It’s 1 am, you’re totally supposed to be sleeping already but for some reason you’ve been lulled into a Zara online shopping trance (the two glasses of wine you had earlier did not help matters and everything is looking really intriguing). However, the walk of shame of years past now becomes the morning after regret as you see your shopping confirmation and realize you bought culottes for your 4 year old. As fashion forward as we all are, anyone with a kid, a company, or both doesn’t have the time to curate the best of the season. Thank God these rockstar mamas, Colleen Crivello and Maria Benetos, have saved us from a shopping hang-over with mini-mode, their curated shopping experience for fashion savvy mamas. Everything on the site is uber cool, so even if you have a late night shopping bender you’ll still wind up with some pretty sick stuff when the goodies arrive.
We’re lucky enough to live in the same city and call these rad mamas friends. Colleen and Maria are the kind of girls that make a business meetings fun and are a dream to work with. These work wives had us in stitches with their stories and we loved getting to know more about their friendship, balance and creative muses.
How did you two meet?
CC: We met through mutual friends in the “mom-scene”…that’s a thing you know. But in all seriousness I weighed in on an early idea that Maria had for a site and suddenly we were shaping a vision for MINIMODE together.
MB: We met through a mutual friend who is also a downtown mom. At a girls’ dinner one night at SohoHouse I was saying how frustrated I was as a mom that there was not a site that I felt spoke to me as a woman and a mom. Colleen had a retail site at that time and told me I can pick her brain about starting up something on my own and the next thing I knew, we were partners in MINIMODE!
What were you doing before Mini-mode?
CC: I had a brand called CHALK NYC (a high-end girls brand sold at Barneys among other places) plus VP of Design for the Girls and Baby division at Ralph Lauren prior to that I was a womenswear designer for Under Armour and Jeremy Scott.
MB: I was the Integrated Marketing Director at In Style. I spent my entire career in marketing at different media brands like Teen Vogue, Allure, Interview, Bon Appetite and Harper’s Bazaar. I love the strategic thinking behind marketing and felt I was quite good at it but my heart was always a bit on the editorial side.
What was your inspiration behind mini-mode?
CC: We wanted to create a space that spoke to moms like ourselves…encompassing all of their interests including their new interest in their kids’ and style.
MB: The main inspiration was to have a content and commerce site for moms that spoke to them as a full person; not just a mom. These women who are into fashion for themselves and their kids, beauty, traveling and other inspiring moms who they can perhaps see themselves in. We also wanted to make it fun! We’re a style site and that’s meant to be fun.
What’s been your experience working as co-founders? You both have had other full time positions at times. How has this played out as far as your roles?
CC: Speaking for myself…amazing! I have the best work-wife ever. Our roles are constantly evolving. We complement each-other’s strengths and have really honed in on where one another excels and have developed our roles accordingly.
MB: I feel very lucky to have Colleen as my partner because we complement each other very well yet we are very similar in our thinking. We’re both sort of “let’s get this done” kind of people and don’t get caught up in the small stuff. We’re equally hard-working and devoted to the site so long as the work gets done and creativity keeps flowing, having other responsibilities doesn’t really get in the way. We text and call each other multiple times a day and at all hours of the night!
What’s your biggest struggle as a mom and a businesswoman?
CC: Cliché as it is…time. I need a good 12 more hours a day. I was watching this film set on another planet and the days were 67 hours long, now that sounds perfect to me! I also struggle to focus on home life when I’m at home…constantly on my phone, computer or some digital device. And since we don’t live on a planet where the days are 67 hours long, I tend to skip out on sleep instead to find those extra hours I’m searching for.
MB: I know many working moms struggle with the balance but I feel like I finally have that down! I’m so lucky that I get to take my girls to school each morning and have a schedule that’s flexible enough for me to be able to pick them up sometimes or duck out for an early dinner with them. I’m so grateful for that. So I’d probably say that sleep is the biggest struggle since I end up working late into the night or at 5am before they wake up! But I love it.
What do you wish someone had told you before you started Mini-mode?
CC: There isn’t anything so far. Having owned a brand, I had a strong sense of what I would or would not do plus we did a ton of research in the space to understand the market and our goals with the site. Maria has a wealth of experience coming from the publishing industry as well and so together we went at this from an informed place.
MB: I actually feel like I was well-prepared. So far, no surprises so let’s hope it stays that way! I know what needs to be done for the site and now it’s just a matter of time and resources.
What do love most about what you do?
CC: I focus a lot of my time on the mom crushes and there isn’t anything in the world I’m better suited to do than to engage and connect with people…I love people in general, talking to them, being around them, being inspired by them. Therefore what I love most about what I do is connecting with people and the brands we partner with.
MB: I get to have a voice and express myself, and hopefully inspire moms in the process. There has always been this illusion of the “perfect mom” that women try to uphold in our culture but there’s no such thing. I loved when the book “Go the F88ck to Sleep” came out because it hit the nail on the head – parenthood is not all love and snuggles. Sometimes you just want them to put their f**cking dress on and go to school and that’s the tone we take with MINIMODE, which has been a blast.
How important is it to you to surround yourself with other creative women?
CC: Extremely! I’m a firm believer in ‘you are who you hang out with!’ and you are the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with…food for thought.
MB: I can talk on and on about this subject. One of the best parts of becoming a mom in this city, especially a mom who is in this whole media world is all the incredible and inspiring moms I’ve met. There is sort of this “mom tribe” that has developed in which we all support each other and help push forward. I love how collaborative it’s all been. And we’ve been known to do business over a glass of wine or two, so that’s kind of awesome as well!
We’ve been talking about how we spend a lot of time “networking” /hanging out/having playdates with other mamas who have now become our close friends, but also talking shop. How has this been for you? Do you find yourself drawn to other mom entrepreneurs?
CC: Yes, entrepreneurs in general! When I look at my group of friends most tend to own their own businesses and most are women, who have kids…so yes, I would certainly say I tend to gravitate towards mom entrepeneurs and I’m extremely fortunate to know such rock-star women.
MB: Absolutely. I think people are always drawn to like-minded people and this has definitely been the case with me. It’s so fascinating and inspiring to see how we balance our work and home lives in different ways and also remain social. I’m so grateful for all the strong and smart women in my life.
What’s the best career advice you’ve been given?
CC: Follow your passion but be strategic about.
MB: My dad told me to focus on yourself and what you’re doing, rather than getting caught up in everything that goes on around you. If you’re doing your best, then you’ll thrive. Sometimes you just have to put on blinders and forge forward without letting all the noise distract you.
What’s been your biggest challenge with mini-mode?
CC: Time like the rest of my life…there is so much to achieve and it’s always about finding enough time to execute on it all well.
MB: Time! I wish we had more hours in the day so we can do more photoshoots, video, content, social, etc. I always feel like I can be doing more…but a girl’s got to sleep every now and again.
Any trick for time management?
CC: Everything gets scheduled in the calendar. Everything even travel time.
MB: My trick is to put on headphones, put my head down and just do it. Not the most creative advice but tuning the world out a bit helps me check off items from my to-do list.
You interview so many awesome women. Who’s been you biggest mom crush so far?
CC: Oh no! That is so hard, I love them all for different reasons and many are friends, so I can’t be backed into that corner 😉 I will say though that it is so inspiring to see what all these women have achieved, where they are headed and what we’re capable of as women and mothers. I believe that everything they fought for in the 60’s regarding women’s rights is finally coming into fruition in a real and meaningful way.
MB: SO hard. I adore them all for such different reasons. But I hate a non-answer so I’m going to say Coco Rocha because anyone who knows me knows that I am absolutely obsessed with models. I know their names and the work they’ve done in the same way a sports-obsessed guy knows baseball players and stats. My husband thinks it’s my odd talent. Coco has really been a game-changer in the world of modeling-she was of the first to show her personality and have a voice, and she doesn’t take herself too seriously. And come on, she’s adorable as it baby Ioni.
You cover such a range of brands from Zara to Sons & Daughters… what are your favorite lines to dress your own kids in?
CC: Up to now it has always been my own line CHaLK, but other than that I would say ZARA for daily and more special pieces from Simple Kids and Zef.
MB: I do love ZARA for the girls but you go through clothes so quickly and ZARA is the right price point for those everyday school pieces. Other brands I adore and constantly dress them in are Bobo Choses, AKID, Mini Rodini, Emile Et Ida, Soft Gallery and I just discovered this new French designer I’m obsessed with called Louise Misha.
You collaborate with some of the coolest brands out there, can you tell us a little about what goes into that process?
CC: I love partnerships! I’m so inspired by what two creative and talented forces can do together. And then working to achieve something in collaboration and having it all come together as a final product. There is generally a lot of back and forth via email and calls but we get there.
MB: It’s quite simple – we form relationships with brands that we love! OK, maybe not that simple but honestly, so far we’ve found that brands are eager to collaborate and create something that stands out. It’s fun to go back and forth on concepts and tap into other people’s creativity.
Anything exciting on the horizon?
CC: So much! We’re launching a new partnership this month with AKID for sneakers and an event to celebrate at Babesta! And we’re working more closely with brands and our partners. Plus we have additional collabs slated for Resort and Spring and a few exciting events coming up…so much, stay tuned!
MB: We have an awesome collab launching later this month with AKID and then something fab for resort with LemLem. There’s more for spring but we’re not talking ahout those quite yet.