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10 Questions With Mompreneur Leah Piehl

You know when you discover that one kid's clothing line you just become obsessed with? Hello, Chaboukie! If you haven't heard of it yet (thank us later,) Chaboukie is a stylish line of leggings for babies and toddlers that are so cute you'll wish you had a pair for yourself! Not only are they adorable (we hear North West is a huge fan!), they're good for the world—with every pair sold, another pair of leggings are donated to a baby in need. Talk about a win-win.

Founded by costume designer/stylist Leah Piehl, Chaboukie is now entering its second year and we couldn't be more thrilled for this mom of one! But how does she do it all and how did she get started? Let's find out!

How did you come up with the concept for your business and at what point did you decide to make it a reality?

Chaboukie evolved from a couple different situations. In mid-2013 I was making leggings for my son Auden (nicknamed Chaboukie) because I wasn't finding anything I loved in the children's marketplace, especially for boys. However, it wasn't until I started getting a lot of requests from friends to make these leggings for their children that my husband Greg and I thought, hey, maybe we have a business idea here. I think what led us to make Chaboukie a reality was the combination of peoples' excitement around our design ideas and our desire to work for ourselves in order to have more time at home with our son.

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Kind of related, how do you make the leap from a secure paid job to starting your own business?

Well, I haven't really had a "secure paid job" in years. I went to graduate school for an MFA in Costume Design and have been a freelance designer in LA ever since. I work on theater, film, video and commercials so I'm contracted job-to-job. Sometimes I'm busy and at other times not at all. And once I had Auden, my willingness to take the long hour commercial jobs shifted a bit. Don't get me wrong, starting a business is A LOT of work, but my hope is that I can always be around for the big milestones in Auden's childhood.

How much money should someone have saved before starting their own business?

That's a great question. I think it depends not only on your financing, but also your resources. For Greg and I, it was important that at least one of us was still bringing in a steady income while getting Chaboukie off the ground. Although Greg is my business partner, he still runs a successful web development shop (which also helps with all our digital needs.) And I take freelance Costume Design jobs that feel creative and exciting to me. We both get a lot of enjoyment from our other careers so we aren't looking to give them up completely. It's a less traditional way of living, but we enjoy the diversity in our work lives.

How long did it take for you to be profitable?

We're so new that we put everything back into the business and are only looking to break even at this point. We've been very careful about building our inventory slowly and not getting in over our heads. We have two part-time employees and try to keep our overhead to a minimum. We're starting to spend more on fabric and production now that we're moving into our Winter collection, but we feel confident that we will continue to grow and see profits into next year. We look at the first year as a time to establish the Chaboukie brand and figure out what does and doesn't work in the marketplace—our expectations are extremely humble (and realistic) at this point.

How do you balance your work/home life, or is there even such a thing?

It's difficult! I definitely feel overwhelmed at times. Every day I try to spend a couple hours with my son and husband either in the late afternoon or early evening. A few days a week I have dedicated "Auden time" where we go to classes or have play dates. There's a lot of squeezing in work (or Yoga) during Auden's nap times or when Greg takes Auden out for some daddy time. It's a juggling act for sure.

What was the best advice you ever received? Worst advice?

The best advice we got was to only take on what we could handle. There hasn't necessarily been bad advice, just advice that goes against our instincts and our goals as business owners. That advice, we've simply chosen to ignore.

Since you've been through it, what would you tell someone starting out?

Start slow and keep your costs down. Test the market and see what people like and don't like. If something is selling, make sure you have enough inventory/fabric for that style. Follow your instincts. Ask your mommy friends for feedback and opinions before launching products. Venture into wholesale carefully and selectively.

It takes a village for any mom, but for a mom starting her own business, it must take a huge village. So who are your go-to people/services? (I.e. I can't imagine my life without Amazon Prime!)

I'm lucky to live in Los Angeles where there are so many incredibly creative and talented people. My village is the community of moms I met while pregnant and after having Auden. Many of them are in the design business and have worked in fashion. It's amazing how that worked out and how incredibly helpful they have been with everything from picking fabrics to letting their babies model for our photo shoots. I don't think we could do this without them. They have been Chaboukie champions the entire way.

I also rely on all the resources I've acquired as a working costume designer. From stitchers to fabric stores, having years of experience in a related field has made our lives exponentially easier.

What do you do to unwind and recharge? And related, what are you reading right now?

My primary activity is Yoga. I don't go as often as I'd like, but it's something I need todo to reinvigorate myself.

Currently I'm reading a book called "The Orphan Master's Son" which is an epic story about a young man in North Korea. It's incredibly fascinating since there is very little I know about that country and the people who live there. I won't say it's a quick read though! I have a pile of parenting books I'm also hoping to read one of these days.

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Finally, take me through a day in the life of...

Wake up time in my house is whenever Auden wakes up, anywhere between 6:45am and 8am (lately it's 8!). There's usually a little reading with Daddy followed by all of us going downstairs to play. I make a family smoothie (Auden likes to help with this) and then one of us cooks breakfast.

On nanny days (Mon/Wed/Fri) which begin at 9 am, I head up to my home office/studio and answer emails, work with my stitchers, and dye fabric. Sometimes we need to go Downtown to source fabrics. I try to take a yoga break at noon for an hour and then resume working until 4pm when the nanny leaves. That's when Auden and I either meet up with another mom/toddler at the park, or for a walk, or go grocery shopping, etc. Then it's home for dinner, which I usually cook, followed by bath time, books, breastfeeding and bed. Then I have couple hours to either work or crawl into bed to read or watch some TV. I try my best to go to bed by 10-10:30pm.

The only difference on a non-nanny day is that we will go to music class or a morning gym class, maybe run an errand or have a play date and lunch date, and then head home for nap time. After nap is somewhat open for either playdates and/or daddy time.

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