok yes yes, I'm a big fan of hers.)
|Image Credit: SoYoung Mother, The Charlie Bag|
My faves are Bloesem Kids, LMNOP and Ohdeedoh off the top of my head. But there are so many amazing ones! I just like surfing and finding what I discover.
Do your kids like to get involved in the design process of your bags? And do they like to 'test drive' them?
Well, they're certainly opinionated about the colours and designs of the lunch boxes and cooler bags. My son is still mad at me because I didn't make the robot in silver (we tried, there just wasn't enough contrast against the linen). But mostly we like to use them as our models and testers and see how badly they can wreck things and how long it takes. (SMK: Pretty long I can say as it only takes Keira a few weeks to get things ready for the trash! and our SYM bags are still going strong).
And lastly, what advice would you give to any aspiring mompreneurs out there?
I would say, if you have an idea, talk to as many people as you can to get their feedback and experience. Network with people who are more successful than you. And if the idea is still exciting and makes you feel alive after all that, then take a deep breath and JUMP.
For more information and to shop for your own SYM bags, please head on over to their gorgeous website soyoungmother.com.
To connect with Catherine and the SYM team and to find out up to date information about their next shows, products and contests, you can follow and 'like' them on Facebook.com/soyoungmother and follow her tweets here: @soyoungmother.
SYM has videos showcasing the technicities of each of their products and care instructions as well. Check them all out on their website!