We’re shining a spotlight on Carrie from Sweet as April! These beautiful bonnets are made by a mama on a mission- so we can totally relate! Read more about Carrie and her advice for both parents and small business owners.
Here at Slumberkins, we love coming across people, brands, and products that inspire us. As parents ourselves, we know the importance of sharing these awesome finds. So, we’re excited to continue our Slumberkins Spotlight monthly feature! In these posts we will bring attention to – and “shine a spotlight on” – special people who share the Slumberkins mission to help parents, caregivers, and children everywhere. We will feature a new Q&A session each month that we hope will uplift, inspire, and maybe lend a sense of solidarity. Because this parenting thing isn’t easy – and sometimes it’s nice to know that we’re all in this together.
So for our April spotlight, the choice was easy! We are so excited to be featuring Carrie, owner and creator of Sweet as April!
Hi Carrie! Could you tell us a little bit more about yourself?
I am a 33-year-old mother of 2 living in WMASS. I grew up in the hill towns of our area with squirrels as our neighbors, homeschooled for a good part of my childhood and spent our summers in Maine. I have 2 older brothers, my mom is my best friend, and I got my entrepreneurial bug from my Dad. I went to college for Graphic Arts and Art History. After owning my own gallery for 7 years, I landed at home making bonnets! I love working from home with my husband, Marc, who takes wonderful care of our 2 children: Elliot (4) and Leia (2).
Photo Credit: @sweet_as_april
Most of our readers will know your brand because of the sweet bonnets you make. What inspired you to start making bonnets?
Bonnets started out of a necessity for two things, really. One, I needed a bonnet for Leia for a camping trip we were taking but could not afford any at the time. I had fabric, I knew how to sew (previously was a maker of handbags). I traced a knit bonnet I had that fit her, cut a pattern and whipped one up before we left. The second reason came after that trip. We went camping because we needed to get away, which is what most vacations are for. We needed to hit the restart button after deciding to close my gallery so I could stay home with our newly diagnosed autistic son, Elliot. So what started as a quick bonnet for a beach vacation quickly turned into a desperate attempt to work from home. What I didn’t realize was his diagnosis was a true gift. Not only were we able to help him grow over this past year but also this business has exploded for us, making me realize that THIS is what I was always intended to do.
Starting your own company is tough! What has been one of the most rewarding experiences you've had as an owner of a small business?
My followers on Instagram are the most rewarding thing that has come of my business. My business isn’t just about baby hats. I really look to inspire people daily whether it be through our stories, a blog post, my IG posts or another shop that we work with. What I didn’t expect when doing those things was that this community would turn around and inspire ME. Because of the impact they have had on our life, I try to be a better mother, daughter, wife, and friend. The community that has been created around my bonnets and the people who follow our journey is so amazing. I could never do it without them. Their love and support is by far the most rewarding part of this job.
If someone is new to your brand, what's the main message you hope to get across to new customers?
We are out to save this world from textile waste one bonnet at a time. The textile waste in our country – this idea of fast fashion – is so terrible. These amazing fabrics that are thrown away daily could be reused in so many different ways. We are just one of those ways. By making our bonnets primarily from pre-loved materials (skirts, shirts, curtains, table linens, vintage fabrics and donated yardage) we are able to save SO MANY gorgeous textiles from the landfills they were bound to end up in. I feel so passionate about this process and it makes me excited each month to design new bonnets from these found fabrics.
Photo Credit: @sweet_as_april
What did you do before Sweet as April?
I did lots of things. I was a wonderful barista (tooting my own horn here, but I was darn good at the job) and I owned a gallery showcasing over 55 local artists in our area. Before that I was an assistant to a graphic design firm where I always joke I learned more at that job than I did in college. AND before that I was a layout editor for many, many newspapers in our area (I worked at them all!) I like to think all of those things: customer service from my barista days, organization from being an assistant, graphic design sense from my layout days, and then the entrepreneurial side of me from owning my gallery – they all added up to this bonnet craziness and I’m not complaining one bit.
We are big on the importance of having a routine in place with our little ones (like cuddling and reading a Sleepytime Rhyme together each night before bed). What kinds of routines have been helpful for you – either personally or professionally?
Recently, I’ve been getting up before my kids do. I used to be a night owl but it was not working for me. I would stay up SO late and then the kids would be up early, meaning I would burn the candle at both ends. I knew how beneficial routine could be, helping Elliot grow with his autism, so I decided in the New Year to take my own advice and set up a morning routine for myself. It’s just an hour to myself; I drink hot coffee, maybe answer emails, and draft an Instagram post. But that one hour to myself before the kids come downstairs is everything to me, and I’m so glad I've started doing it.
What's the best piece of parenting advice you've received that you think would be helpful to other parents or caregivers reading this?
Be patient and selfless. Motherhood is all about just being a mother. It’s easy to get down about it, knowing that your past self may be lost. But just be patient with yourself, your children, and your time. I give myself to my children everyday. It may not be my prettiest self; I may not be well-fed or showered; I may have the same shirt on that I slept in with my fourth cup of coffee in hand, but the days are numbered. The time to be selfless and give your children everything you have is now. You’ll come back to the person you “used to be” and you’ll be pleasantly surprised to see that that person has changed for the better. Because your children can teach you SO much if you just slow down and be patient with them.
What advice do you have for any mom out there who is thinking about starting a handmade business?
You know, I get asked this question a lot and it may sound silly, but my advice is to be kind. When I started this business I knew I didn’t want to just MAKE bonnets, I wanted to inspire a community. When there are other handmade shops that people can support, you need to give your customer a reason to support YOU. And to me, kindness always wins. I try to be relatable, honest, open and kind in all that I do. I reflect that through my website, my IG posts, my stories and my honest motherhood. I think it’s important that in whatever you decide to do, handmade or otherwise, you need to always have it come from the heart. If you don’t LOVE what you do then it won’t translate to your work. So, I guess, find your “thing." Mine is clearly bonnets, but yours… it could be anything. Just do ONE thing and do it REALLY well.
Photo Credit: @mrs.galloway
We know you're a busy mama who also supports many brands by taking styled photos for them. How do you find the time to do it all? What's a day in the life look like for you?
Oh my gosh. This is another question I get asked on the daily. My answer is this: I don’t do it all. I have the best husband ever home with me to do the laundry and cook the meals. My seamstress, Arleen, cuts and sews most of the bonnets. My mother trims all of the bonnets and my friend Kelsie lists all of the bonnets to my website for our monthly drops. That leaves me to do what I love most, social media, photographing products, designing the bonnets, and styling Leia. It’s still a lot; social media itself can be a full time job.
My day starts in my studio where I draft IG posts for all three of my accounts (who does that…? who has 3 accounts, me… I do!) I then get Leia dressed and have quiet playtime where I post to stories tagging the brands we work with (Elliot is getting ready for school during that time. We try to give him his space since transitions are hard for him). If therapy for Leia is scheduled that day, I try to use the time to answer emails or edit photos. If there is no therapy, then I try to get photos of her playing but she doesn't always comply. Then we change for our “nap photo” where I style her naps using all small shop products. After that my husband takes over with her so I can go downstairs to my studio and design. Elliot is usually due home from school when Leia gets up from her nap. At that time I try to snag a few more stories for IG and tag the companies we work with. Then it’s family time (snack, dinner, bath, bed). I do one more round of email/social media messages in the evening, and then I put my phone away and read a book…and I need a new one (message me if you know any good reads)!
Photo Credit: @sweet_as_april
That’s my life just about everyday. Fridays I take a photography class at our local college. Tuesdays my husband takes Leia for the day so I can have the house to myself. Saturdays and Sundays once a month I do all my fabric shopping. It takes an army of support to do what I do, so when asked, “How do you do it all?” I quickly answer – I do not and cannot ever do it all myself. I am so grateful for all of the support I get, especially from my husband. (Reading through that, just now, it shows that we don’t spend much time together, it’s been noted. A date night needs to be scheduled!)
Is there anything new and exciting coming up for Sweet as April that we should be on the lookout for?
I make mostly all of my bonnets from pre-loved clothing which are released monthly, but I am also starting to do special releases mid-month. These don’t always stick with my mission of pre-loved materials because I don’t just want to save this world from textile waste, but I also want to showcase other companies with my brand. Therefore, some bonnets are collaborations with other shops using their materials to create bonnets, and some are ideas from my crazy creative mind that I cannot shake. While others are special embroidery collections that just need to be shared outside of our monthly releases. I have this crazy idea for a bonnet, and the materials just arrived today. I cannot wait to see the bonnets come together. Stay tuned for them!
Thank you so much, Carrie, for giving us an insider’s look at Sweet as April! It’s so refreshing to hear your reflections on business and family life – and you are obviously passionate about both! We are so thankful for thoughtful, women-owned businesses like yours that foster resourcefulness, creativity, and community.