Posted: Feb 10 2015
Studio artist, illustrator, and creative mind behind Sophie + Lili dolls and accessories - Jennifer Vallez is a Jill of all trades. We are so excited to feature her as a BURU Tastemaker to showcase her chic yet understated #momstyle. Read more about her life as a working mom and entrepreneur below, and be sure to visit Sophie + Lili for custom illustrations and customizable dolls for your little ones.
BR: What do you love most about being a mom?
J: Well, I definitely love having two girls! They are silly, sweet, moody & definitely keep me on my toes. Watching them grow up, form unique personalities, seeing things through fresh eyes.
BR: What is the number one way in which motherhood has changed you?
J: I have become super emotional & the biggest cry baby. I hate that I worry so much about something happening to me, my husband or kids...but I think that will be the way it is forever?
BR: What are your must-haves from BURU and why do they work in your mommy lifestyle?
J: I love Ace & Jig & Lem Lem! Obsessed with their fabrics and how they mix patterns. The pieces I chose are casual and comfortable - jumpsuits, denim, loose tops. I don't see too many people during the day, so I am VERY casual. That's both good & bad I guess. I would love to wear that gold skirt and leopard coat on a date night!
Shop her full Tastemaker Sale HERE
BR: You have somewhat of a vintage vibe to your aesthetic. Tell us a little about your personal style and what is the one item that you will never give-up (no matter how impractical it may be as a mama)?
JV: I do love vintage, I love antiquing and appreciate the craftsmanship of days past. I used to love vintage clothes shopping, but these days I am very practical. I can't live without jeans - mostly skinny jeans (rag & bone are my current favorite), a black blazer or chunky sweater and scarf.
BR: Sophie + Lili started as a children’s clothing line. Can you tell us a little bit about your journey and how it evolved to the business it is today?
JV: I always wanted to be a fashion designer or illustrator, but sewing was not my strong suit. I was inspired by a vintage children's skirt pattern that I found at Brimfield Flea Market. My daughter Sophie was 2 at the time...I made her a few skirts and friends started to ask where they came from. I was encouraged to make more & to try selling them to take them to a local boutique. The owner bought 10 on the spot...it kind of snowballed from there. A few months in, I was hiring sales reps, doing trade shows, outsourcing sewing to India, Peru & China...by the 3rd year my small line was in 26 Saks stores as well as hundreds of boutiques worldwide. After 3 years of working full time and doing this on the side, I found out we were expecting my second child. Something had to give. I put my clothing line on the back burner with the hope that I could revisit it later.
A few years later, I had an aha! moment when I found a vendor that could print fabric on demand. I coupled my love of fabric design & dolls and created a soft pillow form cotton doll. I knew I had something special. I opened Sophie & Lili back up with this new direction and have been making custom dolls ever since. In addition to custom dolls, I also have a licensed collection with North American Bear Company.
BR: As a working mom, how do you find time for yourself between your family and business? Any tips to share?
JV: I only just quit my FT job as a Designer at an ad agency this August. I had been working my two jobs on & off for TEN years. I can't say that I had much time for myself. My husband took on a lot of the household chores and cooking so that I could work at night and weekends. I worked in the playroom alongside my kids and always try to include them in what I am doing. Sometimes they will draw doll design ideas and help put stickers on packages. I never force them...I want them to feel included though. These days, I can focus solely on my business during normal work hours and am home when they get off the bus. I try to turn business off around 5 and we always have dinner at the table together. Most nights, I get back on my laptop after they go to bed. I hate having emails left unanswered.
BR: What do you find is the biggest challenge of running a successful and growing business while also raising successful and growing children? How do you tackle this challenge?
JV: It was definitely harder when they were younger. They do a lot of things independently now, so I have some more time to focus. Family comes first, so there is a lot of dropping everything, which breaks my concentration. I work from home a lot now and try to cram it all in before they get home.
BR: Your custom watercolor illustrations are incredible and such a lovely gift for a new mom! Can you tell us briefly about the ordering process and lead-time?
JV: Thank you! I work from full-length photos that customers can send via email. I usually have a 3-4 week wait, a little longer for holidays. They can be ordered online and I work with customer through emails. I send a sketch for approval before I paint.
BR: Your little ones are SO cute! If you wouldn’t mind sharing, please share a few of your favorite mommy moments.
Bedtime story: My girls are 12 & 7, so we don't do bedtime stories much anymore, sadly. They read to themselves at bedtime. But...my favorite memories are reading the poems from Where The Sidewalk Ends (I cry every time I read The Unicorn!). One of my favorite books when I was a little girl too.
Lullaby: I used to sing Close To You (Carpenters) and change the part "That is why all the girls in town..." to "...all the boys in town follow you..." They would always giggle and tell me I sing better than Karen Carpenter. Haha! I do not!
Vacation Spot: My husband's family has a summer house in Chatham, MA (Cape Cod)...I am actually NOT a fan of the beach, but my kids love it and it's like our second home. Actually, my favorite place to be is the Berkshires in the Fall. Chunky sweaters. scarves, boots, apple cider & fall foliage = perfection.
Restaurant: A little local restaurant called Salut. It's a favorite for birthdays and other celebrations.
Children’s Brand: Pink Chicken, Misha Lulu, House of Mia & Bobo Choses.
BR: What’s the one thing you wish you would’ve known before becoming a mother?
I feel like I heard it ALL so nothing really shocked me, but I wish I was prepared for how emotional I would become. I mean, I cry listening to Taylor Swift songs, commercials, at school events, etc.
And also...you will never have enough snacks in your house! :)
Shop her full Tastemaker Sale HERE