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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
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.
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?
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
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
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
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
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.
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.