“I am typing this now while the kids are at the beach with my husband – it was a hard decision this morning to not join them and try to catch up on the business, but I firmly believe all this hard work will pay off and will give our family the freedom to live our lives on our own terms eventually. The kids are the biggest motivators. I want them to see that everything is possible if you put your mind to it, as well as the time and hard work.”
The above is what Dasha Roth wrote when asked about being a parent and owning a business. It’s where we started but as the conversation continued we learned more about why she and her partner Zuzana went not only organic but strove for ethical excellence with their children’s clothing company, BOXXkids.
Kendra: If I’ve learned anything from speaking with creatives who made a business for themselves it’s that mothers are by far some of the hardest working entrepreneurs out there. With that, what were you doing before BOXXkids came about? Were you in another arena outside of fashion?
Dasha Roth: I have to agree with that statement! I have never worked as hard in my life as I am now, and I had some pretty stressful and demanding jobs in my previous life – before kids. My background is business and project administration and management. I worked at a big government department; I worked on big projects, I managed teams – but nothing compares to the constant workload of running your own business as well as looking after your children and managing the household.
Kendra: So you and Zuzana knew each other in high school and then years later decided to start BOXXkids. Who made the initial move on that?
Dasha Roth: Zuzana and I have been friends for most of our lives, despite living on different continents. I moved from Europe to Australia one year after finishing high school for 6 months initially, but I fell in love with this country. I think we talked about doing a business together every time I went back “home.” We wanted to either bring a bit of Australia to Europe or the other way around.
After our first babies were born only a few months apart and we both stepped out of the corporate world into the crazy world of motherhood, we thought it was time to give this a go. As with most new mums, our focus turned to the kids’ products, especially clothing. Our idea was to make minimalist, almost Scandinavian style clothing locally in our region, which had a rich textile-making history, use European suppliers for most organic materials and bring it to Australia. Funnily enough, our products became very popular locally first – all over Europe and in the US, and we are only now taking them to the Australian market.
Kendra: When you started, was being true to organic materials always the main goal?
Dasha Roth: I believe having children makes you much more aware of the world we are living in, and about the world, we will be leaving behind for them. We were set on using the most sustainable, ethically made and organic materials out there since the very beginning despite the much higher costs and limited availability.
We were, of course, worried about competing with other non-organic and non-ethical brands, but luckily we have seen this huge shift in awareness and buying habits, especially amongst fellow mothers. I think once you know how conventional cotton is grown, the huge amount of water and pesticides needed, the toxic chemicals used in manufacturing, the conditions of workers in sweatshops, it becomes really hard to support this with your own money.
I can’t imagine my five-year-old son working in a button factory and this “modern-day slavery is still happening,” even the big international fashion labels are still exploiting their workers, mostly women, and using kids labour in their supply chains. This was simply not an option for us. We try to keep the prices competitive despite the much lower profits, but we have a clean conscience knowing everyone in our supply chain from the cotton farmers, fabric manufacturers, our button makers, and our seamstresses is treated well and paid properly.
Kendra: You also don’t make too much of any particular item so that things don’t go to waste. Do those numbers vary on the product depending on past sales?
Dasha Roth: We do things a bit differently than other bigger brands. Being small allows us to do that. When we come up with a design, we only make limited quantities; only a few pieces in each colour and size. We send it out to the world and wait for the feedback. Making everything locally means we can always make more if there is a demand, and pretty quickly. We even make custom orders occasionally. Not buying our fabrics overseas in huge quantities or using overseas clothing manufacturers means we can make our products in small numbers – even if it means our clothes have to be more expensive than your standard “made in Bangladesh” products.
Kendra: Being mothers of multiple children under five cannot be easy. I’m stressed just thinking about it. Was there ever a moment at the start where you thought, maybe we should wait until they’re older?
Dasha Roth: We keep saying that we should have started our own business before having kids, but back then we had no idea what we are getting ourselves into, of course. I hope we have now been through the hardest stages, our “babies” are starting school and starting childcare now, they are becoming more and more independent.
Until now, we could simply not invest as much time into this business as we would have ideally liked, we had to say no to many offers and opportunities unfortunately just because there are only so many hours in a day. Our business has probably been growing slower than most similar businesses, and we are ok with that. The good news is that we are at the stage where we can give more attention now to this little project of ours, so watch this space – some exciting things coming up soon hopefully!
Kendra: With that, will you eventually grow your business to accommodate older kids’ clothing as your own kids grow?
Dasha Roth: Yes, we are working on that. We hear it from our customers and the few shop owners selling our clothes all the time – there is definitely a demand for organic clothing in our style for bigger kids. We now have one of our designs going up to size 8-10 years on our website and we are making more samples right now. We can see a hole in the market in this space, and hopefully, our customers will again embrace this idea of buying good quality long-lasting stylish clothes which don’t hurt the planet, even for their bigger children.
Kendra: Can you let us know what you guys have coming up as we head deeper into 2019? New designs coming out?
Dasha Roth: Apart from the bigger sizes, we have so many other ideas! We have just tried and tested our ponchos and joggers in adult sizes after many requests, so our mums can match their sons and daughters. Right now we are hand knitting more hats from organically certified wool as the weather is cooling down on the Northern Hemisphere, we are hoping to knit some chunky minimalistic sweaters too. We are obsessed with corduroy right now, so you might see a few new styles in this beautiful fabric soon too.