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Brand Spotlight: Headbands of Hope

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Today we are talking with Jess Ekstro, who in 2012 launched Headbands of Hope, an inspirational company crafting handmade headbands and buffs. For every headband sold, Headbands of Hope will donate $1 to St. Baldrick’s Foundation, which funds childhood cancer research. Jess shares with us the inspiration behind her exceptional company with a mission we can all get behind. Shop her headbands now on zulily.

How did you come to found Headbands of Hope? What was the inspiration behind the idea?

When I was in college, I did an internship at a wish-granting organization for kids with cancer. I saw girls loved to wear headbands instead of wigs after losing their hair to chemotherapy. I searched for organizations to bring them headbands and couldn’t find any. Therefore, Headbands of Hope was born!

What has been the most rewarding part of starting Headbands of Hope?

Seeing the expressions on girls’ faces when they look in the mirror with their new headband. I can’t even put that feeling into words.

One girl in particular didn’t want to go to her first day of kindergarten because she was afraid the other kids would think she was a boy because she didn’t have any hair. Her mom told me that when she got her headband in the hospital, she immediately took out her backpack and started to plan her outfit for school to match her new headband.

It’s stories like these that really show the power of a simple accessory.

What’s next for Headbands of Hope?

Hopefully, we won’t be around in the next 5-10 years because there will be a cure for cancer. But until then, we’re always trying to keep our styles fresh! We’ll be venturing into more beaded and intricate collections along with winter styles. Our presence in stores across the US and Canada has also been picking up in the past year and we hope to continue that.

Why did you decide to partner with zulily?

zulily not only loved our headbands, they loved our cause. We really appreciate how passionate they are about helping the kids we benefit. They have an amazing platform to wonderful people around the world and we’re happy we can be a part of that!

Brand Spotlight: Q&A with Claro Candles Founder

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We love that a big part of making zulily happen every day, is learning about interesting companies that are making products to change the world. One of our favorite stories is that of CLARO Candles, a Seattle-based company that makes candles that give back. We spoke with Brett Kolomyjec, co-founder of CLARO Candles, about why he started the company, how they choose their non-profits to work with and even his favorite candle. Get CLARO Candles now on zulily.

Tell us about what makes CLARO Candles unique?

CLARO Candles are unique because they each have a story that matters. CLARO is a Latin word for bringing light to darkness, and that’s exactly what these products do.  Each product is made with the highest quality, all natural ingredients and give to the most urgent causes on earth.  Every time you purchase a CLARO Candle, you are helping to bring light to children, people, and causes all over the world.

How did you come to found CLARO Candles? What was the inspiration behind the idea?

About two years ago myself, and one of my best friends and business partners, Jeff Bethke, were in Uganda working with a local orphanage there.  There we met a lady who was selling candles and next to her candles there was a card that said, “light a candle and be the light in the life of a child.”  The message associated with the darkness of social injustice, and the light of someone helping to push back against that tragedy, was so powerful to us that we thought others would be willing to join a story where light is brought to darkness and peoples’ lives are changed through the purchase of an everyday, timeless product.

How do you choose the non-profits that you work with?

Almost all the nonprofits that we work with are either ones that we have traveled and worked with directly, or are run by close personal friends/colleagues of ours.  We love working with people and organizations that we know we can trust, and those whom we can personally testify for the effective, amazing work that they are doing.

What is your favorite candle in the collection?

This is a very difficult question. We ALWAYS go through seasons where we prefer different candles because they are all so fantastic!  Overall though, I would say that my favorite is the Whiskey + Oak, which is the Love candle from our Vintage Natural Collection, while the Satsuma + Honey Almond Freedom candle is definitely what’s burning most often in Jeff’s household!

What’s next for CLARO Candles?

At this point we really aren’t totally sure. If that’s acceptable to even say! Two years ago we had no idea that we would be in the candle business, but this year alone we’ve been able to impact more than 10,000 people with the giving of our product lines and we are so proud of that.  We try to be really intentional about enjoying the ride, celebrating the impact that is happening in the here and now, and not looking too far into the future, that we miss the adventure we are on day to day.  We hope to become a nationally-recognized consumer brand, but ultimately what’s most important to us are the stories of the people that our product helps, and the stories of the individuals who support our mission by purchasing our candles.

Why did you decide to partner with zulily?

zulily is such a great opportunity to share our story with people.  zulily cares about delivering great products to customers and we love that.  We know new CLARO customers through zulily will be served well and that’s amazing.The opportunity to share Claro with the zulily family is always truly a blessing.

Brand Spotlight: Q&A with Founder of Haiti Babi

Katlin Jackson started Haiti Babi, makers of handmade blankets, after an impactful volunteer trip to Haiti. We spokes with Katlin about her inspiration for the company, the moms who create the beautiful products and the goals of Haiti Babi. Get your very own blanket today on zulily.

What was the inspiration behind starting Haiti Babi?

A trip to Haiti, with my mom, was my inspiration…During my first trip to Haiti, while volunteering at an infant care center and orphanage, I fell in love with a one-year-old boy named Sterly.  As with many of the other children there, Sterly’s parents couldn’t afford a house, food or simple medical care to keep him alive so an orphanage was the only solution. Sadly, Sterly’s story is not uncommon in Haiti. Many of the 500,000 children in Haitian orphanages are put there by parents who simply cannot afford to provide for them.

I couldn’t stop thinking about Haiti, and Sterly, after returning from my first trip to Haiti, so I decided to go back. On my second trip a few months later, Sterly was reunited with his parents and I got to visit him at his family’s home. I was able to experience firsthand the love of Sterly’s family and realized that no parent should have to be without their child simply because they don’t have the money. That day changed my life and I was inspired to give these families a hand up, not a hand out by creating a sustainable solution to this common problem in Haiti. Haiti Babi gives moms jobs, empowering them to be the best moms they can be. Through earning a steady income, Haiti Babi moms can afford to feed their children everyday, live in a safe house, and send their kids to school- breaking the cycle of extreme poverty.

How did you start Haiti Babi?

When I returned home from that second trip I began talking to everyone I knew about this idea of creating jobs for moms in Haiti. I ended up meeting Kari, my co-founder, at a social enterprise start-up weekend in Seattle, which is where Haiti Babi was officially born. Two months later, we were on a plane to Haiti to set up operations. We launched operations in Haiti with three moms and one Haitian manager. A volunteer, Jessica, spent one month in Haiti training our initial team to make the Signature Haiti Babi blanket. There were many people involved in getting Haiti Babi off the ground. Starting a new business is not easy, and working in Haiti is definitely not easy! Many people have volunteered their time and talents to helping Haiti Babi grow- it has truly been a community effort.

Tell us about how these beautiful blankets are made.

All of the Haiti Babi baby blankets are handmade by moms in Haiti. They are made from 100% pima cotton. Many women play a role in making one of our blankets. First, the yarn is wound by Jeannide. Then, Martha makes the main part of the blanket on a manual knitting machine. Next, one of our “crochet moms” (Hernise, Beatrice, Ystania, Florene, or Fabiola) crochets the border around the blanket.  And lastly, Edwije embroiders the three circles in the bottom corner- giving it the signature Haiti Babi look. The blankets are then steamed, packaged, and sent to the US. It takes about one day to make a blanket.

Tell us about the moms that make the blankets.  

How much space do I have?!  There’s so much to tell!  The Haiti Babi moms are some of the most incredible women in Haiti- and hands down the best moms!  For all of these women, Haiti Babi is their first job ever. They have all taken a very courageous step by working at Haiti Babi.  They all have learned new skills, what it means to have a job, and what it feels like to be empowered to take care of your children.  Haiti Babi moms all work hard so they can earn money to send their kids to school- all of their #1 priority. Some moms are now able to build new, safe houses for their families to live in.

These ladies work hard, but have fun, too!  They are always singing and laughing while they are working, and they have developed close friendships with each other. They take a great deal of pride in the blankets they are creating, and love hearing stories (and seeing pictures!) from people who are using the blankets for their babies. It gives them a huge sense of accomplishment and pride to know that they are making something useful and beautiful, and that the blankets they are making will be loved by moms and babies around the world. I have watched each of the Haiti Babi moms change and grow during their time at Haiti Babi- from women who are struggling to survive and care for their children, to fun and feisty proud mamas who are changing their lives and breaking the cycle of extreme poverty for their children. I wish everyone could see this, too- empowerment looks amazing.

What’s the long-term goal of Haiti Babi? What’s next?

The goal of Haiti Babi is to empower moms in Haiti through sustainable employment, and to empower consumers around the world to use their purchasing power in a meaningful way.  To continue to achieve this goal, Haiti Babi needs to grow!  Next steps for Haiti Babi are to hire more moms in Haiti, develop new products to reach more customers, and spread the word about purchases with purpose. We are fundraising to move to a bigger space in Haiti so that we can have room to hire more moms.  We are launching a new product this summer- baby hats.

Why did you decide to work with zulily?

We decided to work with zulily because they really understand and support what we are working on with Haiti Babi. We like to work with retailers who understand that our mission is just as awesome as our product, and that behind each baby blanket is a story. zulily understands that this is more than a baby blanket, it’s a story, and their ability to support and share that story means a lot to Haiti Babi. 

Q&A with Heather Thomson, Founder of Yummie

We sat down with Heather Thomson, Founder of Yummie and real housewife on the Real Housewives of NYC to dish about her inspiration for Yummie and balancing work and life. 

You’re all about women feeling confident from within. What inspired you to create Yummie by Heather Thomson?

The inspiration behind Yummie hit me shortly after I gave birth to my two kids and struggled to loose the baby weight, a problem so many other women have.

I wanted a solution that would help me feel confident and sexy as I worked to get my body back in shape, and I found it impossible!  I visited my local department stores here in NYC and the only shapewear I could find resembled my grandmother’s girdle.  So I took out my sewing machine and leaned on my 20 years of design experience to develop my first signature patented 3-panel tank – a comfortable and fashionable everyday foundation piece.  I knew that if I needed that boost of confidence, other women needed it too, and the collection grew from there!

What pieces of Yummie would you pick for someone who is pregnant?

My seamless collection. When you’re pregnant, feeling comfortable and having movement is the most important thing! Yummie tanks, leggings shorts and briefs are meant for everyday and feel so yummie on the body. Most are designed with outlast technology which is a fabric knit into the garment to regulate your body temperature - - which is crucial when becoming a mama!

 What has motherhood taught you about yourself?

That multi-tasking is bologna and you need to focus on the task at hand! When I’m at work, I’m at work and when I’m at home, I try my best to focus on my family. I also have an amazing husband and we divide and conquer often!

What’s your favorite piece of Yummie to wear on date night?!

Our Magda Slip (a little lace goes a long way!)

As a working mom, how do you stay balanced?

Working out with my trainer WillSpace or Bikram Yoga helps me clear my head and feel healthy. I also am totally focused because when you’re boxing, you’re not thinking about anything else! My family and I go to the Berkshires on the weekends which is my happy place.

See our Yummie sale on today through Thursday.

Brand Spotlight: Introducing with love from africa by kate quinn

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Today, zulily has the unique opportunity to bring you the first look at a line of clothing that is very special to us both for its unique look and its purpose.  The with love from africa by kate quinn line of organic clothing features beautiful prints inspired by the scenes of Nairobi and Kenya. But it’s not just the beautiful designs that get us so excited. In partnership with Bébé Ravi, the clothing is lovingly handcrafted by women in Nairobi and Kenya,areas with unemployment rates as high as 40%. We had a chance to speak with the women behind kate quinn organics, Kate Quinn herself, about the driving factors behind creating this line and her inspiration.  

What led you to partner with Bébé Ravi, and what inspired you to develop your “with love from africa” line?

I met Siamanda Chenge, a former fashion model from Kenya, a few years ago at a show in NYC.  She currently runs a Kenyan women’s knitting project that creates the most beautiful sweaters, Bebe Ravi, which in turn helps support an orphanage that provides homes to boys and girls, many of them orphaned by HIV.  I was immediately inspired by her work, which is both meaningful and visually stunning.  I had been waiting for an opportunity for us to create some good together, and we finally developed this line, which is a woven custom print cut and sew collection, classic lines with fun details. zulily fell in love with it, and the rest is history.

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Where did you get your inspiration for the colors and patterns of the “with love from africa” line?

The prints are inspired by colors and textures etched in my memory from my last trip to Africa, sunsets, sky, grass fields after the monsoon.  The silhouettes are inspired by heirloom vintage party dresses and jumpers, both whimsical and easy to wear.

Can you explain the charitable contribution aspect?

The first production of this collection will create 30-35 new jobs for women in these villages. With each purchase, moms can feel good about helping moms in Kenya to cloth, feed and care for their children. In addition, a percentage of the revenue from the clothing is put back into the community through the support of the Patrick Chege Memorial Orphanage.

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Why did you choose to partner with zulily on this line?

I knew zulily would be the perfect fit due to their enormous heart and ability to get things done. We presented the idea to zulily and they fell in love with it. The rest is history. We know the zulily moms will love it just as much as we do.

See the full line of with love from africa by kate quinn today on zulily.

Brand Spotlight: RuffleButts

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In 2007, twenty-something Amber Schaub was working her day job and dreaming of something different to do with her life. Within three months, she quit her job and brainstormed her product idea­—RuffleButts, based upon the ruffled bloomers she loved to wear as a little girl and could no longer find in stores.

As a long-time entrepreneur (she started a grocery delivery business and babysitting clubs when she was a kid), Amber threw herself wholeheartedly into her dream. She took sewing lessons, made samples and worked with factories. In less than a year, RuffleButts was officially born.

By 2010, RuffleButts had already gained a following for their whimsical designs and incredible attention to detail and quality. And that’s when a children’s apparel start-up appeared on the scene. When Amber first heard of zulily, she was skeptical. But as she explains, “The more I heard about them, the more I could understand that they were creating an avenue to share products with millions of moms around the world. We’re a small company and zulily has so much reach. It’s fantastic because we’re able to share what we’re doing with so many more moms out there.”

RuffleButts, along with brother brand RuggedButts, is a company to watch. They’re one of the fastest growing brands in the children’s apparel market and they’re launching new lines, new sizes and new styles while still maintaining the quality and customer care they’re known for.

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For Amber, one of her favorite parts of running her own business is the interaction with the people who love RuffleButts. As she says, “We have the most incredible customers. They’re über supportive and have really cheered me on since the beginning. We have over 160,000 Facebook fans and they’re constantly sharing photos of their children in our apparel along with words of support. As the creator of this brand, I find it incredibly touching and also so rewarding to see.”

Check out the event today on zulily.

Brand Spotlight: Rising International

Here’s a Q&A with Rishi P. Dhakal, founder and owner of Rising International. We’ve featured their unique products countless times, showcasing their bright and handcrafted apparel and accessories made by local artisans in Nepal. Today, we’re featuring them on our site and you can view their event here.

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1. What’s the big idea behind Rising international?

Rising International Inc. is a US-based company trying its best to create a brand name for Nepalese handmade clothing. This company has flourished, using traditional arts and creativity on clothing, focusing on a new era of fashion. Rising International also promotes job opportunities for local Nepalese women, providing work at home while supporting the local community’s financial growth.

2. What makes your apparel unique?

Our apparel is handcrafted and based on the ethnic and cultural values of Nepal. We study the market and create new designs on regular basis. Our products are made by people in the community using local resources. Moreover, we naturalize the color of our fabric with stone washing and add artistic symbols that reflect local values.

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3. What was the inspiration behind the brand and the clothing design?

The main concept was to reflect the diversity of fashion and creativity in Nepal. We wanted to showcase the local arts and support the economic growth of Nepal with Rising International’s business plan. The source of inspiration for our clothing design and brand continues to be Nepal’s artistic community.

4. Can you tell us the best Rising International success story so far?

Our products are unique—as they are handcrafted—and vibrant.  We have continuously focused on market research and the demand for new fashion. Based on the need and demand of people, we are continually striving to create new and unique designs. We focus on high quality products with perfect sizing in a variety of colors. Moreover, we’ve established a good marketing network and are committed to having the best customer service. Recently, we were awarded Commercially Important Person from the government of Nepal for our contribution to the fashion market. I personally attended that ceremony.

5. Why sell your products on zulily?

We connected with zulily in a trade show. We approached them to sell our products. As our products reflect unique fashion, zulily wanted to tryout our product once. We followed zulily’s business terms and conditions and offered quality products. They were impressed with the positive responses from their customers and gradually started selling varieties of Rising’s products. Now Zulily has been selling huge quantity of our products as zulily is a well-recognized company with good customer relations and professional ideas of selling.

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Brand Spotlight: Q&A with founder and designer of 6 Shore Road

6 Shore Road was inspired by the lifestyle of the Hamptons, NY and launched in 2010 by designer Pooja Kharbanda. The line is meant to be worn while enjoying life and captures the spirit of carefree days and dancing with friends as the sun goes down. We had the opportunity to chat with designer and founder Pooja about her inspirations and passion for fighting cancer through fashion.

Be sure to check out all the great 6 Shore Road looks at today’s event running through Feb. 10.

Why did you start 6 Shore Road ?

I wanted fashion forward and comfortable looks that I could wear from the beach to bar or day to night.

Where do you draw inspiration from for your designs? 

The carefree ethos of the brand comes from the Hamptons. I was born in India and grew up in Hong Kong & Panama, where I take a lot of design details from, whether it be the color palettes and/or embroideries.  I love to travel and choose a specific place that represents the collection for the season.

What makes 6 Shore Road unique?

It’s transitional lifestyle. Many of the individual pieces can be worn to the beach or at the pool bar with just a swap of shoes!  Or you can take them from day to night from a casual lunch to an evening out.

Tell us about Fashion Fights Cancer and why you are involved.  

My mom was diagnosed with cancer of the mouth in 2011. It was a life-changing event and as part of the fashion industry, it’s important for me and my brand to support this cause. I’m on the board of the Fashion Fights Cancer organization, which conducts fashion classes for children affected by cancer. We help them get their mind off the illness and focus on something positive.  

Why feature your products on zulily?

zulily’s customer base sets itself apart from many of our current retailers.  6 Shore Road is such a versatile brand and can really be transformed to any style.

What’s your number one piece of style advice for women?

Wear color! It’s flattering to your skin color and attracts positivity.

Brand Spotlight: Rockin’ Baby Slings, To Give and Receive

At zulily, we are always on the lookout for unique products for you to discover. That’s why when we met the people behind Rockin’ Baby, we knew we had to bring this innovative and charitable line of slings to our moms. Being a mom means mastering the art of multi-tasking, and this lovable one-for-one brand of baby accessories is guaranteed to make your day go more smoothly and help less fortunate moms around the world at the same time!

Rockin’ Baby CEO and proud mama of six Kathryn Wiley has always wanted to help other women flourish too.  Working as a social documentary photographer for many years, she dreamed of being a “vehicle for change” in a business endeavor.  For Wiley, prospering alone was not enough. On one of her many trips to Haiti, she saw the opportunity to help moms and lower Haiti’s infant mortality rate, which in some areas is as much as 50 percent.

While in Haiti, Wiley noticed that many moms weren’t able to carry their babies simply because they didn’t have a method of doing so. This was concerning to her because carrying babies is an important part of fostering connection and a sense of security between mother and child. Plus, the more mobility you have, the better you can protect baby, a lesson Wiley never forgets since learning of a Haitian mom whose legs were run over in a truck accident. While her baby miraculously survived, the crisis could have easily been averted if the mom had her hands free. So, in 2010, Wiley bought Rockin’ Baby, keeping the brand’s beautifully designed slings the same but changing its purpose: for every sling purchased, Rockin’ Baby donates one to a mom in Haiti.

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Wiley likes to say “The more you sell, the more you can give!”, and with celebs like Gwen Stefani and Angelina Jolie on board, a sales boost of 200 percent and thousands of free slings given away in the past three years, we’re pretty sure Rockin’ Baby’s Mother to Mother mission is just beginning. Rack up your good karma with these cozy, reversible carriers that give back.

Brand Spotlight: Pelle Activewear

We’ve partnered with Pelle Activewear for almost the entirety of our zulily existence and we love them for their bright colors, high-quality fabrics and the fact that every piece is made right here in the USA. But for the current owners of Pelle, Owen and Shawn, it all started in 2007. They had been married for just five months and were dreaming about owning their own small business when they happened upon Pelle, which specializes in gymnastics apparel.

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They decided to take a leap of faith and purchase the business. Suddenly they were in charge. Although Shawn didn’t have a background in fashion or patternmaking, she began designing all of the Pelle leotards. Now with every style she creates, she thinks about the girls who will ultimately be wearing the leotards. She explained, “Some companies focus on gymnastics right from the start, but we focus on the kids. What are the kids going to love, and what are their moms going to love?”

An unexpected perk for Shawn and Owen was the warmth and friendliness of the gymnastics community. Owen explained, “The gymnastics industry is primarily family-owned businesses, so the whole field is a great one to work in. We’re not in this cutthroat business. We’ve become friends with the people we work with, and we help each other out.” 

In 2008, a year after they took over operations at Pelle, a buyer from zulily came calling because her own daughter wore a Pelle leotard. Owen and Shawn weren’t sure what to expect from this new partnership, but they soon found that zulily provided them with fantastic brand exposure. Shawn said, “As zulily has grown, so have we.”

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Like many small business owners, Owen and Shawn love watching their business grow. But for them, the most important part is the children who wake up, put on a Pelle leotard and get enthusiastic about going to gymnastics class.

Shawn told us, “When I’m designing our garments, I’m not just thinking about a fun, cute outfit; I’m thinking about how they help get kids excited about a valuable, creative physical activity that builds great kids! Believing in all of this keeps us motivated and inspired. If our garments can contribute to a child’s happiness, growth and development, then we are all in!”