Motherhood Interview: Smudge Kids Boutique: Clothing, kids and Christmas
ParentFolk met Carina Walsh, owner of Wirral based independent boutique, Smudge Kids, to talk clothing, kids and Christmas.
What gave you the idea to start SmudgeKids?
I had been involved in starting and establishing Smudge Boutique, a womenswear store run by my mother and sister, with stores in West kirby and Liverpool, then I had my little boy. Having my little boy brought about new challenges and passions and sparked a new creative interest in me. I loved my involvement in Smudge Boutique and I began to notice a lack of quality kidswear locally that was cool and contemporary, but high quality and made of quality materials without breaking the bank, in particular for boys and little ones once they had grown out of baby clothes. This got me thinking about a kids brand, that, coupled with a desire to build a great future for my little boy with him involved and as the inspiration, meant Smudge Kids was a no brainer for me and that was it.
Describe your store and location to us?
Well currently we don’t have our own flagship store (hopefully we will soon and it will be awesome), but we are lucky enough to have a concession section within both Smudge Boutique stores, on in West Kirby on the Wirral and one in the Met Quarter, Liverpool. Both stores are fabulous but quite different; West Kirby is a great town for families to visit, there is plenty to do and cafes and restaurants galore and the Met Quarter is a luxury shopping mall in the middle of Liverpool City Centre which is, in my opinion, the best city in the World :)! We also have our website with our fullest selection of stock, our blog, news and much more (this is currently undergoing a little revamp, but will be finished in the next two weeks).
What kind of shopping experience do you create for your customers?
When we have our first kids store it will definitely create a great family experience, and you’ll be the first to know all about it. In the Smudge Boutique stores we have a friendly, warm and welcoming atmosphere. Most importantly Smudge Kids welcomes little ones to get hands on, play, have fun and be involved. Our promotional cards have colouring in sections, we have toys to try out and play with, in Liverpool the little ones even have their very own dressing room!
What do you feel is your stores point of difference?
Nearly every brand we stocks fits one of the following criteria – * Handmade ,* Organic, *ethically sourced materials, *From a small family run business or created by a MUM! * Ethically sourced and created with many giving back to our planet in some way. Furthermore the majority of our brands are exclusive to us in the UK or at the very least – the North West. Many of our brands are also gender neutral as we believe in letting clothes be clothes and letting our little people express themselves for whoever they want to be. We try and also pick brands that keep our little ones comfortable enough to explore and play – whilst looking super cute, stylish and cool. I spend a LONG time sourcing brands from all over the world, keeping these core values at the centre, so we definitely have a point of difference, in fact quite a few AND you know that a Mummy and her 2 year old business partner have overseen every little detail!
Which brands do you stock?
GoSoaky, Kidscase, Donsje, Little Lambo, BonnieMob, Little Eleven Paris, Write To Me, Owl & Dog Playbooks, Deer One, Young Soles London, Hugo Loves Tiki, Snugipops, Mana’O Nani, Teether Toys, Billy Bibs, Oli & Carol, Lion of Leisure, Tobias And The Bear, Ooh Noo and many more!
How often do you add new brands and collections to your lines?
All the time; if we find something new that we know you’ll love we do our upmost to get it and stock it for you. I never stop researching and looking for the very best and I even welcome suggestions from our awesome customers. Sometimes this could be three in one week and another time it may take a few months. It’s a case of staying true to our brand and our values and only stocking the absolute best, whenever we find it.
What has running a business taught you about yourself?
I have been involved in running businesses or being self employed for a long time, but this of course becomes a whole different challenge when you have a baby. Starting Smudge kids has taught me that I am stronger than I think; whatever the day before brought, however many hours sleep I have had, whatever challenges have popped up, I can always overcome them one way or another. It has taught me that there aren’t enough hours in the day (and made me question what the hell I used to do before to waste so many crucial minutes – only a mum will understand that one haha), that balance is key and that you can do both – be a great mummy and create a great future and it’s always better if you enjoy the ride. To remember that no problem is bigger or more important than you health and your family and don’t be too hard on yourself, some days go to plan, others don’t, but stay focused and stay driven and treasure each and every one you have!
You’re a mum and a business woman, are their times when you feel torn between the two?
Absolutely, sometimes it feels like you are spinning 100 plates all at the same time. It has always been an absolute priority for me to be a very present mum, so much so Casey and I have only ever spent two bedtimes apart. At the same time I know I want to be a strong woman who is a great role model with ambition, drive and a great worth ethic, to show Casey these things are important values and I am more than his Mummy. Furthermore I want to provide Casey with a quality of life, a good education and I don’t want him to go without, which of course means I have to work. Sometimes it can feel impossible to find the balance and it often means you never stop. I work a lot when Casey is asleep.
How do you manage in these situations?
You just have to find a balance and not be too hard on yourself. You also make the most of quality time, I always try and set aside time for Casey and me, so if I have been very busy, I will make sure I take Casey somewhere the next day and we have some real quality time. I try not to work during dinner and bedtime, so Casey gets his routine and we have those quality moments at bedtime that I know will go so fast. If I get stressed I try to remember, it’s just a job, yes you have to make it work and give the best to your customers, but you also have to give the best to Casey and whilst you know a future is important to him, so is having his Mummy. Equally if I happen to have a busy few days where I have to work, I just make sure I make the most of our moments and try and remember that Casey is OK and we will make up for it in a few days. There is so much pressure on Mums these days, stay at home, go to work, send them to nursery, keep them home, earn a living, see your baby, take time for you, don’t be selfish, sometimes it feels like mums have to be a million people all at once and other mums can be the first to bash each other.
In reality we are all doing the best for our little ones and we all have the way that works best for us. All mums are great, the ones that are at home full time, the ones that are at work full time and the ones that juggle the two – we’re all doing a great job!
Christmas is fast approaching, what do you love most about this time of year?
Everything!! I have always loved Christmas, I think I would move to Lapland if I could, my birthday is 5 days after too so I have always been a Winter/Christmas kind of girl. I love all of it, even the cold. Most of all I love how families come together, how there is so much to do and experience for the whole family. People come together, they think about others, whether that’s buying the perfect gift, paying a visit, or just sending a card. You can create so many traditions and memories and there are a million and one excuses to act like a little person again and have fun. It’s also so pretty, the lights, the decorations, crisp frosty morning and maybe some snow. Oh and hot chocolate with cream and marshmallows!
What are your own favourite family Christmas traditions?
Getting the biggest and best real tree we can possibly fit. Wrapping presents perfectly, (I’m a chief present wrapper). Opening a new pair of great pyjamas on Christmas Eve, then waking up in them and opening presents together, watching Christmas TV in the same pyjamas and then putting on a “Christmas outfit” and going to eat the biggest Christmas dinner we can possible manage with the rest of the family. Watching more TV, eating more and maybe playing some games with the younger members of the family.
How will you be spending the Christmas holidays this year?
Exactly as I described above. I also have my brother over this year from Australia, so that will be exciting showing him all the Christmas traditions and festivities going on out and about and Casey is another year older, so is understanding more and more, which is so much fun. Any Christmassy activity available – we will be doing it haha. My friend and I are taking our two little ones (Casey & Alexander) to the outdoor roof Grotto at the Shankly Hotel which looks amazing. The Dreamworks light show looks amazing and we’re hoping to go there and just lots of that really, coupled with family time, fun, food, films and more hot chocolate. Of course we’re also planning lots of treats and surprises for our wonderful Smudge Kids customers – that goes without saying!
Carina, shares her perfect picks for Christmas from Smudge Kids: