It’s hard to find cool clothing for breastfeeding. Clothes you can feel comfortable nursing in are unflattering. It’s hard to look professional and pump easily at work. Dressing up for a wedding while nursing is nearly impossible and stylish clothes rarely offer discreet access. Andrea, designer and founder of Leche Libre, set out to create a solution to this problem.
Andrea created Leche Libre to provide stylish quality clothing for easy discreet nursing wherever, whenever you and your baby want. The unique design provides zippers down the bust seams to allow you to easily access and control the amount of exposure during nursing.
Leche Libra’s garments are made from a blend of organic hemp, reclaimed fibers and spandex which creates a fitted, sophisticated profile to show off our curves while providing the comfort you desire. They source American made zippers and hardware and their dresses are proudly designed and hand-made in Chicago.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Andrea about her small mom business, life, and family. Here is what she had to say:
PM: When was your company founded and where are you based?
A: Leche Libre launched its online boutique in December of 2014 and is located in Chicago, IL
PM: How many are involved in your company?
A: Leche Libre is a one woman shop! I am currently partnering with a small woman owned production sewing company in Chicago for my manufacturing, but other then that, I do everything else. I’m the CEO, CFO, Creative Director, Director of Marketing, the nanny for my kids and I get the coffee and do the dishes. Ha!
PM: What inspired you to start your company?
A: I was inspired to start Leche Libre after the birth of my two children. I found it really hard to find clothing it was easy to breastfeed in. After having kids, I felt like my whole life changed and I felt really resentful that my personal style had to change as well just to accommodate easy breastfeeding. I saw women everywhere struggling with breastfeeding in public and I felt that the lack of stylish BF specific clothing was directly tied to this problem.
I decided something needed to be done about this. I had just started learning sewing so I started experimenting with altering patterns and making my own clothes. While wearing my dresses, I would often have long conversations with people at parties or on mass transit where they had no idea I was nursing the whole time. I got such positive feedback on my dresses that I decided to go for it and teach myself fashion design and how to start a fashion line!
PM: Did you have a background in business prior to starting your company?
A: NO! I had only very basic skills in sewing and I had NO skills in fashion design, fashion business, production or merchandising. I’ve learned it all on the fly. I believe in what I’m doing, and I keep an eye out for where I want to be. Most of the time, I’m flying down the road by the seat of my pants, just improvising in the moment. By keeping an eye on my goals, I find, I eventually get there, even if I don’t know what the heck I’m doing when I start.
I feel passionately about normalizing public breastfeeding not only to empower moms but as a way of fighting the objectification of women’s bodies in general. Breasts are specifically meant for breastfeeding, so if we can break down the cultural barriers to public breastfeeding we can empower women in general to reclaim ownership of our own bodies. This passion has helped me push through the fear and insecurities of starting a business in a field where I had no experience.
PM: Did you run into any problems or resistance while launching?
A: Uhm. Yes. I have no idea where to begin to answer this. Ha! There are endless problems and endless mistakes made when you’re starting out. Its hard not to get sucked into them. Starting this business has been such a huge exercise for me in establishing my self worth as completely separate from my business. Because with all the problems you have to face, its easy to get sucked into the negativity hole. I just try to keep going and figure out each small problem as I go along. For example, I started with an all organic line but realized women couldn’t pay the prices for that material. I had already ordered hundreds of yards, so I pivoted. I’m selling those dresses for less of a profit margin and I’m working on bringing my costs down. Its important to me that my line be as accessible in price as I can possibly make it. I feel like it would be totally hypocritical if I was only empowering women of an upper middle class income. My goal is to make Leche Libre as accessible as possible to as many people as possible. I try to visualize problems like this as big waves and instead of trying to stand my ground in the water, I get on my surf board and ride it out. (Well, being from Chicago, I don’t really know how to surf. But I like to imagine I do!)
PM: How do you get the most out of your day? How is your family apart of your business choices?
A: Being a Mom in business, its so important for me to keep my priorities. Work-a-holism runs in my family, so I work very hard to keep that in check and prioritize my life with my kids first. If its a beautiful day outside and I don’t have anything pressing I have to do, I play hookie and take the kids to the beach or the zoo. On days when I need to hunker down and get work done, I explain to my kids that this is really important to me and they need to give me my space. I’ve started this business all while being the sole child care provider for my two kids. My daughter just started kindergarten, but for the past three years, I’ve been developing and launching this company with them at home with me 24/7. Its been incredibly difficult but I’m really proud of doing it. I’ve always been the crazy person bringing my kids to networking meetings with me. People often comment on how independent my kids are and I believe it comes from them constantly seeing my working at my dream and understanding clearly that its OK for me to set boundaries for my time for me as well as my time with them. I know my growth in business is slower then it would be if I didn’t have kids. But if I didn’t have kids, not only would I not have this business, but I wouldn’t be living the life I want. So it all goes together. I take the good with the bad and roll with it.
PM: What music inspires you?
A: I used to be really into soft, melodic shoegazer indie stuff. But since having kids and starting this business, my life seems to swirl in chaos. I’m drawn to more hard edged music and listen to punk, stoner rock and doom metal. Dead moon, Black Sabbath, Sleep and Sub Rosa are played all the time now.
PM: What is your favorite thing to do when you are not working?
A: We are a bike family, so my family and I cruise around, exploring Chicago on bike. I also love to PARTY. It gives me an odd thrill to take my kids to adult parties and integrate my family life with my pre-baby social life. I don’t go out anywhere near as much as I used to of course, but I like to do it, because its good for me, its good for the kids to interact with adults. I also think it helps break down stereotypes with my friends about what you’re “supposed” to do as a parent. I think we should all define that for ourselves. I also like to ride my motorcycle and hang out with my Chicago women’s Moto club The Bleeders. Vroom
PM: What do you see in the future for your shop?
A: I’m working to develop my line. In addition to the line of dresses I have available now, I’m working on a line of causual street wear inspired shirts/top and sweatshirts. I’m trying to get financing to grow my line. Right now I’m also working on partnering with an amazing non-profit in India which houses homeless and trafficked women and trains them with the professional skills in production sewing. I passionately believe in empowering women and thats on both sides of the process, consumers and manufacturers. I will always do my best to partner with women owned business which promote professional women as much as I can.
EDITORS NOTE – Leche Libre have a kickstarter as of August 2016 and are almost at their goal! Click to find out more!