Everyone knows that motherhood has its moments — moments of terror, moments of laugh-out-loud craziness, and, well, moments of just craziness (laughter optional).
Trish Moreno, president/CEO and creative director of luxury baby goods company Little Giraffe, seeks to fashion beauty out of those hair-raising moments of chaos, especially for new moms. The multihyphenate, who is also mother to teen daughter Ruby, knows how to do just that.
At her previous post, as executive vice president of fashion label Bebe, the working mom grew the company's sales from $1 million per year to a whopping $100 million per annum. When she took the reins of Little Giraffe in 2009, she wanted to make a similarly bold mark. And with celeb moms like Katie Holmes (and daughter Suri) toting around those famously soft blankets and plush toys, Moreno is showing the business world how it's done.
We chatted with Moreno over email, and she told us how being a mom influences her business decisions, what she's taught her daughter about being a leader and what advice she'd give her younger "rookie" self.
Little Giraffe has such a confident sense of luxe yet approachable style. When you began your leadership at the company, what did you do to make this brand your own?
I love your description: "a confident sense of luxe yet approachable style." I strive to live up to that aesthetic, both personally and professionally, and I think you just made a connection for me. This has permeated the brand. I've never quite thought of it that way. I always engage heart and soul in any project I take on, and in my career, I've had success with businesses we've managed to steer into turnaround. I always say I can't rest until the brands become a reflection of me. It's that personal! And who am I kidding, I still can't rest, but that is when I feel I am on the right track. When I want to carry the business card, when I want to drive my friends and colleagues to the website, when I want to give copies of the catalog to everyone in my sphere. When I want to gift the products. These are some benchmarks of success in my self-critical brain! And, always, it takes a village. I am so lucky to have a team that supports the mission, and executes on it every day.
Your business targets moms. How has being a mom yourself influenced your strategies for Little Giraffe?
The strategy has been simple from the beginning. If we can create some ease, beauty and luxury amid the potential chaos and fear of bringing home a new baby, how wonderful! That's the goal. To end the day snuggled up in a Little Giraffe throw blanket, baby and mom, comforted and calm … it's a beautiful thing. Taking time out for those moments is so meaningful, and I really believe the brand helps you get there. Moms are the greatest creatures on earth! Capable of overcoming all kinds of obstacles and adversity, while still managing to provide an atmosphere of comfort and joy. They deserve the utmost respect and care. If Little Giraffe can contribute in any small way to making a baby happier, more relaxed and calmer, it really impacts our daily experience as moms.
Moms are the greatest creatures on earth! Capable of overcoming all kinds of obstacles and adversity, while still managing to provide an atmosphere of comfort and joy.
Speaking of being a mom, you have a daughter. How have you taught her to feel confident in leadership roles?
Ruby has learned by example how to blend art and business. She has a different approach than I do, she tends to quietly build momentum, where I might dive in more aggressively, but it works for her! It's a blessing (or a curse) that she also has a generous serving of "overachiever" in her DNA. This was unavoidable given her heritage, and manifests in her taking the lead on various projects, engaging fully and giving her all. She takes pride in her accomplishments and is a great collaborator. I teared up recently when I read her first college eval and her work was described as "glorious." What a beautiful word.
Which of Little Giraffe's products do you wish had been available when your daughter was a baby?
I really did have a moment of sadness that Ruby didn't get to experience the brand when she was a baby. She was 12 when I took over Little Giraffe. I actually signed the deal on her birthday. The first gift I brought home to her was a luxe throw. She slept with it that night, and the next morning she came down to breakfast with it wrapped around her like a cape. Then, in the mad rush to get to school, we were loading into the car and she still had the blanket wrapped around her, fully dressed underneath, backpack in tow. I thought to myself, "Uh oh, what haveIdone here? She's not going to bring that to school, is she?" When we got in the car, she said, "Don't worry, Mom, I will leave it in the car. It's just so warm and cozy!" And I realized then that this attachment we feel for our blankies doesn't have to end in preschool, that we can all get comfort from the brand. It's the first gift I give when a friend is ill or in the hospital, too. In my little circle, our throws are known for their magical healing powers!
Prior to leading Little Giraffe, you grew fashion brand Bebe's sales to more than $100 million per year from $1 million. What was the most important thing you brought from that experience to your current post?
Bebe was my first exposure to building a business. It was an invigorating experience. Much of what we did was a first for all of us, and I was so young! It was a bit like being thrown into the frying pan, but I tend to thrive in that kind of environment. It may sound crazy, but I definitely gravitate toward making sense out of chaos. I love the challenge of building on an idea. Key to the strategy: building relationships, empowering teams, setting high standards and steering everyone on course with transparent direction. Bebe was my first real platform to apply that philosophy, and we had great results. Inspiring people to believe in the dream! It was an incredible ride with an amazing team. All of these experiences shaped my views on leadership and helped form my approach today.
It may sound crazy, but I definitely gravitate toward making sense out of chaos.
What advice would you give your younger self, experienced business woman to rookie business woman?
So much! I would tell my poor little rookie self not to ruminate. I did spend hours of my life stressing over situations that didn't go as well as I thought they could have. Replacing that time with some solid REM sleep is a much better call. The truth is, you just have to not sweat the small stuff. Nothing is ever as bad as you can imagine it. I would also encourage my rookie self to find balance early on — putting on the oxygen mask, so to speak. I have a tendency to take care of everyone and everything, and then suddenly recognize that I haven't taken care of myself at all, for, almost, EVER. This is especially challenging as a working mom. Taking time out for exercise, getting off technology and out into nature, meditation, fun, these are the building blocks of becoming whole. It took me till my 40s to reach these conclusions, and I still have to remind myself to work on striking that balance.
What was the moment when you first felt successful?
I am not at all willing to say I'm there yet! There's so much more I want to do with the brands. While I have been through a lot and evolved as a result of my experiences, there are many new challenges in front of us. The retail landscape is changing rapidly, we have to respond to our business in new ways, all of us in the industry are scrambling to get ahead of it. There's a lot of critical thinking involved in how to manage through this new model, take care of our retailers, and reach more families. I am taking on the role of "disruptor" these days, rooting out complacency, shaking it up, inventing new approaches. The way it has always been done is not necessarily working anymore. I read a quote recently: "Consistency requires you to be as ignorant today as you were a year ago." That's a disruptive statement, and so inspiring and relevant to me today. It was conceived by a respected art historian named Bernard Berenson, who was born in 1865.
The truth is, you just have to not sweat the small stuff. Nothing is ever as bad as you can imagine it.
Little Giraffe has gotten so much celebrity attention. Were there any celebrity fans that you were particularly happy to see endorse the brand?
Well, of course Suri Cruise and her family have been such authentic fans of the brand. Suri [daughter of Katie Holmes and Tom Cruise] became very attached to our Luxe baby blankets and Little G plush toy. So much so, that she rarely left home without them. This created quite a buzz for the brand! Little Giraffe around the world with Suri has been the topic of many photo spreads and editorial over the years. Recently, Suri brought Little G along to meet Hillary and Chelsea Clinton. He's really had some exciting experiences, Suri's Little G!
How do you juggle the give and take that comes with being a working mother?
I live by the theory of quality over quantity. Connection is everything. I try to really be in the moment when I am with my daughter, friends, family. When she was younger, I made sure to be there for all her milestones, and I am big supporter of that with the other parents on the team. Disengaging from my iPhone is always the biggest hurdle to overcome, as it is a constant stream of variously interesting and downright terrifying information that requires my attention. Hah! Never a dull moment, but I am working on it. The good news is, if you navigate through it well, your kids eventually go to college, like mine, and they become independent beings who can think for themselves and really prove out the concept that parenting works. Now it's all about supporting her choices and decisions, and just being there for guidance when it's called for. This is where technology is a truly respectable advantage. It makes it so easy to stay in touch by phone, text, FaceTime, sending photos back and forth. And you just have to forgive yourself. It's never perfect. Something often has to give. But you just do your best and follow your heart.
Are there any plans for new Little Giraffe products in 2016?
We are constantly reinventing and innovating, culling through influences and trends, and interpreting them for the brand. Our Spring 2016 new products take a refreshing stance. Modern newborn essentials that really fit the lifestyle of the millennial family. This season we introduced a lot of grab and go products that have multiple functions. A few highlights, below.
A luxurious fringed turkish towel that works as a car seat blanket, stroller cover, nursing veil, scarf, sarong and towel.
An oversized, cozy plush round throw blanket with a playful print that works for tummy time, picnic, play and cuddle time.