- Creative Director and President, Hip Mommies Inc.
- ezpz Distributor in Canada
How did the idea for your job/ business come about?
In the summer of 2004, Joey was teaching English in Japan, and his sister (12 years his senior) was pregnant with her first born. She received a Bumbo as a gift, loved it, and having never seen one before in Canada, she called South Africa and asked Bumbo if she could distribute the line. (She is very gutsy and very persuasive.) They took a risk on her, so she rented a storage unit and convinced Joey to come home and help run the business. Joey was very young, only a couple of years out of university, and he had no business experience or any children of his own. But he agreed to give it a shot. They outgrew their makeshift home-office, gained several more lines and became one of the most respected distributors in baby, infant, and health within a short period of time.
What is your backstory (how did you get to where you are today)?
After a number of years (and a number of kids) Joey's sister decided to leave the business and he took over as president, changing the name to Hip Mommies Inc. and changing the direction of the business quite drastically. A couple more years later, I was working as a digital art director & content creator for HGTV.ca and Food Network Canada. We got married, I got pregnant and I lost my job - all within the span of a few months. We decided that it was best if I focused on the family business rather than look for a new position, so I put all of my energy and talents into rebranding the business, building a new website, e-commerce platform, online ordering system for retailers and an all new social strategy. It was a lot of work (especially during pregnancy) but well worth it.
I think what makes us different is that we are really passionate about helping Canadian families lead healthy lives. We are young parents, with young kids...and we understand how difficult it can be to make the right choices. We know that modern families are seeking different things than the parents of even a decade ago. We are concerned with protecting our families from chemicals and protecting the environment that we leave for them. We understand the need for multi-functional products because we want to live with less, and be able to live quality lives in smaller spaces. This is all more important to us than anything else.
What motivates you?
First, our daughter Edie. We want to provide her with a life that is rich and full of experiences. We both have a love of travel (we have both lived in Asia) and want to have the opportunity to see the world, make a difference in our daughter's life, and the life of others.
Personally, I am very motivated to find thoughtful, well designed, incredibly useful and multi-purpose products that help us all live similar lives, with less junk. Junk kills me. Our motto is “We seek out useful, well-made, thoughtful, mom-approved, safe products that are manufactured in a responsible way. We look to partner with suppliers that are good people, supporting good causes, and that are doing business ethically.” That sums it up. I am seriously obsessed with living more with less.
What is your super power?
Empathy. Is that a super power? I am really good at reading and connecting with people. I am also deeply compelled to make a difference in other people's lives. Joey is a master at relationships. You can ask him about someone he met a decade ago and he will tell you where they are from, what their kid's names are...he remembers everyone and people (rightfully) trust him.
How do you protect (and give back to) your community?
We are very conscious about supporting local business, if that means buying things at our local boutique or buying our produce direct from local farmers or supporting a local shop owner rather than a big box. Both of us are children of entrepreneurs, we get it. And that relationship with the local purveyor is really important to us. We live in a really wonderful neighborhood (Leslieville, Toronto) that is very small-town-in-the-big-city. Everytime you leave the house you see friends on the street, it's really special. We took on a line recently, Ollie Jones Clothing, and they are manufactured in a loft across the street from us. It feels great to support another local mom. Our lineup is thoughtfully curated and we focus on a small range of lines that we truly love. We also feel a responsibility to represent products that are manufactured ethically, and that are not wasteful.
Who is your supporting cast of characters that help you to be so darn crush worthy?
Jedd of course, who holds down the warehouse. Our fathers were both entrepreneurs so we can get a lot of insight from them. Mostly, though, it is all about our retailers and suppliers, because really, we are all in this together.
What is the most difficult part about being an self employed/entrepreneur?
You never.ever.ever.turn.it.off. Ever. For seven years now every vacation we have taken revolves around a business meeting or a tradeshow. Date night easily turns to business discussion. Saturday nights when the baby sleeps we work. That being said, it also makes life very exciting, very interesting, and never ever boring. We have been given a tremendous number of opportunities because of Hip Mommies, and there is always something we can do, or learn or to do, or to improve upon. We are committed to constant and neverending improvement, so it's great to feel so dynamic.
Who do you have a crush on?
I have not met her personally, but how can you NOT love the (Canadian!) mom behind www.happysoulproject.com? She has an energetic 4-year-old, a toddler with Downs syndrome and she is pregnant with a third. And she STILL manages to give a gratitude filled daily update (almost 900 so far) and a TED talk! She is incredible and so is her commitment to #differentisbeautiful.