Liz Libré and Lizzy Ott first met in high school, ended up at the same college in Maine then both landed in NYC post-college with careers in the creative field. It was in 2016 when the two got together to build their first collection of bedding specifically for children and their brand Lewis was born. Today, the co-founders have (almost) six children between to the two of them as well as an expanding business of beautifully designed bedding, accessories and apparel designed for children, yet elevated for the parent. We caught up with Liz and Lizzy to talk about entrepreneurship, experiencing nature in NYC and of their secrets to managing it all.
How did you make the decision to leave your respective jobs and embark on the path of entrepreneurship?
Liz: When I was pregnant with my first baby, I asked my dear friend Lizzy (in school for her masters in interior architecture at the time) for help setting up the nursery. Lizzy couldn’t find any printed crib sheets that she loved, and suggested I put my illustrations on fabric. It was then that the idea for Lewis was born. We sat with the idea over the years, and continued to be dissatisfied with what we saw in the market, until we finally decided it was time to give it a try.
What has been the most rewarding part of owning your own brand? What has been the most challenging?
Lizzy: The most rewarding part of owning our own brand are the emails we receive from customers with photos of their kid's bedrooms or their newborn all wrapped in one of our swaddles. They are so heart warming and mean so much to us! We are so grateful we get to make the impact one baby or kid at a time that we’ve always wanted to!
The most challenging is what many working parents deal with-- the juggle of home, young children, work. And trying to make time for ourselves in there. Some days are more successful than others!
There is a strong nature theme in many of your prints, yet you're both based in NYC. Where are your favorite places to draw inspiration from, both in and outside of the city?
Liz: Yes! We believe strongly that nature produces what kids are most naturally drawn to before they’re influenced by culture and media. Not only this, but we believe it’s where most adults find the most beauty, so there is an overlap for imagery that children love as much as adults. Inside the city, my family spends a lot of time in Prospect Park and the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. Lizzy and her family spend a lot of time in Central Park and Stone Barns (right outside the city!). We’re so lucky to live in a city that prioritizes green space. Outside the city, we’re both drawn to the coast. My family and I spend as much time as possible at the Jersey Shore, and Lizzy and her family spend a lot of time on the Rhode Island coast and visits family in Wyoming as much as possible. We’re both nostalgic for our time in Maine--always!
What's next for the brand? Can we look forward to an adult collection anytime soon?
Lizzy: Adult is probably not in our near future - but never say never! We’re continually drilling down on what can improve the quality of our products and fit, and editing the best possible selection of nursery print + color. We have been playing with some new baby gift sets as well as a few articles of clothing--so those are both possibilities for the near future.
How do you juggle your personal time, professional time and family time?
Liz + Lizzy: It’s something that’s not easy for anyone--whether you’re running your own business or working for someone else. It has become somewhat easy to make office hours sacred. They are limited in a week and we’re passionate about what we do, so real focus is natural. It’s of course hard to turn that off at home, but we both make a conscious effort to put our phones away once we step in the door so that our kids are the focus and nothing else. We can always return to things we need to after bedtime, but during the week it is only a few precious hours a day we have with our kids, so we make it intentional. Fridays are also the flex / balance day for us. We expect to be out of office with our studio manager taking the reins, but we have options for when work is unavoidable on Fridays. We really cherish the extra family day, even if it makes working hours more hectic. Personal time is hard at the moment!
Liz: After having our third baby, James (3yrs), I thought I’d never be alone again. In the past year, as he doesn’t physically need me as much, it’s been easier to carve time out for myself. I wake up before everyone else to work out, a luxury I didn’t have for so long because sleep was so unknown. And now that our kids will happily have a sitter put them to bed, we make sure to have regular date nights. I get together with friends every couple weeks, and last year I started taking weekly tennis lessons with a group of women. This year I want to take a creative class. I love learning new things--it’s crucial for my creative process and I’m finally not too exhausted to do it!
Lizzy: Personal time is difficult with children my age. They are understandably demanding of my time and I’m usually exhausted. I make it a point every once in a while to sneak out of the house for a few hours of solo time, I wake up extra early for a couple of workouts a week, and every once in a while dinner with girlfriends. The truth is I know all of life is seasons. Before I had children I had all the personal time in the world and I craved being needed more. I have very little right now, but I know this will ebb and flow over the years. As long as I always take a pulse check and make time when I’m nearing the end of my rope, that’s okay for this season.
Can you share some of your favorite tips, tools and advice to keeping it all together?
Liz + Lizzy: We’re big believers in pre-packed bags and zip pouches so there is always the right thing to grab without too much rushing around in the chaos of trying to get out the door. We pack our zip pouches for car trips, overnights and daily strolls. And we always have one ready to go!
On any given day, what can we find packed inside your ToteSavvy Deluxe?
Lizzy: Liz and I are both big canvas carries when it comes to keeping all of our kid's stuff in one place for schlepping around ! We love that even in white canvas the Totesavvy disappears into the interior, but helps organize so much! We might have a small tote like this for a quick outing, or a much bigger one for a day--with the totesavvy padded out by layers of clothes, blankets and burp cloths. In here you can see our bunny -- I never leave home without a few small toys to entertain a one year old, a spill-proof cup that my kids can share, my Loeffler Randall wallet (that both Liz and I have!), a small pouch from our set for keys and lip gloss, a swaddle, and of course diapers and wipes. Not seen tucked into Totesavvy sections are emergency snacks - never leave home without them, some extra clothes and emergency pacifiers for the baby.