I'm sitting at my desk as I prepare for an upcoming zoom meeting. Over the past few months sitting through zoom calls has become a regular experience for me. Like many others I’ve become accustomed to connecting with friends and family virtually. Our conversations are fairly standard: we talk about our latest activities, jobs and hopes for the upcoming school year, however I recently had a delightful change in pace. A few days ago I was able to meet and talk to Yessica Reina about her personal business venture. If you have small children or siblings then you may be familiar with her company, if not then it’s definitely worthwhile to checkout. Yessica is a young mother and founder of BabyLu & Co. Her company sells trendy and handmade accessories for young children and within only a few minutes of listening to Yessica talk, her dedication and enthusiasm towards the company was clear.
As we got to talking about her past and how she started her company I learned that although she was always conscious of her interest in business, she did not realize to what extent, “I would say yes but I didn’t realize I was so interested in business until I started working for someone else. So my mom was always an entrepreneur, she always had her own business since I was very little and I was always helping but I didn’t really see that I wanted to have my own business or go into business until I started working for someone else”. Yessica’s interest in business grew over time as she was able to gain first hand knowledge by working with her mother, “I was just always watching her work and I would come and help when I was done with school”.
Although Yessica’s time spent working with her mother provided her with insight and the opportunity to discover her passion for business, as an immigrant from Columbia she had to overcome another set of challenges before her career in business could begin, “I came from Columbia when I was sixteen to Canada so it was [...] a difficult time because I was a teenager and didn’t speak the language and have many friends and know anyone so I kinda was lost for the beginning of the first few years when I came to Canada. And then I started school for PSW and started working long hours in that and I was happy making money from that”. It wasn’t until later in her career as a PSW that Yessica began to think seriously about business again, “Once I went on mat leave and had my daughter I started thinking about ideas of how can I stay home with her and so I came up with a bunch of ideas, and it wasn’t just me because I’m with my husband, and so it was kinda like a team. I was coming up with ideas and asking him ‘what do you think’ but we both didn’t have any business background so we started with a balloon company and that was called, Balloon Party”. Yessica’s first business venture, Balloon Party was what eventually led her onto the path towards her current company, BabyLu & Co. “It [...] kinda just opened the door to the business world because we didn’t know any of the, [...] small business companies that were already running in London so we opened that and were in that business for about less then a year and I said ‘I definitely want to get into the ecommerce just kinda selling something from home and not having to leave my house to do a set up, or you know that kind of thing’ so [...] that's basically how I started and then I went to a moms show here in London and I started looking for ideas on Pinterest and that's when I decided that I wanted to make a ball pit which was the first product for our company”.
In addition to being the catalyst to get Yessica thinking about business, her daughter Luna was also the inspiration for the company,“ [...] My daughter’s name is Luna and that’s why it’s the BabyLu, L-u, because when I first had my daughter and I didn’t really want to go back to work I wanted to stay home and be able to stay with her, at least until she could start going to school”.
"Not focusing on other people's success but focus on your own business and making your products great; falling in love with your products and just kinda doing anything that would make your brand grow"
Today the BabyLu & Co. has been successfully running “a little bit over two years”. Yessica was able to get the company running in three months and attributes this to her previous experience in the business industry, “To have the business running and everything I think because I had a little bit of experience with that balloon company it took me about three months to find suppliers and come up with a name and a logo and all that, but I think if you have a clear opinion of the product you want to launch I would say it would take about one to three months to start your own business”. Having previous experience with the Balloon Party company helped Yessica launch BabyLu & Co., but what I found truly amazing is that Yessica is self taught, “Yeah there is a lot of information in youtube and [...] I learned how to sew in YouTube, just by watching YouTube videos so YouTube is my go to place to learn anything”. While social media and the internet can be a valuable tool when starting a business and learning new skills, the abundance of information available can also be discouraging and was one of the biggest challenges Yessica faced while starting her company. “Don’t get distracted by what other people are doing and how successful they are or the amount of things that they’re selling because that can be one thing that can [...] be difficult. Watching these other people have success, because when you’re starting [...] you’re probably not selling as much as you expected because you're still learning”. To overcome this mindset Yessica recommends, “Not focusing on other people's success but focus on your own business and making your products great; falling in love with your products and just kinda doing anything that would make your brand grow, [...] watching youtube videos asking for tips and like really researching before you make decisions”.
However, Yessica is more than just an entrepreneur and her day to day life working from home requires some strategizing. “Well I’m a mother of two”, Yessica replied after I ask her what a typical day looks like for her, “Luna is three and I have my youngest who’s going to be turning two in a couple of days”, “And I run my business at home so basically my whole living room is full of products, but that’s just right now because I’m going to be shipping out orders”. To manage her busy schedule, Yessica has a daily routine which she follows. Each day Yessica wakes up before the kids to answer emails and get some “me time”, then she will cook breakfast and lunch for the day ahead. Additionally, Yessica has a schedule with her husband where she is responsible for the house and children until seven p.m and then he will take over to allow her time to work on BabyLu & Co. “So when seven p.m comes that's when I'm like, in full energy of working, I start packing orders for the next day, answering emails I start brainstorming for new patterns and designs if there is a new collection coming up and all of that.” Nonetheless, it’s not always easy balancing family and business life, and Yessica explained the importance of maintaining a schedule. “Trying to work while you have kids at home, it’s insane, it’s insane, so I was like not giving my business one hundred percent and not giving my kids one hundred percent and that’s when we decided ‘okay we need to make a schedule’ and then I can just be with the kids and at home doing whatever needs to be done and I’m giving all my energy and I’m present for them, and then, when I’m running the business and doing all the things for the business then I’m giving my one hundred percent to the business”. Yessica and her husband's hard work has paid off, “and it [the schedule] has been great. I have seen a lot of improvements in the business, in like everything, my energy and just everything, relationship wise as well”.
"I always found it magical just to grab a piece of fabric and turn it into a special piece"
Despite her busy schedule, in her free time Yessica enjoys bike riding and makes it an activity the whole family can enjoy, “Yeah so I bought a little- okay I asked for mothers day to get a bike because I really wanted to go out with the kids during the summer time [...] and that’s what I got, and my husband got really into biking so we have been doing that this year”. Yessica has also always been interested in sewing, and has been able to integrate her passion into her business to make more time for it. “ [...] I always found it magical just to grab a piece of fabric and turn it into a special piece. I always thought that was so cool so I would say back in 2013 I bought a little [...] home sewing machine and I was doing just small projects that I would find easy on YouTube, but I had a job and all that so I put that aside and then when my daughter was born I was like ‘okay I really want to make something for her that she can keep and say my mom made this when I was a baby’ and that’s when the whole thing [BabyLu & Co.] started, because I started searching more for how can I make this and that. And then I decided to buy an industrial machine which was a big change and I was like ‘okay if I buy this and I make this investment of a thousand dollars then I have to push myself’ because I can’t just leave a thousand dollars sitting there”.
Another thing I really admire about Yessica is her positivity and how motivated she is to achieve her dreams. When I asked her what her next hopes were for her company she replied, “Yeah, so March of this year just right before the pandemic started I was doing everything by myself and March comes and I started getting really busy so I hired our first employee which is the sewing manager. She's eventually going to run the sewing team”. Yessica plans to expand into retailers and hopes to sell her products all over Canada, to do this she wants to have a warehouse which she can use as a workspace.
"...believe in yourself and believe that everything is possible if you work hard and you love what you’re doing"
Overall, despite its challenges, Yessica thoroughly enjoys life as an entrepreneur. When I asked her what her favorite part about her career is she responded, “oh my gosh I have a lot of things”, but was able to conclude that it is the endless possibilities that the career offers, “[...] I have learned in the past two years [...] you can do anything, you can sell anything on the internet so that's kinda the most interesting thing”. At the end of our interview I asked if Yessica has any advice or tips for young or new entrepreneurs to which she thoughtfully replied, “Advice for a young student or someone who wants to start a business is: One, if I made it as an immigrant who didn’t know any English when I first came to Canada you can make it too. And the second one would be to believe in yourself and believe that everything is possible if you work hard and you love what you’re doing”.