Half of the fun of having children is all the amazing and fun books, toys and clothes out there to keep your kiddo entertained and happy. If you’re the kind of mom who loves designing your kid’s birthday party piñatas or helping to decorate your child’s bedroom, then you might want to consider a career curating the very best in children’s goods. In this week’s How to Quit Your Day Job series, we chat with Maia McDonald Smith, who started the adorable online children’s shop Bitte with her mother, Sara McDonald. Maia shares how her background as a designer and art director and her mother’s creative influence made her the ideal candidate to open Bitte.
Meet the Children Boutique Pro: Maia McDonald Smith
Maia McDonald Smith perfected her eye for visual detail in her eight years as an art director and designer for such brands as Shopbop.com, Williams-Sonoma and Rue magazine. The Pinterest pro (she has almost two million followers) discussed the idea for Bitte, which means both “please” and “you’re welcome” in German, for years with her mom, who is Bitte’s co-owner. “When I had my daughter, the idea for Bitte started to really form in my mind. As a new mom I saw a gap in the market for a trusted children’s boutique that carried well-designed, sustainable toys and clothes. Thus, Bitte was born,” says Maia. Her mom’s own experience as an all-natural toy maker helped Maia understand how to start her own business. The online children’s boutique offers unique items such as eco-friendly finger paints, clothing, books, cute temporary tattoos and beautiful decor. Maia shares some tips for what has helped her launch her dream career.
1. Find a partner who brings out your good side. With her mother’s background in the children’s toy arena, Maia had a co-owner who knew the nuts and bolts of manufacturing and had experience with “vendors, calculating cost of goods and the ins and outs of shipping and receiving.” Her mother’s keen design eye matched well with Maia’s background in design, e-commerce, photography and social media. “It really was such a good marriage of skills and backgrounds. I can’t imagine going into business with anyone else,” says Maia.
2. Tell people about your plan. Maia advocates sharing your vision with important people in your life. “You’ll feel peer pressure to actually accomplish what you’ve been talking about,” says Maia. “I always feel like it’s not real until I start talking about it to other people.” Setting a goal and working backward from there is another tip that helped Maia move forward with Bitte.
3. Get your idea out there. Though Maia admits there is a fine line between giving it your all and getting bogged down in the minutia of business and “never really producing anything,” she suggests that it’s better to get your idea out there and improve as you go, rather than making sure everything is 100 percent perfect before launching.
4. Think about what the market is missing. All that time you spend scouring design blogs and wandering artisan craft fairs can actually be good for business. Maia and her mom log hours searching online and at maker faires to find just the right products for the Bitte customer. “When we can’t find something that we think the market is missing, we also manufacture some of our own products,” says Maia.
5. Know the realities of starting your own company. Save some money ahead of time. Maia and her mom didn’t plan on taking salaries for at least a year after they launched Bitte. The duo moved out of the Bay Area since they needed more space and knew that the real estate was too pricey to be practical for them.
6. Seek out advice from people in the know. Maia reached out to entrepreneurs she respected for their advice and business acumen. Her husband, a stay-at-home dad, had worked in a shipping and receiving department for a major retailer, so she turned to him for help running the warehouse.
7. Kickstart your business. Maia and her mother used crowdfunding to help secure funds for Bitte, though she admits that she wished they had done things a little differently. “I think we rushed it a little. It all turned out fine in the end, but it really takes a lot of time and work to pull one of those campaigns off, so for anyone else thinking to do one, make sure to give yourself ample time to do it correctly,” says Maia.
Perfect Your Skills
1. Kickstart Your Business With Crowdfunding Online Class ($39): Learn how inventor Lisa Fetterman, who raised over $1.3M through two record-shattering Kickstarter campaigns, got her start. This beginner class walks you through the step-by-step process to make your crowdfunded campaign a success.
2. Connect With Your Customers on Social Media ($39): In this course, home goods designer Erin Dollar shares 11 lessons for creating social media that engages your audience and builds your brand online. (Want to learn how Erin started her company, Cotton and Flax? Read about it in How to Quit Your Day Job interview with Erin.)
3. Be Your Own Boss: Start Your First Creative Business Online Class ($39): If you’re dying to turn your passion into profit, join Jess Ekstrom, a #girlboss who founded Headbands of Hope in 2012, to learn the basics of starting your dream job.
What’s your dream career? Tweet us @BritandCo to let us know, and we could feature it in the next column!
(Photos via Bitte)