Stacey Effman and Amy Koenigsberger, co-founders of 12|12, set out to create a clothing company that puts out minimalist, comfortable, organic baby and children’s clothing they kept looking for but couldn’t find anywhere else. Amy and Stacey shared their brand’s story, the collaborative effort behind their success, and some wisdom they’ve picked up along the way with us.
Hi ladies! We’re smitten with your children’s clothing line 12|12 and love the story behind it. We love to see mamas working together! Tell us how this collaboration came to be.
Amy has extensive experience in the fashion world, having spent much of her career at companies like Theory and Bloomingdale’s. But when she had children (two boys, now 9 and 12), she found out that both of her sons suffered from multiple food and skin allergies. She began looking around for organic clothing that would be gentle on the their skin, but couldn’t find high quality designs that reflected her own modern and clean aesthetic. And so, along with her friend Stacey (a graphic designer by trade and with two kids, 2 and 5 years old), we came up with the concept of 12|12, a better line of organic clothing with a cool, fresh look that we feel good about dressing our kids in everyday.
You’re incredibly conscious in the creation of your products. Tell us more about how 12|12 baby clothes differ from others on the market.
We took our time to develop an organic line that we truly believe is superior. We start with the absolute best fabric: 100% organic Peruvian pima cotton, which is a long staple luxury fiber that only grows in Peru where the weather and soil conditions are ideal. The result is a super soft-hand feel that is gentle on a baby’s skin. The other benefit of fabric this soft is that it glides over wriggly limbs MUCH easier than conventional cotton fabric, a true time-saver with toddlers who are so tough to get dressed!
We also use Oeko-Tex certified dyes to create our colors, meaning that an independent party certifies them free of 100+ potentially harmful chemicals and substances. We are really picky about the color palette we develop. For years, the tendency in baby clothing was to offer items in only white, pink or baby blue. And then, toddler styles often come in very bright, saturated colors and prints with loads of embellishments. We wanted to do something different by offering an array of modern, tasteful and complementary colors that make for easy mixing and matching and are mostly gender neutral.
Now going into our third year, we’re focused on adding unique, fresh prints to the line. This fall we launched a really cool “Smarty Pants” capsule, which is made up of our “Code” and “Quantum” prints, both inspired by the amazing efforts to expose children to STEM learning. We also just launched our first exclusive print for holiday, including the “Mama Bear” which is crazy cute and comes in PJs and blankets. More to come for Valentine’s Day and Spring 2019, so stay tuned!
When did you learn that you could take your relationship beyond friendship and move into business partner territory?
We met through our husbands and were really just acquaintances in the beginning. Our friendship developed through the business. We both had a passion for starting a brand we truly believed in, and that is where our bond began. Now neither of us could imagine working with anyone else!
Do you have “ground rules” for working as co-founders or have you developed specific strategies for working so closely together?
We are working towards the same goal on a daily basis, and we keep our values at the forefront of our mind whenever we make a decision. They remain our “true north” whenever we are stuck and have a difficult decision to make. We always ask ourselves, “is this right for our brand?”
Tell us more about how your strengths differ. How do your skill sets complement each other as you run a business together?
We are complete opposites in terms of our skill sets. It works out well for us. Amy is a numbers person and Stacey handles more of the creative and web work. Amy covers everything Stacey doesn’t know about running a business (projections, margins, etc), and Stacey covers the design and creative aspects that fall outside of Amy’s wheelhouse.
Why do you think it’s empowering for women to collaborate and work together?
Our company is currently made up of five employees, all of whom are women. It’s absolutely empowering everyday to see that our little group can come up with amazing inventive ideas, solve difficult problems, and just generally get sh*t done. Most of us are also mothers, juggling the demands of work, family, the kids’ schools etc. We understand how hard it is to manage all of this, so we support each other fully and do so without ego because we all know that there’s just no time for the BS! This is what we love about working with other women and mothers.
How do you handle challenges?
We have certainly had a couple of hiccups (to say the least). We buckle down and get to work on addressing the issue, and we try not to harp on the negative but rather use our energy to come up with a solution. We try to learn from our mistakes and grow from them.
What is the best career advice you’ve ever been given?
We’ve been fortunate to have had conversations with a few successful business owners, all of whom have given different but empowering advice. But one that does stick out is “have patience.” In a world where immediate gratification is king, it can be useful to remind ourselves that “overnight successes” are often the result of years of preparation and work.
You have an amazing give back program; for every purchase made, you donate an item to Baby2Baby.
We knew from day one that we wanted to create a high quality organic product that was available to all babies, not just the families that can afford to pay the premium for organic. So with every purchase on our site, Amazon, or through our retail partners, we donate an item from our collection to Baby2Baby, an amazing LA-based charity dedicated to providing children in need with the basic necessities. It is our incredible and loyal customers that make this possible and we are constantly inspired by their consistent support of this effort. We always feel that we need to give more!!!
What has been your most valuable marketing tool to date? Where should brand-new startups focus their resources?
As moms, we know the value of the recommendation of your closest friends. Early on, instead of focusing on paid ads we put our efforts into getting our products into the hands of moms and influencers. We also focused on creating partnerships with brands that inspire us, like Goop, Tata Harper and Coola.
What role has community played in growing your business?
Our community has been a huge support for the brand. Our friends and family were our first fans and continue to be ambassadors by helping spread the word. We love to participate in local fundraisers by donating gift cards and items from our collection for raffle prizes. We also helped a local non-profit source and produce t-shirts for their camp for underprivileged girls. We would love to find even more ways to be involved in our community.
Running your own business and being a mother is all consuming. How do you manage your time between work and family? Do you have any “non-negotiable”?
We used to think that we had balance (lol!), spending a lot of time with the kids and still finding enough time to get work done. But lately with the growth of 12|12 it’s become more challenging. We’ve come to realize that balance is a very difficult thing to achieve. We both try to be as present as possible when we’re with family, so that time spent is quality and not diluted by distractions. And vice versa, when it comes to work.
Stacey’s non-negotiable is the time spent laying in bed right before she falls asleep reading a book. Also, getting up in the morning before the kids wake up is key because that’s when ours minds are clearest and the house is so peacefully quiet. It helps to get a head start on the day’s to-do list.
Amy’s non-negotiable is “me time,” which has gotten easier as her children get older. “Me time” can be a long run, a workout class, or a Saturday night dinner out. A massage and a great book never hurt either!
We both read the book No Drama Discipline. One of the larger takeaways is to get on a child’s eye level when talking to them. It lets them know that you respect what they’re saying and that you are truly listening to them.
Choose your battles. Sometimes, you have to let them pick an outfit that you wouldn’t usually let them leave the house in. Wearing a pajama top to school will not hurt anyone.
Easy, simple clothing, for them and US! We wear the same type of clothing we sell at 12|12: minimalist, comfortable, quality pieces that go with everything. It saves so much time in the morning!