It’s always inspiring to meet a female entrepreneur, and even more so when that woman is committed to improving her community. Little Minis‘ founder Kelly McKee Zajfen is all of the above, having created a beautiful, eco-conscious line of children’s clothing made locally in Los Angeles. We had the chance to chat with Kelly about her previous profession as a model, being the mother of twins and how she ultimately created her dream job.
WHAT WERE YOU DOING 5-10 YEARS AGO, BEFORE LITTLE MINIS?
KMZ: Before Little Minis, I was modeling! Mostly runway, and while I was modeling, I was also in grad school at USC for social work. Modeling was never my future job, but I knew the incredible opportunities and work would help me pay for school. And while I was in grad school, to our surprise, I became pregnant with twins. That was 5 years ago! It’s been a totally fun and unexpected journey, but I had to change my plans.
IS LITTLE MINIS YOUR DREAM JOB?
KMZ: I don’t think I could have dreamed this job in my mind! What has come out of wanting to create beautiful clothing for kids has turned into the most wonderful community and job that has exceeded my expectations.
WHEN DID YOU HAVE YOUR “AH HA” MOMENT OF LITTLE MINIS?
KMZ: I think when I did the first trunk show in Los Angeles. The line out of the door and around the corner was so shocking and exciting — I was in awe. To see what you love to do and work hard to create come to life and have that kind of support was just incredible. And, I have made some incredible friendships.
HOW DID YOU COME UP WITH THIS BUSINESS CONCEPT AND DID YOU HAVE EXPERIENCE IN IT PRIOR?
KMZ: It came out of the desire to really want to make kid’s clothing that was eco-conscious; beautiful heirloom pieces that you just have to throw on and be done. Once I had twins, it took me forever to get out the door, and so, the focus was making things fashionable and functional.
I think my experience with modeling certainly helped with my eye and aesthetic. When i first started, I had a business partner who had worked in production and taught me that part of the business. I was really good at customer service, and getting the brand out there. When it became just me in the business, it took some time to really learn every single aspect of the parts I hadn’t done before, but I partnered with a fantastic factory, and had some really amazing people to guide me when I needed advice.
HOW DID YOU FUND LITTLE MINIS?
KMZ: My own money! When we started the company, we actually didn’t start with a lot; we figured the most responsible way was starting small. And once that worked, we built upon that even more.
WE LOVE THAT YOUR PRODUCT IS MADE LOCALLY IN LA. WAS THIS IMPORTANT TO YOUR BRAND FROM THE START?
KMZ: 100%. To be able to build on the very community I live in, help provide jobs, know the people who are making the pieces and provide them fair wages creates the most beautiful environment to be in. I love that the business also creates pieces that are used with sustainable fabrics found here in Los Angeles, and that the business has found a place that is impactful and community-driven.
NAME 3 OF THE SCARIEST MOMENTS YOU HAD WHEN DOING THIS?
KMZ: The first one was when my first factory closed its sewing floors, and I didn’t even know where to start in finding and beginning all over again. It was a real growing moment for me. The second one was when the new factory was not meeting my expectations and I had to find a new one again! But, every challenge I have been met with has given me more knowledge, and opened a new door. I’m now in the right place and I love it so much. The third one is starting this new year with new ideas and new pieces. I always get so nervous putting things out into the world, and i just have to hope that by taking chances and believing in myself, the customers will love it too.
WHAT IS YOUR PIECE OF ADVICE TO ANYONE WHO WANTS TO STOP WHAT THEY’RE DOING AND CREATE THEIR “DREAM JOB”?
KMZ: My favorite advice I was given, that I try to pass out and certainly tell myself over and over again is: If you aren’t scared, you’re not doing it right. It’s not an easy thing to stop what you’re doing, take time away from your family, and be financially responsible in creating your dream. And, life is going to throw a million tough things at you, so if you can give yourself the joy of your dream job, I think you should – at the very least – see where it takes you. Each passion I have followed has given me so much that I am beyond grateful for. And the good news is, there is always more to dream and accomplish.
photo credit: Nicki Sebastian