A modern lifestyle brand redefining motherhood
Photo by Jessica Jacobson

How 3 generations of women created a clothing busines that celebrates textiles—and tradition

What does it take to go from business idea to lady boss?


This new column features an entrepreneur, who happens to be a mom, each week—walking us through the process of how you too can take your ideas from dream to reality.

If you missed our last article featuring Lorene from Glitter and Spice, a teething jewelry company with wicked growth, on how testing and prototyping helped her hack her success, you can read it here. This week, we’re discussing the third step every entrepreneur needs to make on her journey: Building a supply chain.

This week brings something special: Two generations of lady bosses, a mother and daughter, working together to create a business that’s uniquely theirs.

Cynthia Bennett, and her daughter Meera Bennett, have created Devon’s Drawer, a children’s clothing line that combines old school whimsy with high-quality craftsmanship, while honoring the working families their company employs.

With looks like that, what’s not to love?

Cynthia has a long personal and professional history with textiles; she learned the art of clothing design from her mother, great-aunt, and grandmother, and has a degree in Costume History and Textile Arts.

Her daughter Meera works on marketing and communications within Devon’s Drawer.

Devon’s Drawer (named after Cynthia’s grandson, Devon), began four years ago when Cynthia went home to take care of her own mother.

It was there Cynthia discovered a closet chock full of the most beautiful clothing. There were wool dresses from the 1950’s and 60’s, sequined cashmere sweaters made in Hong Kong, and custom made dresses made by local dress makers. The fabric, the textures, the quality of craftsmanship stunned her. It was a type of beauty that was missing from the current world of throwaway fashion.

And it inspired a children’s clothing company based on the values of timeless quality (and adorable styling.)

What began as up-cycling items for her grandson has grown into a brand that values quality over quantity, and clothing that tells its own story, woven through the very fibers of the fabric.

And from the inspiration of Cynthia’s mother’s wardrobe to dressing little Devon—That’s three generations represented in the business, if you’re counting.

Isn’t that magical?

Today, Devon’s Drawer is carried in a dozen retail locations across North America. The brand is cherished for its beautiful fabrics, unique cuts, and commitment to ethically produced products. This year their sales are projected to grow by 40% over last year—powerful stuff, especially considering the business began with zero startup capital.

I chatted with Meera and Cynthia about how and why they created the brand, and the work that was involved in creating a supply chain they could be proud of—

What does Devon’s Drawer do/make?

Cynthia: We make children’s clothes and we use natural fabrics to do so.

Meera: My mom does all the design, and I’d say she does most of the grunt work. I help with the branding and communications. But my mom’s clothing line was really inspired by her family. She had to fly home about five years ago because her mother was sick. She started finding all these beautiful baby clothes –

Cynthia: No! It was her clothes! In her closet! Not baby clothes.

Meera: Right. So then she started using them as inspiration for making clothes for my son, Devon. Now I have two kids: Devon, and then Emily who just turned one. But back then it was just Devon.

Cynthia: I had already decided a long, long time ago to design clothing for women. But it got really complicated, really quickly, and I couldn’t find the balance. Meera was a young baby at the time and it was really hard. After a couple of years I just couldn’t find a way to make it work. At that time I lived on Saltspring Island, which was two ferry rides from Vancouver.

Meera: Mom was a total back-to-the-land hippie.

Cynthia: And, Vancouver didn’t even have a design scene back then, so I was literally doing this on my own. And I had NO idea what I was doing. So at that time I said, “I’m choosing motherhood.”

These days there’s a lot more information out there for starting a business. As well, I was really young, and back then I didn’t have the “Why?” at that point.

Did the two of you start the business together?

Cynthia: Well Meera was the one who kept telling me that I should be doing this. She was there from the beginning, along with my other kids, but she’s really come into the foreground in the last year. She’s worked hard to create a warm voice for Devon’s Drawer that had been missing.

When your company

needs to grow, what do you look for in a good fit employee?

Cynthia: Somebody has to really get what we’re doing, and

they have to have the right skillset. For example for us, we make wool coats,

and sewing woolens is a dying art because most people these days like to make

clothing out of knits. They also have to LOVE the stuff. They have to take pride

in their work, and want to share in our success. We are looking to create a

real connection with our employees.

We are looking to create a real connection with our employees.

We spend a lot of time together so we have to not only enjoy

each other’s company, but also work efficiently together.

Communication both verbal and written is actually huge as

well. It sounds like a small thing, but it’s not. With things being so fast

moving, and me travelling often, understanding each other becomes a priority.

Meera: The other thing I’ve really noticed with those who

you’ve created a long-term working relationship with, mom, is that you guys

really build a community with Devon’s Drawer. They’re really invested in your

success, and you’re likewise invested in their success. You’re both building

each other up.

Cynthia: Absolutely. Community is really important in

everything we do. Our employees are part of our community. It’s not a one-way

street.

What are all the

components of your supply chain, and how does everything fit together?

Cynthia: For me, the biggest focus is the actual fabric, and

I spend a lot of time, more than I should, on sourcing fabric. Because for me,

that’s where the inspiration for the pieces comes from.

My background is in textile history actually so where the

fabric comes from is a priority for me. So if I’ve got someone who’s doing

organics, I have to know where it comes from, who grew the cotton, and where is it

being processed, all the way through.

I like to work with people who have more vertical supply chains so I feel confident about the fabric.

To me that’s key. It’s the basis of what we do, and in fact,

“the Why” of what we do. The textile industry is one of the biggest polluters

of the planet. I could go on about this topic but I won’t.

I spend a lot of time on buttons, too. Where are they from?

What country? If they’re made of shells - how were those shells collected?

Meera: Were shells are happy? Did they have friends?

Cynthia: And sometimes plastic is a better option! It’s

true! I spend a lot of time trying to balance it all out.

Meera: You spend endless time sourcing fabric mom, but I

feel like once the fabric gets to you that your supply chain is fairly tightly

integrated. You have the fabric arrive in LA, have it dyed in LA, then it goes

to your factory, also in LA. And then they ship it from the factory.

Cynthia: Yes. There’s also a couple of other things that

have to come together before the pieces head to the factory for manufacturing.

First we have the patterns. The idea for the pattern goes from me to the

pattern maker, and then we test out that piece. Then, it gets graded – which

means sized. Once that’s completed then everything gets cut, again here in LA. Meera’s

right; once everything’s here in California, it does all get done in a two mile

radius. It’s a huge unique point for us.

Meera: It’s really important to us to have pieces that are,

as much as possible, made close to home.

Cynthia: It’s funny; it’s sometimes like a game of

telephone, you know the children’s game? Every time you let go of something and

let someone do something for you, they add their own little bit. So I’ve kept

it really tight because I don’t want things to vary to any large degree. Like,

a quarter inch difference on a collar, on a kid, makes a huge difference.

What would you say is the biggest difficulty in creating and sustaining your supply and manufacturing?

Cynthia: It actually has a lot to do with confidence. I need to have confidence in my work, all the way through the process, and not give up on my vision. Several times I’ve had the thought, “Oh they must know more than I know.”

So my biggest difficulty is believing in myself, while not being stubborn. It’s a fine line.

What process do you take to vet your suppliers and manufacturers?

Cynthia: I look to see what work they’ve done. And instead of going on what they say, I call up their other customers and ask them about their experience. Because people tend to tell you whatever they think you want to hear.

I want to know if they were reliable, if they were on time, and equally as important, how did they treat you, as a contract? How was their communication, and how organized were they?

I have to make sure they’ve worked with people that I respect.

Meera: And I know one more thing you really look for is having everything made in America as much as you can.

Have you ever had any major manufacturing disasters?

Cynthia: We had a problem with one of our coats last year and didn’t notice until one of our stockists mentioned that there was something wrong. I really respected him—the store owner—and he sent the coats back. We looked into them when we received them back and the sewers had sewn the collars on a quarter of an inch off. That makes a huge difference on a child’s coat.

My production manager wanted to know if I would continue to do business with that particular store and the answer was, of course, yeah! He spent a lot of time going back and forth. He really worked through the issue with me. Those are the type of partnerships I’m looking for. He’s basically at the end of my supply chain, but so essential to our success.

How important would you say confidence is in creating a product line and starting your own business?

Cynthia: It’s really, really important. And there’s a really fine line between confidence and vanity project. I can’t tell you which we are yet.

Someone said to me recently, “That sounds like a wonderful creative outlet.” And it’s not. It’s not a creative outlet, it’s a business, that happens to be creative.

The confidence I have in my design is there. The confidence I have in developing a business is there. But I can’t do it alone, and that’s where community comes in.

My kids are the closest I have to remembering what I said when I’m feeling less confident. They remind me of where I am going, and what the company is about.

Meera: As an entrepreneur, you will get told “No.” over and over and over again. But sometimes people say yes.

Mom: As an entrepreneur, you’re constantly creating your own world.

How does being a mother impact the way you run your business?

Meera: It’s made me much better at multi-tasking. Although sometimes I worry that I’m too good at it and I’m doing too many things at the same time – not putting enough attention on any one thing. I feel like I’m doing a lot of things off the side of my desk. Which is good and bad!

And the other thing is, that being a mom has given me a lot more sympathy towards other moms that I’m working with.

I understand if people don’t get back to me right away for example – I get it.

Cynthia: I’ve been a mom for so long now! I remember when I was at Meera’s stage, multitasking all the time. I found that now I really enjoy doing one thing at a time. I got so into multi-tasking at one point that I almost couldn’t do anything unless I was doing ten things at once.

Now because I don’t have kids at home any more I’m finding it really great to be able to focus on one thing at a time.

I also have a lot of empathy for people who have working families. I know what that’s like.

Is there any one piece of advice you’d give to aspiring lady bosses?

Meera: Mom and I were talking about this question before the interview and kind of laughing about it.

Because if we can do it, I think literally anyone can.

My mom made all of our clothing growing up, so she already had the skills. But she had zero start up capital. She had an idea of what she wanted to do, but she had no money to do it. So she got very clear about her vision that she wanted for the business early on. She had to!

So I think anyone can do it, but you need to have a very clear vision of what you want. There’s going to be so many things that could potentially sidetrack you.

Cynthia: I agree. Having a very clear vision, and maybe, don’t quit your day job until you have to. At one point you’re going to be so crazy busy that you can afford to let that job go. But at the start you’ll need some way of funding your vision.

For me, it took a long time to come to the “Why.” I’m not talking about superficial things. I mean really - Why do this as opposed to anything else? Knowing that early on is important.


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Just because new moms aren't hitting the gym doesn't mean they aren't doing one of the most demanding workouts of all: It takes about 20 calories to produce one ounce of milk. So, with babies who down ounces upon ounces each day, that means breastfeeding mothers can easily burn hundreds of calories almost literally in their sleep.

All that hard work can result in quite an appetite, which can have new moms reaching for whatever is most convenient. But convenience doesn't have to come at the cost of good nutrition, taste and lactation-boosting powers—as proven by the delicious Booby Boons Lactation Cookies from Stork and Dove.

"Nourishing your body is just as important now as it was when you were pregnant. Not only are you recovering from pregnancy and birth, you are making milk to sustain your baby—and all the thousands of other things you do for them every single day," says Diana Spalding, Motherly's Birth Expert, midwife and pediatric nurse. "You are working so hard, mama. You deserve to fuel your body with the best—and it doesn't hurt when the best also happens to be delicious."

Here's why these little cookies are such lactation powerhouses:

Oats

The natural goodness of oats does so much more than make for tasty cookies. Considered to be a top galactagogue—or a substance that helps boost milk supply—oats are rich in iron, fiber and protein. Because low iron can reduce milk supply, mixing a scoop of oats into lactation cookies is a tasty way to give your body the boost it may need.

Nutritional yeast

For generations, nutritional yeast has been a remedy suggests to mamas looking to boost their milk supply. And for good reason: With protein, phytoestrogen and B12 found in fortified versions, nutritional yeast can provide nutrients to stimulate milk supply—while also offering a boost of energy.

Flax meal

Rich in Omega-3 fatty acids, flaxseed is good for the brain health of mothers and babies. Not to mention that with a nice nutty taste and great protein profile, they make nice additions to lactation cookies by helping you stay full longer.

Chia seeds

When it comes to lactation cookies and promoting brain development, varied sources of Omega-3 fatty acids are so helpful—and chia seeds deliver there. Found in some of the Booby Boons Lactation Cookies, chia seeds also deliver protein, calcium and magnesium.

Probiotics

Few things can take a toll on milk supply like when you're under the weather. Booby Boons+ Lactation Cookies provide a probiotic boost, keeping your immune system up and digestive health in check for better production—and a healthier-feeling mama.

Bonus: A sense of relaxation and ease is clinically proven to aid in milk production.

Even better, the cookies are wheat-, soy- and preservative-free! So grab a cookie, take a moment for yourself and boost that supply. Grab your cookies HERE or at Target and other fine retailers.

This article was sponsored by Stork and Dove. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

Baking Christmas cookies together is a family tradition for many, but the Centers for Disease Control is warning parents that if your recipe contains raw flour or raw eggs, you really shouldn't sneak a bite before it is cooked, and neither should your kids.

The CDC is warning people not to eat raw cookie dough, cake mix or bread as we head into prime baking season.

The agency acknowledges the appeal of a spoonful of chocolate chip goodness but asks that we "steer clear of this temptation—eating or tasting unbaked products that are intended to be cooked, such as dough or batter, can make you sick."

Salmonella from raw eggs is, of course, a concern, and so is the raw flour. According to the CDC, flour needs to be cooked in order to kill germs like E.Coli. That's why the CDC is asking parents to "say no to raw dough," not just for eating but even for playing with.

"Children can get sick from handling or eating raw dough used for crafts or play clay, too," the CDC posted on its website.

On the Food and Drug Administration's website, that agency advises that "even though there are websites devoted to 'flour crafts,' don't give your kids raw dough or baking mixes that contain flour to play with." Health Canada also states that raw flour should not be used in children's play-dough.

The warnings follow a 2016 E.coli outbreak linked to contaminated raw flour. Dozens of people got sick that year, and a post-outbreak report notes that "state investigators identified three ill children who had been exposed to raw flour at restaurants in Maryland, Virginia, and Texas. Restaurant staff had given them raw dough to play with while they waited for their food to be served."

The CDC worries that with flour's long shelf life, products recalled during the 2016 outbreak may still be in people's pantries (although the CDC notes that any raw flour—recalled or otherwise—should not be consumed).

If your kids do have flour-based play dough, don't worry.

Some parents are still choosing to use flour-based craft dough to make Christmas ornaments or other crafts this holiday season and are reducing the risks by A) making sure the kids aren't eating their art, and B) thoroughly washing little hands, work surfaces, and utensils when the dough play is over.

Other parents are choosing other types of craft clay over flour-based dough.


During the 2016 outbreak, the FDA called for Americans to abstain from raw cookie dough, an approach Slate called "unrealistic and alarmist," noting that "the vast, vast majority of people who consume or touch uncooked flour do not contract E. coli or any other infection."

Two years ago, 63 Americans were made sick by E. coli infections linked to raw flour, according to the CDC. We don't know exactly how many Americans ate a spoonful of cookie dough or played with homemade play dough that year, but we do know that more than 319 million Americans did not get sick because of raw flour.

Are there risks associated with handling and consuming raw flour? Yes, absolutely, but it's not something to panic over.

Bottom line: Don't let your kids eat raw dough when they're helping you bake cookies for Santa, and be mindful of raw flour when choosing crafts for kids.

(And if you have just got to get your raw cookie dough fix, the CDC notes that cookie dough flavored ice cream is totally safe as it "contains dough that has been treated to kill harmful bacteria." Sounds like mama's getting Ben & Jerry's tonight.)

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Twinkling lights are everywhere I look, and the magic of the holiday season is filling our house. The kids are growing more excited each day anticipating Santa's arrival and gifts are accumulating, ready to be wrapped in beautiful paper and bows.

Elf and The Grinch have been playing on repeat and the nativity scene has found a safe spot among our decorations. It's one of the busiest times of the year and it can be hard to catch your breath in the hustle and bustle of it all.

But then something stops you.

Maybe it's a pang in your heart or a memory of someone dearly missed. Maybe it's a familiar feeling of emptiness—of wanting this person to be a part of this magical, joy-filled time of year.

It's so easy to forget that many people are struck with sadness around the holidays and are longing for someone who's missing from their lives. We give and give to our families and friends and communities this time of year—food for dinners, and toys for less-fortunate children—but people don't always realize that another type of giving is needed.

The gift of comfort.

Because someone who is missing their mother, father, brother, sister, child, friend or spouse needs your connection and warmth. They need a reminder of their loved one is not forgotten, and maybe above all—just needs a hug.

Family traditions are wonderful and cherished, but they can also feel incomplete when someone is missing.

For me, I love the holidays, and watching my kids experience all the joys this season has to offer truly fills my heart. Yet, not a Christmas goes by that I don't think about what Kendrick (my first child lost at 2 months old) would have thought of this time of year.

Would he have loved hot cocoa like his sister and brothers? Would he have gotten into all the ornaments on the tree as a toddler? What toys would he have asked Santa for? What Christmas wishes would he have made for others?

I am left to wonder these things without answer. And even though I fully embrace this time of year and relish the holidays, I can't help but miss him.

I wanted to share my story as a reminder that even though your holiday cup may be filled with joy, someone you know may be wrestling with sadness. With all the merry and bright and cups of cheer, it's important to be mindful of this and to treat people with extra care. Reach out to someone you know who has lost someone, and let them know you're thinking of them. It won't go unnoticed.

Many of us have dealt with loss at some point in our lives, and we've learned to carry these special people in our hearts so that they are always with us. But missing someone never goes away. There are so many experiences in our lives we wish we could just snap our fingers and have them right by our sides—the holidays being one of those.

So as you check off your shopping lists, make your donations, trim your tree, or light your menorah—please don't forget to show care to those who may be hurting a little this holiday season.


They're certainly in a position where they could buy every item on their kids' Christmas lists, but Mila Kunis and Ashton Kutcher aren't planning on piling up the presents under the Christmas tree this year.

"So far, our tradition is no presents for the kids," Kunis said in an interview with Entertainment Tonight. Mom to 4-year-old daughter, Wyatt, and 2-year-old son Dmitri, Kunis says she and Kutcher are determined to not raise entitled kids—and are learning from the mistakes of Christmases past.

“We've told our parents, 'We're begging you: If you have to give her something, pick one gift,'" Kunis said. “'Otherwise, we'd like to take a charitable donation, to the Children's Hospital or a pet... Whatever you want.' That's our new tradition."

The minimalist Christmas that Kunis and Kutcher embrace makes sense on a lot of levels: It teaches kids how to be more mindful consumers, removes the emphasis on material goods... And saves you from those chaotic trips to the mall.

Going without presents doesn't mean going without

Putting a halt on presents these upcoming holidays is one way to reinforce what the season is really about: Spending quality time together as families and cherishing what we already have. But "no presents" doesn't mean "no fun," either.

Some of our favorite non-material gift suggestions include:

  • Experiences
  • Lessons
  • College contributions
  • Coupon booklets
  • Piggy bank donations
  • Gifts for others

Or you could take a cue from Kunis and Kutcher without going all the way: Maybe you only focus on one or two quality gifts. Or pass on anything that will likely get discarded to the bottom of the toy box before next year's holidays.

Think of Christmas gifts for kids kind of like eggnog: A little goes a long way.

[Originally published October 11, 2017]

After feeling alone and suffering silently for years, Gabrielle Union has been very open about her struggle with infertility since her memoir, We're Going to Need More Wine, came out last year. She surprised many by writing about how she'd suffered "8 or 9 miscarriages" while trying to conceive with husband Dwyane Wade, and just over a year later the couple surprised the world again by announcing they'd just welcomed a baby girl via surrogate.

Union's story is incredible, and one so many women needed to hear, and that's why Oprah's OWN network just aired a sit-down interview special with Union and Wade: Oprah at Home with Gabrielle Union, Dwyane Wade & Their New Baby.

(The audio version of the interview drops in two parts on 'Oprah's SuperSoul Conversations' podcast on Monday, December 10, and Wednesday, December 12.)

The interview, which first aired over the weekend, saw Union open up about how the years of IVF treatments and disappointment left her questioning everything she knew. "I've just always been of the mindset — because this is what people tell you: 'You work hard, you do the right things, you're a good person, it will happen for you,' eventually," Union, 46, told Oprah.

"I could not let go of this idea of creating this life within me," Union explains, adding that she felt the "need to be pregnant for everybody, including myself."

As the medical interventions escalated, Wade became worried. "I'm watching her do things to her body and to herself that it's getting to the point where it's not healthy," he told Oprah, adding that he always told Union that he wanted a baby as much as she did, but that he married her and that she was the most important thing to him.

"So it came to a point where, you know, I started to feel a certain way about that because I didn't want something to happen to her," Wade told Oprah.

So when the couple decided to explore surrogacy, Wade was pleased to see the medical part of his wife's journey come to an end.

When the couple surprised the world by announcing the birth of their daughter, Kaavia James, Union was puzzled by comments that insinuated the skin-to-skin photo she used in the birth announcement was an attempt to "act like" she'd been pregnant herself, or that she really had been pregnant herself.

She notes she never tried to make it seem like she'd been pregnant, as she explained her daughter was born via surrogate in the caption for that photo, which was taken after the surrogate had a C-section.

"Our surrogate went into recovery, and we were able to go immediately into another hospital room," Union told Oprah. "I had one of my New York & Company sweaters on, but skin-to-skin was kind of hard. And because the doctors kept coming in…it was easier to have skin to skin in a hospital gown."

Wade said he found the comments painful. "I think for me the most hurtful thing was once we had the baby, and everyone started talking about why is she in the bed holding the baby, why does she have a gown on, why is she acting that she just had a baby," Wade said.

Union and Wade say they hope talking about their story will help others tell theirs, and know that they are not alone. "So many people are suffering in silence and every time, when we're candid and transparent about our journeys, no matter what those journeys are, you are allowing people to be seen and heard and empowered in ways that they've never been," Union told Oprah.

She may have felt alone during her journey to motherhood, but by telling her story, Union is making sure other mamas don't.

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