At Home with Abby: Mother and Maker

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

If you've ever met Abby Massey, you've laughed hard. Really hard. I've had the pleasure of getting to know her as we kept bumping into each other at some of our favorite Omaha spots. We'd been wanting to get together for awhile for this blog post and it finally happened on a sunny spring morning. I'm thrilled to present a look inside her home where she produces Wee Vintage and Sleepy Tribe goods for babies and children. I'm also excited to share a Q&A where Abby shares her thoughts on mom guilt, the dreamy studio myth and building her own Instagram community. 

We talked about how your mom used to design & sew your doll clothes and that was your introduction to sewing/making. When did you start sewing and what was the first thing you made? Probably the clothing I made in college-- denim hippie skirts and bandana tops. Hard to admit that one. I’ll save you a visual and keep the pictures to myself.

Can you share some about the path you were on prior to starting Wee Vintage & Sleepy Tribe? What did you study in school, what jobs did you have? Prior to the shops, I was working at a scrap metal brokerage for eight years. I went to college for fine arts, specializing in oil painting with an emphasis in life drawing. When I was 18, old enough to cocktail waitress, I started working in bars and restaurants. I worked in that industry until I was 32. When I worked at the scrap metal brokerage, I also worked evenings in the bar industry.

What inspired you to start your businesses? Do you remember the moment when you realized it had potential to be a business
? I guess my first born was the original inspiration. Finding a lack of modern and unique baby goods for little boys, I decided I’d create my own. I also love vintage baby clothing, so that was an inspiration. There were a couple moments when I realized I had a legit business. Locally, it was when repeat customers came to my shows. And the same went for online sales, when repeat customers came back to buy again. I knew that I was providing something special and authentic.

Tell me a little about your transition from working to working from home and being a mom? What were/are some of your biggest challenges? What do you love about it the most? Biggest challenges, time and guilt. The struggle between giving my kids quality time and my business quality time. The guilty feeling of I quit my job to stay home with my kids, not to start a business. I know damn well that this is not true but it comes and goes. Also, the feeling of am I giving them enough? The reality is this though, I am giving them more than enough. I also have to remember that it is inspiring for my kids to see their mom working hard at something. It teaches them drive and ambition. It teaches them creativity. I often wonder how they will describe me and my business when they grow up and what it looked like to them. I love the freedom. We do have a routine but for the most part there is freedom to change it up!

You have two children and run your business from home. Can you talk a little bit about how you structure your day? After Leo was born, I learned that a simple routine was key. I keep my days pretty simple and don’t over-schedule myself. If the kiddos have doctors appointments on Tuesday, I don’t schedule a play date for the same day. If I’ve got a major grocery store run with Leo, I don’t plan a huge trip to the Ikea too. We don’t have an Ikea here but I wanted that for exaggeration purposes. While the kids are eating breakfast, I’m prepping orders. Packaging and printing orders. After I drop Perry at school, Leo and I run any must-do errands. Then its down time/play time for us. He naps about 1 to 3-ish, until it’s time to pick up Perry. Nap time is hustle time. My machine is set up at the kitchen table most days. I have set days each week where I do correspondence, social media, ordering, and photo editing. Making it my goal to accomplish that.  For example, Wednesday during nap time, I’m scheduling Facebook posts and editing photos. I’m able to get more sewing done after school when both kids are home, if needed. They play together while I sew at the table. It’s not as peaceful as it sounds. It’s not peaceful at all. It’s crazy. Some days, when my husband gets home, I head straight down to the basement until dinner time or skip dinner and take a sanity bath and eat my dinner alone later. Sarcasm and humor always help!! Oh and coffee and beer! Not at the same time.

There’s a myth that you need an amazing studio in order to create. How do you make your space at home work for you? Well that’s the truth!!! I don’t have an amazing studio. I sew in an unfinished basement or at the kitchen table. I also take trips to my parents house for a few days at a time and do some major binge sewing. This is how most of my inventory gets done for big shows!

Let’s talk about social media. I’m guessing Instagram is your favorite platform. Can you share why you love it and how you created a supportive network there? Danielle (@hippieindisguise) commented on a photo and said "Hi! I’ll come back and check out your pics later."  I thought how strange, do I know her? We began to comment back and forth on each others photos and built a relationship. I started to meet more women all over the world. It was this community of other mothers, venting, laughing, sharing and supporting. That was about four years ago. Instagram has definitely changed over the past year because of some algorithm changes and other boring details, making the community a little harder to find. That’s partly why I have kept my account mostly personal with a bit of business sprinkled in. I am a stay at home mom with a business ran from home. I wanted my Instagram to reflect that. Sharing just business related posts felt forced and stiff. I felt more connected when I shared more of the personal posts. My main goal has been to focus on building an authentic following. People who are truly interested in me and my brand. Not the ones who are looking for free and cheap baby swag. Above all else, ENJOY IT! Be authentic with what you are sharing. Be you. Don’t copy. And DON’T COMPARE!! Comparison is the thief of joy. Another goal for this year was to focus more on my current following to show appreciation to the loyal followers and customers. Treating them to promotions and giveaways. Not trying to build more followers but focus on my current ones. Hosting giveaways that promote other brands. Sharing the love for fellow makers and creators that I’ve met over the past few years.

Any new creations being planned for Wee Vintage & Sleepy Tribe? Are there things you’d like to try? I need to finish the new website. Keep designing new fabrics. I’d like to do some tee shirts and onesies again. It’s been about two years since I had these available. I’d also love to collaborate with other makers and stores!

If you're local, you can catch Abby at the Handmade Omaha show April 22nd and 23rd and the Mother's Day Pop-up on May 13th.


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