In this instalment of #BehindTheLabel, we caught up with Andrea Goulding, founder of kidswear brand Kapow Kids,who has been a valued consulting client and an active member in our SYFB Community.

Firstly, tell us a bit about yourself, your fashion business and how it all began!

I’m the owner of KaPow Kids, a kids clothing brand based in Melbourne. I started five and a half years ago when I started sewing kids clothing at my kitchen table. I taught myself to sew through YouTube (the good old university of YouTube!) and I grew my business on Instagram and Facebook.

I have no fashion background and I was actually an architect when I started Kapow Kids. I’d also just had my first baby so it was a bit of a crazy time, and it seems everyone in my life was telling me not to quit architecture and follow this dream of mine, but I didn’t listen to them.

Fast forward to today, and I’ve built the successful KaPow Kids brand, that’s now manufactured overseas and stocked in 50 stores. Pretty incredible!

So you went from architect to fashion business owner, with no former fashion experience. You must have felt very driven!

Well, I had a couple of friends who were making things like necklaces and kids accessories and selling them on Etsy. I just thought to myself, ‘that’s really fun. That sounds really cool. What can I make? I want to be like that.’ I decided I’d make necklaces. I bought a whole pile of different coloured wool and I think I made one necklace before I sort of gave up on that!

I asked one of my friends what she thought I could do as a little part time hobby, and she suggested I knit some baby clothes. The only issue was I had no clue how to knit! This friend of mine was already an avid clothes maker, so I decided to copy her and buy the same sewing machine as her (remember I can’t sew either at this point!). Back in 2013 Instagram, kids clothing had just started of taking off. There were a few big Instagram brands and they seemed to be quite successful. I thought to myself ‘well maybe I could do that!’

“I bought a sewing machine, a whole pile of fabric and I didn’t know anything. The fabric I bought was all the wrong fabric – it wasn’t stretched fabric for leggings – but I knew what I wanted to do so I didn’t let these things stop me!”

Tell us about the first pieces you began making and selling. Was it easier once you got started?

Well I’d gotten so carried away that I’d purchased all this fabric that wasn’t suitable at all. I showed my mother-in-law just how much spare fabric I had and she suggested I tried applique (I had no idea what that was!).

The first thing I did was a cut out a leopard print cat mask and hand-stitched it onto a black jumper. I decided to try and sell my items on Instagram and see how this went. To do this I needed a business name, so I called it KaPow Kids. I don’t even know how I bought that name, but I just wanted something cool that wasn’t too daggy! Luckily that name was available and I think it was good timing and luck.

I took a photo of the jumper and listed it on my Instagram page and it sold! It was a really pivotal moment for me, because remember I hadn’t left my job in architecture yet. This first sale set something off in me where I knew this was what I wanted to be doing, I just didn’t know how to get there yet. But the passion was there.

How has the Kapow Kids range changed from when you first launched to now?

My first collection was basically just plain t-shirts with slogans on it. It was the same style t-shirt or shorts for a boy and a girl. I had a little boy of my own then, and all my stuff was really boyish – I’m actually not a big fan of my first collection!

However after having my little girl, I’d say my perspective on boys and girls clothing changed quite a bit. I have lots of tutu dresses now and flutter sleeves, which is cute and fun, but I know a lot of people like unisex clothes for kids so I still offer a lot of those too.

“I design my clothes how I dress my own children, which is more casual and cool than ‘preppy’ and polished.”

For Willow my daughter, I loved her to wear really flamboyant flutter sleeve sweaters and toiling dresses and things like that, so I just designed that. For boys, I think it’s a little bit more toned down, but still quite quirky and fun.

Apart from your own personal style of liking something quirky and cool and different, where does your external inspiration come from?

I love visiting stores who stock my products and seeing other kids stores and just seeing what’s there. I also love looking at women’s fashion and men’s fashion. If you’re designing kid’s fashion, you can really look to adult fashion to get ideas. I look at Instagram a lot, Pinterest and I look at the WGSN trend reports. I look everywhere.

You’re stocked in 50 stores (#WOW). Did these stockists find you, or is this something you actively pursued?

I’ve approached a couple of stores that I really like – I just wrote them a really nice email saying how much I love their store (make sure to include details about their business to actually show you know them), and I go on to say it’d be cool to be in their store. If you’re personable, include names rather than ‘Dear Sir/Madam’ and show you’ve taken the time to specifically send their store an email, then it’s likely you’ll hear back.

In terms of stockists finding me – a lot of them found me on Instagram. Stores would just see me there, start following me, see what I was doing, and then they’d email me and say, ‘can we stock your brand’?

Basically if your content is polished and you’re getting good engagement for your posts and products, retailers will be are interested. Stockists are always looking for brands to get in their stores, so you need to use Instagram and Facebook as a platform to showcase your products and show just how interested your customers are.

Where are your customers from? Have you launched Kapow Kids internationally?

I do have a few overseas customers, but my main customer base is in Australia and New Zealand. I also get approached from stores who want to stock KaPow overseas, but I just know that that’s a whole new level. I know stocking overseas will be a big next step for me so I’ve turned down a few offers because I want to be ready before exploring that kind of growth. Even ‘fine print’ stuff like business insurance, certification and conditions – that can be different overseas so I need to take the time to understand all of that and be prepared before I say ‘yes’. It’s just being a savvy business owner.

What advice would you have for other brands wanting to up the quality of their social profiles?

If you’re in fashion, you have to care about it. You have to really take your time to produce nice images, especially for Instagram. I have my photographer who just lives down the road from me, which is really handy. She does all my flat lays now. I was doing all my own flat lays a couple of seasons ago and they took me too long and my house is dark and it’s really hard to find the time. Now my photographer does all the flat lays at the start of the season, and they’re ready in my Dropbox.

When it comes to sharing content, having the images ready means all I have to think about is the caption (which can sometimes take ages!). But it really helps having everything ready to go in Dropbox so I’m not running around arranging photography all the time.

Do you work with influencers to share your brand with their followers too?

Yes, I’ve sent out products for free or for a discount to social influencers in exchange for them posting a photo of their kid wearing it. I’ve found this is very effective, and even with small pages, it can have more of an impact on their followers because they engage more with this influencer and their profile. Especially with the target audience of mums, I’ve found engaging influencers and reps is a really good idea.

Do you do any paid advertising as well as the organic Instagram feed content?

I’ve actually just started working with a digital marketing agency, who are running Google Ads for me, as well as Facebook advertising too. I was never ready to grow until now, it’s taken me five years to feel ready! I can’t really share how it’s been going because it takes time to see the results, but I’m feeling positive about this next phase of marketing and we’ll see how it goes.

But let’s talk about the business owner behind it all – what do you do to ensure that you get a little bit of time out for yourself and focus on self-care every now and then? Especially with a young family.

At the moment I pretty much work or think about KaPow every day, even on the weekends. If I get a few orders, I have to start doing it on the weekend.

But I do care about having my ‘me time’. Usually this is at the end of the day when the kids are asleep. To do that, I outsource my bookkeeping, overseas production and photography. It’s good to have people who really look after you and your business. I know it’s business, technically we’re not friends, but they’re just good people who care about my business. The best thing is if my business grows, then their business normally grows. We’re all working towards the same goal.

And finally, what would be your biggest tip for current or aspiring fashion business owners?

I think my biggest tip is to love what you do and to be passionate and unafraid of taking risks. If you do this then your brand will shine. Also, connect with like-minded businesses and get a good team behind you. I have a great bookkeeper, a production manager, mentor, a photographer, a textile designer, and a super supportive husband, which is really important. Also be patient – it’s not easy. It takes awhile to make a profit, so just enjoy the journey and remember everyone’s journey is different.

Be sure to follow KaPow Kids on Instagram to keep on top of Andrea’s news and gorgeous collections!