Our Maker of the Month for June is quickly becoming a trendsetter among moms in Charleston (and beyond). I first met Melissa from Be Little Swings at a holiday selling event last year. I was 7 months pregnant at the time, so when I saw her absolutely adorable swings and the precious fabric options, I knew I had to get one after our little one came along.
Once Charlie got the hang of sitting with a little assistance, we picked out our favorite fabric (love love love this mint and white stripe) and received our swing from Melissa a few weeks later. It has been the perfect addition to our screened in porch and Charlie LOVES to swing! I love how sturdy the swing and fabric are and the wide bucket seat is perfect for our little 5-month-old. Read on to learn more about our favorite baby swings and the awesome mompreneur behind it all!
1. Where did your creative spark begin? Are you able to trace the path/timeline that got you to where you are today?
I’ve always used crafting as my creative outlet, but my love for DIY work really took off after I graduated high school. As a college student with caviar taste on a tuna fish budget, I had to learn to work with what I had! With themed functions and Halloween events every year, I would see these costumes that I loved but couldn’t afford. So, each year I would start working on my costume a month or two in advance, hand stitching everything together to create something better than the year before. Since then, I have only become more rooted in my belief that if I could make something myself, I should!
It wasn’t until my daughter was 6 months old and teething, that I learned to use the sewing machine that had just been collecting dust since my college days of hand stitching everything. As a first time mom, I quickly learned that a change in scenery and being outside helped distract my daughter from the pain of new teeth. The sun was setting, my arms were exhausted from holding her all day, and I glanced over at my hammock chair hanging untouched for the last 6 months. I had seen a hammock-type chair for babies before, but out of my price range. So of course, I thought to myself if I could make it myself, I should!
I dusted off my old sewing machine, figured out how to use it, and went to work making my first swing. As soon as my daughter sat in it, her face lit up! I posted a picture on Facebook and started getting requests from other mom friends. My little business has taken off from there!
2. What inspires your creativity?
I always encourage families to send in a photo of their little one in the swing when they receive it. This of course is great for marketing, but its primary purpose is to serve as my motivation to continue making a fun, quality product! I see each comfy and content baby, and I am encouraged to continue sewing. What I love most, is getting creative with a customer who has a vision or a specific print in mind, doing a fabric search, and creating custom swings!
3. How does Charleston influence your work? Does any place outside of Charleston influence you as well?
There are some iconic places in Charleston that have directly influenced my work! Everyone knows Rainbow Row and the Pineapple fountain, so when I spotted the Rainbow Row print, I knew I had to have it. The print is especially popular for those moms who have moved away from Charleston but want a little piece of home to take with them. As a symbol of welcoming, the pineapple took a little longer to find the perfect print, but it’s a great new addition! And if you spend any amount of time in the south, you are bound to hear, “If it sits still long enough, monogram it.” So that’s exactly what I’ve started doing recently with some of the swings. It adds such a special touch! My husband is from West Virginia and we have a wood burned wall hanging of the quote, “The mountains are calling and I must go.” When I saw a cute print with a little mountain range on it, I knew there would be others in the Lowcountry with a love for a mountain getaway- so the swing “The Mountains are Calling” was introduced to the collection.
4. How have you grown your business from an idea to where it is now?
I’ve watched my husband grow an idea he had 5 years ago into a successful business. When I knew that my hobby had the potential to become a brand, I followed his advice on how to market, all the ins and outs of becoming a legitimate licensed business, how to grow, and how to be profitable at the end of the day. I am still brand new (we’re talking less than one year), so there’s only room for growth!
5. What do you create with and why?
I sew outdoor infant & toddler swings. Each one is made with durable outdoor material, double layered for comfort and double stitched for safety. They last through all developmental stages with a high weight limit of 90lb. I make them because I love seeing smiling babies! I saw how happy it made my daughter and wanted to spread that same joy to other families with little ones.
6. Do you keep a journal or sketchbook? Any tips for staying organized in the creative/business process?
I live off Excel spreadsheets! I keep a documentation of my sales and business expenses since inception, and then separated by month. I also keep an envelope of quarterly receipts. Most often, I use a large note pad of print requests, incoming orders, follow-up contacts, and current inventory. To get the creative juices flowing, I take a ton of screenshots of possible new prints and designs to help me separate what families may like.
7. What did you overcome to be here now?
Most people know I’m a mommy which is a full time job in and of itself, but few know that I’m also a full time counselor! I’m at work before 5am every day, so that I can be with my daughter for a good bit of her wakeful hours. The most important thing to me is making sure my family’s needs are met, so if this means late night hours working on my business once everyone’s asleep, I make it happen even if that means sacrificing some sleep. Launching a business is hard work but when you add in a curious toddler and a husband also running his own business, things can get a little crazy! If my plate was not already full enough, we are expecting our second baby this August!
8. What have you learned so far about business/creativity that you can share with others?
Know your audience, take advantage of opportunities to network, know your limits, and accept constructive criticism! Nurture your “right brain” to avoid burnout and inspire creativity. Everyone who has started a business has done so because it’s something they love doing, and would continue doing for next to nothing. But to remain a business, there has to be a certain level of organization, profit driven decisions, and other “left brain” stuff!
9. Where are you headed?
I would love to eventually launch a website and hire a second sewer to help with the demand a website might bring, but I enjoy giving individual attention to each family that purchases a swing from me. This past April, I participated in Flowertown Festival and truly loved it, so I would like to participate in more large arts and crafts festivals. I’m happy to announce I’ve been chosen to be a part of Christmas Made in the South, a multi-day event later this year at the fairgrounds!
10. How can people connect with you?
Until I launch a website, the best way to find me is on Facebook and Instagram. I take all orders through direct messaging! I can also be reached through email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Facebook: Be Little Swings