Behind the Brand: North Kinder
May 1, 2020
Local stylish moms are likely already familiar with the brand North Kinder. As a mom it’s so great to find a brand that is stylish, functional and comfortable for our kids to wear. North Kinder is exactly that – modern designs that are incredibly soft and easy for your little one to move in.
For the first post in our new series, Behind the Brand, we talked to Sheena Steinbrenner, the owner of North Kinder, about what’s its like to start and run your own business—all while being a full-time mom.
Q. How do you balance being a mom and running your own business?
A. You don’t. You just do it. Maybe someone can tell me what that special balance is? What helps is that my husband especially, he loves North Kinder, and we just talk about it all the time. And not to sound cheesy but we are really passionate about it. We’re North Kinder all the time.
I was a high-school teacher before, and I really liked it, but I remember my students asking, did you always know that you wanted to be a teacher? And I’m like no…and I probably won’t always be a teacher, I just feel like I’m going to do something else. I didn’t always know what that thing was going to be, but I always new I wanted to run my own company. I just know that this is what I’m supposed to do.
I don’t actually take that much of a pay because I want to build my company and my team—and I want to be with my kids. We have so many people working for us doing so many different things within the business so that I don’t have to—so I can still be a mom.
Q. What’s part of your job that might surprise people?
A. That I don’t pay myself very much, if at all some months. I didn’t take my first actual paycheck until September 2019, and we’ve been in business for 5 years. But, because of our growth we are constantly reinvesting in our business. You grow and then you need to buy more fabric, more drawstrings, more tags. You can do small batch orders, and that works for lots of people, but we knew we wanted to get into more stores, to do more wholesale. If you want more, you just have to keep putting that money back. So ya, I think that it might surprise people that for all these years, I haven’t actually been paying myself much.
Q. What are your top 3 entrepreneurial tips?
A. There’s so many, but here’s a couple.
- Have someone within your support system or your company that gets you out of your head. I’m a perfectionist, so I’d say that you do need someone in your life that pushes you to just roll it out, to launch your website, your product. Just get it up and out there and you can continue to refine things along the way. You don’t have to be perfect to move forward.
- Pick one thing and do it well. We started with three products. Obviously, I wanted to make more variety but you can’t when you’re starting out. So, we just did three things (joggers, scarves and slouchy hats) and we did them really well. Just start small and grow from there. This can apply to all kinds of ventures. Take social media for example. You’ve got Pinterest, TikToc, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube. What was told to me, and what I think is really good advice is to just pick one and do that one really well and then branch out to the next one.
- Be realistic with your time. We are North Kinder all the time. If you want to reach a certain level of success, you have to be realistic with how much time that takes. We wake up and we talk about North Kinder and we go to bed talking about North Kinder. It takes a lot of time. And if there’s things you don’t have time for, and you can, outsource it.
Q. What do you do when you feel uninspired?
A. We like going for walks and being in nature; going to Canmore—even just for a night to get away. Its good for stress. Clearing some headspace. I’m also a Christian, so I pray. I ask God to just help me, help me with my stress, help give me new ideas.
Q. Where do you see you company going over the next couple of years?
A. My husband would say global domination, haha. We get pressure to move it overseas, because producing in Vancouver is very expensive, but that’s not something we’re interested in doing. We really want to branch more into the US, and I would like to be global eventually. Mostly I just want to keep expanding and doing more wholesale. I’d love some larger retailers to carry our products. I’d love to have a bigger partnership or collaboration with someone like Jillian Harris, but again, those take time.
Q. What are your favourite pieces that you’ve made?
A. I LOVE our Speedsuits and honestly, I love our Rockford Joggers. And of course, our Mama and Baby sweaters, because I get to see all the fun pictures of moms with their kids, when they’re twinning and so happy and I just love it. And the little tiny babies that are wearing our North Kinder hats. When I see that, I’m like they took their tiny baby home in something that we made for them and that’s so special.
Q. Anything else you’d like to add, that you’d like other women wanting to start their own business to know?
A. I want people to feel like they can do it. I don’t want people to think just because I didn’t pay myself that they can’t. You can still pay yourself—you can start small and structure your business differently. You can do an Etsy shop with a set initial investment, sell those products and then make them again and maintain a profit. And now with social media, and Etsy and Shopify there’s so many amazing online platforms that can help you actually sell your product. That’s amazing! I just want other women to feel like this is something they can do.