Welcome to the first Hillside Home Small Shop Spotlight interview with my dear friend Christina! She started her own handmade business, MaeandMum, and has had amazing success! She creates handmade and personalized drool dolls (among other goodies) that are perfect for imaginary play, teething, and cuddling! Not only are the dolls appropriate for small newborn hands, but they keep busy toddlers occupied! (Jack tested and approved, we have three!). In this interview, Christina shares how being a small business owner has changed her life, and what advice she would give to aspiring entrepreneurs! Make sure to follow her and check out her shop for timeless dolls you wont find anywhere else! (THERE MIGHT BE A SHOP COUPON CODE AT THE END OF THIS POST!)
Q: Tell me a little about yourself and your family.
A: "Hi! My name is Christina and I live in New York with my husband, Adam, and two children. Mason is two and a half and Zoey is three months old. Adam and I started dating 13 years ago and got married in June of 2013. We actually got married, bought a house, and had our first child within 1 year! We couldn’t wait to have kids and they have brought such love and joy into our lives."
Q: What inspired you to start your business MaeandMum?
A: "I really love any kinds of crafts and actually started with crocheting. I only started sewing a few years ago, but I fell in love. When I had my son, I was constantly trying to create my own patterns for new toys that I thought he would enjoy. He inspired the name of my shop because he was the reason that I created the “drool doll”. I wanted a name that incorporated Mason and Mommy so I decided to use ‘Mae’ for Mason and Mum instead of mommy because I just loved how it sounded and he actually went through a phase where he was calling me “mummy”... I think he learned it from Peppa Pig!"
Q: How has being a small business owner changed your life? How has it impacted your life as a mother?
A: "Being a small business owner while also being a mom and wife has definitely been a challenge. Being a mom always comes first, I try not to think about my shop unless I have free time. If I think about the orders I have to fill while I am taking care of my children, it can easily become frustrating. There is actually a quote that I find myself coming back to all the time...
“Children are not a distraction from more important work, they are the most important work”
— C.S Lewis
This is totally the truth in my life. I try to remind myself of that quote if I ever become overwhelmed with the various responsibilities that I have." (Like running a successful handmade business and raising two children, what Christina? You're busy or something!?"
Q: How do you feel about your success? Were you expecting to have over 100 sales in just a few months?
A: "This has been such an exciting experience! I hoped that everyone would love these dolls as much as I did and I think they saw how special they were and could see that they are truly made with love. Once I started embroidering them (YES they're personalized! I love it!), the dolls became even more unique and sentimental. I love the idea of a simple handmade doll that babies can love and squeeze (and chew!)."
Q: Tell me something about you not many people know.
A: "One funny thing that you may be surprised to know is that my shop is a secret! I created it by myself and did not tell anyone but my husband. I wanted to create a shop and an Instagram account for my shop that was my own space that was also a creative outlet that I shared with other creators, makers and mama’s. I thought that maybe if I became successful, I would share my shop through my personal social media accounts, but I never have! I love the small shop community that I have become a part of and I feel so thankful that every follower and customer is someone that has found my shop and decided to stick around! I have told some people about my shop like my family but I still enjoy my double life!! I may use my upcoming giveaway as a chance to let friends know about the shop."
Q: What do your children/family/friends think about your business?
A: "For those who know about my shop, they have been so supportive! My husband always told me to pursue this shop because he knew how much I wanted to share my creations with others. It was never about income for me and still is not since we both work full-time. He always tells me that if I can make enough just to support this hobby, then he would be happy because I would be happy. This is why I am able to keep my dolls at an affordable price! I am blessed that I am able to keep this as a hobby that I really enjoy."
Q: How has owning a small business changed where you shop?
A: "I used to buy some things from Etsy but never realized the true meaning of shopping small. Every purchase is really helping a family and that is so rewarding. Now, I prefer to shop small as well as promote the shops that I buy items from by featuring them in flatlays and other social media posts."
Q: What inspired you to create your popular drool dolls?
A: "My drool dolls started as a teething toy that I created for my son. I wanted to create a simple doll made from organic fabric that was cute but also functional. He loved chewing on my fingers so I knew I wanted the legs to have a similar feel. I also designed it so that the knots of the legs can be dampened and frozen so that he can chew on the icy legs while still being able to hold the body of the doll. He absolutely loved it and I couldn’t wait to share it with others! It has definitely evolved since then and, although I still offer many organic options, I am starting to create faux-fur dolls that are super soft and cuddly! I have been calling them “Lubby Cubs” because that is how Mason pronounces “Lovey” and I thought it was adorable! Now that I am planning on having them in the shop, that name will probably change." (Now she calls them Lovey Cubs, and her first drop of them sold out in an hour!)
Q: What goals do you have for MaeandMum in the future?
A: "I would love to start collaborating more with other small shops and also making this new collection of furry cubs available. My shop is closed most of the time because each item is made to order and it is hard to find the time to create a large amount of orders in a reasonable amount of time. So it is also a goal of mine to open my shop for a longer period of time and just keep making these cute little dolls!"
Q: What piece of advice would you give someone wanting to start their own small business? What was your biggest business mistake and what was your best business decision?
A: "I know how discouraging it can be when opening a shop for the first time. So I would like to tell aspiring small shop owners to stay with it, even if it does not immediately take off. It is possible to gradually build your business and you will find some amazing customers and fellow shop owners in the small shop community that will help you through and make it an enjoyable and rewarding experience. When I first started out, I was lucky enough to find someone who was in almost the same exact place as I was with her own shop. We were just starting out, trying to promote our shops, giving each other advice about what strategies were working for us and hoping for some success. Now she has decided to start her own blog and has asked me to be her first small shop spotlight and I couldn’t be more honored! (Christina is talking about me and I feel the same way about her! It’s amazing how supportive she has been of my shop and now my blog and I couldn’t be more thankful for her friendship!)
My best decision when I was starting out was to think of it as an investment and realize that I would not immediately have a huge income from this. I started by shopping at other small shops, asking other shop owners for advice, and featuring some awesome customers on my Instagram feed! I also wanted to make sure that my product was original and unique because there is so much competition when making similar items that it is hard to find a way to stand out. My biggest mistake may have been keeping my shop a secret. Although I don’t really regret it, I do think it would have helped with marketing and exposure. I also probably spent too much money trying to have my shop featured through those social media accounts that charge small shops for features. I found that, while they did help with exposure, I did not get many followers or sales through that outlet."
-Christina, creator of MaeandMum
Use Code THEHILLSIDEHOME in her shop for 10% off when it reopens in January!
What a talented woman that I am lucky to call a friend!
I want to thank Christina for being my first small shop spotlight interview. I truly enjoyed learning more about this lovely person I connected with on Instagram and now her handmade creations have special spots in my home. I think along with Christina, there are many mothers who have creatives gifts and hope this encourages you to support small shops or even start one yourself! Share your thoughts...
- What would you like to see in Christina's shop?
- Do you think she should tell her friends about her secret talent? (I sure do!)
- If you started a small shop what would you make?
Thank you for reading, until next time!
Interested in being interviewed? Let me know here.