If you’re a mom of a little guy, you’d know that finding clothes that don’t have monster trucks, a military theme or superheros is challenging. Alexis Hinde’s company Chill Monkeys strives to change all of that. Alexis’ vision is to produce stylish clothing for cool little boys. If you haven’t heard of Alexis, you will soon. She’s active on Twitter, has a well-read blog and, well, seems to know everyone. Plus she’s just downright nice.
We asked Alexis about Chill Monkeys and what she has in store for the cool monkeys in our lives.
What inspired you to start your company?
My son. I’d never noticed it before, but when he was born I quickly learned that a lot of kids’ clothing stores stock acres of stuff for girls but only a couple of small racks in the corner for boys. It was difficult to find really great boys’ clothing without licensed characters, trucks or trains, or giant logos on them. Last spring I made my son a little newsboy cap to wear out and about, and got so many compliments about it that I started thinking about making hats and other clothing as a side business when I went back to work after my maternity leave. Just before my mat leave ended I was laid off, so my “little side business” became much more front and center.
What is your company all about?
Great clothing for boys – stylish, hip, little man clothes, locally made. It’s really important to me to source and make as much as I can here in Vancouver. Like everyone else, becoming a parent changed everything for me. I started to be much more conscious of the everyday choices I was making – they suddenly mattered so much more. I found myself looking at clothing and toys and thinking, “Who made this? Where was it made? Is it safe?” I want moms to look at Chill Monkeys clothing and feel confident about the answers to those questions.
What’s your vision for your company?
I’d love to see Chill Monkeys in kids’ boutiques across Canada, and eventually in the US as well. I’d love to be known as an ethical company, providing really great quality cool clothes for boys. I want to give back to the greater community, sharing a percentage of profits with charities, particularly ones focused on education.
I’m also excited about the idea of partnering with other local designers and creating some kind of collective – supporting each others’ growth and sharing our experiences and knowledge with each other, as well as easing the burden of things like benefits and insurance premiums.
What excites you about what you’re doing?
I’ve never been someone to sit still, and I’ve never really looked at not knowing what I was doing as any kind of deterrent, so leaping into building my own company is not too much of a stretch. I’ve spent so many years working for other people, it’s really fantastic to be the one making the decisions! I’ve always loved clothing and textiles and fashion – the idea that I could make a living doing something I’m so passionate about is intoxicating. And I love connecting with other business owners – I’ve never met a more dynamic and inspiring group of people than the local parent-entrepreneur community. I’m thrilled to be working with and learning from some really talented people. I’m still working as many hours as I did before, but now I choose which hours. The biggest reason I’ve started my own business is to have the flexibility to take my son to swimming lessons or doctor’s appointments, or to even play hooky now and then and go to the park with him on a sunny afternoon!
What are some early examples of success?
I’ve had incredibly positive feedback from the moms of boys I’ve been connecting with, whether at the playground or at more formal networking-type events. We are desperate for great boys’ clothing! My “little side business” was accepted into a really great self-employment program last summer. I learned a tremendous amount, and it was really empowering to have business professionals believe in my ideas. And I’ve had encouraging preliminary conversations with a few local kids’ retailers – in fact Raspberry Kids has agreed to carry Chill Monkeys once we’re ready!
What about challenges?
As exhilarating as it is to take that leap into starting your own business, it can also be pretty scary. There’s self-doubt and the uncertainty of the unknown. The security of a steady income can be a very tantalizing thing on some days; having faith that I’m making the right decisions is a struggle at times. I’m also still figuring out how to balance the mom part of my life with the business part of my life, but I think that would be tricky even if I were still working for someone else.
What’s next for you?
Get production rolling, finish the online store part of the Chill Monkeys website, start lining up baby and toddler fairs and artisan markets, and expand our clothing line to include outerwear – for starters!