We have a special guest on our blog today: Kelli Murray! Kelli Murray the founder of the children's clothing line, Rylee and Cru, and a talented designer. She will be sharing with us her inspiration behind her line and experience with being a mommy and a business owner.
How did you develop your personal signature style, and what was the process like?
Funny enough, my style has evolved a ton from when I was younger. I went through a ‘street art’ stage in my early 20’s where I was inspired by graffiti artists like Fafi and Miss Van. I worked tirelessly on my illustration skills and fine art to discover a style I could call my own. It has definitely been a process and not something that ever came overnight for me….but after playing around with so many different mediums, what felt most ‘right’ for me was watercolor and pencil. Simple, innocent illustrations that are somewhat whimsical and sweet. I’m attracted to a more muted, earthy color palette and am most inspired by nature.
Tell us about an early story of when you knew you would be a designer?
Creativity has always come very natural to me, but I’d say the determining point in my life when I knew I wanted to be a designer was in high school. I started a ‘business’ where I’d take vintage fabrics and sew one of a kind skirts for all my friends. I’d take orders and let them pick out their favorite fabrics and then turn them into any skirt style they requested. I knew then that I wanted to work in the fashion industry in some capacity.
What’s one discovery (behavior, belief, or habit that you’ve adopted) that has most positively impacted you as a creative? What about a mother?
For me, it has been following my heart and not letting others opinions affect my own. Not everyone is going to love what you do….but if YOU love it, there is bound to be others that do too. As a mother, I have been forced to really maximize my time at work and at home. It’s hard to force creativity, but when you have little babies waiting for you back at home, it gives you the push to get through creative blocks and not wallow in design decisions. Productivity has been ramped up tenfold :)
We absolutely love collaborating with R+C on the collection and the response to all our new goods has been awesome! What do you think has contributed to the overall success of Rylee + Cru?
The whole conception and growth of Rylee & Cru has been really organic from the start. It’s a family business (my dad handles sales, I handle design, and obviously my kids were the reason I was inspired to start this brand in the first place). I can’t point to one thing that has accounted for our success over the years….I think it’s been a collection of things. Social media and a loyal customer base has been really really good to us. Our artwork is original (all patterns are hand drawn by me) and I try to create clothes that mothers would love just as much as their kids do. I’ve also tried to keep very consistent in our branding and visuals so that new customers can really get a sense for who we are right away. We are obviously still learning and growing but it has certainly been a good ride so far.
What are some things about your background that people don’t know that may have gotten you to this point of success?
I went to school at the fashion industry of design and merchandise and graduated with a degree in product development. I worked for my dad for 6 years for a clothing brand straight out college. He owned a screen printing factory and also worked with clothing brands (ever since I was a baby) and as I grew up, I was always really intrigued by what he did. I worked as a graphic designer and merchandiser so I became very familiar with the way a brand operated. After I gave birth to my daughter, I decided to go on my own and pursue my art full time so that I could work from home as a new mother. I did everything from custom illustrations to logos to website design. Pretty early on into motherhood I knew I wanted to merge my background in fashion design and illustration and create a children’s line of my own one day. 3 years later and one week after the birth of my son Cru, the brand was launched and the rest is history :)
How do you balance your creative vision while building a viable company?
I think it’s because I follow my creative vision and see it through, that we have created a viable company. It comes from an authentic place. I am a mother with young kids and I create things that I would want them to wear. And I think other mothers resonate with that.
What’s a personal/family struggle that you’ve persevered through? How did that affect your mission and mindset?
My husband and I both own our own businesses. If any of you out there are like us, you know what a challenge that is while trying to raise a family. Juggling all of our responsibilities with work and at home is still, and will probably always be, a challenge for us. It’s hard to find time for the two of us to spend any sort of quality time with each other. Like, REALLY hard. What we have learned is to sync up our calendars and actually plan for this time away. I know it sounds so obvious, but you’d be surprised at how long we went without it. Time away with my family is some of my most treasured experiences. It makes it that much easier to jump back into work after we’ve been able to recharge and reconnect with each other in a meaningful way.
What does your community support system look like? Do you have mentors, mentees, peer groups?
Luckily, I live close to family who help out a ton with the kids or just whenever I need an extra hand. I’ve also got a core group of friends that I can go to with anything, who support me in work and in life.
How do you show support for your fellow women and mom’s even if they are your competitors?
I love supporting other moms and business owners because I know how hard it is and the sacrifices they have made to get there. Whether it’s just an encouraging comment on instagram or a kind word face to face. I’ve always found the success of other female entrepreneurs to be inspiring and motivating. Another person’s success shouldn’t threaten yours….count it as motivation and focus on doing what you do best.
What type of spiritual practice or routine do you engage in to keep you grounded and creative?
I read the bible and pray in the morning to start my day and get my head in the right mindset. I find that starting my day with thankfulness helps me to better manage anything that comes my way.
Check out our collaboration with Rylee and Cru here!Read More >
The theme set this past year by UN Women is Leave No One Behind: End Violence against Women and Girls. This has ALWAYS been at the heart and mission of what we do at EllieFunDay. From day one, our purpose is to empower women who are victims of domestic abuse and human trafficking. (read more about Wanila's story)
As a woman, a wife, a sister and also a CEO of a company that empowers women it makes me even more accountable to action. We are female owned, with a female advisory board with female beneficiaries. If we stand for equality what are we going to do about it? We all marched, but what next?
This prompted me to look for ways to be more proactive. I was inspired by this post on Medium, for the everyday person to do something that matters. I'm not talking about something HUGE that will consume your daily life, but something "little" that could lead to an even bigger impact.
These "simple" actions can lead to larger ripples. We marched, but what do we do with the fire that is still in our bellies? So I've decided to share these simple steps.
A SIMPLE GUIDE TO STEPPING UP:
STEP ZERO: Give yourself a moment to breathe.
STEP ONE: Make a list of what you’re GREAT at.
STEP TWO: Make a list of your limitations.
STEP THREE: Make a list of people and organizations who need support.
STEP FOUR: Make a list of people and organizations you are connected with.
STEP FIVE: Put it all together.
Step Zero: breathing is meditative and helps focus the mind. I find that when I breathe and take it all in, it grounds me. This is not a one day task, but an ongoing commitment.
Step 1: Write down ALL the things that you're GREAT at. Not just "ok". I say GREAT because that will really help you hone down your gifting. For me, I would have to say my greatest strength is really design and gifting. I love making "just" the perfect gift for the right person then personalizing it.
Step 2: We all have limits; whether its time, money and physical limitations. This is a fair question to ask. How much time or money do I have and what can I do within my limitations. Knowing this keeps things manageable.
Step 3/4: We all have networks, and organizations that we are really passionate about whether locally and globally. If you'd like to see a list of rated non-profits, GuideStar is great for giving you some oversight into where to go. I personally have a soft spot for single mothers and children that are sick. We've donated our blankets to victims of Hurricane Harvey through Baby2Baby. We love our friends over at EPA Made that empowers with single moms with job creation in East Palo Alto as well!
Step 5: How might your skills fit within your time to help these people? My dear friend, Evita started an organization called Broken Dishes because of her love for connecting communities. Broken Dishes sees beauty in imperfection. Their mission is to gather people from different walks of life through celebrations and beautiful meals, where each person can share their unique story, meet new friends and form tighter communities. She's partnered with EPA Made to put on Thanksgiving meals for the single moms and has hosted spa days! I love that she took something she loved and found a partner to bring impact into her community.
I hope that this provides a simple guideline for you to activate and stay forward focused!
Speaking up can lead to self-sustainability, dignified jobs and a safe place for women who are marginalized. With that being said, our collection of stuffed bunnies is made by My Choices Foundation's Peacecrafters. Each one of our dolls helps provide access to counseling and safe alternatives for women suffering from domestic violence.
Keep on dear sisters and brothers! We stand united in this!
#lovesomebunnyRead More >
This year, as a team we've been trying to practice the act of GRATITUDE. This act was prompted by a video that I watched on one of Oprah's Super Soul Sunday from Shawn Achor, a Harvard-trained researcher on happiness. He found that by doing these 6 daily exercises for happiness he was able to change an 80 year old's state of happiness. He said that in just 21 Days, he can change a pessimist into an optimist! I'm often times a pessimist and have really been feeling a lot of doubt and fear creep into my life. So I'm in the process of trying these 6 techniques out.
Would you like to join our team in discovering what it takes to be happier this year? Here are 6 ways to do this.
Would love to see your thoughts on how you feel more happy and loved in your comments below!
A new year calls for new travel adventures, and this time, we've asked Sarah from The Yo! Store to share their favorite family-friendly spots to visit in Portland.
Where are your three favorite family friendly restaurants in Portland?
We live in South East Portland so we like to take a walk down Division Street with our dog and 2 year old son and have a breakfast treat and a steamer at Roman Candle - it's always buzzy, friendly and great food. Other places we love to go and are super family friendly is a rad restaurant super close to our house called Por Que No! The deco is amazing and the music and food is great - we've been taking Finn there since he was 6 weeks old and he loves Mexican food!
source: @romancandlebaking on Instagram
source: @toffeeclubpdx on Instagram
Lastly we spend a lot of time at the Toffee Club - it's an English football Pub and super kid friendly as the owners have 2 kids under 3. I'm not super into football but I love the space and every Sunday from 11am they host a great brunch with an amazing DJ spinning records (plus a foozeball table and toy area for the kids! Perfect!)
Is there a local park that families often go to?
Mount Tabor in South East Portland is amazing! It has the best view of the city - an incredible park to run about it (ride your bike / scooter / run with the dog / meet with friends and walk under the mega tall trees! It also has a designated park for the kids or a dog area - you can literally get lost in here. It's one of my very favorite places in Portland - so much so that our son's middle name is Tabor. It's a special magical place (photo is from the other morning!)
Best “hole-in-the-wall” photo spots?
We love going to the Ace Hotel downtown every few months and all cramming in the old school photo booth (with our dog too) and seeing our son grow and change! We've been doing this since he was a baby - we love looking back at them altogether. Another amazing place to explore and take beautiful photos would be the Portland Japanese Garden - an amazing place to explore - as modeled by the super cute Marni who came to see us at our store then took her bunny for a trip after there!
source: @hyu915 on Instagram
source: @livstravelgram on Instagram
What are some essential accessories for children when exploring Portland?
Well it rains a lot here so definitely some rainbows and a raincoat!
Three secret/hidden spots in the city that are great for taking children?
source: @pnw.paradise on Instagram
Best souvenir from the city?
source: @theyostore on Instagram
Something from The Yo! Store to start ! We support a lot of rad ceramic local artists that make great things and of course super cute baby clothing. There are so many small businesses here in Portland - you could spend the weekend hopping from one to the next and getting something lovely from any of them to take home with you! And of course finally your photo souvenir from The Ace hotel.
Sarah is the founder of The Yo! Store and sells collections of vintage and designer women and children pieces, from apparel to home goods. You can visit her store here, or stop by whenever you're in Portland!Read More >
Every time I go to India, I try to visit one of our artisan's homes to get a glimpse of their life and how they’re doing.
I had a chance to visit Vennilla and her family who lives just a 5 minute walk from the sewing unit.
She was so happy to meet us in her home and made us some hand-squeezed lemonade since it was a hot day.
Vennilla has been working at the sewing unit for over 9+ years and has greatly benefited from her employment there.
I ask her what’s the best thing about working and she said the ability to have a place away from her personal worries. She herself is a survivor and has lived through some tough atrocities, but now finds rest in our partner sewing unit. She has 2 sons and a daughter that she provides for and hopes that one day they can have an opportunity to go to college and earn a good living. I asked her daughter what she wants to be when she grows up and she shyly answers “doctor”. Her sons both chime in and say gregariously “engineer!”
It makes me really happy to see the hope that they have in their hearts. Without Vennilla's secure job at our partner sewing unit, her children's dreams may not become a reality. But the hope is that if she has continuing work making EllieFunDay products these dreams can come true.
As we continue to chat more, she disappears into her bedroom briefly and pulls out a well loved but tattered notebook of hers.
She starts flipping through the pages and shows me her amazing embroidery homework that she’s done to achieve her “tailor” status.
As I run my hand over her intricate work it strikes me, that the humanness of embroidery is such a lost art. When we buy things it’s easy for us to not honor the person behind the craft. When I see embroidery I see the intricate nuances of each stitch and it harkens back to the person behind it. Things made by hand are getting to be a lost art.
I cherish gifts that are handmade and made to last for a lifetime. Vennilla finds a lot of joy in embroidering our blankets and wants to show the world more of her capability.
Her level of expertise is amazing and I’m ever grateful for the love and care she puts behind our blankets and accessories.
In this season of giving, I hope that you would consider giving to our non-profit “handcrafted for life” to support more women like Vennilla and her family out of poverty.
Your giving matters and creates sustainable solutions to empowerment.
Here are some ideas as to what your giving brings.
Read More >