It takes a special kind of woman to launch a business with a new baby on her hands. Gisa Heinz is that kind of woman. So is Susana Arce. When these two ladies launched Folklore Baby & Kids in 2015, they both had tiny children to care for. Arce had a 6-month-old; Heinz had a colicky 3-month-old and a 2-year-old. But neither of them are the type to let a few tantrums stop them.
Arce and Heinz met through their husbands, who are co-workers. As mothers and businesswomen who had temporarily left the business world, they recognized themselves in one other. As people with Latin American roots — Arce is from Bolivia, and Heinz is from Guatemala — they had a cultural compatibility that quickly led to a close friendship. Before long they were thinking about starting some kind of company together.
They discussed franchising a clothing line from South America. They considered opening a coffee shop with a play area for kids. But when they began talking about artisanal blankets from Bolivia, children’s swimsuits from Guatemala and handwoven textiles from both countries, they knew they had hit on the right idea.
“Focusing on kids makes sense,” Heinz says, “because that’s our world right now. The main reason we created Folklore is to be able to be with our kids, stay connected to our roots and show our children where we come from.” They also want to be able to work from anywhere or spend summers in Guatemala or Bolivia with their families. “We want the flexibility to be moms and business owners,” Heinz says.
Each lady set off for her respective country and brought back artisanal textiles and clothing items so that they could get fresh inspiration and begin to explore their own clothing designs for children and moms. Neither has formal clothing-design training — Heinz is a graphic designer with branding and marketing expertise; Arce’s resume includes sales and marketing, e-comm, and product sourcing — but they are learning as they go, sketching things on paper and collaborating with the artisans who make the pieces. Every item they sell, whether graphic tee, buckle bag or pajama pant, is a loving reflection of one of their home countries.
Folklore’s fall/winter 2016 collection, which is online now, is entirely from Bolivia, where cold weather calls for cozy knit sweaters, pom-pommed ponchos, colorful scarves, and cute beanies and leg warmers. The embellished party skirts are just right for holiday photos and dancing around the Christmas tree.
The summer 2017 collection (in the works now) will feature the lighter fabrics of Guatemala.
The hardest part so far of launching and running Folklore Baby & Kids? “Growing online sales,” Arce says. “We do mostly pop-up shops and gift fairs — once someone sees the product, the sale is easy — but converting a visitor to the site to a customer who makes a purchase is really difficult.”
One thing they’ve learned about selling kids’ clothing online is that it’s necessary to show photographs of kids wearing the clothing.
They’ve also learned the importance of editing. Whether it’s going to too many shows or having too many SKUs, quantity over a carefully crafted concept can be a detriment. “It’s very easy to get super excited and say, ‘Oh, we can do this and this and this.’ But we’ve discovered that we really have to focus on a specific product and a target market in order to be successful,” Heinz says.
Folklore made its Flea Style debut just a few weeks ago, and we’re working together with Arce and Heinz on an exclusive collection just for our customers.
Arce and Heinz, who say naptime is critical for their productivity, have some advice for creatives looking to take the leap from corporate jobs to something of their own. First, says Heinz enthusiastically, “Go for it!” She adds that being flexible is key and that it’s important to be comfortable knowing that your original vision is unlikely to be what you ultimately end up with.
Arce adds that anyone starting out should prepare to work hard. “Be ready to do everything,” she stresses. “We’ve done it all, from driving vans and setting up shelves, to carrying bins of products and ironing clothing. We do whatever it takes.” But she encourages young women and men who have an entrepreneurial drive to stick to it. “If you truly believe in what you are doing, it will work.”
And now, a few fast, fun questions for these busy moms …
Coffee or tea?
Sunrise or sunset?
Arce: It used to be sunset, but lately it’s sunrise.
Cupcakes or cookies?
Arce: Cookies, unless we’re talking Baked by Melissa.
Dogs or cats?
Both: Rescue dogs.
Pom-poms or tassels?
Dresses or pants?
Shop Folklore Baby & Kids online at www.folklorebk.com.