#2. The story behind: making of Konny
The very first sample built from scratch
“Try making one yourself. The one you’d love.” When my husband set my heart on fire, it was around 100 days since my baby was born. Every evening since, I went on to speak about my dream baby carrier to my husband who returned home after work-- the structure, the fabric and even the ideal price of it. I was thrilled. After about a week since I had been joyfully stretching my imagination every night, my husband finally said, “Stop planning and start doing. Anything.” That was right. It was easier said than done. (But you know no one likes to hear that…)
When I was a full-time mom, laying out ideas without any action
I didn't have much time to work as I was a full-time mom then and it took a great deal of work to take care of the baby. I breastfed and played with him all day, cleaned the house and washed clothes… All I could do was look up some information during my baby’s nap time or while he was asleep at night. In my head, I had this far-fetched but perfect vision of a beautiful product being produced in a factory (with the sound of a sewing machine whirring in the background), nicely packaged and flying off the shelves. But as I tried to start from scratch, it turned out that I had absolutely nothing or no one to refer to. To make an analogy, I shouted out that I would build a ship, but was just sitting on my hands, not knowing what to do next.
The structure of the baby carrier, blending ratio of the fabric, colors, size specifications, packaging, subsidiary materials for packaging, brand name, product name and photo shoots… Besides all these steps, I still had to figure out how to get the KC certification, choose the factory, make a contract with the warehouse and sales channels. And I realized that I didn't even start yet. Stretching my imagination was no longer fun but frustrating. As the work began to pile up, I just wanted to run away and simply avoid them. As they were broken down into specific tasks, I shifted my eyes away from them and started to focus more on housework and childcare. I had nowhere to turn to but reality.
Back then, I was on maternity leave and my husband had quit his job and was planning his next step. When he saw me sighing in front of the computer and zealously doing housework everyday, not making any moves to start a business, he said, “I don't think I can wait for you any longer. I think it would be faster for me to start something else.” I felt resentful and angry as his comments landed right in the bull’s eye. I was a woman of my word. It was just that I had never started a business before and was having a difficult time, juggling my work with housework and childcare. Then he suggested that I find a babysitter to ease the burden of housework and childcare so I can start focusing on the project.
Honestly, it was not that I resolutely chose the baby carrier business as my next career move after long deliberation. I just had an idea and was debating whether I should give it a shot. I knew a colleague who had started an online shoe store, realized that it wasn't her thing, quit with no regrets and happily returned to work. That was exactly what I wanted. I wanted to start something new, fail without too many consequences, learn from the failure, and return to work with a content heart. That was the vague image of my next step I had in mind. I had always been complaining at work when I encountered something that I couldn't find the purpose of or didn't want to do. My colleagues said to me, “Then just quit and start your own firm.” There were also moments I imagined myself starting my own business. So, whenever I was putting up with some regretful moments at work, I thought to myself that I would start my own business one day. Finally, I made up my mind. “If it is going to fail, it better fail quickly. Then I will be able to return to work with no regrets.”
I literally knew nothing about this field. Since there needed to be a fabric in order to make a baby carrier, I first went out to the Dongdaemun Fabric Market. Touring around the gigantic market with my baby in my arms, I touched, pulled and asked about the little fabric swatches.
“Excuse me, what fabric is this?”
“What kind of question is that? Daimaru, of course.”
“What is Daimaru?”
My extremely basic questions were only met by silence. Believing I wasn't prepared enough, I called it a night and just came back home after having dinner at a fish alley near the market. The next day, I did more research. I learned that I could bring fabric swatches home after asking the merchants and the minimum unit of sample fabrics was a yard. After bringing a few fabric swatches home, I pulled them and started to dig deep into studying the fabrics and processing.
Eating grilled fish, the only productive activity on my first day at Dongdaemun
I selectively chose and attached a few fabric pieces on my notebook. I also learned that I could make an order and receive them the next day. Next, I went to the dry cleaner’s near home. “Excuse me, do you make clothes here with a sewing machine?”
“Miss, you have to go to a dressmaking studio or a sample room for that. Here, we only sew the broken pieces.”
I came back and started web-surfing to find sample rooms. But there was not much information on sample rooms on the web as it was not a place for ordinary consumers. I commented on a thread of an online sewing platform and made calls here and there to find information on sample rooms. Finally, I got a number of a specialist for making kidswear samples, working nearby the Cheonggyecheon stream. I called and explained, “I am a new mom with a baby. It’s not kidswear but I want to make a baby carrier. I have a rough design of the product. Can I come visit sometime?”
“Sure, please do.”
When I heard this kind voice through the receiver, I felt like warm sunlight was shining down on me. It was the first time hearing a kind voice after all those cold responses from people who looked down on me for my ignorance.
Holding my baby in my arms, I just headed to the sample room, which was located at the very top floor of an old building in the Cheonggyecheon alley. The lady at the sample room said she had seen other moms who came to ask for a sample product like me. She asked, “Did you bring the patterns with you? Fabrics?” I answered, “I don't know exactly what a pattern is, but I will make sure to bring one next time. Fabrics as well.”
Drawing a pattern on graph paper (which wasn't supposed to be drawn this way...)
It turned out that patterns were something like a blueprint to cut out fabric on. First, I bought graph papers and drew a pattern. Then I picked seven to eight fabrics, including 100% cotton fabrics, a functional fabric widely used in yogawear and a fabric blended with spandex… The artisan seamstress at the sample room was surprised at my request to make seven baby carriers with an identical pattern but different fabrics. I had no choice. I was a person who learned through experience. And as a consumer myself, I couldn’t be assured of choosing one fabric over another before using them first.
After two weeks, I received a picture from the seamstress. There they were: the very first samples of the Konny Baby Carrier.
Made baby carriers from different fabrics for testing