By Chea Waters Evans
Some might think that being a mother, a wife, and having a full-time job is nothing special. But as many mothers will tell you, simply getting through a day can require extraordinary effort. Vermont transplant Marie-Michelle Gaudreau is a mom and entrepreneur who is tackling the competitive world of online retail. “I am inspired by extraordinary women,” she shares.
With her business partner and lifelong friend, Julie Harvey, Gaudreau recently launched Minou Kids, an online children’s clothing boutique. Because children aren’t the ones actually shopping online, Gaudreau and Harvey aimed to make their site not only a place to buy unique clothes, gifts, and toys, but a place where women could check out her blog and peruse her other interests. “I want to share the things that inspire me,” Gaudreau says.
Minou Kids’ tiny pants, cheeky t-shirts, soft blankets, and handmade dolls are all chic sweetness. Despite the heavy workload and the complicatedness of launching a brand, Gaudreau loves what does. “It’s such a fascinating world and it’s very fast-paced,” she explains. She approaches the hard work of running her own business with a sense of humor and an optimistic spirit; the word “minou” captures her attitude as well as the essence of their brand. The English translation of this French term is “kitten,” but it connotes someone who is a little bit naughty and a little bit adorable.
Before she had her son, Felix, now age two, Gaudreau worked in marketing at Burton Snowboards, where she was a central figure in launching the company’s first retail locations. After Felix’s birth, she had trouble finding clothes for him that combined childhood whimsy with a cooler attitude. Harvey, whose own family was growing, had the same problem, and Minou Kids was born. Focusing on “brands [they] loved when [their] kids were babies,” the women strive to provide options other than traditional puppies-and-kittens attire without moving too far into the unusual. “We try to sell clothes that are fun to wear [and] easy,” Gaudreau says.
Gaudreau originally moved to Vermont with her husband, George Ewins, a Shelburne native. Harvey met her husband, a proprietor of the Vermont Country Store, through Ewins and Gaudreau and ended up moving to Vermont as well. The support from the Vermont Country Store proved to be an essential part of starting Minou Kids, as the company performs all warehouse functions for the shop. “It is time-consuming to pack and ship [for a startup],” Gaudreau says, “and we’re lucky we don’t have to do that.”
The two women are committed to using as many local resources as possible. “We are really proud that we’ve only hired local, Vermont people,” Gaudreau says. The clothing sold on the website comes from around the world, and Gaudreau and Harvey are particular about manufacturing. “One of the first questions we ask is, ‘Where you do make your stuff?’ We’re not all made in the USA, but 95 percent are either in the USA, India, or Europe,” Gaudreau says.
“Eventually we dream of having a brick and mortar somewhere,” she says. With plans to bring quirky, fun kids’ clothes to the world, Gaudreau aspires to start her own children’s clothing line and sell her own designs on Minou Kids.
Appealing to women across virtual space and reeling in customers in a competitive environment is hard work, but this extraordinary woman is up for the challenge. “There are some days when I wake up and I say, ‘Hmm…what did I do?’” she recounts, laughing. “I work like crazy, but I love it. It makes me so happy.”