Hi Guys! I’m so excited to give you a little peek behind the scenes of the growth of one of my favorite companies, Baby Jives Co., led by entrepreneur and creative extraordinaire, Jahje Ives.
I met Jahje in New York last year, and was so inspired by her “history” as a creative entrepreneur. She is like the “founding father” of Etsy craft business. Seriously! She started selling on Etsy when it was just beginning, and is now a liaison of sorts for small businesses to Etsy round tables. So cool.
#pressplay below to watch our recorded Skype interview, and check out her answers in written format as well as pictures of her beautiful creations. Enjoy!
“Hey there! I’m Jahje Ives, aka mama J.Ives, and I’m the mother of two behind Baby Jives Co. I have a BFA in Crafts and an MFA in Painting so basically I’m an overeducated artist who now makes artwork and sculptures for discerning babes and their parents. I work to inspire wonder and create mobiles and décor that will last long after the crib is gone.” – Jahje
What did you do before Baby Jives? How did you decide to start your own business?
Before I started Baby Jives Co. I was teaching video and drawing as an adjunct professor at Tyler School of Art as well as working as an estimating assistant at a construction company. I had always wanted to start my own business and somehow had always known that when I had a child that would be the push. So when I left my jobs for maternity leave after the birth of my first child I started setting up my company by registering Baby Jives Co on Etsy but it took a full year until I actually started selling anything because having a new baby who doesn’t sleep is dang hard!
Can you give us a brief history of Baby Jives? How long have you been in business? What has your growth looked like? Can you tell us a story of some of the “unglamorous” moments just starting up?
When I was expecting my first born I got hit by the nesting instinct hard. I looked everywhere for that perfect touch to enchant our babe and send them off to dream land: a mobile. But I just couldn’t find one that suited our style so I went up to my studio, took out my sewing machine and made my first mobile: an early version of the bird mobile I made for years. Once my son was born, our visitors kept asking where the mobile was from and I thought hmmm maybe this is something. So a year and a half later when my son finally started sleeping through the night, I took his old nickname and started Baby Jives Co in the summer of 2010 by opening a shop on Etsy.
My growth since then has been slow and steady. I’ve made a profit since day one but early on that profit was put back into the company for materials and equipment but for the past three years I’ve made a yearly income equal to what I was making before when I was working full time. Some of the unglamorous moments have been the total exhaustion that comes with trying to do it all yourself while raising kids. When my daughter was born 4 years ago it was still just me and a sewing machine and lots of late late nights. I was beat so I started to think about how I could keep growing without killing myself and that’s when I started to bring on independent seamstresses and later a small family run manufacturer.
What’s your big picture WHY? What motivates you to work hard and build your business? What is your ultimate lifestyle goal?
My motivation is that I really love designing. As I mentioned I have 2 art degrees and making art has always been part of my life but running a business is not my love. So my big picture goal is to free up more of my time to do what I love: design and spend time with my family. I would love to hand off the making of my products to a studio that can run without me so I’m just the one coming up with the ideas and not sewing my fingers to the bone. So this year I’m taking on a business advisor and a studio manager to help me get there.
Where did you find your mentors, or resources to help learn about entrepreneurship and running a successful business?
I’ve met my mentors through social media and at conferences. Many of my close friendships started on Instagram and then bloomed off Instagram when we met in person or texted. I know have a close circle of friends who I email or text when I’m in need of advice. We help each other and keep each other sane.
Can you tell a story of a specific failure you encountered while building Baby Jives? What did you learn from it? What would you consider are your strengths as a business owner?
I’d say the most painful failure I’ve had to date was telling a big account that I could get them a huge amount of product in a time frame that I knew to start was too small. It almost drove me crazy trying to meet that deadline but now I know to be realistic about what I can promise. If I can’t meet a deadline I make sure and say so. My sanity is worth it.
Do you currently have 1099s or employees? Or are you a one-woman show?
Right now I have 1099s who sew small batches of items for me and I work with an independent cut and sew shop for larger batch runs of my most popular mobiles. I also still work on many of my items myself but this year I’m in the process of bringing on a studio manager to help me manage my 1099s and my manufacturer so I can get back to focusing on what I do best: design. I would say if you want to grow big it’s impossible to do it all yourself so figure out what you love and do best and hire out the rest.
How many hours per week do you work? How do you balance family life with work?
I work about 40 hours a week and honestly balance is a constant issue, but as my kids get older I am maintain more regular studio hours and try to work M/W/F from 9-5 while my kids are in school. I then end up working nights and a couple hours on the other days when I have my daughter with me, but she hangs out in my studio and adds to our messy fun.
I’m Like Brave is about creating an uncommon life. What does an “uncommon life” you love look like for you? How does your business help create this ideal lifestyle?
I always wanted to run a business and stay home with my kids but honestly most days it’s exhausting. But when I remind myself that I can drop everything and go for a picnic on a nice day because we feel like it, then I realize this is a pretty awesome life.
What has been the most exciting thing to happen to your business so far?
Having The Land of Nod start carrying my mobiles this year has been a definite pinch me moment. Also being on the Today Show a few months ago was pretty amazing.
What is your ultimate vision for your business in the coming year? Where do you see Baby Jives in five years?
This year I’m working on writing up operations and production manuals to guide a staff I’m building starting with my studio manager so I can give up being the captain and start getting back to being the creative force behind my biz. I’m also focusing on growing my product line starting with a new line of swaddle blankets launching in June. Then my goal for 5 years is to make my business even less dependanton me for daily grind so I can return to just being the creative voice behind Baby Jives Co.
What’s holding you back from where you are now and your end game?
Time. Also I’m a control freak so letting go of control is hard for me. So I’m taking baby steps.
If you could sit down with any entrepreneur for a two hour lunch and pick their brain, who would it be and why? What would you ask them?
It would be Denai of Petunia Picklebottom. I am so in awe of what she has built and I would just love to know more about her journey.
What advice would you give your “just starting a business” self knowing everything you know now?
Do write out a business plan and try to plan what you need to do legally to get set up so you don’t have to worry about it. I have spent so much time worrying that I’m not doing things right when it really would have taken just a little more time to figure out if I am and what I need to do.
Jamie Tardy, podcaster at “The Eventual Millionaire” says millionaires share 2 habits: they all journal and they all have a morning ritual. What does your morning ritual ideally look like?
Well I don’t journal at all, so fail there. I do jot down notes constantly so maybe that counts? For my mornings once I get my kids off to school I sit down and make myself a nice breakfast and cup of ginger tea and then respond to emails and write out my goals for the day so I can see what I need to plan for.
If you could do anything in the world, with no possibility of failure, what would it be?
Be an heiress and travel the world. That’s what I’m really working towards but I’m building my own fortune and then I’ll travel. Or at least that’s what I hope.
What’s been the best business book you’ve read?
Recently I read Smarter, Faster, Better: The secrets of being productive in life and business by Charles Duhigg and it’s been a great book for me at this point because it’s about just that. Gaining time and learning how to delegate and plan for your life and business to make both work better.
What’s your favorite success quote and why?
“Balance is bullshit.” I was at the American Made Summit last year and heard Barbara Corcoran say this and it just resonated because man is that true. She suggested that instead of trying for balance you try to do what you love and hire out the rest. It’s a goal I’m striving towards.
Closing thoughts to other entrepreneurs or those on the verge of starting a business:
If you love it, build it because there is nothing better than running your own show.