Thursday, April 28

marQ: Melissa Grelo and Shayna Haddon's New Children's Clothing Line

When interviewing Melissa Grelo (cohost of CTV's The Social) a few months ago, she hinted that she would be announcing a new business venture soon...and the time has finally arrived! She and friend Shayna Haddon have just launched a brand new line of stereotype free children's clothing (no candy-toned pinks or blues) which is also kid-friendly (no tags, pesky buttons or harsh fabrics) and made of 100% organic cotton, bamboo and recycled polyester. The items range in sizes from 0-3 months to 4T - so my girls are out of luck for now!

The name of this new clothing line: marQ Designs - named after Melissa's two year old daughter Marquesa. (Their crown logo appears to be a nod to Melissa's penchant for all things royal!)

I had the chance to fire some questions at the two entrepreneurs, and here they share why these products were so important to them, how they decided on a price point, the importance of "Made in Canada", and the pros and cons of starting a business with a friend.




Out of all the possible businesses you could have launched, why was the idea of stereotype-free clothing for children so important to you? 

Melissa: To me, there is a direct link between the messages we consciously or unconsciously send children from the earliest days of their lives to what is happening in the workplace and society at large. If we want to raise empowered children, especially girls who will be leaders as women, we can’t limit them with narrow expectations of what it means to be a “girl”. The same can be said for boys. Clothes are a huge part of that messaging, especially during the most important, formative and impressionable years of a child’s life. When I had Marquesa and quickly discovered how gendered clothing was, I wanted to add more options for parents. It became clear that by creating gender-neutral, stereotype-free clothing options, kids could just be kids without the baggage of gender roles so young in life. 

Shayna: When Melissa approached me with the idea of children’s clothes, and explained to me her frustration in shopping for Marquesa, it made perfect sense immediately. I could see the business right away and could see the present gap in the marketplace. Once I became pregnant myself, I started to think about what I wanted to dress my baby in and it became even clearer. Being a business owner since 2008 with my consulting company Haddon Strategy, I have had many offers over the years to start other businesses with colleagues but I have never accepted, until marQ! It just felt right and a big part of that was doing it with Melissa.



marQ's namesake models one of their looks


We know there's a market out there for "high end" (i.e., ridiculously expensive) designer clothing for kids. Why did you choose to go with this more affordable price point? {Prices range from $19 to 60}

Melissa: What’s so challenging in the fashion/garment industry is balancing affordability and social consciousness in your manufacturing. The more “affordable” something is, there is the increased possibility that someone along the supply chain is not being paid fairly or that quality is being compromised. Conversely, maintaining a high standard of quality and workmanship means higher costs and prices for the consumer. From the outset, my co-founder Shayna Haddon and I laid out our guiding principles as a company and knew that quality was one of our top priorities. Finding a price point that works for parents and maintaining high standards of manufacturing is not always easy, so that’s why designing pieces that will last as long as possible for a fast-growing child also became a top priority. If parents are going to spend money on our clothes, we are confident they will, overall, have to buy fewer garments because ours will last over time. Why are we so confident? Marquesa has been wearing the same marQ Luxembourg harem pants for the last 6 months! That’s unheard of! 

Shayna: We firmly stand behind our “Made in Canada” messaging and quality fabrics. This means, however, we do not create pieces to be disposable clothing, but we also know that parents need a certain amount of affordability. We wanted to meet both those two needs. We offer accessible basics with some very fashion-forward, fun layered pieces that last.




How important was it to you that the products be made in Canada - when of course they could be even cheaper if made elsewhere? 

Melissa: This is one of the central tenets of marQ: Proudly designed and made in Canada. It’s true that clothing can and is made for a fraction of the cost overseas compared to costs in Canada. And yes, this means far cheaper clothing in terms of price tag and quality. But that is not marQ. We strive for quality and ensuring you get the most out of your purchase. We want to support Canadian jobs, the Canadian economy and be able to ensure 100% that standards of work and quality are top notch. We want to meet, talk to and know our manufacturers personally. We want to be able to ensure our clothing is being made to the highest standards. This is only possible when you manufacture at home in a country that has some of the most talented manufacturers in the world working in some of the best facilities in the world. 

Shayna: Extremely important! You will hear us mention it A LOT. We looked into the process of making clothing overseas and we could not guarantee the garments would be made ethically. How can we be in China or Vietnam and oversee the process? We wanted to know firsthand, the people who were making our clothing. It was one of our first key business decisions besides our name. Now, we go see our manufacturers all the time, we connect with them daily and that connection keeps the process transparent, from knitting the wool of our fabrics to cut-and-sew to packaging orders. We vote for the kind of world we want to live in every time we buy and the idea behind ‘Made in Canada’ is that we are voting for a world where the people who are making our items are making a living wage for their contribution. There is a level of transparency I think is important.




I love the business name, and I'm wondering how hard it was to come up with? Were there other contenders? 

Melissa: While I’m not usually one for nicknames, the variation of my daughter Marquesa’s name, marQ, as our business name was a no-brainer. My daughter is the inspiration behind the business. That, coupled with the aspiration all parents have for their children to ‘make their marQ’ in the world, made this one of the easiest decisions we’ve made. 

Shayna: It was so quick! Everything with marQ seemed to fall into place so easily, the name included. Melissa and I both decided to go away and think of a name separately, we came back the next day to talk and we had chosen the same name! It was uncanny, serendipitous and totally perfect. Just like every other decision we’ve made together since. But then, I am biased about how amazing my partner is!




Right now you're using neutral colours. Would you ever consider adding pinks and blues in ways that could be worn by both genders? As a teacher I see a lot of girls who like blue and boys who like pink - and the boys especially have trouble finding clothing to suit their tastes! 

Melissa: We are definitely not against colours. We LOVE colours! And yes, we hear parents of boys often say that there aren’t enough choices for boys who embrace fashion and colour. Stay tuned for new collections coming in the not-so-distant future. 

Shayna: It’s a good question indeed. And one you will have to wait a little longer to find out! But marQ our words, we have some tricks up our sleeves for those colours!





There are pros and cons to starting a business with a friend - can you share a high and a low from the process so far?

Melissa: Shayna is one of the smartest, business-savvy, caring people I know. Before we were friends, we met and worked together at a charity called Artbound. I witnessed firsthand her prowess as a creator and as a business woman. A ‘pro’ is that Shayna gives all of herself, her passion and her expertise in to marQ. Because we share the same goals and values, it’s been a joy and extremely fulfilling to work alongside her and learn so much every day. A con? We both have full-time jobs outside of marQ so being able to physically be in the same place at the same time is challenging.

Shayna: There are so many highs I don’t know which to pick! Melissa brings intelligence, vivaciousness, an amazing eye, a great business sense and so many other qualities to the table. The low is that I don’t get to see her enough in our office and often miss her dearly! That may sound cheesy but it’s true. Even before marQ happened over a year ago, I have always loved and cherished my connection with Mel.

***********

Thanks so much for opening up, ladies - and best of luck with your new venture!

You can find marQ Designs exclusively online at marQdesigns.com.




Tuesday, April 26

My New How-Will-Everything-Get-Done? Mantra

I've never been one of those bloggers to post about my absences. There are some who will write, "Sorry I didn't post yesterday!" but I don't assume that my readers - wonderful and supportive as they are - miss me that much over a short period of time.

Others post "I can't believe it's been six months! I'm totally going to make an effort to blog more often!"...and repeat six months later. Perhaps better not to draw attention to those absences?

It hasn't been *that* long for me, but I feel like This Mom Loves has certainly been quieter than usual, just because of the busy-ness of work life. In that time period, I have come up with a new mantra (I have decided that Catholics are allowed to have mantras when they are really more like prayers):

"Lord, thank you for my full, rich life."

Yes, I have been distracted by day and awake by night thinking of everything that's going on, but when you see the list, you'll realize how blessed I am:

What an honour that I get to prepare a class of young students to receive the sacrament of First Communion - including my beautiful daughter - and that we have family members who want to celebrate that occasion with her at our home that day.

How lucky that I have the opportunity to coordinate Wigs For Kids at our school, and that there are seven children and two adults making the generous donation of their hair next week - again, including my seven-year-old. (Been there, done that - this year I'm only giving up my time!)

What a gift to be entrusted with a challenging new teaching assignment next year to prepare for...if you haven't heard, I'm going to be teaching kindergarten! Of course my brain is going crazy soaking up information and thinking ahead.

I am so fortunate to be able to prepare Grade 3 students for EQAO (our provincial standardized testing)...okay, maybe I'm stretching it there.

When these pieces, mixed in with the normal responsibilities that go with parenting, friendship, home ownership and a side writing career, conspire to overwhelm me, I stop and repeat my mantra as many times as necessary to calm my mind:

"Lord, thank you for my full, rich life."

P.S. My full, rich life also includes readers who take the time to read my posts and support me in so many ways. Thank you!



Thursday, April 14

Talk With Our Kids About Money - Powered by BMO

I feel very strongly about the importance of talking with our kids about money, both as a parent and a teacher.

From a very young age our girls have had save/spend/share piggybanks for them to divvy up any small amounts of money they receive, and it really helped to start the conversations early.

When they were 7 and 5 we took them to set up their own bank accounts with debit cards - which I will admit I still hang on to for now! I love seeing them deposit money, but to tell you the truth I also love to see them spend it wisely – for example, both girls saved up to buy iPod Touches, and they definitely have gotten their money’s worth out of them, learning a lesson about worthwhile investments.

Now at 10 and 7 they have also started buying their own books and accessories, and it gives me pleasure to see them doing mental math, estimating how much they will have left, and counting out their cash…or not. Often they make an informed decision not to make a purchase, which is amazing too.

I was very proud last summer when they decided to set up a cold drinks stand to earn some more spending money. Even after paying us back for the startup costs (aren’t we mean parents? Hey, it’s business!) they still made a nice little profit, and decided to give half of it to our local hospital – another proud mama moment.




Eva actually wrote her public speech this year on “Tips for Running a Successful Business”, based on their summer experience – and won two gold medals and a silver in competitions! (I don’t think people expected that topic coming from a 7 year old girl!)





To help start conversations and teach kids some important financial literacy, BMO Financial Group helped launch the Talk With Our Kids About Money (TWOKAM) program with the Canadian Foundation for Economic Education (CFEE) in 2013, making this BMO’s 4th year of partnership. BMO’s Talk With Our Kids About Money Day is taking place on April 20, 2016.

Talk With Our Kids About Money, powered by BMO in partnership with CFEE, has tools and resources for parents to help build money conversations into their day-to-day interactions with their kids (from age 5 right through the teen years), and is a free program accessible to families of any income. Some of the activities even involve watching and discussing popular movies – now there’s a way to hook your kids!

While the resources for home are fantastic, there’s also a great school program as well, with curriculum links for the different grades and provinces and ready-made lesson plans which include student activities. (This isn’t just for math teachers – there are lessons linked to music, drama, art, science, geography and more!)

As parents, we don’t want to end up in a position where we are bailing our children out – or taking the tough love approach and not doing so – because of serious financial circumstances. Of course they’ll make mistakes with money (as we all do) but knowledge is power and I want to see my daughters and students with the information they need not only to make money, but to make their money work for them.

Financial literacy isn’t just for kids, of course: BMO believes it should be a year-round focus for all Canadians. That is why, beyond their partnership with TWOKAM, BMO launched YourFinancialLife.com which provides Canadians with financial tips for life events. They have a dedicated page for tips and tools on how to talk with your kids about money and prepare for your child’s financial future (https://yourfinanciallife.bmo.com).

I dream of seeing my girls grow up to become independent, fulfilled, healthy women – and that certainly includes financial health as well. I appreciate the fact that BMO is helping us to do that.

Join the conversation using the hashtag #TWOKAM and make sure to follow BMO on Twitter (@BMO) and on Facebook (/BMOCommunity).


Disclosure: This post was generously sponsored by BMO. Opinions are, as always, my own.


Monday, April 4

Our Visit to the digiPlaySpace

A short time ago, we kicked off our March Break with a super fun visit to the digiPlaySpace at the TIFF Bell Lightbox where my girls had a blast!

The digiPlaySpace is designed to stimulate imaginations and inspire a lifelong passion for creativity and invention - and they certainly hit the mark with my daughters! During our visit, both my ten-year-old and seven-year-old were drawn to many of the installations (there are 25 of them, from nine different countries), where they could play and explore different video games and digital effects in an extremely hands-on environment.

Tickets are timed, which is great because you don't want to be in the space with too many other kids. I found my girls rarely had to wait more than a minute or two to try an activity, and you could easily keep an eye on them without crowds in the way.

There are so many sensory experiences here, as well as chances to explore the arts (you can turn your doodles into a digital pinball game!) and be active...it's not about sitting still in front of a screen. They definitely put the "Play" in "PlaySpace".

Some of our favourites:




Oh, did my girls love the green screen experience!









As a teacher, I really loved seeing this:




My mom came along with us, and while she was camera-shy, she did have opinions to share, one being that she was very impressed by the number and expertise of the volunteers working in the space, who kept everything running smoothly and helped explain different activities to the children.

The digiPlaySpace is open until April 24th, and if you have kids and live anywhere in the GTA, I strongly recommend you check it out! While our visit was complimentary, tickets are $10.00, which is a very reasonable price for an hour or more of educational fun (sorry, there's the teacher in me coming out again!) For more information go to http://tiff.net/kids-family/digiplayspace16.

***

P.S. Speaking of TIFF Kids:

Are your kids budding film buffs? Did you know that the TIFF Kids Festival takes place from April 8 - 24 and features 139 films from 35 countries? They're holding a kickoff party on Friday April 8th at 5 p.m. with a screening of Oddball, with food and fun activities beforehand.

Visit http://tiff.net/festivals/tiffkids16 for more details!

Disclosure: This post was generously sponsored by TIFF Kids. Opinions are, as always, my own.


Friday, April 1

Kate's Favourite Things - April 2016

It's a quick and easy list this time, friends - please note that I highly recommend the books below. I had a great March Break selection, and other than the first book it's all fiction.

BOOKS

Where the Light Gets In - Kimberly Williams-Paisley (received free review copy)

If you know anyone suffering from a form of dementia, you have to read this. Even if you don't, you should still read it. You know I love a celeb book, and this one couldn't be more personal as actress Kimberly Williams-Paisley (also wife of country star Brad Paisley) shares her mother's journey with Primary Progressive Aphasia (PPA). I laughed, I cried and I learned so much.



The Nightingale - Kristin Hannah (France, WWII, a compelling story of sisters doing what they have to do to survive)

The Widow - Fiona Barton (Was her dead husband guilty?)

She's Not There - Joy Fielding (Inspired by the story of little Madeleine McCann who disappeared from her hotel room in Portugal)

Pretty Baby - Mary Kubica (A psychological thriller about a good deed...possibly gone awry. Just a warning that the last three books all involve losing children. I couldn't read them before bed.)

Brooklyn - Colm Toibin (I chose this for our next book club selection, and plan to show the movie at our "meeting" - for me, it's worth seeing twice. I have to say I like how the movie went one step farther than the book to wrap things up nicely, but that's just the kind of reader/viewer I am.)

Shopaholic to the Rescue - Sophie Kinsella (Light and fun, par for the Kinsella course.)


MOVIES

Creed (Sad that Stallone didn't get his Oscar)

Eddie the Eagle (even for older kids - our 7 and 10 year old girls loved it; only a couple of inappropriate parts)

Miracles From Heaven (I posted my deep and sappy thoughts about this movie on Facebook here)






What have you been reading and watching lately?


Thursday, March 31

My Maryam Monsef Profile for Canadian Living Magazine

Back in the fall I had the pleasure of interviewing the inspiring Peterborough Kawartha MP and Cabinet Minister Maryam Monsef for a profile which was published in the April issue of Canadian Living magazine.

The profile is now live on the Canadian Living website, and you can find it here:

Maryam Monsef: From refugee to barrier-breaking MP



I'm so appreciative that Canadian Living gave me this opportunity, and a special thanks goes out to contributing editor Jackie Kovacs for her guidance throughout the writing process.

Thursday, March 17

Master Bedroom Facelift

I'll be honest with you: I can't really argue that our master bedroom *needed* a facelift. However, Liv was crawling the last time we painted, and if you know me, you'll realize that it's actually pretty impressive that I waited ten years!

Here's the "before" -  yes, the brown paint looks fine, and you can't tell in the photos how ready the comforter was to be replaced - but the dark colours were bringing me down and I just needed a change!









Our mahogany bedroom set is classic, and we will be holding on to it as it trends in and out of style over the years, but paint colour and accessories are a fun way to jazz up a room, so that's what I focused on.

I started with new bedding (a Jessica Simpson Golden Peony set from Home Outfitters), because I loved the fresh look and splashes of colour. The next task was to find the right paint colour - not only to complement this bedding, but something that would go with future accessories as well. Aiming for something greenish grey, I - whoops, I mean we! - chose a Dulux shade called "Dusty Miller".





We had new crown moulding installed (as we redecorate each room in the house that's an upgrade we're adding in) and the walls were painted. After that, we did some very minor rearranging and accessorizing and we were done!

Now, for the "after"!










My mom made this pillow for us one Christmas:




I love to repurpose items from other rooms (rather than purchasing new) and since I wanted a designated place on my dresser to put my jewelry at the end of the day I pulled this gorgeous plate out of my china cabinet. It's meaningful because it was a wedding gift from an extended family member who told me that my late Grandma Leahy particularly loved this chintz pattern.




While I love neutrals, I decided to go for a pop of colour (and unexpected design) for my bedside lamp. (My previous lamp *conveniently* broke just days before our facelift, so I *had* to replace it!) This one was very budget friendly, at only 12 bucks from Walmart!




Another repurposed item, this wedding gift frame spent years in our basement featuring photos of our godchildren...until we were blessed with too many to fit in the frame! After we redecorated our downstairs family room, the frame went into hiding until I brought it out to add some personality to the space outside our ensuite.




It now feels like spring in my master bedroom, if nowhere else!

Thanks for checking out my latest project! You can find past before and afters here:

Our Basement Family Room (perhaps my favourite)
Girl's Bedroom Facelift # 2
Girl's Bedroom Facelift # 1
Main Bath Reno (oh, no, wait - this one was my favourite)
Our Backyard Reno (above-ground-that-looks-inground pool and deck, hot tub, pool house)
Laundry Room Facelift
Ensuite Facelift

Plus, if you're interested in design, don't forget I've posted many times about seasonal decor, and interviewed designer and decorators like Debbie Travis, Sarah Richardson, Kortney Wilson and Jillian Harris, too!


Wednesday, March 9

Easter Giveaway: Winnie the Pooh itty bittys in Basket from Hallmark!

Time for another flash social media giveaway!

The prize: four Disney's Winnie the Pooh Easter itty bittys from Hallmark in a cute felt basket (value $35). Aren't they adorable?






Here's how you can enter:

Retweet this tweet for one entry: https://twitter.com/thismomloves/status/707668075873587200

Like and/or comment on this Facebook post for one or two entries: https://www.facebook.com/ThisMomLoves/posts/1109132462444252

Like and/or comment on this Instagram post for one or two entries: https://www.instagram.com/p/BCvv9cQxBcS/?taken-by=katethismomloves

Total possible entries: 5

The giveaway will run until Saturday, March 12th at 11:59 p.m. Eastern, after which time a winner will be chosen through random number generation. Good luck, and Happy Easter!

P.S. Looking for some Easter decor that's a bit more grown up? My favourite item is this Spring Ornament Tree ($19.95, and sets of two ornaments are $4.95/set). This is currently a cute centrepiece on my kitchen table!