A few years ago I stumbled upon Annie Kruse’s interior design blog Stylejuicer. In four short years she has gone from blogging for fun to launching her children’s clothing brand Wild Boys and Girls.
Annie resides in London with her husband and two sons. Here she shares her thoughts on motherhood and what it takes to balance family life and work.
With two adorable little boys underfoot, where and how do you find time to run your business?
Ha, with great difficulty but I think if you’re passionate enough about something you will simply make time, even if that means putting on the TV for the kids for an hour, so you can answer some urgent emails or pack some orders. I don’t like to do it, but it’s a stop-gap, and as long as it doesn’t happen too often, I don’t feel I’m neglecting my children in any way.
I’ve got a little (tiny) home office which is my haven. The door is never closed and I can always hear what goes on, so if my lion cubs are getting too rough with each other, I’m there to solve any issues.
Mornings are my most productive time as that’s when both of them are off to nursery and school. Those 3 hours do fly by though and most evenings when others are settling in for a night in front of Netflix with a glass of wine, I’m heading upstairs to finish off some work, often with some dark chocolate to help me through.
I struggle with balancing work and family life every day. I feel so much is expected of us moms today. Most of us have no relatives, neighbors or friends who can help out with childcare on an as needed basis, so the pressure of child rearing is mostly on the mother and the bar is placed incredibly high.
There is so much (often conflicting) research and testament out there telling us how we should parent, what is and isn’t good for your child that you’re set up for failure in the eyes of society from the start. I always thought I’d be strong enough not to take on parenting guilt as long as I tried my best and saw that my kids were happy and developing well, but I’ve discovered that I am not immune to this burden of guilt. I constantly feel that I should be playing, singing, reading, drawing, interacting with them more and being the best mum I can, but I do know my limits and often I’m too tired and exhausted to play Mary Poppins.
Wild Boys and Girls
It’s been three years since I discovered Stylejuicer.com and in that short time you’ve launched Wild Boys and Girls. What was the trajectory from interior design blogging to children’s clothing design?
Funnily enough I think the interior design blogging led me to start-up my own kids apparel & decor business. It felt like a natural step. The endless hours of browsing the internet gave me so much inspiration and encouragement.
When it comes to good design I live by the phrase “good design is as little design as possible.”
There is such a skill in keeping things simple that the older I get the more I appreciate. I get a real buzz when seeing great composition, negative space, clean typography and relevant imagery come together. This not only applies to graphic design but works across all other design disciplines as well.
Over the years I’ve moved towards a pared back often monochrome aesthetic to hone in on composition and structure. I always start in black and white and slowly add color, texture and imagery if appropriate. No technological wizardry can make up for the lack of a considered layout.
I know you’re a graphic designer as well, did you do all the branding for Wild Boys and Girls yourself?
I sure did! My inspiration mostly comes from visual clues, but it also helps me to totally let go of the subject and concentrate on something completely different. Like meeting and chatting with friends, yoga, going for walks or just bingeing on Netflix. Somehow I’ve got this inner conviction that the “right” solution will come to me sooner or later, which helps me stay calm – well, most of the time at least.
Experience has a lot to do with it and working as a graphic designer for the retail and service sector for the past 15 years has given me a good understanding of what’s involved. The challenge was to put it all into action for my brand. There were hundreds of permutations racing through my mind during the early months of the design process, most of which I could disregard after a quick sketch or mock-up in illustrator but this mildly obsessive process has made me 100% confident about the designs, their quality and longevity.
The logo design was something I worked on in parallel to the t-shirt graphics. I already had a sense of how it had to feel, even smell and taste if you like. I wanted a logo mark that could be subtly incorporated or dissected into the graphics as an extra “hidden” clue to reward those who’d spot it. I just had to bring it to life visually and apply it to the other marketing material and packaging.
You have a very strong aesthetic, and when I saw your Wild Boys and Girls designs, I noticed they were very representative of the style you channel via Stylejuicer and social media. Did you know there was a gap in the market for less traditional children’s clothing?
I’ve been running my own graphic design business for almost 10 years. After the birth of my two boys, I became more interested in children’s clothing and was surprised how difficult it was to find anything simple, with a bit of an edge, arguably hip.
I had a distinct motif in mind and when I couldn’t find anything I liked I started looking into the idea of printing some t-shirts myself. I was also keen to design some interesting wall art for my boy’s room and as I already had the contacts for printing posters I decided it was a natural step to add some t-shirts to the range and Wild Boys & Girls was born.
Advice for Launching a Brand
Childcare x Sleep Deprivation. Make sure you have childcare covered. Alternatively, be ready to work at the most ridiculous hours. I once seriously questioned my decision to start this business at 2am in the morning. Luckily these low points far outweigh the excitement when orders start to come in.
Get social media savvy. So much has changed in the last couple of years with regards to marketing and promoting your product. Everybody is a brand now and you have to work blooming hard to stand out from the crowd. Get savvy with Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter before you open to the public. Follow some similar businesses and see what they’re doing. Remember what people like on Instagram isn’t necessarily what they would buy.
Persevere. Don’t give up. It takes time to build a brand. Though some brands seem to rocket to success overnight, you don’t know what goes on in the background. They might have a whole army of helpers or funding that helps them to buy advertising, etc. Most of us don’t and it’s hard work every day without much reward in the first couple of years.
Keep at it. Keep spreading your message. Put yourself in your customers shoes, why should they trust you? They don’t know you (yet) and there is a lot of competition and noise out in the market. If your product is unique and above the rest, there will be word of mouth and sales. Katrina might even ask you for an interview!
On the Horizon
Right now the Wild Boys and Girls line includes t-shirts and posters, what can we expect in the future?
There are always more ideas which I collect on a secret board on Pinterest (#sorrynotsorry). I’m also in touch with other brands talking about collaborations and new ideas. The world has become a smaller place through social media and with that some exciting opportunities arise.
But for me it’s all about timing and first and foremost I’d like Wild Boys & Girls to grow organically and steadily so talking to my customers and finding out what they like and what works for them is my priority.
All photos courtesy of Annie Kruse