Mitucha Ford recently chucked a career in film production and advertising to launch an eco-friendly baby clothing line inspired by her love of crocheting baby booties.
But these aren't just any baby booties -- Ford specializes in customized one-of-a-kind designs made from organic cotton and eco-friendly wool. As her website, thislittle.boutique, notes: "The foot of a cherub is a thing of delight, and deserves to be charmingly wrapped like the perfect little present that it is.”
The 26-year-old spoke with Name.Kitchen about her craft; transforming it into a full-time business with a whimsical name; and why a sore shoulder won't slow her down.
Have you always been so crafty?
I've always made things ever since I was little -- from making little pencils and computers for my beanie babies to making full blown costumes for my family. It's just something that's always been my passion.
How did crocheting baby booties morph into a business venture?
There was a little baby born into our family, and I decided I'd make some booties for him. I suddenly realized that I was doing the wrong thing in life – that what made me happy was being creative with my hands.
So I started crocheting on top of my other job [in film production]. I was actually having to say to people, "I'm sorry, I can't meet you this evening. I have to go home and do loads of orders." Then I realized I was actually starting to earn a little bit of money from it.
How did these initial customers find you?
Interest came through my own Facebook page, just posting up little pictures of my work. I started off doing bespoke booties, that's what grew the interest. I designed a pair inspired by an '80s band. I designed a pair based on an actual picture of a pet.
Where do you get your ideas?
I discuss with the parents, what they like, what they don't like, if they want it based on their personalities or whether they want it based on something they know they love, like a TV show or a pet or something like that. But they're mostly as gifts, I find, for the bespoke ones.
Why is using organic materials so important to you?
The cotton industry has been dubbed the world's dirtiest non-food crop. I wanted to pave the way towards a more ethical and sustainable fashion world and future.
People are open to it, but it usually comes at a higher price. I'm trying to keep my prices as low as possible, but of course buying organic cotton or eco-friendly wool is more pricey. I think if I can start it now, then hopefully as I grow, my mission to help the world and the people in it can also grow -- and inspire other people to do the same thing. I think we have to start from the beginning, even if it is a harder climb with your new business.
As you realized that you had a business on your hands, how did you go about choosing a name for it?
I didn't want anything too deep or too obvious, but at the same time it had to be relevant to baby wear. I also loved the idea of rhyming and poetry to be integrated into my brand somehow. I wrote down all sorts of things, tried to be clever with anagrams, or just putting down words I wanted to represent my brand and then seeing if I could play on that.
I bet some good stuff wound up on the cutting room floor.
Because I was working in film production and advertising, I had quite a few friends who were creative. I went to them for a bit of advice, as well. One of the funniest ones we came up with was “Bootie Cool.” Instead of “call” -- C-A-L-L -- do C-O-O-L.
A twist on “Booty Call?” That might have raised an eyebrow among people shopping for baby clothes.
[Laughter] Yes, I just thought … “I can't.”
So why “This Little ..”?
It's the first two words of [the nursery rhyme] “This Little Piggy Went to Market.” It's part of a little child's rhyme and suggests feet and toes. Everything I'm going to be making is going to be tiny and miniature. It was kind of perfect.
Why the two dots?
It was originally to suggest the rhyme, “This Little dot dot” – to suggest the continuation of it. Then it just kind of weirdly stuck because I thought it was cute.
But why not three dots? Isn't that grammatical correct?
I do get that a lot! Three just seemed too many. I'm just a bit awkward sometimes. [laughter] I just wanted to do things a bit differently.
Speaking of different, you chose an interesting URL for your website. How did you learn that ‘dot-boutique’ (.boutique) was an option?
It was around the time I designed my website, but I hadn't bought my domain name yet. I was holding off because I knew there were lots of new [options] coming up.
Originally, I was just going to go with ‘dot-london’ (.london) because I wanted to promote the fact that I was a little London company. But I was also hoping to stumble across something that suggested boutique, something small, everything done under one roof.
You got your wish, it seems. Why does ‘dot-boutique’ work for your online brand?
“This Little” doesn't tell you straightaway that this is baby wear, you need another something else to imply that. So ‘dot-boutique’ was perfect. Also, it kind of sounds a little bit like bootie, which at the time, I was just making booties.
So no reservations about straying from ‘dot-co-uk’?
I could only see the positive, really. I knew it was a new wave -- that eventually [“not-coms”] would almost be the norm.
If that's the way that everything is going and you have a great opportunity to have something that actually suggests more to your name than just ‘thislittle.co. uk’ – which does not necessarily tell you what [my business] is -- why not?
Plus, it's always met with a smile. I think it has quite a cute ring to it -- “thislittle.boutique.’ It's very cute.
You sell your merchandise at local markets, but the website is integral to expanding your customer reach. Who’s found you online?
It's really interesting who's finding me. Orders-wise, it's coming from all over. Mainly the UK at the moment. Even in the UK, people in Edinburgh who I've never had any contact with are placing orders. People in Europe, as well.
As the orders come in, have you hired additional help?
It's all me. Every single thing is me. I have to be careful because I've got a bit of a sprained shoulder right now.
And you’re still working?
It's so silly, a crocheting injury. [laughing] It's a like a repetitive strain I suppose. I need to get a massage. That's what I need. [laughing] But I haven't looked back, to be honest. I'm so happy to be able to do this!
Learn more about this business by visiting the website thislittle.boutique.