After attending the same university, living on the same street, and having their first babes 6 weeks apart, the next logical step for besties Julie and Katie came naturally: going into business together. And lucky for us, the culmination of their efforts has resulted in August Kinn, a super-pretty baby and toddler store on Toronto’s Danforth Avenue, that stocks mainly designed-in-Canada nursery and toddler items, accessories and nursery accents, and even a few things for mom.
For August Kinn both mamas put their previous retail know-how (Julie had a career in sales at a fine art gallery, while Katie had a business degree) into practice, but enjoy learning along the way. “The part that’s new to us is the buying, specifically in the baby industry, and we’ve enjoyed every part of the learning curve. As new moms, we felt like we had taken a crash course in baby buying and were pretty decisive about what we liked and didn’t like. We buy brands for August Kinn that we personally know and love, and we stay really focused on quality and style over quantity.”
But it’s not just their eye for modern-baby items that have new moms coming back to the store. Julie and Katie also host baby-and-mom focused events, such as Yoga for Grown Ups and Drop-In Playtime in their basement studio space.
SHOP TALK WITH JULIE AND KATIE
What weren’t you finding at other baby + toddler shops that prompted you to open your own store?
“We felt that the baby industry was so saturated with “stuff”, which made it really hard as a consumer to find well made, and well-designed baby items. When we were both pregnant, we would go to baby stores and feel totally overwhelmed by all the options. Especially—to be blunt—all the unappealing, cheaply made items. We both had a strong desire to find baby things that didn’t look too baby-ish. Most shops carry all the endless gear and gadgets, mixed in with various styles of clothing and everything else. We wanted to create a shopping experience that focused on what we think the fun/special things are; the things that excite you most about shopping for babies. With that in mind, we decided to focus on apparel and accessories with a certain design sensibility. We took a lot of the gear out of the equation, did a ton of research and curated a focused selection of baby goods that fit in with our preferred style.”
What does an item have to haveto be carried at August Kinn?
“It pretty much all goes back to good quality and good design. The majority of the lines we carry are Canadian made and/or designed. There are so many wonderful Canadian baby lines that speak to our aesthetic. As a small business, we love working with and supporting other small businesses by showcasing their products. It also means we get to carry some unique items. A lot of the lines we carry are run by women/moms as well, which is a total bonus!”
You both just had babies when you opened August Kinn. How were you able to get the time (and the sleep) to organize it all?
“Looking back on it now, we really don’t know how we got it all done. And we definitely had very little sleep. We were both so blinded by our determination to bring August Kinn to life, that we just made it work. We squeezed every extra minute out of the day when our babies were sleeping. It also helps that we live three doors apart because there were many late nights working in our pjs on the couch. Renovating the store space was a whole other project. To say our families chipped in would be an understatement. From our parents, siblings and husbands helping with demo and redesign, to Julie’s sister and brother in law creating our branding and website design, it was all, hands on deck. The biggest thing was having the full support of our husbands, who knew they wouldn’t see us on evenings or weekends for three months straight leading up to our opening. Now they see us slightly more 🙂
Retail is hard. How did you overcome issues that popped up along the way?
“We would be lying if we said we didn’t have any hurdles along the way. There were hiccups here and there with deadlines leading up to our opening day, but nothing catastrophic. Sometimes it’s hard to keep things in perspective and our motto quickly became “we’ll figure it out, we always do.” The hardest part of starting this was the decision to leave our past careers, which we both loved and took us a decade to build. It was a big decision to move on to something that did not have a guaranteed outcome.
Sometimes the mind games (self-doubt, financial stress, etc) would take over, but we are in this together and really had to put a lot of faith into our shared vision. That’s the benefit of having a partner, sometimes one person has to light the way for the other.”
What has been the best advice you’ve been given with regards to opening August Kinn?
“Having fear in the face of uncertainty isn’t reason enough to not do something. Especially if you are passionate and excited about it.”
What is some advice you can give other women who are thinking about starting their own business?
“A lot of people have asked us if we decided to open August Kinn because we didn’t want to go back to our pre-mat leave jobs. That was never the driving force for us. It was the concept that came first; a concept that came about organically and quickly became something we couldn’t ignore. From our experience, our advice would be to make sure you are starting a business for the right reasons. Find what you are passionate about and go for it but be prepared for more work and sleepless nights than you could have ever imagined!”
How are you able to manage both new babes and a new store, now that the store is open?
“Our lives are pretty intertwined at this point. We have basically merged our two families (the being neighbours part helps with that) and we do take turns watching each other’s babies. The store is open 10am-5pm most days but there are endless hours of work beyond that. And again, our husbands chip in and do solo parenting….A LOT. There’s also coffee…and wine.”
If you didn’t open August Kinn, you would be…
“Happily working at our previous jobs while probably fantasizing about opening the baby store we dreamed-up while on mat-leave :)”