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Mission Viejo, CA, 92692
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Collegiate Kids Store

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

Filtering by Tag: PBlogger

Just don't say the 'M' word

Laura Bonnell

Classic Mompreneur moment - attempting flat shots with Captain Sticky Mitts

Classic Mompreneur moment - attempting flat shots with Captain Sticky Mitts

A few weeks back I headed out to meet up with some local small business owners to share our stories, hints and tips. It's one of the things I really enjoy about running a business, getting out and meeting other like minded people, hearing their stories, telling them yours, and finding ways to help each other out. Meeting in a pub, park, play gym or even my living room with or without the smalls is way way more fun than the stuffy, laborious, angst ridden board meetings I used to have to sit through when I worked in the corporate world. 

Towards the end of the meeting the organiser happened to mention her disdain for the word 'Mumpreneur', given that just because you are a woman, with child, why should you be classed any differently from a man who happens to be a parent who runs a small business. In that moment I have to say my heart sank a little bit. Mumpreneur/ Mompreneur was kinda how I thought of myself, that was kinda my 'schtick'. Without being able to use that word I'm not sure I could say all I wanted to say about my business, Mumpreneuring was my business.

After a latte and walk home, I had time to reflect a little. I could understand a little where she was coming from. Wanting men and women to be seen as equals, why should a woman and mother be viewed as anything different or special compared to a man running a small business? I'm yet to ever hear the word 'Dadpreneur'. Now, I would say I do have feminist tendencies, I'm certainly not an all out bra burning, man scorning (well a bit) campaign sign toting feminist, but I do heavily support women's rights, and I do honestly think we've still got a ways to go. 

I was reminded recently of the frustration we have returning to work post children. One woman attempting unsuccessfully to request flexible working post mat leave, and another trying to justify and hold onto the flexible working she had negotiated 4 years ago at a job she loved.

I've now managed to find a little peace with the ridiculousness of post child work situations. (Even managed to do this without the aid of meditation, just lots of moaning, and bitching. Am fully moaned and bitched out now, and diverting my energy into doing something about it). Workplaces should offer more flexibility, and hold onto mums working for them. We have all the technology in place to make it happen, yet so many work places lack the trust and vision to allow it to happen.

I feel I am part of the first generation of kids to grow up with the internet and e-mail (I remember getting my first e-mail address when I went to Uni, yep showing my age!). Naively, we thought all this wonderful technology was going to simplify our lives. In fact we created a heck load more work for ourselves, and raised expectations to achieve more in a working day. We often feel compelled to carry on the work at night back at home because we have the devices to do it.

Now that my generation has had children, we've realised we can't keep up with the expectations of work. Or, maybe we don't want to. So we quit, get made redundant, or maybe we stick it out. Maybe we overindulge on coffee to ensure semi-professional attention span at work. Maybe we leg it to and from work most days, perhaps arriving with 5 minutes to spare before we incur late fees and a call to child welfare (who would that be?!). Ok, I'm making sweeping generalisations, but you get the gist of where I'm coming from right?!

I've found my peace by saying to myself, "Right corporate world, if you don't think we're worth hanging on to, we're gonna start a revolution, and do it our way". If I may steal a quote from my blog-guru Anna Whitehouse (aka Mother Pukka), she pretty much always speaks my mind, just in a much better, more eloquent and quick witted way:

Forget ‘Instamums’, forget the ‘cool mum’ blather, we’re all laughing as much as we’re crying and wondering how long that Thomas the Tank Engine plaster has been stuck in our barnet. We’re in this together – be that Lennie & Co’s FRIYAY t-shirts or Don’t Buy Her Flowers’ packages for knackered new mums and every new parent-run business or blog in between.
We’re just a rabble of mothers who don’t want it all, but want something.
My something is to be with my daughter and pull in cold, hard cash whenever, wherever I can (without it being illegal) – be that in the playground or at my Ketchup-smattered kitchen table.
Career, you’ve been fruitful but it’s time to stumble (not jump – too knackered) off the precipice into something else; something that will involve fighting for flexible working in global brands; fighting for reducing extortionate daycare rates and trying to build a platform that champions parent-run businesses one Instagram post at a time.
quote from Anna Whitehouse's blog post 'I quit' on Mother Pukka

So, Mumpreneur, Mom Boss, Parent run Business, what ever you want to call it, I'm proud to be one. I embrace the title however cliche and overused. Because it's takes a unique skill and energy to keep those plates spinning; school run, after school fun, park trips, sore nips, IG blags, packing gym bags, keeping up with online orders, and ensuring the smalls are not board as.... okay you get the idea! I'm stumbling off to get the muklets to bed and go sew another t-shirt.

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

Guest blogging & half moon tambourines

Laura Bonnell

Not long after I launched Muklet a few months back, my ol’ pal Andy, or 'Corpy' as he is known to his mates got in touch to ask if I'd like to write a guest blog for him on Good Stuff 4 Kids. It was early days for me then and I was still figuring out what the brand was going to be and whether people would actually want to buy my products and read my blog.

Now that I've got some sales under my belt and feel that I’m hitting my stride with where I’m taking the brand and the blog, I’ve decided it’s time to put fingertip to Ipad! 

I've known Corpy for many, many years. Well, that's not strictly true – we met at school and lost touch when we headed off to university. Then sometime around 2000 came Friends Reunited followed by Facebook and we were suddenly able to rediscover friends and track down our old tribes. 

It was in the sixth form of comprehensive school that Corpy and I first became pals. His band 'Arthur's Family Restaurant' needed a lead singer and having just completed a run as Tzeitel in the school production of 'Fiddler on the Roof', I felt I had the necessary skills. Thankfully there is no lasting evidence of my off-key warblings and out of beat half moon tambourine accompaniment to our covers of hits such as 'Spirit in the Sky' (believe me, I've checked!).

We were lucky to always have a receptive and forgiving audience on our short tour of venues including the school hall and the local old people’s home. This was the era of The Charlatans, The Cure and The Levellers. I was an Indie kid through and through, complete with olive doc martens and overdyed 501s. I have fond memories of lazy afternoons 'jamming' in the house of whoever’s parents would allow us all in and being squished in the back of our friend’s Land Rover Defender headbanging to Bohemian Rhapsody (we'll see if Corpy actually allows me to publish this!).

Cut to the present day and our paths cross again, albeit virtually. Good Stuff 4 Kids is mainly a food-themed blog, which got me thinking about the go-to recipes in our family. Food plays an important role for my family in keeping us connected to our American heritage. My husband is from the States and finds comfort in foods that originate from home. Over the years I’ve amassed a treasury of classic American recipes. For my bridal shower, my New York friends created a cookbook of their favourite dishes, a gift I’ll always treasure. Got Milk? The Cookie Book by Peggy Cullen and Ricky Lauren's Cuisine, Lifestyle, and Legend of the Double RL Ranch are another couple of well-worn favourites.

A special treat for us is heading to Wholefoods to stock up on the finest corn starched products they offer including Aunt Jemimas pancake mix and Maple Syrup, Amy's frozen burritos, Everything seeded bagels and Blue corn chips. Give my husband a large bag of Pretzel Pieces and he will be putty in your hands!

Aunt Jemima's pancakes feature regularly on the weekend muklet menu

Aunt Jemima's pancakes feature regularly on the weekend muklet menu

When I moved to the United States the foods I craved were often quite bizarre things that I would never dream of eating back home. Thankfully in NY we had stores like Myers of Keswick which sells just about every brand a homesick Brit could wish for and even the local supermarket in Williamsburg was well stocked with Heinz Baked Beans (the American variety, much loved by cowboys, tend to be brown and sugary with lumps of ham).

So, I felt I should at least make the effort to cook a little something to accompany this post. It was going to be Breakfast Burritos (one of my faves) but eldest muklet overruled and we went with brownies from The Star Wars Cookbook instead. If you haven't seen this before, it’s another fun family cookbook. Ok the Star Wars part is very loosely connected to some recipes (mostly strategic placement of OB1 Kanobi and Jawas models), but at least it keeps the littlies engaged and will fill a rainy afternoon when you’re stuck indoors! 

Big muklet stirring in the 'intergalactic stars'

Big muklet stirring in the 'intergalactic stars'

Of course the best bit of cake making is licking the spoon!

Of course the best bit of cake making is licking the spoon!

Et Voila - Star Wars brownies!

Et Voila - Star Wars brownies!

Corpy is also a rather good photographer with two adorable muklets of his own (as you’ll already know if you're a Good Stuff 4 Kids reader). So, never one to miss a trick I have recruited Family Corp to be my Muklet ambassadors. Corpy's kids will be putting Muklet wares through their paces and capturing some awesome pics for me in the process! You may have already seen some muklet tees featuring in his post about Banksy's latest exhibit 'Dismaland'.

The 'Grubby Knees T-shirt' being too cool fo' skool

The 'Grubby Knees T-shirt' being too cool fo' skool

I thought it fitting to finish with some words from one of my favourite bands from back in the school days, the Sultans of Ping (when this Momma Muklet was sneaking her way into dodgy Indi Clubs in Weston-Super-Mare!:

My, brother, knows, Karl Marx,
He met him eating mushrooms in the peoples park,
He said 'What do you think about my manifesto?'
'I like a manifesto, put it to the test-o.'

Took it straight down to meet the anarchist's party.
I met a groovy guy, he was arty farty,
He said 'I know a little latin man a cus man a kai'
I said 'I don't know what it means' he said 'neither do I'

Eat natural foods, bathe twice daily,
Fill your nostrils up with gravy.
Don't drink tea and don't drink coffee.
Cover your chin in yorkshire toffee.

Dancing in the disco, bumper to bumber,

Wait a minute, where's me jumper,

 

Words courtesy of: Sultans of Ping FC, "Where's Me Jumper" (Divine Records ATHY 01 - Feb 92)

 

Good Stuff 4 Kids (aka The Good Stuff) is Matt & Corpy.  2 nearly forty-somethings who became good mates over beer and student sandwiches back in the heady days of mid-1990′s South East London.  Fast forward nearly 20 years and 140 miles to the West – both of us found ourselves becoming Dads for the first time at around the same time.  Swapping beer and carelessness for nappies and purees – The Good Stuff is our journey through parenthood.  Its the place where we share recipes, review the stuff we like and occasionally rant about the stuff we don’t. 

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www.goodstuff4kids.com

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