Making the Maker, an Interview with Olivia Freeborn
We are really excited to share this week's Making the Maker interview with you. We started this series last Monday, so feel free to go back and read last week's interview! Today, we are talking with Olivia Freeborn, creator and owner of the small, handmade business Wild Winnie out of Nashville, Tennessee. She makes the sweetest clothing and accessories for little ones that you have to check out!! Olivia is one of my good friends (who I would love to drive out and meet one day!) and we met through Instagram. She lives with her husband and is a stay-at-home mama to her 20-month-old son, Winston.
Kayla: How did your business begin? Do you have any other jobs besides running Wild Winnie?
Olivia: I like to think of my full time job as being a mom. Honestly, that's where my whole heart is. I find so much joy in the simple moments of motherhood. The kisses and laughter to the tantrums and dirty diapers, it all leaves my heart so full. On the side, I run a little online shop selling baby items handmade by me because sewing is another passion of mine. [Wild Winnie] all began when I realized that being a mom didn't have to mean giving up my hobbies and also didn't necessarily mean having to give up staying at home with my son either. I was looking for a way to help contribute to the family income without having to sacrifice time with Winston. My husband encouraged me to start a little shop online and see where it went.
Kayla: Why do you make handmade?
Olivia: There are so many reasons why I choose to hand make my items, but one of the biggest reasons is that I love creating things myself. I don't just find enjoyment in coming up with the designs and searching out the right materials, but seeing the item in progress and then being able to sit back and admire the finished product is the most rewarding feeling.
Kayla: What inspires your products/business/designs?
Olivia: I am a big fan of all things vintage. I also have always been fascinated by different cultures and their textiles; the attention to detail and true artistry that goes into ethnic materials just absolutely amazes me. I am also passionate about natural fabrics and dyes and try to incorporate them as much as possible.
Kayla: Where do you source your products from?
Olivia: All over the world. Sometimes it's from a family owned business right here in the US, and other times it comes from India and even Bulgaria. But no matter where it comes from, I try to make sure it's ethically sourced.
Can you tell me more about your ethnic, natural fabrics? How did you begin sourcing your materials from other countries? That's so interesting!
Olivia: Sure! Most of the ethically sourced fabrics I use are hand-blocked or hand-printed/hand-dyed, and many of those are made using vegetable and natural dyes. I actually began sourcing them through Etsy! It allowed me to shop essentially from one site while having a variety of stores to choose from at the same time! I love the fact that I can order directly from the artisans themselves, or small companies that carry products from their local communities. It makes me feel good knowing that I'm helping support individuals and their families.
Kayla: What is your design process? How long do you find it takes you to finalize a design and find something that works for you?
Olivia: It's embarrassing to say, but design has never been my strong suit. I generally just try things until I hit something I like. I can plan something out, but 90% of the time I don't even end up following my own pattern. I like to just be creative and go with how I'm feeling at the moment. Sometimes it doesn't work at all, and then other times it turns out better than I expected. [The amount of time] just depends. Sometimes it takes days, or it's just a matter of minutes. I've even had designs which I've created and carried for a short time, and then decided it wasn't working for me or fitting my ultimate goal, and I've scratched the idea completely. Really this whole endeavor is a growing process from start to finish. There's definitely the pains that go along with that, but I'm just so grateful that I have loyal customers who are willing to go through that with me.
Kayla: What is your typical day-to-day life like?
Olivia: My daily life is probably like most moms who stay at home. Lots of dirty dishes, meal prep, changing diapers, piles of clean laundry to be folded, play time, story time, and lots of multitasking. I usually try to squeeze my sewing in during naps and after I put Winston to bed. Sometimes though, if there's a lot of work to be done for the shop, I'll stick him in a playpen next to my sewing machine with some toys and books and hope that he stays happy for a little bit.
Kayla: Is there any trick, activity, or special toy you have found that helps keep Winston occupied while you are working? As a small business owner and mother, I am always interested in hearing what others like best!
Olivia: The trick with Winston is books. Always. I try as much as I can to talk to him and "play" with him as I work, but if he's desperate for something a little more attention grabbing, I will turn on a baby show and let him watch that for a little bit. Every once in a while I'll let him sit on my lap and "sew" with me. Of course this slows the process down to the point where I'm basically getting nothing accomplished, but sometimes he needs me more, and I've learned that that's ok. And it's good to involve him in the things [I] do. But most of the time, books.
Kayla: What opportunities has making by hand opened for you?
Olivia: Being able to create things by hand has given me the opportunity to connect with others in a very personal way. There's nothing quite like seeing your labor of love on someone's little baby.
Kayla: Do you have any regrets or have you made any mistakes when it comes to running a small business?
Olivia: Yes and yes! I'm not sure I'll ever be 100% satisfied with everything I've done. That's part of what helps me grow. I like to think there is always room for improvement, and I try to look for the things I can be doing better. As one example, when my shop opened, I had never even considered where my materials were coming from or what they were made out of. One day a lightbulb went off, and I realized it was something I could change to make my products more unique and even better quality.
Kayla: What is the hardest part about running a small, handmade business?
Olivia: Hands down, the hardest part about running a business is balancing it all. I am an "all or nothing" person, so when I first started out I would often neglect important things like my house, my sons need for my attention, and even my poor husband. You don't want to know the number of times we ate eggs for dinner simply because I didn't plan anything, not to mention how many weeks my bathroom went without being cleaned. I have since realized that balance is key. There are still some days where dishes are a little backed up and dinner isn't as extravagant as I'd want, but I like to think I'm a lot more leveled when it comes to priorities. And remembering that the people in my life and the memories I make with them are more important than money and having a successful business has been the biggest and greatest lesson I have learned through this whole process.
Such great insight on running a small business and being a mama at the same time! We loved taking this interview with Olivia; thank you so much, sweet lady! If you would like to shop the adorable products from Wild Winnie, click here, and make sure to follow along on Instagram @wildwinnie_ and on Olivia's personal account @livyfreeborn.
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