Monday, May 14, 2012

Meet the Team - Keri from JoJo and Bella

Today we get to know Keri form the Etsy shop JoJo and Bella.  Her wool longies and skirties are not only super practical but ADORABLE too!

Where did you get the name for your shop? 
It's a combination of nicknames for my 2 youngest children. When I was first inspired to open a shop I just saw the whole thing in my head, the names "Jo Jo and Bella" which are sort of cuter versions of their names, and the line drawing picture which is my logo, which was based on an actual photograph I had of him kissing her forehead. It sort of reminded me of the timeless Gerber baby line drawing, and it just all came together in my head at once.

Please share what is unique about your products. 
My wool diaper covers are unique because they are all different.  I make them out of unloved wool sweaters. I try to pick out wool sweaters that will appeal to all different types of people and then put them together in the most appealing way possible. Maybe it sounds silly, but I feel like I put a little bit of myself in each one. They are each a unique and different creation, which also keeps them interesting to make. I'm not mass producing the same product like a factory. I kind of feel like each sweater has a story to tell. For instance, one cardigan had a map of Japan sewn into it with four criss crosses at the neckline. I want to put some of these interesting details up in my blog soon.

If you want to know the practical side of my wool covers, wool is the best solution to keep even the heaviest wetters from getting their bedding wet at night, and with the skirties and longies you don't need to worry about finding clothes to fit over even the bulkiest cloth diapers, they are adorable clothing little ones can wear out and about. Wool is all natural and breathable, so it is excellent for sensitive skin and guarding against diaper rash. In fact, the main reason I switched to using wool almost all of the time is that my kids were constantly fighting rash with PUL even though I changed them frequently. With wool they never have rashes or leaks. It's waterproof, and yet it's breathable. Such an interesting natural product.

What are your most popular products, and why are they so appealing? 
I think my skirties are my most popular product and definitely my favorite to make. I think it might be because I had three boys before I had my daughter. I never felt like I was missing out before she was here, but once I started making skirties for her I just couldn't stop. They are so adorable. The only sensible thing to do was to make them for other little girls so my daughter didn't accumulate vast quantities of skirties. When we go out and she is in a skirtie people stop me all the time to compliment her on it. I think most of these people would be surprised to know that it is actually a very smart cover for a cloth diaper, all they know is that they are adorable!

How did you get the idea for your products/business? 
I started sewing wool diaper covers from sweaters because it seemed like the most cost effective way to cloth diaper. I used the covers over prefolds and it worked great. But the sewing was like taking a vacation and I didn't want to stop. I had the inspiration for the name and logo, as I said before, which I thought would be perfect because the "JoJo line" could be boys items, and the "Bella line" would be for the girls. The names seemed sort of like they could stand for every boy and girl. Soon I found myself sewing tiny longies and skirties too small for my little ones and taking them into local stores to sell, and then I opened up on Etsy soon after.

What have you found most challenging about running your own business? 
Oh my goodness, the time! I have 4 kids and being a mom and running my household is definitely the most important thing to me. I think any mom knows that just taking good care of your kids is a full-time job. Then we are expected to do all of these other things on top of that. For me, running the business is like taking a break from the hecticness of my everyday life. But I have so many great ideas and so little time to implement them that it can be a little bit frustrating. I. live. for. naptime.

Has anything been easier than you expected? More difficult? 
I can't think of anything that has been easier than I expected. It's difficult to put yourself out there and allow people to judge you and your products because when your products are so personal, made from your very own hands, it can feel very personal at times. This can be both good and bad. It can also be difficult to connect with the right people who want to buy your specific product.

And let's face it, it's impossible to compete with the Walmarts of the world. But the Walmarts of the world also don't have my quality or level of customer service I have either. And since I am hand making each item, I can't price items as though they were made in a factory. I have to charge something for my time. And when you add in the other expenses and still try to keep costs down enough to offer a value to people, then you sometimes feel like you're working in a sweat shop. I say this very affectionately, since it's a sweat shop of my own making and I'm the only one sweating there, but my husband teases me about not making money at this, which is why the wall of my garage/sewing area says "Keri's Sweat Shop" on it. But I am trying to strike the balance of hopefully earning a profit while trying to keep it affordable for the average family.

Why do you like selling on Etsy? 
When I discovered Etsy I was blown away by the amount of really high quality handmade items there. Now when I need to buy something I try to see if I can find it on Etsy first. I love that people are expressing themselves creatively and creating so many awesome products. I'm happy to be a part of it. And I know people go to Etsy specifically looking for the small work-at-home-moms making the unique and different, so I want to be there so I can be found.

How long have you been sewing, knitting, crocheting, etc.? 
I wish I could knit or crochet, I hope one day to learn, but I only sew. I've been dreading this question because I can't really remember how I learned to sew. I remember my mom knowing how to sew, but she didn't teach me. Her mother was an excellent seamstress who could actually look at an item in a shop window or catalog and recreate it with no pattern! I would love to have been taught those skills by her, that would've been awesome! But I'm a very independent person and when I want to do something in life I pretty much just teach it to myself. I did this to learn how to ride a bike and I guess I also did this with sewing. I do remember in middle school taking a sewing class and not learning anything, not completing the apron we were supposed to make and I think I even failed the class! But later after I was an adult I checked out books at the library (before YouTube, alas), bought an old sewing machine at a garage sale and somehow taught myself to sew. I hope this story doesn't lose me any customers, I promise I know how! ;)

What is your favorite thing to make at the moment? 
Skirties! And I'm also branching out into hair accessories. I plan to start offering matching hair accessories with every skirtie soon. I also am trying out different ideas for adding pockets to the longies. Toddlers love pockets, so I'm hoping to add some cute ones, at least to the larger size longies.

Why is cloth diapering important to you? 
Cloth diapering makes so much sense! After it's part of your routine it isn't any trouble at all. The money I save is incredible. I used cloth diapers off and on over the years, but when my daughter was born I was very overwhelmed and we weren't using cloth diapers at first. So with two kids in diapers we spent at least $100 every month. This really bothers me because we really couldn't afford it. And since I have ended up using prefolds aside from a few homemade diapers I could've bought my entire stash for under $100, even if I were to buy wool covers instead of make them! (I wouldn't have as many wool covers I have, but still, it would definitely be possible). Also no matter what kind of disposables we bought they would get a rash. So I know the chemicals in the disposables are not good for babies. Of course, the environmental impact is very important also. Just imagine all the diapers (even 20+ years old) that must still be piled up in landfills! It's not only disgusting, it's a waste of resources and land. Cloth diapering is such an easy way to make a big impact in a positive way.

What is the kind of diaper you like the best at home? 
I love simple cotton prefolds. I know this is out of fashion, but they are cheap, easy to rinse off when soiled, easy to wash all together without special washing or drying requirements, and are very absorbent. If I was starting over with a newborn I would probably buy or make more fitted diapers, but the prefolds have worked great for me with two in diapers. Of course, over the prefolds I use wool covers. I often have them wearing longies or skirties just as part of their outfit as well as being their diaper cover. It makes my life simple to wear their covers as clothing.

What is your favorite cloth diapering memory? 
I remember when my son was born and my sister-in-law made me some tiny fitted diapers for him with monkeys on them. They were so adorable and both my son and daughter got to wear them. I love tiny diapers! I also remember when I made my first skirtie for Bella and how adorable she looked crawling around in it. Also she had these little longies with a crazy colorful pattern. She wore those longies out she wore them so much. They were my favorite until she just absolutely could not fit in them one more time!

Who or what is your inspiration? 
Maybe this sounds sappy, but I am inspired by my kids every day to be a mother worthy of them. I am still working on this. But having time alone to create something meaningful inspires me too. I know when I am able to create things it puts me into a more healthy mindset to be a better mom to my kids. As I sew, I picture the little baby or toddler who will one day wear the outfit and that inspires me as to which direction to go as I make it. I love it when I imagine I may be able to spread some cloth diapering love and get more people to try cloth as well.

Do you have anything new going on now, or upcoming, such as new products or promotions? 
Well, the hair accessories for the skirties is coming up, I hope very soon, as well as adding the pockets to at least some longies. I have also recently made a skirtie which was made from a wool sweater underneath for the diaper cover part, but a cotton sweater for the skirt part. The result was a skirtie I couldn't have made from wool since the sweater had a very unique design with sunflowers and ladybugs on it. Since it is difficult to find wool sweaters large enough after felting them for the skirt part, this idea opens up a lot of possibilities. I am planning to start offering these hybrid skirties in my shop soon. I will still offer 100% wool, but for those who don't mind if the skirt is a different material I will have more unique and interesting skirties to offer in this hybrid line. And they will work every bit as well as the 100% wool skirties, since the skirt is really just a decoration. The skirtie has a shortie underneath, and as long as this part is wool that is the true diaper cover part. I have so many new ideas for products I hope I can offer soon, it's really just a matter of finding the time to implement them!

Also there is a vlogger who is planning on doing a review. It has been in the works for months, but I wanted to get my shop stocked and my website finished, so she is just waiting on me. So look for a video review and giveaway very soon (in May) from "Naturally Thrifty Mom" on YouTube. This is going to be super exciting!
Is there anything else you'd like to share? 
Thank you for interviewing me and letting me be part of the Etsy Cloth Diapers Team. I hope I am able to put more time into it and help other teammates out as well. Also, thanks to anyone reading this interview! I think suporting handmade is a wonderful way for moms to support each other!

Where can we find your products? 
I have a website which I hope soon will have more info including a how to lanolize video and a blog where I can share more. If you click on the "Shop" page, it also links to my Etsy shop: Or you can go to my Etsy shop directly 

Also, I have just recently joined Facebook and you can find me at I put out special coupon codes on my Facebook page. From my website you can email me or send me a convo through Etsy if you have any questions about my products in particular or wool products in general. If you want something special I am always happy to do a custom order and you can convo me about that as well. I'm always happy to answer questions about wool covers or cloth diapers. Thanks!

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