10 minute interview with erica noble of little noble people
16 December 2015
I recently put the call out to try to interview as many local mums in business as I can so that I am putting myself out there to always be meeting with new people and learning about their businesses. I was so pleased when Erica from Little Noble People jumped at the opportunity. I have not met Erica in person before our photo shoot on a very rainy Hobart day and I was so pleased that she welcomed my intrusion into her creative world with open arms. Erica has a lovely ease about her that immediately makes you feel like you have known her forever. Thank you for sharing your story with me, Erica!
MD: Erica, thank you so much for spending some time with me so I can learn more about you and your business. Tell me what Little Noble People is all about?
EN: Little Noble People is all about fun and funky handmade babies and kids clothing, with sizes ranging from newborn to the teen. I make sure that it is “made for play”…. Just like kids are! It’s important to me that kids can comfortably run, jump, climb, ride and explore while wearing their Little Noble People handmade clothes. As a mother, it is important for me to dress my children in well-made, high quality garments, with professional finishing techniques and attention to detail. One of my many proud creations is being able to make toddler clothing that can comfortably accommodate a cloth nappy like the MCN (Modern Cloth Nappy) as well as be suitable for disposable nappies. I really feel it gives mothers options and freedom to chose clothing that is easy to care for and made to last… Wash and wear – Repeat! Another one of the features of Little Noble People is the “grow with me” design elements so the clothes last through more than one size range and grows with your child. It is all about creating clothing for the little people that lasts and is practical but looks great too.
MD: Yes, I know it is so difficult to find really thoughtful clothing for the little ones nowadays. We are sometimes forced to go to the big chains and buy clothes that don’t last, just to throw away and start again. I really love the value that you are offering to your customers. It make me feel like I’m making a difference by what my children wear. I noticed that you have a fairly diverse range of products, can you give as a run down on what you offer?
EN: My “signature items” are funky pants in the newborn to toddler size range. I often use the Big Butt Baby Pants, Monster Bunz, Poofy Pants and Beanstalk Britches patterns as a base for my ready-made and custom-order items. These pants all feature grow-with-me design elements, can comfortably accommodate a cloth nappy, MCN, or disposables; and have room for me to add my own creative flair.
MD: They sound fantastic! Where can we get our hands on these funky pants?
EN: Ready-made pants in these designs are always available through The Picnic Basket café in Taroona, and online through my Facebook page and Etsy store. I also take custom orders if folk need these pants a different size or are after a pair in a different fabric.
MD: I really love the custom design option! It makes it even more special, giving meaning to clothing rather than the buy and toss mentality we seem to have developed as a society. Now, you know I have two little girls and I have had a sneak peek on your cute superhero dresses! I get the sense that you really explore that fun side of motherhood through Little Noble People, and bring that creativity to your customers as well?
EN: Well, Little Noble People IS my creative outlet so I also make anything and everything! Dresses, skirts, shorts, pants, underwear, swimwear, tops, shirts, blouses, jumpers, hoodies, hats, beanies, you name it! I love custom orders cause I really enjoy varying my sewing by using differnet patterns, drafting my own patterns, and playing with different fabrics, embellishments, designs and garment types. This is why I often do one-off size runs of different items – customers have to keep their eye out at my stockist through The Picnic Basket Café or Facebook and Etsy. And, it is about a sense of fun and surprise for my customers, to be first in for that once off item for their little person.
MD: Your clothing is not only cute but you have put a lot of thought into the functional part of it. I love the “grow with me” design! It’s one of those concepts that once someone else is doing it, you think, “hey, why didn’t I think of that?!” Nevermind, that I have no creativity in designing clothing, no sewing skills, nor do I own a sewing machine! What was behind the idea of “grow with me”?
EN: Kids seem to grow overnight so I like to include design elements that allow their clothing to grow with them! The grow-with-me concept certainly isn’t an original idea, nor is it new, but it’s not often seen in store-bought clothing as these features use more fabric, extra fasteners and take a little more time to make. Grow-with-me design features give extended sizing beyond a single size range - they last for so much longer and they make great presents as it’s often so tricky to get sizing right for babies and kids clothes. Store-bought kids clothes are effectively a disposable item these days and people love giving handmade gifts that they know will last. I make sure I incorporate lots of grow-with-me design features in the garments I makethat stays true to what I want to offer my customers. So, design elements like yoga style waistbands that can be worn up or down as they grow, comfy adjustable snap elastic waistbands, roll up or down cuffs on pants; shirred elastic bodices and adjustable ties on dresses. I love having a bit of fun with these elements so I use a lot of contrast fabric for cuffs and colourful snaps for the adjustable waistbands.
MD: Yes, part of the reason I love your product range is the fun fabrics that you use. It seems to be a very thoughtful selection. What is the inspiration behind your choices?
EN: I do invest quite a bit of time in shops and online looking for fabrics and notions like zips, trim, buttons, etc. I’m always on the look out for fun, funky, bold, bright, colourful, and something a bit different in my fabrics. These are the things that catch my eye. Sometimes a fabric tells me to make it into a particular garment… Other times, it’s the other way around and I search for the perfect fabric to make a specific item.
MD: Love it! It speaks to you! You cannot beat true creativity. It is something that I get a very strong sense about when I look at your range of clothing. It comes from the heart. Play is very important to you. Maintaining that sense of imagination, is that something that you carry through from motherhood into your business?
EN: Absolutely! Kids are made for play! Their clothes need to play too! I’m a mum of a very active 3 year old and a soon to be active 7 month old. My 3 year old son is my “test kitchen”… If my prototype clothes can withstand him wearing them then they’re good to go! He’s also the first to tell me if they’re not comfortable. Pockets are also important... you never know when you need to store newly found treasure.
MD: It’s a family business! So, tell me a bit more about yourself. Who is Erica Noble?
EN: I’m a creative Mama who spends her time kid raising, cake baking and clothes making! I love good food, good coffee, good wine and good company. I sound like an old fashioned house wife but, truth be told, my husband is a better house wife that I am! I’d rather be out and about on an adventure somewhere, making something or socialising (with wine, coffee or food… or all three!) than doing housework. I love being outside, mountain biking, kayaking, camping, gardening and just heading down to the beach for a BBQ.
MD: Have you always known this is what you wanted to do or has the business just emerged organically?
EN: Sewing and creating has always been a part of my life. My Mum taught me how to sew. I don’t really remember learning so I must have been pretty young. I do remember playing on the floor with scraps of fabric and a needle and thread while she sewed. Little Noble People has definitely emerged organically though. I love making things for other people but the model of “buy supplies – make things – give them away” isn’t really economically viable!
MD: Yes, as much as we all try to do what we love in business, we still have to ensure that it is sustainable. I think it’s finding the balance between the two, the passion and the economics. I get a sense that there is a message behind what you are doing. Is there something you are trying to say to the world through your work?
EN: I don’t necessarily think of myself as a “message conveyor” but I guess there is an element of that in my sewing. Catch phrases like “girls like superheros too” and “boys can wear pink” certainly ring true for me. By making clothes for my own kids, and having my clothing available for others to buy, means people don’t need to be limited by the commercial boxes we get put into as consumers… e.g. “the pink frilly things and frozen things are over there for the girls” and “the monster trucks and pirates are over there for the boys”. Want a size 2 Spiderman dress for your daughter? No problem. Want a pair of pink boxer briefs for your son? No problem. I can have a bit of fun too… a seemingly “normal” looking pair of pants might have superhero pocket linings, or moustaches on the cuffs. People like something a bit fun and something a bit different.
Little Noble People clothing is also about modest and age appropriate while still being fun and funky. For example, modest length for shorts and skirts, age appropriate shape and coverage for necklines and backs on dresses, good coverage for swimwear and underwear. No kid wants to be constantly tugging at their swimmers and undies!
MD: What do you hope to achieve in your business?
EN: I hope to take over the world!! Hahahaha… No, just kidding. I’m pretty low key about it. I always have ready-made stock available but being a busy Mum I only take as many custom orders as I can realistically manage.
MD: Is there anything you would do differently now knowing what you know?
MD: Hahaha… Great answer! Let me ask you a different one. Why do you love having a business?
EN: I love that other people like what I make! It’s so satisfying and really rewarding. My son’s face lights up when I make him something new. I love when I hear things like “oh, that skirt you made, it’s her favourite” or “he wouldn’t take them off”.
MD: It must be really beautiful and satisfying to know that what you offer is even more meaningful to other people beyond what you had imagined! What is your vision for your brand going forward?
EN: Really to just keep on doing what I love. During 2016, I hope to consolidate what I’m currently doing and to streamline some of my processes and workflow so that I can spend more time designing and creating fun, funky clothes and developing new lines. I also hope to build my Etsy store (it’s currently only got a couple of items in it) and learn how to use Instagram to tell the Little Noble People story through pictures.
MD: This is what I love about being business too… there are always more new skills and things to learn. It pushes you beyond what you knew before. The one advice would you give to other mumpreneurs?
EN: Do what you love.
MD: Thank you so much for spending time with MD, Erica. I wish you an amazing 2016 and I can’t wait to see what else you create!
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