The girls from Brimful are some of the sweetest we know. We’ve followed the journey of their adorable boutique from the very beginning, and in the last year or so we’ve had the pleasure to (finally!) meet in person at our US ShopUps! Together, firm friends Annie and Kari run beautiful baby boutique Brimful from opposite coasts of the US. They have just the most adorable range of perfectly selected classic baby toys, décor and books. Each piece is a guaranteed success — with 7 children between them there has certainly been enough opportunity to test! Quite the inspiration for long-distance working relationships, we thought it would be fun – and enlightening! – to hear a little of how they manage running their lovely business alongside their full mama schedules!
1. Please tell us a little bit about yourselves, where you live and about your families.
We both grew up in the Pacific Northwest, in the Portland area. We were casual acquaintances in high school, but reconnected again years later after marriage and children. After 8 years of living in Norway, Kari moved back to the Northwest in the summer of 2009. While Annie was home visiting her parents that summer, we got together to let the children play. They played so well with each other, we soon made our get-togethers a tradition every summer when Annie and her children came for visits. The rest is history!
Kari continues to live in the Portland metro area with her husband Jon, an economic consultant for real estate development, and their three children, ages 10, 8, and 5, whom they homeschool. Their family enjoys throwing casual dinner parties for new and old friends and spending time in the water at one of the local lakes.
Annie and her husband, Dustin, have four children between the ages of 10 and 2. Being a military family, they have lived all over the US and currently reside in Washington D.C. The challenges of moving every few years are difficult but are also tempered by the fact that there’s always new places to explore. Life is certainly never boring!
2. Tell us a little bit about Brimful; how did you come to create your online shop?
During one of our summers together, we discovered our shared passion for well-made, beautifully designed toys, and hatched up the idea of perhaps turning our common interest into something more. After about a year of research and developing our business plan, we took the entrepreneurial leap together and launched Brimful in the fall of 2013. We are fortunate for the success we have received and the business grows in proportion to what we put into it. Learning how to run a business together and nurture our already-established friendship has been an adventure both of us cherish.
3. What is important to you when choosing your brands and products?
Today’s consumer has many choices for eco-friendly and handcrafted toys. But not all wooden toys are created equal and many are not tested to the “CE” and “ASTM” regulations. We’ve done thorough research and picked toys for Brimful that are safe, look fantastic in our customers’ homes, and with the right care, will last a lifetime. Brimful’s philosophy is to offer modern, whimsical, well-crafted toys, books, and accessories that will not only bring joy to our customers but also become heirlooms they can pass down to their families. We only consider products that fit that ethos and also try our best to choose items that haven’t already saturated the market.
4. What is your current favourite product in your collection?
Kari loves the snail sortroller – the design is so clever and there are so many children who can play with it. At pop-ups, the snail is always a favourite! Annie adores Anabel Fournier’s soft knit animals and dolls. There’s just nothing like them on the market. Not only are her designs unique, but the quality is unmatched. Together, we also really appreciate the Meridith Layne’s muslin cotton blankets. We’ve come to know her as a friend and appreciate how much thought she puts into each of her designs. The blankets aren’t just for swaddling babies – we love using them as scarves!
5. How do you manage to work together from opposite coasts?
Working from opposite coasts definitely has its challenges! The time change is tricky to navigate in addition to our childrens’ school schedules and other family obligations. Working on weekends and after the children go to bed is often how things get done. We share an email inbox, so that helps us from doing double work. Texting is our main way of communicating, and while it’s not perfect it gets the job done. The amount of data we trade back and forth is probably staggering!
Decisions big and small are always made together – mutual respect and grace are the cornerstones for our friendship and business. Running the business together goes beyond just getting orders fulfilled and keeping the shop well stocked. There’s a tremendous scaffolding of online systems that support a smooth operation. The support of our husbands as we pursue this online business venture has also been fundamental – they’ve been our biggest cheerleaders from the start. When Kari needs to carve out time to shoot product photos or Annie needs to tackle time-sensitive emails, Jon and Dustin have always been there to watch the children. Brimful is definitely a labour of love between our two families, and we hope that feeling of love and joy goes out to our customers. Seeing their photos of little ones gumming away happily on a rattle or intently playing with one of our wooden toys – that is reward enough.
We are excited to welcome Annie and Kari – and their lovely range of gifts for babies and toddlers – to the NYC ShopUp in just a few short weeks! Come visit them in person on September 18th and 19th in Brooklyn!