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47 Cantata Drive
Mission Viejo, CA, 92692
United States

Collegiate Kids Store

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Blog Articles

(Mis) adventures in Parenthood, Little League & moving your family 5,500 miles from London to California.

Filtering by Category: Social Media

Internet Mate-ing

Laura Bonnell

I like meeting people, and I like being social. Through creating Muklet I've been able to connect more with the community around me than I ever would having been stuck working behind a desk 9-9 (the extra hours would be spent working late, checking emails or procrastinating about work!).

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Why it's a great idea to hire an Entrepreneur

Laura Bonnell

I recently went for an interview with a Fashion recruitment office over here in Orange County. After having shown my portfolio, and gone over my CV (or resume as they call it here) I felt the need to explain something that I hadn't mentioned on there. I hadn't mentioned that I had set up my own Childrens brand a year ago, and was in fact still currently working on it... part of me felt I would be shunned from ever working for a Fashion Brand ever again if they knew I had my own business. The Fashion world can be a fickle place!

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Trying not to over egg the (Californian) omelette

Laura Bonnell

I've become rather aware I may be sounding like a bit of a stuck record, banging on about our imminent move from London to California. I mean, it's kinda hard not to talk about it, given that it has practically taken over my daily existence for the past few months!

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Change is a comin'

Laura Bonnell

It's a great time to take a pause, and take an objective look at the business. The collection has organically grown over the last year to reflect the demand and feedback I have received about Muklet. When I started just over a year ago I designed and produced Kidswear from age 2-7 years. That has now grown to include apparel from birth through to XXL Adult!

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SISTERHOOD - For reals

Laura Bonnell

I'm aware of trends. I've worked in the Fashion industry for the past 17 years, I've become tuned in to seeing patterns emerge. In case you haven't noticed there's a bit of a working revolution going on... If you're entrenched in social media you'll also be aware of this 'Motherhood' and 'Sisterhood' vibe that's currently circulating the online communities.

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You have a Friend request from FACEBOOK

Laura Bonnell

I'd kind of fallen out of love with Facebook. When I first became a Momma it was my go to place to catch up on my friends goings on, my place to post 8 million pictures of my brand spanking new baby... last year I started to turn off notifications. I'd started to see people passing judgement, having a rant about someone or something.

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Losing my Vlog-ginity

Laura Bonnell

Back in March I toddled off to a small gathering at The Sanctum Soho Hotel featuring Mother Pukka (aka Anna Whitehouse) and Matt Riley. The event was 'The Great British Fake Off'...I came away feeling inspired, but not so sure I was really ready to add yet another social media channel to my growing portfolio of things to do. But as the weeks passed I started to think about it as an extension to my blog.

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MOMSTERS UNIVERSITY

Laura Bonnell

The thing (and there are many things as I'm discovering) with running your own business, is that no-one's telling you what to do, or how to do it. That is unless of course you decide to pay someone to manage your business affairs, and do all the bits you have no clue what to do.

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Blogging - what's in it for me? What's in it for you?

Laura Bonnell

So if I'm gonna Blog & Vlog I'd like to offer something a little different. With a wave of Moms jacking in the day job to get designing, making and selling why not offer something these guys might be interested in reading to help pass on tips, funny stories, perhaps let people learn from my misadventures.

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Finding my Blog & Instagram Voice, and not being a d•@k

Laura Bonnell

There's been a lot of learning curves since I started last year. The business is constantly evolving from the original idea I had. The DNA of muklet hasn't changed, it's still 'Americana & Vintage for Kids', and now it has the addition of 'big kids' products! But the way I sell it, talk about it and market it is evolving.

I confess to not yet having had any formal training in the ever changing beast that is social media. There's been a lot of trial and error, a lot of following every Tom, Dick and Harry that looked vaguely interesting or relevant, and watching, and learning what the good ones do.

I'm still such a way off cracking it, but I think I'm figuring out what kinda tribe I want to be part of, and therefore how I market muklet through particularly Instagram and this blog. I talk about tribes, because my brain likes to group things together in order to navigate and process a lot of information. I think this may be a trait I picked up working in the fashion world. When you design for a brand you are obviously thinking about your end customer. You attempt to get in the end customer's head and try to immerse yourself in their world (be that real, imaginary or a bit of both!)! Here's some of my initial observations of the Insta-Kid & Mommy Blogger world (read with tongue firmly lodged in cheek!):

The Scandi Monochrome Kids. Bold, highly stylish small people dressed in bold monochrome prints. There will also often be shots of a highly curated and styled bedroom also in monochrome with high lights of beachwood scandi toys. Should one of my muklets be let loose on one of these rooms in a white based outfit it would take them 0.2 seconds to trash it all!

The Crafty Etsy Kids. Mum has painstakingly spent hours creating a wonderful keepsake gift. So beautiful that it probably shouldn't be worn or played with, just put on a shelf and admired!

The insanely expensive outfit Kids. Dressed head to toe in mini versions of the brands found on Sloane Street. Child is a walking beacon of how rich and exclusive Mommy and Daddy are. If Mommy features in the photos she is perfectly made up, a size 8, and wearing an immaculate outfit and killer heels. 

'My Mommy's a blogger' Kids. Mostly shot standing next to mum, in front of a wall or corrugated shutter. Both dress in a new outfit every other day. Signature poses include pointing, standing on one leg, holding hands, starfish stance. Mommy should preferably rock some fierce lippy.

The editorial Kid. An outfit so cool you want to steal it and attempt to squeeze into it yourself. Often photographed looked cool, cute & slightly aloof in a 'Tim Walker' style setting. Essemble themes may include; mini Mumford & sons, eco-forest folky irreverance.

The Urban street style kid. Oft shot with a brick wall or garage door in the background. Witty slogans adorn t-shirts and sweatshirts. The latest limited edition Kids sneakers are also key.

Brick wall, check, Kids check, fierce lippy - on the shopping list

Brick wall, check, Kids check, fierce lippy - on the shopping list

You're told time and again to separate your social media channels and work with them differently, but for me I think Instagram and blogging often go hand in hand. They can tell the same story, just in a more visual or literate way.

I've obviously been looking at comparative Childrenswear brands, and observing how they market themselves particularly through Instagram. For the most part they are all beautiful, probably professionally shot images, beautifully curated. They are aspirational, inspirational, and just generally lovely to look at. Now my instagram feed how ever is shot by a rookie Iphone 6 user, rather randomly, blinding hashtagging the heck out of an image to try and put myself in front of the right eyes! Well, to be fair to my amateur self I think I'm getting better... maybe! I'm trying to stay on brand, not go too off topic, and really think about what my audience might actually like to see.

I've been told it's also getting a balance - so not too many self promoting 'sales' driving shots. People want to see what's going on behind the scenes. Hmm, well maybe an edited look behind the scenes, not sure many would be interested in my soggy shreddie discovery under the coffee table most mornings.

The other angle I have, and I think this could help differentiate me from the crowd (and maybe help people to look past my badly lit unprofessionally shot imagery) is that I want to keep it real. I personally enjoy following and reading the ramblings of honest mums. Not the 'oh dear bit of spit up on my shoulder' types, but the 'is 3 o'clock too early for gin because my toddler has managed to wedge the change from my wallet into the front door keyhole so we can't actually leave the building' (oh wait, that's me!) My level of humour is very tongue in cheek, self deprecating, slightly sweary, a bit inappropriate, and rather opinionated about the evil forces in this world... overbearing Tiger Mums, door to door tea towel salesmen, Donald Trump....

So I enjoy paying attention to some of these gals:

Selfish Mother

Honest Mum

Dress Like A Mum

Mother Pukka

Don't buy her flowers

Hurrah For Gin

Scummy Mummies

The SITS girls

The Unmumsy Mum

A lot of these gals have built successful blogs, then off the back of that managed to build a business. Be that selling clothing or products, being paid to blog about products, selling advertising space on their websites, motivational speaking or some other income channel.

I've decided I want to focus on building my blog and Instagram identity and following. I realise I've probably gone about it the wrong way by attempting to grow my readership and muklet collection at the same time, but that's ok, I'm learning as I'm going! Thankfully so far the instagram community are a forgiving and supportive tribe!

The other issue I have is that I think it's easier to be honest and a bit sweary if you are selling products or services to adults, but selling Kids products you should really have a cap on it! I guess many people may not want their 2 year old sporting a brand from the women also known as the '3 o'clock gin drinker that swears like a trucker'. I don't by the way, just for the record. Drink gin at 3 o'clock. Coffee yes, lots of coffee, but not so much of the gin these days... only when I know I can get an uninterrupted lie in the next day!

It so happened that I went to a great talk at the Kids trade show Bubble the other week in London. The focus was on Instagram, and the speakers were Anna Whitehouse from Mother Pukka,  Leonora Bamford from My Baba and Sarah Clark of Little Spree.

Smallish's Estelle Lee,   Mother Pukka's Anna Whitehouse,   My Baba's Leo Bamford and Little Spree's Sarah Clark

Smallish's Estelle Lee, Mother Pukka's Anna Whitehouse, My Baba's Leo Bamford and Little Spree's Sarah Clark

Feeling momentarily brave I decided to pipe up with my question at the end of the interview. I was curious to know if these women thought it was ok that my photography on instagram was pretty substandard, and not particularly professional looking. Thankfully they did not laugh me out the exhibition space for being such a rookie social media newbie, and instead reassured me that it was ok. As long as I was clear and consistent in what I was going to say, and people could easily decide if they were interested in my dim lit cringely hashtagged posts, then I was doing ok! 

I also attended another talk with Baby & Little London's Kate Finney,   entrepreneur Caprice Bourret,   Petite Pearl Lowe's Pearl Lowe and Honeyjam's Jasmine Guinness, discussing the highs and lows of juggling a demanding career with motherhood. 

I also attended another talk with Baby & Little London's Kate Finney, entrepreneur Caprice Bourret, Petite Pearl Lowe's Pearl Lowe and Honeyjam's Jasmine Guinness, discussing the highs and lows of juggling a demanding career with motherhood. 

Later that afternoon I bumped in to Anna Whitehouse from Mother Pukka. Being a complete dork that I am I clumsily introduced myself. (Never been good at being cool around celebrities or people that inspire me - hence why I never ended up designing for any Couture houses!). To coin one of her well used phrases I 'didn't want to be a d*@k' (had to spell it out as her young daughter was present), but it was important that I take the opportunity to say hi in real life.

That's the weird thing about social media, you meet and have conversations with people online that you may never actually meet in real life. People start to build a persona and a picture of you from a few short words and some emojis in a comment thread. So hopefully I didn't come across as being a d*&k as I genuinely wanted to thank her for her advise and encouragement, and to give her some Sista love as I respect people that put themselves out there, and aren't afraid to have an opinion.

Also chatted with Olly Paton from 'Where's that Bear' Kids clothing label

Also chatted with Olly Paton from 'Where's that Bear' Kids clothing label

So, I've signed up for some social media training next month, and I'm working on being more thoughtful on my posts. I'm also going to look into networking with the parent blogging community (feeling it may be a little like joining the Masons, I may have to find the secret doorway and bear a 'ships rivet' to get indoctrinated).

There's a whole lot of lingo, and social media etiquette I'm yet to learn - including making buddies in virtual and real life without coming across like a weirdo stalker! Hopefully I've not overdone the tagging, hashtaging, commenting and retweeting, particualarly following that inspiring talk at Bubble. Regardless, I'll keep you posted. #newbie #rookie #survivingthemukletsandsocialmedia

Keeping on Brand and resisting the pink

Laura Bonnell

If I had £1 for every time someone suggested I should make some products in pink I would have broken even by now! My response is that the muklet brand is authentic Americana, which doesn’t generally involve pink in the palette!

I spoke to a lovely brand management consultant recently at a networking meeting. She was admiring my wire basket of muklet wares I'd taken along, and said she'd spotted it from across the room. She said she had instantly understood what my brand was about. This comment had made me a very happy camper that night, and I responded by telling her that I hoped that was one of my USP’s as a Mompreneur. Having designed for well known Fashion brands I was accustomed to honing products that fitted with the companies’ DNA.

In interviews I always talk about how I think I ‘found’ myself as a designer when I worked at Ralph Lauren. Ralph Lauren was the first ‘brand’ I’d designed for having previously spent the first couple of years since graduating working for retailers where the collections I'd worked on followed trends and consumer spending habits. If you are going to learn the art of working for a brand, Ralph Lauren is THE place to do it. You may not realise, but many talented well known names have ‘graduated’ from the hallowed wood panelled walls of RL HQ; Vera Wang, John Varvatos, Tory Burch, Thom Browne and of course more recently Muklet!

I was very privileged in my time there to work with some very talented people and was mentored by some patient and encouraging work peers. It was only really after I left and moved back to England that I realised the years spent observing the Creative Director editing piles of hundreds of tweed swatches, agonising over the metal finish and level of polish on a button with the trim Director, and fine tuning the shape of a flower in a delicate French Chantilly lace with the development team had forever trained my eye to expect excellence and be able to curate fabrics, trims, colours and shapes appropriate for a brand.

 

Yep, that's me with pink nose and red eyes!!

Yep, that's me with pink nose and red eyes!!

Of course I was spoilt as a Designer whilst I worked there as I had access to the very best materials, trims and resources. But it's a discipline I have carried with me to use wherever I have worked no matter the size of the company or the level of the market.

So I am also able to use this skill as I grow the muklet brand. Whilst it's of course important to listen to your customer, it is equally important to stay true to the DNA of the brand, so your audience is clear what you stand for. I believe the true sign of a good brand is being able to pick up a product, and without looking at the label you would be able to tell where it is from.

In this present day of launching a brand, the DNA runs deeper that just the product, it carries through everything, your photography, how your brand  personality is expressed through your marketing, your packaging,  all your social media channels. I sometimes wonder how different it would be for Mr Lauren to launch in 2015?! Would he be Instagramming selfies with Kanye on the ‘FROW’, tweeting topical fashion tit bits #sartorial #anglophile instead of walking the New York streets with his case of ties?! Probably not, but it's fun to speculate!

So, back to the ‘Pink’ issue. I personally also have a hard time with Pink. Regular readers will know I have 2 boys. We haven't ruled out perhaps maybe just having one more at some point (although running your own business doesn't leave much time or energy right now!) But, just in case, and kinda just for fun I have a Pinterest board entitled ‘if I had a girl’! It doesn't feature a lot of pink, and I know I know actually having a girl it is virtually impossible not have have some element of that rosy hue in their wardrobe. On the flip side I have an overbearing % of blue in the boys wardrobe, so am a bit of a blue pot calling the kettle pink! So, yes I do want to cater to girls, but I don’t think it totally fits with the brand as it is right now.

That said I swallowed my pink pride for a promotion we ran recently with some of my Curated by Crafted peers (link).

The promotion we recently ran with Quick Brown Fox, Harper Blue, Kikka & Tikka Magic Door Store and Cece & Me

The promotion we recently ran with Quick Brown Fox, Harper Blue, Kikka & Tikka Magic Door Store and Cece & Me

It was also for a good cause, supporting Breast Cancer Care (link). £1 for every product featured in the promo sold during that time would be donated to Breast Cancer Care. Now that's a Pink something I could willingly get behind

But, that's all the Pink you’re getting.. For now!  I will endeavour to continue to appeal to our female muklet pals… There's even gonna be some ‘Princess’ type wares… But in a Vintage cool muklet kid style.. So watch this space!

 

Riding the highs and lows and navigating social media

Laura Bonnell

A couple of weeks ago we had one heck of a 7 days at Muklet towers. It started with an email from Vogue asking if I'd like to put an advertorial in their October issue, which would feature a handpicked selection of clothing, toys, accessories and furniture for children and babies. With only a day to decide whether to go for it, I called in a couple of favours and turned the little amateur photography I had into something workable. That issue has now just landed in your local newsagent if you want to check it out! 
 

Muklet in October Vogue

Muklet in October Vogue

Muklet_Vogue_October)_closeup.jpeg


I also finally got round to posting on some local Facebook mummies groups. Now that I've got some products to sell (and more on the way), I'm shifting my focus to marketing and next month I'm getting the range professionally shot.

It’s all feeling very ‘chicken and egg’ as I grow the brand. I need sales to get the funds to move to the next step, but to grow the sales I need good marketing, photography, PR and so on. I've also been contacted by some kids’ magazines and a huge online store but have held off promoting myself through these routes as I was worried that my photos and press releases weren’t up to scratch. What I’ve now realized is that anyone who knows anything about small businesses can see past that. The people who have reached out to me have seen something unique and interesting in what I’m doing. So who cares if my first advert in Vogue is an iPhone shot of my youngest in our back garden! It's a start! That's my egg!

Now, the can of worms that is social media. Boy this is a biggie. As a new business there are all manner of marketing agencies trying to sell you their services, improve your SEO, manage your social media etc etc. To be honest I don't understand half the things they're offering! For now it's just me, myself and I getting this thing going. So I am trying to learn from how more experienced mumpreneurs are doing it, skim-reading the endless mailshots I get from online marketing services and trying to understand what type of posts at what time and on which form of social media get the most attention, interaction and most importantly sales.

One thing I've heard is that it's important to use each form of social media properly. I’ve noticed I have slightly different types of audiences on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and email subscribers. So I need to learn how to talk to each group. An article I read recently on 'What Katie Said'  offers some great advice.

One tactic I have is to make use of the wonderful community I am part of. I live in Wandsworth, London, otherwise known as ‘Nappy Valley’ due to the huge number of young families living here (well, the children are young, obviously, but most of the parents I know were late starters and are hovering around the 40 mark). Not only have I been able to start my business off with a few fairs, but I can also tap into the local Facebook groups.
 



For each postcode there’s at least one Facebook group and some have separate groups just for buying and selling. On the whole these groups are hugely supportive and through them I’ve managed to find the best taxi firm to use whilst in labour, source a builder for my office pod, and even borrow a gazebo from a local mum for my fairs. But you do have to be careful. Some groups have strict rules about what you can post, how you post it, and when you can post and I completely understand why. It’s easy to see why they need to protect themselves from abuse by canny marketeers. But on the whole these mommas have your back, got a kid-tastrify or kid-conundrum or just need a decent painter to spruce up the crayon marks down the hallway, they are armed and ready with support and advice! 

I’ve made what I'm sure won't be the last of some rookie errors, like including the wrong FB link (I'm www.facebook.com/mukletkids - miss off the ‘kids’ bit at the end and you’ll find yourself on the Facebook page of some bloke in California). My low the other week was getting my knuckles rapped by one FB group administrator for not offering the group exclusive access to a discount despite my best efforts to follow their rules.

Now, I have to confess it's a bit scary putting yourself out there on social media. Yes, I'm creating a kids’ brand, but I’m not anonymous, hiding behind it. I'm telling you guys all about it along the way and my personality is pretty much laid bare in the narrative on social media. And I want to do this. It's what I admire about blogs/ brands like Hurrah for Gin and selfish mother. They have very successfully philosophized, ranted and charted the things they love and loathe in a humorous monologue that you want to keep coming back to. At the other end of the spectrum are other momma bloggers that I follow and admire like Anine Bing. This is a highly polished, stylized lifestyle narrative, quite typical of a lot of the West Coast USA bloggers. I can only dream of looking and living that fabulously! I recently asked my hairdresser to give me a 'Bing choppy bob' but for now I like keeping it real and I hope that's what my readers enjoy, the warts ‘n’ all style of my tale.

So, how do I deal with the lows? Well, I try to surround myself with positive friends and other smart mumpreneurs. They’re a great sounding board, whether it's in the park while the kids throw themselves off the monkey bars, virtually over email or FB, or better still down the pub! So, as in the workplace (the real one that actually pays me money sometimes) I give myself chance to think things through and then work out how to respond. My heart kept telling me that the annoyed FB administrator’s tone wasn’t in-keeping with supporting fellow mommies busting a gut to start a small business, but I realized that if I want to play, I had to abide by their rules.

In the end I took a deep breath, went back to my troublesome message, and apologized for not posting appropriately. I explained that I’m juggling launching a business with entertaining two very active, chaotic-when-mummy-is-attempting-to-do-anything boys, and asked for advice on how to do it in the future. From the response I got, I think I’ve avoided being sent to the headmasters’ office as long as I do better next time!

So, until I can afford the business consultant, the social media team and the quarterly trips to an Ashram to ride out the lows, I shall simply grab my mini bottle of Prosecco in one hand, turn the radio up loud with the other, and as my sister-in-law said ‘follow Taylor Swift's advice and just shake it off!’
 

Photo courtesy of  Legoland Windsor . Yes, it's Taylor Swift.... made out of Lego.... enough said!

Photo courtesy of Legoland Windsor. Yes, it's Taylor Swift.... made out of Lego.... enough said!