Maia is the co-founder of Bitte, a small online children's boutique that focuses on beautifully designed and sustainably-sourced clothes, toys, and books for ages 0-6 years. Aside from that, she is also the Art Director of Rue Magazine, which is a daily source for all things inspiring. We are so impressed by Maia's vision for creating sustainable classics for modern children through Bitte. Read on to discover more about her journey!
Hi, I'm Maia! I originally went to school for graphic design and worked for almost a decade for brands such as Shopbop.com, Williams-Sonoma, Cuyana, and Rue Magazine. I've always been drawn to working for myself and being an entrepreneur. Both my grandpa and my mom started their own businesses, and even as a little kid I would brainstorm different businesses I wanted to start, from making my own candy and knitting hats to designing custom art pieces, I was always turning my hobbies into little micro-businesses. Once I had my daughter, and felt I had gained a lot of experience from the businesses I had worked for, it seemed like the perfect time to launch what I had really been dreaming and scheming about for all those years.
I decided to start Bitte with my mom because we had always talked about starting a business together. She had started a similar, all-natural toy company when I was a toddler. So growing up, I always saw what my mom was doing and thought it looked really cool and fun. She sold that business and went on to do some other cool things, but we had been daydreaming for a while of starting something new. Then when my daughter was born, I felt like I would scour the internet for items that were beautifully designed but also had sustainability and quality in mind. And while I would find all these small makers, brands, or Etsy shops, I could never find a one-stop place to find everything I wanted all together. That's when it changed from a daydream to a reality. It's been almost four years since we opened and although it's a lot of hard work, I'm proud of what we've built and the products and brands we get to carry and highlight. There isn't a typical day for me. To be honest, it's pretty hectic most of the time. I just had my 2nd baby last year, so my mom, my husband and I (who are the three main employees at Bitte) try to tag-team it as far as watching the kids, getting orders out, answering all the emails, placing orders with vendors, building and loading product pages. It's a lot of work, but I try to remember that it's so worth it that we can have a flexible schedule and spend so much time with the kids.
There are a couple of reasons for the look and feel of our toys and clothes. First and most importantly, we pick our products based on sustainability, which means we focus on natural materials, like wood, wool, cotton, etc. Partly because these materials don't take as long as plastic to decompose, but also because they tend to be very strong and can last through several kids, if not several generations, so they are less likely to be thrown away after a few uses and end up in a landfill. Aesthetics also comes into play here, because if you have a toy or piece of clothing that is not only beautiful looking but beautifully made, it's more likely to be kept as a keepsake for future children and less likely to be thrown away after only a few uses. I also come from a design background, so to me, while not the most important thing, I do believe aesthetics can create a mood or a feeling, and that this goes for toys as well. I think sometimes we have this idea that kids toys and clothing have to be bright and loud and obnoxious or they won't pay attention to them, but in my experience sometimes that can be really overwhelming to a child, and if they have a few very well designed multi-purpose toys, those will get a lot more useful than a lot of loud, plastic ones. It also can create a more calming space for parents as well, and let's face it; everyone is happier when parents are calmer! :)
Our name means "Please," & "You're welcome," in German. We liked that meaning because it spoke to a simple expression of gratitude and giving. The items we give to our children, whether during a holiday or not, are little gifts to help enrich their lives in small or big ways. It's pronounced, "Bit-Uh" but I also liked that it sounds a little like "itty bitty," and people often pronounce it that way.
When we first started, we brought on brand ambassadors, who we would give a discount to in exchange for images and tags, and I think that helped because then there was an incentive to tag and share our products. We still do some of this, but now so many mothers tag our products in their Instagram posts because they fit so effortlessly into their lifestyle and photos and then when we tag them in the photo or mention the comments, I think they enjoy that recognition. It's our way of showing our appreciation to them for shopping with us. We also try to partner with like-minded companies, where we feel like the customer would be similar, to host giveaways. This has been a great way to build our following with parents that are genuinely interested in what we're selling. They enter the giveaways, but then most keep following us after the giveaway has ended. But most of all, for me, the thing that has taken our Instagram to the next level is hiring help. I brought on a woman that helps with our social media marketing about two years ago, and she's been invaluable at searching out influencers that work with our brand, lining up giveaways, making sure we're posting consistently, etc. For small brands, I think sometimes it feels hard to bring on help, but in this case, it's been so beneficial in keeping us on top of our social media goals.
I've been working with Rue Magazine, as a freelance art director for almost seven years now and my role over the last few years, since starting Bitte has slowly gotten less involved as Bitte has grown and taken up more of my time. But I work with an amazing team of women at Rue who have always encouraged me and fostered the other projects I'm working on. My role is art directing the online magazine, which we now put out twice a year. It can be a little hectic at times juggling Rue with my Bitte work and home life, but I also appreciate being able to work on different creative projects throughout the year.
PLANOLY helps us be more consistent about what we're posting and when. It also allows us to be more strategic and see more of a big picture of what is or isn't working. It's been a game changer for us!
Be ready to put in the hard work. I think from the outside it can sometimes look glamorous to own your own business and be your own boss. And it's true that I have a flexible schedule and get to spend a lot of time with my kids. But I also am working non-stop and often on my phone when I'm with my kids, whether trying to answer emails or fix something on the site that's gone awry or just any number of things. I have to wear a lot of hats. I'm sometimes IT, customer service, photographer, graphic designer, the list goes on, and that can be all in one day. There are days where it's overwhelming, but mostly I can't imagine doing anything else right now, and I have a lot of pride in what we've built and where the business is going.