Editor's Note: At Momkind we crave products that have soul and story. We're obsessed with everything we handpick for the shop, but also the inspiring moms and stories behind them. Every product we sell has a great backstory, and a mom--or two--who's inspired us, and we hope will inspire you too.
Petite Soul is on a mission to bring the baby bonnet back. We stumbled on the brand's sweet and functional bonnets last year on Instagram, where they've found a cult-like following of fans. Co-founders Stef Syfert and Mary Grace Bernstein oversee every step of the manufacturing process for their unisex bonnets from their homes in New York City. We caught up with the two mamas to learn how they got started, get their tips on juggling motherhood and business, and hear their favorite things about living and working in the Big Apple.
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your family?
Stef: I'm Stef, co-founder of Petite Soul. I'm a mom of a 3.5 year old and 6 month old. Both boys! My husband and I squeeze our family into a two-bedroom apartment in Brooklyn, but we love it. I'm originally from Philadelphia and have been living in Brooklyn for 10 years.
Mary Grace: I'm Mary Grace, the other half of PS. I have a 3.5 year old who is my inspiration for everything and I'm currently growing our second. We live in Spanish Harlem where we all squeeze into one bed. Stuffed animals included.
What inspired you to create Petite Soul and how did you get started?
We met each other at a photo shoot and quickly bonded over the fact that we both didn't have a lot of mom friends and weren't really mommy group joiners. We felt lucky to have found each other and started having play dates with our babes, who turned out to be only 2 weeks apart. Mary's daughter would often wear Mary's childhood bonnet and we started discussing how there wasn't anything like it on the market. We decided to look into bringing back the classic bonnet shape using modern textiles. We also wanted to create a boy-friendly bonnet (our Bandit), as Stef was not into the beanie trend (they always fall off!).
What started as a "let's give it a try and see what happens" turned into somewhat of a "bonnet revival" on social media, to our surprise and excitement. Stef's background is in art therapy and graphic design, and Mary is a photographer, so we quickly had to teach ourselves how to run a successful business with little experience. We've learned SO much about every aspect of this business, and we continue to have fun learning more and more as we grow.
What does a typical day look like?
Stef: A typical day begins with preschool drop off, followed by some errands. While the baby naps, I'm usually answering emails, packing orders, and communicating with our vendors and factory. Laundry and house cleaning gets squeezed in there somewhere, too. The business runs out of my dining room, and Mary lives on the opposite end of the city, so we're usually texting each other throughout the day. We also try to squeeze in a weekly meeting via FaceTime, or actually meet with our pattern maker or factory, kids in tow. After I pick up my son, we try to make it to the park before dinner prep and bedtime. Once we finally get the two rugrats to bed, I'll either finish up packing orders or catch up on some guilty pleasure TV to turn off my brain.
Mary Grace: My schedule changes day to day. On top of PS I am the full time care provider for my daughter and also a freelance photographer. Olive does everything with me, whether it's going to a shoot, visiting the factory for PS or getting a haircut. She's my right hand girl.
Biggest challenge and biggest highlight so far in building Petite Soul?
The biggest challenge has been figuring out size breakdowns and completing production in time with typical season launches. The demand for each size seems to change every season, so it's almost impossible to predict what sizes we will sell more of. We seem to always be playing catch up, but every season we get closer and closer to being in line with most other brands as far as launching the next season. It's hard!
The biggest highlight has been the validation of return customers as well as new customers that are excited to have found us. Also, when friends tell us they've seen a baby wearing our bonnet in real life! That's such a thrill. Another highlight is when we find the right vendor that can bring our vision to life, whether it be with fabric, print, or construction. Creating something in our head is one thing, but when someone says, "I can do that for you" it's an amazing feeling.
How do you juggle motherhood and work?
Stef: Oh man, that's tough. I try to separate it as much as I can by designating time to do work, and when I'm with my kids, giving work a break. That feels nearly impossible sometimes, and I'm still struggling with it. My husband helps when I'm really bogged down by taking over dinner and/or the bedtime routine. Sometimes we have to bring our kids to meetings, which obviously makes it difficult, but we are getting better at only committing to appointments when we have child care so that we can fully focus and make clear headed decisions.
Mary: I still haven't figured this out. I'm constantly combining them. Some days are really rough, but I wouldn't have it any other way. I am so grateful for the time I get to spend with my daughter and I hope that I am instilling some major work ethic in her.
What's your best tip for others starting a business?
Be prepared to fail at things and make tons of mistakes. There's such a huge learning curve, especially if you don't have experience in business, and that's okay! If we didn't make most of our mistakes, we wouldn't have learned as much as we have. We can now go into a development meeting knowing exactly what we're talking about. We joke that we got bachelors in business and fashion merchandising our first year.
What's your favorite thing about being a mom?
Stef: My 3-year-old's imagination is running wild and my 6-month-old is now babbling and laughing so much. Also, there's a strong bond developing between my two boys that's so beautiful to watch. So all that, and just watching my kids grow up and become their own people, good people that I'm proud of.
Mary Grace: The way she makes me laugh. She is the sweetest most hilarious little kid I've ever made. She says things that surprise me constantly. She's literally the light of my life.
How would you describe your personal style?
Stef: I like to call my style "edgy comfort." I can get into fashion when I have a reason to (lady's night!) and prefer loose fitting clothes that are still unique. Also, high-waisted pants are a mom's best friend.
Mary Grace: Cute and comfortable. Pre-pregnancy I lived in high-wasted jeans and crop tops or little dresses. But dressing a belly is totally different. I tend to stick to soft flowing fabric.
What does an ideal Saturday with your family look like?
Stef: We hit the parks pretty hard and like to eat out together or meet up with other friends with kids. Nothing like drinking wine while your kids play!
Mary Grace: An ideal Saturday for us is a slow morning with coffee and breakfast. Then we usually head out for an adventure and some lunch.
What do you love most about raising kids in New York?
The access to so many things. We have a handful of amazing parks and playgrounds in walking distance from our apartments, and there's always some art exhibit or science museum we can check out. We also love that our kids are exposed to a diverse population of people on a daily basis. But the coolest part is that our kids read books and see movies about the greatest city in the world, and they say "I live there!"
We carry several of Petite Soul's classic bonnets and modern bandits. Find the bonnet in ivory and black dot; the bandit in ivory and black stripe.