The Mompreneur Series: When Mom is the CEO
Pat and Kat Gillespie, the mother-daughter team at Carry Maternity in Toronto, share what makes their relationship work so smoothly. Any fireworks they create together go into the beautiful and easy-to-wear designs for their Carry label, as this duo knows how to treat each other’s ideas with respect.
Take the camo print sweatshirt that was such a blogger favourite for Carry Maternity last season. During a fabric appointment, Kat really pushed for the camo print while Pat was unsure about buying it. But she listened to her daughter’s street-smart fashion instincts and it ended up being a very successful piece.
“Our relationship is truly collaborative,” says Kat. “Ideas can come from both sides. When we do disagree, we don’t dance around the problems. If we need a break, we’ll take a step back and come at it again later with a clear head. We can say what we’re thinking instead of just burying it.”
Since joining Carry Maternity, initially part-time while she finished her business degree at Humber College, Kat gradually moved into buying before becoming Pat’s co-designer and partner. Kat earned respect by bringing in her own ideas to improve the business and then working independently to get them done. The first area she tackled was creating the buying book, a catalog of everything the team purchases for the following season. She currently also handles social media and messaging for the business.
“Kat recently thanked me for not being a helicopter parent,” says Pat. “My parenting style was to give Kat and her brother a lot of freedom to make their own mistakes because I really did want them to trust themselves and be independent. That’s how my parents raised me too.”
Growing up, Kat took inspiration from her mother’s accomplishments as a designer and entrepreneur, but also from Pat’s honesty about harder times.
“That created a balance in my head, that all good things come with struggle,” says Kat. “One thing I know about entrepreneurs is that the fear of failure doesn’t hold them back. There are concerns and calculations, but they’re willing to risk and experiment.”
One question the mother and daughter team are often asked is, “Why maternity wear?”
For Pat, it’s about the ongoing challenge of ensuring quality and precise fit, so that garments will look good from the early first bump to full term.
“It's such as such a pleasure to know that you do make a difference–and I know how much of a difference you can make with the right fit and clothes that flatter the body,” says Pat. “Confidence is really the most beautiful thing that a woman can carry.”
For Kat, it’s natural after seeing her mother involved in fashion and designing for the pregnant form for so many years. She relates easily to the customers who come in to shop and is passionate about making sure they’re getting the best possible products.
“Fashion is such an important thing to me, I can understand why a pregnant woman wouldn’t lose that passion to look good,” says Kat. “My mom and I share the same values in terms of quality and wanting to make beautiful clothes.”
- Diane Jermyn