Moms and entrepreneurs Kelly Oriard and Callie Christensen are the founders of Slumberkins, an adorable line of cuddly creatures designed to promote positive attachments for babies. We recently caught up with Kelly and Callie to learn more about how they used their experiences in motherhood and past careers to create their brand, and ultimately their dream jobs.
WHAT WERE YOU DOING 7-10 YEARS AGO BEFORE SLUMBERKINS?
We’ve been best friends since high school and literally in-step ever since. We both went off to college and played collegiate sports (Kelly played volleyball and Callie played basketball) then we both played professionally abroad (Kelly in Spain and Switzerland, Callie in Switzerland), and we started dating our husbands around the same time. In thinking back to 7-10 years ago, we had both moved back to the Pacific Northwest and were focused on our Master’s programs (Kelly in Family Therapy and School Counseling, Callie in Elementary and Special Education).
IS SLUMBERKINS YOUR DREAM JOB?
Yes! It’s been a shift since we both went into education with the intention to remain in those roles until retirement. Slumberkins has opened up our eyes to the world of entrepreneurship while incorporating everything we are passionate about; our children, education, promoting attachment, and best of all, we get to work together.
WHEN DID YOU HAVE YOUR “AH HA” MOMENT OF SLUMBERKINS?
We think the most important “Ah ha” moment we had was the concept of incorporating skill building Rhymes into our product. Without the intention behind the product, we would have lost the steam and energy to continue to grow Slumberkins while still growing our families and working in education. The Sleepytime Rhymes are the heart and soul behind the brand. There are many plush toys on the market for anyone that wants a cute lovey, but we think our mission and intention set us and our brand apart.
But still, there have been so many “ah ha” moments since the very beginning. From idea conception to how to properly scale from a handmade business of sewing everything ourselves to mass production, we’ve had so many moments of learning and growth that were necessary for us to figure out along the way. As educators, learning to navigate the world of business has been a BIG learning curve. We have had a couple friends help lead us in the right direction, but for the most part, it’s been the both of us working hard daily to make Slumberkins a household name in the toy industry.
HOW DID YOU COME UP WITH THIS BUSINESS CONCEPT AND DID YOU HAVE EXPERIENCE IN IT PRIOR?
We came up with this business concept while on maternity leave together. We were inspired by our sons that were born two months apart and wanted to create a lovey that was more unique and special than anything out there. We were able to use our education and training to incorporate therapeutic interventions and age appropriate learning into each Sleepytime Rhyme. We wanted to make sure that the Sleepytime Rhymes added the value of promoting attachment building skills. We were doing this as educators and were excited to create a product that could help create a home and school connection. Slumberkins really encapsulate all the aspects of ourselves that we are passionate about in one snuggly product!
HOW DID YOU FUND YOUR STARTUP?
We started with an initial investment of $200 dollars each for fabric. We grew organically, starting to sell at local craft fairs, then listing on Etsy and finally building our own brand website. Because we were able to make our product ourselves and had good advice on how to price them, we were able to just keep building capital to continue growing. Our first year, we both still worked in the schools, so we were fortunate enough to be able to reinvest all the money we earned back into Slumberkins. This reinvestment during our first year was crucial in scaling and professionalizing our brand. We have only recently started paying ourselves, which is very exciting. We are both taking the leap this year by not returning to our positions at our schools and jumping into Slumberkins full-time.
NAME 3 OF THE SCARIEST MOMENTS YOU HAD WHEN DOING THIS.
We are experiencing the scariest moment right now as we transition into Slumberkins as a full-time career. Making the calls to our schools and taking the risk of leaving our stable positions in education is very scary. It’s an exciting time, but we are really taking the plunge now and giving up some security to make Slumberkins the success that we know it can be.
Thinking back to this last year and thinking about other times that were scary, we always come back to growth and scaling our business. When we decided to hire our first employee, or when we signed the lease on our Slumberkins studio. Also, moving from sewing them ourselves to hiring seamstresses and trusting them with our product was a scary step. All the things that take risk in order to grow have been moments of just trusting in our sheer determination to grow Slumberkins into the brand we envision it being in the next 5 years and beyond.
WHAT IS YOUR PIECE OF ADVICE TO ANYONE WHO WANTS TO STOP WHAT THEY’RE DOING AND CREATE THEIR “DREAM JOB”?
We are so fortunate to have very supportive families and people around us that have helped make our dream a reality. Of course our first reaction is to say, DO IT! But it also takes more than just you. It takes a village of people who can help support you through the grind of the day to day. Our parents helping with our kids, our partners picking up the slack in the home and a whole lot of incredible people who work with us side by side each day helping support our dream. We truly believe that if you have good intentions and the drive, you can create this kind of environment where you can succeed. But it’s important to know that no one does anything all by themselves. We feel so fortunate to have the support that we do. So our advice is to surround yourself with positivity and people who support you and then, GO FOR IT!