THE NITTY-GRITTY ON NATIVE WILDS
1. What was the inspiration behind starting your brand, NATIVE WILDS? What motivated you?
I started Native Wilds after the birth of my kids 13 months apart. I felt like I needed to much gear to go out and do simple things during the day, like hit the grocery store and I wanted to find multi-purpose items that reflected my personal style.
2. When did you found NATIVE WILDS? How did you come up with the company name?
I founded Native Wilds in 2015. Before I had my children, I was a TV Host and I was burning with the desire to create and share my own products and story. I also struggled with postpartum depression, going from working full-time to being a stay at home mom and really just having an identity crisis. “Native” means something true and intrinsic and “Wilds” is a a place totally free and untouched by man in it’s natural state. As a woman, I wanted to connect with the “Native Wilds” inside myself and begin to create out of that in my work and mothering.
3. What was the first piece you made? What was the inspiration behind it? How long did it take from conception to finished product, and what were the steps?
I designed infant sleep sacks, newborn swaddles, and the Nest®. It took a few months to develop the designs and I worked with a small Persian sewing workroom in Atlanta where I was living at the time. I started researching fabric and feeling a million swatches until I found instinctively what felt right for me. I’m a big advocate of starting where you are, using what you have, and learning as you go. I created a few styles with limited quantities in each color and did a soft launch on Etsy. After a few months, the Nest® was the product that really took off, so I put all my time and resources into sourcing my materials and manufacturing totally in California, branding and packaging, and making a quality product that I could market effectively.
4. What is your design process? Does it change with every piece, or does it stay on the same path?
It always starts with an idea. I create from I need I have in my own life. I want to solve the problem for myself and others. Whether it’s better colors, perfecting the fabric, or designing a more functional item, it’s important to first begin with the intention of how you are going to bring a better solution to a new or existing product or service. I think everything falls in line under that. After conception of the idea, I focus on quality and creating things that I’d want to use in my family.
5. How do your children and family inspire you and the path you are on as a designer?
I feel that a lot of products are tailored towards the child and not the mama using them. I want to create functional, stylish designs for women that are bump or breastfeeding friendly, and sun protective so a mama feels like she can be on the go.
6. What are the most purchased of all your pieces? Are they the simplest or hardest to produce?
Our best selling Nest® is our Indy style. Each one is dyed by hand using non-toxic plant based dye in our dye house run totally on solar power. They are all unique and take nearly 3 days to complete the dye process. I came up with the style wanting to create and earthy, monochromatic tie dye option.
7. How do you choose your materials? Are you part of the fabric designing process?
We mill our fabric right here in Los Angeles and the fiber is sourced from sustainably grown Eucalyptus trees. It’s a high performance, technical fabric that’s moisture wicking for breatfeeding, temperature regulating for skin to skin, and naturally SPF 50.
8. What specifically was the inspiration for the NEST?
After having my kids 13 months apart, I was carrying my toddler son in one arm and newborn daughter in her car seat with the other. I didn’t also have room for a diaper bag! I started thinking about what I could create that would have a pocket on the top of the car seat hood, so I could throw my cell, keys, wallet and a few baby items I needed to get in and out of an errand quickly and effectively. I started creating prototypes of the Nest® playing with the pocket placement and I wanted to be able to wrap something around my daughter while she was nursing that wouldn’t cover her up but would keep her from getting distracted by her crazy brother. That’s why I designed the Nest® without taper ends, so there is flexibly coverage and visibility for breastfeeding or being used on the car seat.
9. How do you set a price on your items?
I do market research and factor in all the costs I have to mill, manufacture and ship the item along with creating enough margin for me to buy more materials to increase quantity with demand.
10. How do you feel when you sell one of your pieces?
It’s always very personal for me since I truly created the design from scratch. Nothing makes me happier than seeing moms using the Nest® and hearing about how much easier it makes their life and gives them confidence in motherhood.
11. Where did you grow up? How did you come to live in L.A.?
I grew up north of Atlanta. I moved to Los Angeles this year once our production supply chain was being totally completed here, so I could grow the business and engage with more customers in person. Plus, I just love Los Angeles, living close to the beach, and the weather isn’t bad either :).
12. How are you planning on growing and expanding your business? Any new pieces in the works?
We are working on a brand ambassador program as well as advocating for causes for mother’s like self-care and wellness. We also have some new projects in the works, stay tuned!
13. Do you feel a social presence is necessary on multiple platforms to be successful in business today? What are your platforms/handles currently?
Yes. We grew our business entirely on Instagram the first year and it is still our largest network, and we are quickly growing our email marketing currently. I love being able to offer more content through newsletters.
14. What is your mission statement?
Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.
15. Do you have other artistic ventures you are currently working on?
I launched my personal marketing consulting business: susannamcmillan.com
I love working with other brands connect for effectively with their target market both digitally and offline.
16. What would you say is avant garde about NATIVE WILDS?
From our designs to unique aesthetic I bring artistry and innovation to everything I create in Native Wilds.
17. What is your personal avant garde presence and contribution to the world we live in today?
I think be connected to conscious creation whether it be in motherhood or business is my passion and helping inspire women to do the same.
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