Handmade Holiday Gift Guide • That Special Touch

HOLIDAY SHOPPING DEADLINE All regular items must be ordered by December 16th, customs by December 12th (everything ships Priority, but Express can be purchased additionally)

Katie in her own words...

Tell us about you!
I was born, raised, and currently reside in Oakdale CA.  It's a small rural town in the central valley.  I live with my boyfriend and two dogs - a chocolate and black lab.  Even though I don't have kids, everyone knows my dogs are more spoiled than my kids would be anyways haha.  I do have a day job that is 40+ hours a week.  I work for a painting contractor where I read plans and assist the estimators with bidding and project managing.  Although I would ideally be working on the shop full time, I do like the mathematical and analytical aspect of my job and I feel like it allows me to keep my left and right brains sharp :) When work and the shop do not have me occupied (or just have me going crazy!) I love to get up to the mountains to unwind.  I also love to cook, crochet, garden, refinish furniture, etc...

What is the name of your business and what is it you make?
My shop is That Special Touch, and I make handcrafted home decor

How did you start your business? How has it evolved?
I started an Etsy shop back in 2013 when I was recovering from a severe accident and needed a creative outlet while I was not able to work.  From there, I decided it was something I wanted to keep pursuing even when I was able to work again.  Since then, I have begun to hone in on the direction I want to head and the types of products I want to carry.  It is a continuous work in progress, but I want to create items that are inspired by all the design influences in my life: an eclectic mix of rustic, vintage, industrial, and boho.  I love natural materials and want to focus on wood, glass, metal, and stone in the future.

What is the meaning of your business name? How did you come up with it?
So the thought process behind my shop name, was the desire to create pieces that customers will love and will become "that special touch" within their space.  I want to make things that are more than just generic, chain store replicas and focus on things that will spark interest and dialogue in someone's home.

What is your biggest dream for you and your business?
I would love to get to the point where I can have the shop be my sole focus and income.  I'd love to be able to connect with enough clients each year to make a living doing what I love - as cliche as it may sound.  If money were no object, I would absolutely love to open a storefront and showcase local artists as well.  Make it like a studio feel, so customers get the full experience of entering the artist's workspace and purchasing from a real person.

What is your favorite part?
I love creating custom pieces for clients more than anything - something that is uniquely theirs and means a great deal to them.  I do not love shipping prices!  haha, if that can be my least favorite!  Making home decor, some pieces get very large and/ or heavy, and shipping prices can limit the amount of people who are willing to buy handmade versus just "amazoning" it.

What is something we wouldn’t know about you or your business?
So going back to the accident I had prior to starting the shop, most people do not know everything I went through and had to recover from.  First my family was told I would not survive, then I was told I would not walk, then I was told I would not live a normal life.  I basically gave the middle finger to all those options, and surprised my doctor with my will and stubbornness.  I try to draw from that in my life now, and whenever I need strength I just remind myself that I am the only one stopping me from doing anything I want.

What has been your biggest accomplishment so far? What are you most proud of?
I would say I am most proud of being able to juggle a demanding day job with having a small shop of my own.  There are days I just want to come home and relax, but I still manage to ship all my orders out on time and keep gooing with it.  Sure, I am not able to promote, engage on social media, take as many orders, create as many new items as full time shops but I am happy with where I am for the time I do have.  Over the next year, I want to figure out a way to focus on just doing the shop and maybe cutting back on work hours (or quitting!).

What does shopping small mean to you?
To me, shopping small means being conscious of where you are investing yourself.  Do you want to put your hard earned money into supporting a corporation that has no consideration for your life, or do you want to support an individual in your own community who will value your purchase and be truly grateful?  By shopping small, you are putting your money back into the pockets of your community and making a difference in someone's life.

What are your plans for the holidays?
We usually just stay close to home and celebrate the holidays with family.  It is nice to just keep it low key and visit with those you love.  My favorite tradition has become searching for the most unique gift that each person will truly love - which means shopping small and buying handmade!


Handmade Holiday Gift Guide • Monka! Goods

HOLIDAY SHOPPING DEADLINE; regular shipping, customs, priority, international, etc.: Custom Monka! Ornaments and Tree Toppers must be purchased by 12/8 to ensure delivery before Christmas. Ready to ship items that are listed in my shop can be purchased up until 12/16. Unfortunately I can't guarantee the delivery date of International orders. All US Orders are shipped using USPS Priority Mail, International orders are shipped via USPS First Class International.

I will be at a pop-up holiday event at Blowtique located at 1 E Huron in Chicago's Gold Coat on November 30th. There will be a handful of other small shops including Mama Said Tees, Glam Banners, and Lo & Co Custom Sneaks (and more)! Drinks and appetizers too!

Lauren in her own words...

Do you have any fun nicknames? How did you get them? 

Some of my friends call me Lbeezy :) My maiden name is Braun, so it was a play on my initials.. :) Now people call me Miss Monka or the Monka Lady :)

Tell us about you!
I'm originally from the Chicago suburbs, I moved around a bit when I was younger and we also lived in Iowa and NY. My family moved back to the Chicago suburbs when I was in High School and I've been in the general vicinity since then. I met my husband working at a mom and pop owned copy shop back in 2002 and we've been together ever since! We've slowly moved further and further away from Chicago after living in the city for a handful of years and we finally bought a house in the northern suburbs (halfway between Chicago and the Wisconsin border) :) We have a 3 year old son, Ben who was my inspiration for my business and we just had a baby girl Samantha less than 3 weeks ago! When I'm not working, I love to spend as much time outside as possible. We especially love hiking through the forest preserves, camping, having BBQs, and hanging around the fire pit with friends. In reality, I spend most of my non-working time playing batman and dinosaurs with Ben :)

What is the name of your business and what is it you make? 
My business is Monka! Goods. I make home decor (wall hooks and drawer pulls), magnets, plus party and holiday items (table toppers, christmas ornaments, christmas tree toppers, and menorahs) from kids toys! Mostly dinosaurs and unicorns, but almost any kind of animal/creature!

How did you start your business? How has it evolved? 
I started it after I had been a stay at home mom for a few months. I was looking for a way to make some extra money and had gotten so many compliments on the wall hooks that I made for Ben's nursery that I decided that was the way to go! I figured I would sell one every few weeks, but I'm making sales daily and recently had to restructure and take on an assistant to be sure I could keep up with demand and stay sane :) I originally sold 100% custom pieces, now I sell my ready to ship collection and I take on 10 custom orders per month. 

What is the meaning of your business name? How did you come up with it?
I have a handful of nicknames for Ben. One of them is Monkey which morphed into Monka. I still call him Monka every now and then, but it feels a little weird now, haha!

What is your biggest dream for you and your business?
My biggest wish would be that I can be successful enough with Monka! that I wouldn't need to look for a job once my kids are in full day school. 

What is your favorite part? The part you don’t care for as much? 
My favorite part has been meeting all of the other makers in the small shop world. I have made such amazing friends and found so much support and camaraderie, which is just as fulfilling as running my own business! My least favorite part is adding new listings to my shop. It is tedious and time consuming! 

What is something we wouldn’t know about you or your business?
I am a beauty school dropout! :) I worked in salons for years at the front desk and made it through school up to the point where you cut hair on real people. The stress of possibly messing it up was too much! I've seen how clients react when they aren't happy with their hair! :) 

What has been your biggest accomplishment so far? What are you most proud of? 
I think I am most proud of joining Etsy Wholesale. I have started some really great relationships with retailers across the US and I cannot wait to expand into more shops!

What does shopping small mean to you?
When you shop small not only are you directly supporting families, but you are also buying super high quality, innovative, creative, and unique items. 

Why is handmade so important?
The most obvious benefit to me is cutting down the pattern of mass production to help the environment. I think it is also extremely important to support the arts and makers movement. Making sure that future generations see the value of learning how to make things on your own and how much work goes into making things. I want to be sure that my son and daughter know how to use a sewing machine, power tools, hand tools, and more! Having a creative outlet whether you make money with it or not is extremely important for your mental well-being! 

You're so awesome, Lauren! Tell us a bit more...
I LOVE that I make items that make so many people smile! I sometimes can't believe that people love the items that I make in my cramped and messy basement studio so much! :) (I definitely have a Type A personality, but my studio is the one place where I don't feel the need to keep it clean and organized. When I am down there my brain is in creative mode and I never force myself to stop and clean up. Thankfully my wonderful husband doesn't complain about the bits of plastic, paint, glue, and glitter scattered all over the floor :)

What are your plans for the holidays? 
We will be staying close to home for the holidays. We spend Christmas Eve with my husband's whole family, and Christmas Day with his mom and sister. For Hanukah I try to have friends over at least once for latkes. I love decorating the house and tree, and now getting to watch the excitement through my son's eyes has been the best part the last few years. He already asks to go to the hardware store to look at the decorations (which have been out since before Halloween!) :)


Handmade Holiday Gift Guide • Simply 1 Love

Cat in her own words...

Do you have any fun nicknames? How did you get them? 
Haha my hubby calls me the "Snack Queen" because I always have snacks in my bag or we always need to stop to grab them before a long drive. Other than that just my name, Cat which is short for Catrina.

Tell us about you!
I am originally from a small farm town in central California and moved to San Francisco with my husband 2 years ago after he accepted his dream job working at a golf club here in the city. We were recently married in May of this year, and have one fur baby together (real babies soon to come). I love exploring new cities, driving around aimlessly & getting lost. Thrift shopping and fashion is my second love and I spend my weekends creating & sewing. Last year I started the tradition of passing out lunches to homeless people here in San Francisco. I used profits from my business and entitled it the "You Are Loved Campaign". I hope to continue the tradition annually and grow the campaign even bigger each year. Other than that I am a huge bay area sports fan and you can always find me at games all year long.

What is the name of your business and what is it you make?
The name of my business is Simply 1 Love. I hand make and sew kimonos, ponchos and accessories for women and girls. I also sell vintage and boutique clothing with a "girl next door" vibe.

How did you start your business? How has it evolved?
I started my business back in 2013 (maybe even earlier if you count the name change and selling on Facebook haha). I only sold hair accessories, many of which were hot glued (terrible I know). From there I made jewelry for awhile and then within the last year stared sewing kimonos and ponchos. Through all of the changes I have always kept the vintage/bohemian vibe and love that aspect of the business. I am sure I'll change things in the future but Simply 1 Love will always be an extension of who I am.
What is the meaning of your business name? How did you come up with it?
Simply 1 Love's name was created from my love of reggae music (one love) and just living simply. The brand has evolved since then but I feel the meaning behind it is still it is still the same. Also my one true love is fashion, and thats what I sell! haha

What is your biggest dream for you and your business?
My biggest dream for Simply 1 Love is to become more of a styling based business with the handmade aspect being a huge part of it. I ideally would love to throw styling parties, show women how to use their wardrobe to it's potential and eventually be able to create and grow my second company Frankie + Sirena (still in the dream stage @frankieandsirena). Maybe one day even owning a brick and mortar.

What is your favorite part? The part you don’t care for as much?
My favorite part of Simply 1 Love is being able to help women feel confident in their clothing. When I see a smile on the face of someone and know it is because of something I did it lights up my world. To be honest I am not a huge fan of sewing up orders and packaging/shipping. One goal in 2017 is to become ready made. I usually don't have stock on hand and it drives me insane when orders come piling in.

What is something we wouldn’t know about you or your business?
One thing you wouldn't know about me is that I lack self confidence and suffer from extreme overwhelm/anxiety when it comes to everything I have to do on a given day/week. To Do lists & wine have become my best friends when dealing with the huge pile of work I give myself. 

What has been your biggest accomplishment so far? What are you most proud of?
My biggest accomplishment to date has to be getting my kimonos on Sheana Shay of Vanderpump Rules. We got so many orders from her social media posts! Also it would have to launching my website and being completely self taught at everything I have done with Simply 1 Love.

What does shopping small mean to you?
Shopping small to me means supporting a dream. When you shop small you not only support a family you support a dream. You put food on the table of a family, allow a family to pay their bills and even send their kids to college. People like you and me are the ones impacted by the decision to shop small, not huge corporations.

Why is handmade so important?
Handmade is quality! I have struggled with the idea of fast fashion lately (think Forever 21) and hate the fact that most larger companies are not sustainable. I love that handmade items are made with love and are often times much sturdier than something bought from a department store. It is our job to leave the planet in better shape than what  we were born into and what better way than to buy handmade.

What are your plans for the holidays? 
What is your favorite way to spend the holidays? Favorite traditions? My hubby and I are spending the holidays with his parents in Santa Cruz (both Thanksgiving & Christmas) Because we are from towns close to each other all of our family lives close together and it makes it easy to spend time with everyone. Christmas day usually tops the cake by spending it at his aunt and uncle's house in Carmel by the Sea. Most traditions take place there (like this amazing breakfast called "EggThing" haha) 


Handmade Holiday Gift Guide • NursElet

HOLIDAY SHOPPING DEADLINE; regular shipping, customs, priority, international, etc.: regular shipping – 3 to 5 business days from the order placed

Rupal in her own words...

Do you have any fun nicknames? 
My friends call me Rups 

Tell us about you!!!
I am originally from India, and moved in U.S.A. to purse Masters of Science in Engineering in 2004. That’s where I met my sweet heart in New York City. After marriage, we moved in San Francisco Bay Area, California. I am a proud mother of two little boys. I am self-taught artist; pencils and colors are jam!

What is the name of your business and what is it you make? 
NursElet®. I have launched this business last year to solve motherhood easier. I have created patent pending baby products to make nursing mothers’ lives easier and comfortable.

How did you start your business? How has it evolved? 
I have created NursElet® product from my own breastfeeding challenges to make other nursing mothers’ lives easier. I have developed my prototype and tested on new moms. NursElet – Nursing Bracelet is approved by local lactation consultant and pediatricians. Mothers love this product all around the world. It has been appeared in two national magazines. Fit Pregnancy and Baby (Feb2016) and Pregnancy and Newborn (Aug2016) magazines.

What is the meaning of your business name? 
NursElet®. I derived this name from my first product Nursing Bracelet.

What is something we wouldn’t know about you or your business?
My first wholesale order which was 1000 units of NursElet® - Essential Bracelet for Nursing Mom – which I have sewn in less than 20 days! Day and night sewing!! FedEx recognized my effort and published my story on their home page intranet.

What are your plans for the holidays? 
Spend time with friends and family. My first son’s birthday is next day after Christmas, so you can imagine my plan…party!
What does shopping small mean to you? To support mama and papa shops who put lot of efforts to run it.


Handmade Holiday Gift Guide • Handmade Happiness by Ruth

My holiday shopping deadline for Canada is December 1st, for the US is Dec 15th
Reagan Middle School Holiday Bazaar in Haymarket on December 4th 

Ruth in her own words...

Hi, I'm Ruth of Handmade Happiness by Ruth and I make toys.  I started making toys when my oldest was born, but didn't start selling the toys that I make until a friend saw my youngest at a Christmas party, up way past his bedtime, and instead of melting down like all the other kids, he was playing quietly with his car mat, perfectly content.  She bought 3 on the spot.  Once people realized I was selling toys, they started lining up to buy them.  

Handmade Happiness by Ruth seemed like the perfect name because I handmake every toy and they sure do bring a lot of happiness.
My biggest dream for my business is to grow to a size that I can employ women around the world, providing flexible jobs for the mamas out there who need to work, but want to be there for their children.  I have a vision that one day, when you open up a Handmade Happiness by Ruth package, there will be a card inside with the picture and a brief biography of the maker and what the positive employment opportunity means for her family.  "by Mary" or "by Tamar" or "by Sophia." 

As a licensed architect, my absolute favorite part of the business is designing new toys.  I will prototype a toy for weeks on end, having my two lead toy testers (my 5 and 3 year old boys) test out my designs and tell me what they love or don't love.  The joy they get from helping me design a new toy is beautiful to watch. 
My absolute least favorite part of the making process is making mistakes and pulling out stitches.  My seam ripper and I have a love hate relationship.
My friends all call me Ruthie because it was more fun to say that just plain Ruth.
I grew up in Tennessee in a little town just outside of Chattanooga and I now live in another small town, Winchester, Virginia (as far west from DC as you can go before you hit West Virginia).  I have a henna artist husband and two sweet boys, one who loves to cook with me, and one who loves to tell me stories. Watching them develop their own unique personalities brings home for me the reality that children everywhere are so unique, so I keep making new toys and new designs, hoping that out there somewhere is a child for whom the next design will be a perfect match.

This year is my first in business as I officially launched November of 2015.  So after the rush of the holidays, I will be taking 6 weeks off to rest, to recharge, to sleep more than 4 hours a night, to reconnect with my family, and to dream up new ideas for the coming year.  I am so excited for this break and what it will mean for our family to have mama fully engaged instead of half thinking of business all the time.  It will all start with my favorite part of the Christmas season: decorating our Christmas tree.  Last year, we couldn't share any photos of the fun because my then 2.5 year old insisted that he decorate the tree naked (he was potty training at the time), insisting that he WAS dressed because he had on socks. 

Shopping small and shopping handmade means so much to me, not just because it is my livelihood, but because my grandmother used to make so many things for us.  Every Halloween costume or fancy holiday dress was made for me by either my grandmother or my mother and every last one of them has a memory, a feeling of being so special.  When something is made with love and with care, it is almost as if some of that love and human connection rubs off on the item.  Handmade things just FEEL better.  Every item that I make is sent off with love and with prayers that the child on the receiving end will feel how precious he or she is to the people who gave the gift.  


Handmade Holiday Gift Guide • Just Be Designs

@justbe.designs for IG
Pinterest is @justbedesigns
Holiday shopping deadline is Dec 15. My turnaround time is 3-4 business days and I do not ship internationally yet.

Jillian in her own words...

My nick name is Beans or Beandip :) When I was younger my family called me Jillybean and as I got older my brothers shorten it and started calling me Beans. Now, my husband has picked it up and added the Dip! Maybe, because I want nachos for every meal, haha

This is a story all about how my life go flipped turned upside down...ha! But, seriously I was born and raised in Northwest Indiana right on Lake Michigan and am a Midwest girl at heart.  My love for the beach and sunshine brought me and my husband down to Florida after having our twin daughters. Yep, one winter and I was out! I am ok with never seeing snow again in my life, and spending my weekends in the sand. We now have three daughters, MacKenzie 11, Kaylee 11, and Presley 8. Two dogs, three cats, a few fish, and a one eyed hamster...yes, I know, I live in a petting zoo. We are big sports fans and love football and all the Chicago teams, GO CUBS! I have been coaching girls basketball for about 4 years now and I love it so much. When I am at work, I play with flowers all day. I have been a floral designer since I was 16, just about half my life.

My business is Just Be Designs, and I make fabric wrap bracelets, headbands, and bangles. I am currently working on a apparel line as well, launching 2017! I started this business a little over a year ago in October 2015. I have another small business where I hand paint wood signs and other crafts and I really wanted to change it up and do something that my kids could wear and moms could afford to get themselves a piece of jewelry thats busy life and kid friendly. The name of Just Be Designs came from the phrase I say so often that I want to "just be" You know those nights when dinner isn't done, or thought of, the kids are running around, you have no clean towels and you want to "just be". Just be happy with your life and where you are in it, happy with your family, your friends, and yourself. To Just Be is a way of life that I strive to live by and want to represent. My brother had a bad bicycle accident and we almost lost him and he is one of the most carefree, happy, giving souls I have ever met, and I am blessed to have him as a brother and when he survived all the surgeries and therapy, I knew that being happy with life is the most important gift we have, LIFE. I give some proceeds of certain products to anti-bullying campaigns in a small effort to reach out to those who at some point maybe they don't realize the gift of their life and just how important they truly are. 

My biggest dreams and goals for my shop right now seem to be endless and ever changing. I want to be able to stay home more with my girls and volunteer more. I hope to one day be able to give more back to the charities I hold dear with bigger sales, and possibly a storefront with beautiful products from other small shop and handmade artisans. To showcase style with positivity.

My favorite part of being a small shop owner is seeing someone wearing one of my bracelets! It is so heart warming and cute when I see a little one rocking Just Be! I would say one of my least favorite parts is cleaning up my office space after working! HAHA, adding products to my site can also be a little tedious work that I try to put off.

Something many people don't know about me is that I am a Pastor's daughter. My three brothers and I grew up in church all the time and moving around the area our whole childhood joining different churches and going on revivals. Crazy world that can be sometimes.

My biggest accomplishment for my business right now that I am most proud of is actually being a registered business! With all the responsibilities of paying taxes and everything, I feel legit now! 

I would say I have an obsession with Christmas!!! I start decorating way too early because it takes about two weeks to finish! We have a very fun, colorful, candy themed home during the holidays and we love it! We have three trees so we always go out ornament hunting each year. Our favorite Christmas tradition would have to be watching Home Alone and just cracking up every single time. It is the best! 

Shopping small to me has become a way of life, I have always loved craft fairs and little downtown boutiques. Growing up in Indiana we were surrounded my small town love and markets. I know how hard other shop owners work and what they have to sacrifice to make that beautiful scarf, or hand painted family ornament, so to me it is about showing them you love them and their talents. They you appreciate their time, their families sacrifice, those nights they stayed up late, knowing they had to wake up extra early to bake cupcakes for their kids birthday. To know that I didn't purchase all my kids Christmas gifts from a big box store makes me so happy, and honestly cute packages coming in the mail fill my heart!! Throw some twine on it and I want to buy it! LOL

I love thinking about what life must have been before every corner had a Walmart or Walgreens and being able to walk to the corner store and actually know the owners. To be able to go to your local market on the weekends and get your gifts there, or trade for items you were looking for. The idea of family, community, fresh, handmade is dear to my heart and something I hope to pass along to my daughters in this world of endless technology, and hustle and bustle. I want them to  embrace the fact that now they can go online and order gifts and choose to do it still with a handmade artisan, not always Amazon :)


Handmade Holiday Gift Guide • Chocolate Milke

Instagram: @chocolate_milke,
Facebook: @ChocolateMilkeApparel
Twitter: @chocolatemilke1
Pinterest: @chocolatemilke

Regular: 12/16
Priority: 12/20
International: 12/5

Angela in her own words...

Do you have any fun nicknames? How did you get them?
Punky Brewster - I got this name from my parents.  As a kid, I loved dressing up in crazy outfits and loading on accessories like bangles and bandanas.
Charlie Hustle - I was on my husband’s theater’s softball team and people would laugh at practice when I’d run full tilt, and then dive into the dirt to get a fly ball.  I always give 110% to whatever I do.

Tell us about you!
My family is from Pittsburgh, PA.  I grew up in Simi Valley, California and now live in Redondo Beach.  It’s pretty quiet, but full of lovely people and fun things to do.  We love going to the Redondo Beach Pier.  

I’m married to an amazing actor and father - Mike Lanahan (you may have seen him for about 2 seconds when he slams a door in Frankie Valli’s face on Jersey Boy's) - and together, we have a precocious 3-year-old daughter named Finley Rose.  She’s a little pistol…just like her mama.

I love to exercise, but rarely have time since starting my business.  Yoga has played a major role in my life over the course of many years.  I love doing flowly, level 2/3 classes and really sweating out my problems.  lol.

My other big joy is cooking. I used to have a cooking blog called $h*t I Bake: http://stuffibake.blogspot.com.  We’ve been featured on Slate.com, among other places.  It’s completely dropped off since my daughter was born.  I still cook often, but haven’t had time to document with photos and posts.

What is the name of your business and what is it you make? 
My company is called Chocolate Milke.  We make crazy soft leggings from eco-bamboo fabrics.  Our products are sewn with flat-lock machinery, so they are awesome for being active in.  Because of the gorgeous hand-dyed effects and super duper soft hand-feel, they also work well for chasing your child at the playground or upgrading the leggings you wear out for errands.  They can be styled up or down, so our stuff is totally versatile.  My girlfriends call them #nakedyoga pants.
How did you start your business? How has it evolved?
I’ve been a Designer and Design Director in the fashion industry for about 15 years.  When my daughter was 1 1/2 years old she started getting really high fevers every few days, and just stopped sleeping.   She was sick all the time, and my husband and I took turns sitting on the couch all night and holding her upright, so she could breath and sleep.  Finally we took her in for surgery - removing her adenoid and putting tubes in here ears.  
While we were in the thick of her health problems, I was launching a new active line at a multi-million dollar company.  Even though they had financial resources, our team was incredibly small, so I was working 12-14 hour days and full weekends.  The management there had unrealistic expectations of what could be done, so I was pushing myself daily to do impossible amounts of work.  I started having panic attacks and lost over 15 pounds from anxiety.  I knew, for my child, that I needed to make a change so I took a huge leap of faith and quit.

I’ve always wanted to have my own business, but it took me fully burning out to finally have the courage to take the leap.  We had saved a down payment for a house but decided instead to sink it into Chocolate Milke.  I started 1 year ago with 1 kids legging.  It came in 4 sizes and 4 colors.  Since then, we’ve introduced adult leggings and mommy & me dresses as well.  We’ve grown to include over 100 SKUs.  I found an investor to help us keep growing.  We are planning big numbers for 2017!

What is the meaning of your business name? How did you come up with it? 
When I was a kid, my mom would give me chocolate milk as a special treat.  If I got hurt, it was always chocolate milk to comfort me.  I now have Sunday Starbucks dates with my daughter, where she always orders chocolate milk and a scone or muffin.  It’s something special and different but not too far of a leap from the everyday.  It’s comforting.  

What is your biggest dream for you and your business?
The business was always intended to have a give-back angle.  Similar to a Toms, but instead of the 1-for-1 model, we’d give a percentage of sales to charities that teach leadership skills to girls and young women (such as SheJumps.org, Amy Poehler’s Smart Girls (amysmartgirls.com) and GirlsLeadership.org)  My dream is that we will get big enough in our units to really drop our price of goods, allowing us the margin to partner with these charities and using Chocolate Milke to make a difference in the issues that are closest to my heart.

I’d also eventually like to buy a home and convert the garage into our office and photo studio.  I love working from home and as we grow, I want to keep the connection to home and family an important angle to what we do.

What is your favorite part? The part you don’t care for as much? 
My favorite part is how freaking much I am learning.  I’m a great designer, but that piece is so little.  I have met people who are helping me with marketing, with my website, with collaborations and social media growth.  I feel like I’m on a crash course to being a real entrepreneur and finally at a place where I am advising mom bosses like myself who are just getting started.  I love meeting our fans and followers at these markets and events, as well.  The makers community is lovely and I’ve really enjoyed becoming a part of it.

I don’t care much for book-keeping, planning and running our numbers.  But I have to do it if we are going to have the growth I want.

What is something we wouldn’t know about you or your business?
At one point we made woven rompers and crocheted scarves.  When I was trying to get traction for us, I was testing a lot of different items.  Ultimately, it’s important to focus on one thing and to be the very best at it.  That’s the model we are following with our leggings.  

What has been your biggest accomplishment so far?
Alyssa Milano posted about our leggings on her Instagram.   I’ve been such a huge fan of hers since the days of “Whose the Boss”.  She is an outspoken proponent of breastfeeding and she seems like an incredible mom.  I totally freaked when I saw her post.  

What are your plans for the holidays? What is your favorite way to spend the holidays? Favorite traditions?
We typically go to Virginia, and then Pennsylvania, to visit with our families, but this year we are doing something completely different.  My husband is performing in a musical Off-Broadway, for the month of December (NY peeps, here is the shameless plug - go see His Royal Hipness Lord Buckley - http://www.59e59.org/moreinfo.php?showid=267).  Finley and I are flying to New York and we’ll be celebrating Christmas there with Mike, his co-star Jake and Jake’s family. My daughter can’t stop talking about the trip.  She is so excited and so am I.  I can’t wait to show her this city that I love so much.  We will be ice-skating, drinking hot chocolate and checking out the amazing store-front displays.

What does shopping small mean to you? 
Several things…  
For the customer it means a personal relationship to the maker you are buying from.  If you have a question and send an email, you will hear from the person responsible for every aspect of your order.  

It also means limited edition.  These aren’t mass-produced items so, similar to thrifting or inheriting  a special piece of jewelry, you own something that is rare and special.  Not everyone can go and buy it from Target.  Our leggings are hand-dyed in Downtown Los Angeles at a small, family-owned dye house.  Every one is a little different making it 100% unique.

Lastly, your purchases go directly to paying someone’s mortgage, or getting their child ballet lessons…not part of a CEO’s giant bonus at the end of a year.  That part really sunk in for me when I got started.  I’m hyper aware now of small businesses and boutiques in our area.  I do my best to give them my business first, before going to a chain for purchases.  This holiday I’ve pledged to only shop small for my gifts.

Why is handmade so important?
I truly believe handmade is the future.  Without getting (too) political, most Americans are frustrated with jobs being sent overseas, yet so many people shop at Walmart - the largest perpetuator of incredibly low prices that can only occur with outsourcing to 3rd world countries.  I’ve been to factories in China, Sri Lanka, India and Vietnam and I’ve watched as companies I worked for had to jump to different countries as prices went up.  Chinese workers have left factories now that there are better options, such as working at the mall (because it has air conditioning and most factories do not.)  Fewer people are producing in China now.  Many companies are even going to Bangladesh and parts of South Africa to make clothing as cheaply as possible.

I think customers are having doubt in these big corporations who turn incredible profits by doubling and tripling the mark-ups on goods made for pennies overseas.  As a community, we love the uniqueness of a hand-made, small-batch items.  We also know there is true love put into a handmade product and, even thought it may cost a bit more, in exchange for our purchases we get quality and the knowledge that we are doing something better for ourselves and our community.