Here at Rylee + Cru we love working and collaborating with other brands in the baby + kid industry, which is why we’re so excited to share with you one of our most recent partners, EllieFunday! Learn more about this unique brand and the owner, Sarah Lin by reading below:
We are so excited to introduce you and your company, EllieFunday to our audience. We are such a huge fan of your brand and the story behind it. Can you share a little bit about who EllieFunday is and how you got started?
Thank you and we love you guys too! EllieFunDay is an organic baby blanket & gifting company that empowers marginalized women through a fair-wage and dignified employment. The journey started with wanting to make a more lasting impact in the world beyond my design director job. I’ve always dreamed of creating a product that would serve as a pathway of empowerment for those less fortunate. So I asked myself what was my most cherished item growing up as a kid. I’ve always loved my baby blanket as a little girl and thought that creating a blanket that gives back was the perfect metaphor of “Blanketing someone with love”.
On my very first visit to India, I visited a non-profit that worked with the poorest of the poor. I learned about how they were socially ostracized and forced to clean latrines and swamps because of their social standing. Many of these women became sick because of their work and started to have mounting health bills and therefore put them into debt. To get out of debt many succumbed to loan sharks or had to be sold into sex-work. The sad part about it was that it was this never ending cycle of poverty that they couldn’t get out of. In the end, I realized that they didn’t need another hand-out, but what they needed was a sustainable and dignified job to help lift themselves out of their situation. So in my naiveté I thought it would be a good idea to employ these women to make our baby blankets.
Your swaddles are some of the most beautiful we’ve ever seen. Where did you come up with the inspiration for your designs?
I love this question as our swaddles are truly unique and nothing is like it out there in the market. Our swaddles take our artisans 8 hours to hand-embroider and the patterns are all traced meticulously. We also source the softest GOTS certified organic cotton which lends itself to the heirloom quality that you can feel and touch.
I have always been intrigued by the beauty of something made by hand, stitch by stitch. There is precision yet a bit of wabi-sabi (as the Japanese put it) where you see the craft of the human behind it. It’s slow, methodical and meaningful. When women used to embroider clothing by hand it was a social past-time of sitting, and sharing stories. After this precious piece of clothing is finished, it’s cherished not only for the final design, but also for the hours of meaningful conversation and the love that was stitched into the final piece. This is what I wanted to capture. As our society gets faster and faster, we lose sight of those meaningful moments. So I wanted to recapture a little bit of that in our swaddle which is often gifted to a very loved one. Whenever a mother receives our swaddles, they hands down always tell me, this is the best gift they’ve received (definitely lots of oohs and aahs). It’s something that they cherish and know that they can also use for themselves beyond the baby stage. They’ve used it as a scarf, a wrap, a sarong, nursing cover, a picnic blanket, there are so many versatile ways to use it.
Something that’s really important to Rylee & Cru is to work with companies who also support the greater good and you guys are doing amazing things. Can you tell us more about your non-profit, Handcrafted for LifeTM ?
Thank you, we greatly appreciate this support! This journey didn’t come without a lot of heartache and tears. When I set out to start EllieFunDay, my heart has always been about empowering disadvantaged women through a stable source of income. The artisan sewing units that we work with start with some basic craft skills that we’ve identified and our goal is to help them hone that craft to make products that are marketable to the U.S. and beyond. During this gap of training and development, they are not producing any goods that can be sold yet and we spend our hard earned time and resources to develop their skills to get them to be production ready. This is where our non-profit helps with preparing them for job readiness, education, and life-skills. We carefully vet all of our artisan partnerships to make sure they make our impact criteria.
What has been your proudest moment since launching your business?
The first time I went to customs to pick up our first batch of blankets for the holidays. We had retailers all ready to sell our products. But when I saw Eva Chen (the former Lucky Magazine editor, now head of Instagram Fashion) post about her hospital bag, she brought our Love Struck Stitched Blanket for baby Ren, that’s when I knew that all the hard work was worth it. But even more importantly, I was even more proud when our artisan women told us how having a dignified job helps provide nourishing food for her children, education and access to healthcare. I love seeing the smiles on their faces, despite the many hardships they’ve faced.
We’re so excited to be featuring some of your products on the Rylee + Cru site. What do you look for in companies you choose to collaborate with?
I look for a similar ethos & aesthetic. This can translate into the design empowerment component, the hand-crafted nature of a product and even the relevance of it like Rylee + Cru. I love that your pieces are timeless yet very relevant to today’s trends. Children like to be in comfortable clothes that allow them to be free for their many adventures!
What does a day in the life look like for you?
Honestly as an entrepreneur it varies greatly depending on the season that I’m in. Things can get a little frenetic. So in the mornings, I do my best to do a little bit of mindfulness and centering. Whether it’s through meditating on an inspirational scripture passage, or just spending time in quiet thought really helps me keep my cool when the crazy hits. When I’m not traveling, I try to chunk out my mornings for my creative time. I’m most optimized and focused from 10-3pm, then I tend to take a break for lunch and try to catch up on emails. Then if time allows during my most unproductive hour in the afternoon I try to take a walk or work out. Then back to work for another couple of hours. My husband works late so we don’t have dinner till 9pm and there are some nights where I’m on Skype calls with India.
When I’m in India my key objective is to stay fluid because things don’t necessarily operate on a tight schedule due to so many different factors. Last year we hit political water strikes in Bangalore where the whole city shut down and then we also got caught in the monsoon in Hyderabad where there was major flooding and the waterways were all blocked. So I try to schedule some buffer for our days. This all leads to a very exciting adventure.
What is your favorite way to get inspired?
Walking! I’ve realized that when I walk, whether it’s in my own neighborhood or a new city I am so much more mindful of my surroundings and I see so much more. (I’m also forced to not look at my phone because I have to see where I’m going!). When I walk around my neighborhood I notice the seasons changing with the leaves, the flowers and the greenery. Something as simple as a tree pod inspires me, or the little sparrow’s pattern on it’s wings. Or even some strange shadows coming through the branches. I also realize that in the crazy of having my own business, I need to actually be intentional about setting aside space for creativity to happen. Because I have so many different roles I know that I need to stop and allow bulk time to be creative. So on a yearly basis, my husband and I intentionally plan a creative/intentionally quiet retreat to get ourselves rested and restored.
I also love traveling. Seeing the world from a different perspective with fresh eyes. Just this past spring I had a chance to visit Savannah and Charleston for the first time and everything was so beautiful in a much more genteel and colonial way. From the hanging Spanish moss on the great oaks, to the slightly off-kiltered houses, it was so inspiring to see age and history.
What’s next for EllieFunday?
We are constantly thinking of new gifts that people would love to give. So I’m always sketching ideas. But what’s harder is to find the right artisans for the product that I want to make. So that always takes time. What’s exciting are these new collaborations that we’re working on with other designers (like Rylee + Cru!). I love collaborating and finding ways to expand our level of impact with our artisans. We’re in the process of moving into stuffed toys and expanding our Nomad travel line of products. I can’t wait to share them with you!