OK, Smarties, here we go again. That CPSIA beast has resurfaced, but thanks to Smarty Mompreneur Claire Bingham, maybe we can all make a difference. We blogged about this in early January (http://charlottesmartypants.blogspot.com/2009/01/new-safety-rules-for-childrens-clothes.html) and were super excited when the government amended it in favor of the consignment business (http://charlottesmartypants.blogspot.com/2009/01/breaking-news-hot-off-press-release.html). Well, they still overlooked the gazillion mompreneurs across the country who are going to go bust after Feb 10 when this law goes into effect. Enter oh-so-Smarty Claire Bingham who is going to lead the charge for the Charlotte area so we can keep our moms in business.
Claire founded www.tutusfortoddlers.com after she gave birth to her twin girls. Claire is married to hubby, Logan and is mom to Hayden (3 ½) and Audrey & Chloe (2 ½). Meet Claire!
What inspired you to start your own business?
A few years ago I went looking for a tutu for my daughter’s Halloween costume. I bought one, and thought, “I could make this”. I’ve always been pretty crafty and before this business venture, I painted nurseries and children’s rooms. But what I like about this is I don’t have to leave my house to do it. I can assemble a tutu while the kids are napping, or at night in front of the TV. My husband dabbles in website construction, so he set up www.tutusfortoddlers.com, and within a few months orders were steadily rolling in from all over the country.
Can you tell us a little more about Tutus for Toddlers?
Tutus for Toddlers is all handmade, original tutus that are made by me. We have several popular colors that are available online, but you can also purchase a custom tutu in your little girl’s favorite colors. I love the idea of dress up and make believe. I also think that dress up costumes should be affordable and high quality. All the tulle and elastic I use is made in the U.S.A. and is 100% nylon, which renders it flame retardant. They make excellent Halloween costumes and props for professional photos. My girls wear them just for everyday over their jeans. I have also had many requests for birthday tutus; not just for the guest of honor, but also for party favors for each guest.
What’s it like running your own business from home?
It can be a little hectic! Christmas time was really busy and I think at one point there was a tutu hanging on every chair in the dining room! My office space is a corner of my kitchen which makes it difficult to contain the chaos. But on the upside, I am able to respond to customers right away since I can check my email in a spare moment between making lunch and doing laundry. Right now, working from home is a perfect set-up, because I can do something I enjoy and still be here for my kids. The great thing about it is I conduct most of my business over the internet. I have even sent tutus as far as Australia and the U.K.
OK, so tell us about this crazy new law, CPSIA, and how will it impact mompreneurs such as yourself?
The CPSIA stands for the Consumer Product and Safety Act. It was written in August 2008 and is slated to go into effect February 10, 2009. Basically what it is trying to do is regulate the toxins including lead and phthalates that are found in children’s toys and clothing. And this is a good thing. However, it is requiring all manufacturers of goods for children under the age of 12 to have their items tested and certified by a third party for the presence of these toxins. And that process is very costly. So while the law is very well meaning, many of us moms that are making handcrafted items will have to go out of business due to the lack of funds to test our handmade products.
Walter Olson of Forbes summed the situation up much nicer than I can here:
“As of Feb. 10, it will become unlawful to make or anything intended for use by children under 12 without a program to test the goods for lead — even if no items of their kind have ever been found to pose a lead risk, even if you make and sell only a few inexpensive items a year, even if you’ve sourced their materials from the most conscientious local suppliers and even if they’re items toddlers seldom convey into their mouths, such as dartboards or bicycle tires. In August, relatively lenient self-checks will give way to a much costlier mandate for ‘third-party’ lab testing. That will mean testing every lot of goods — typically each style/size combination — at a cost of perhaps hundreds of dollars per lot for simple items, and potentially much more than that for items with multiple colors, components or materials. Because there is at present no green light for once-for-all component testing, the same bit of elastic or fabric trim will have to be tested again and again as part of each lot.”
The full article is here: http://www.forbes.com/2009/01/22/cpsia-waxman-cpscoped-cx_wo_0122olson.html/
What can our Smarty community do to help?
It is imperative that you write to our congressperson (Sue Myrick in Charlotte) and our Senators (Richard Burr and Kay Hagan in Charlotte) and urge them to revise this law. There has to be a reasonable way to keep our children safe without putting all of these crafters out of business.
There is a comprehensive blog on the subject at Etsy.com where you can find sample letters to print and mail, as well as the websites you need to find the mailing addresses for our legislators. In addition, there are two petitions that you can sign at this site as well. Signing the petition is as simple as filling out an online form and clicking “sign the petition now”. Easy and effective.
How do you manage your time with your additional role in Charlotte Mothers of Multiples as well as being a mom of three?
As the VP of Communications, my primary responsibility is composing the e-newsletter, “DoubleTalk” each month. And secretly, I love it! I usually pack up my things and head over to a local Panera Bread where I hunker down and assemble most of it in one evening. Then I also add updates to the website and keep information current. I like to think it brings out my inner Lois Lane. Plus, I love to be “in the know” about the latest club happenings and activities. CMOMs has really been the greatest support system since the birth of my twins. I consider the moms I know from the club to be some of my best friends.
What’s the funniest thing your kids have said to you?
We play a lot of kid’s music in the car nowadays, and when one of my favorites comes on, I tell the kids, “this is one bad jam!”. Now when the kids hear one of their favorites (mind you, these are songs like “Itsy Bitsy Spider” and “Skip To My Lou”) they say “Mommy, that’s MY bad jam!” It cracks me up to see these three little heads bopping up and down in the car to their favorite songs, calling them “bad jams”.
Best place to eat out with the kids?
We frequent a Mom and Pop Greek restaurant almost once a week called the Light Rail Restaurant on South Blvd. I think it is seven minutes from our front door to theirs. The servers and hostess know us by name, one always hands a basket of crackers to my son to pass out to everyone at the table until their dinner arrives. We get chicken fingers and vegetables all around with some un-sweet tea and everyone is happy as a clam. It’s easy, delicious, and cheap!
Best place to eat out without the kids?
If my husband and I ever manage a night out, we always head to Portofino’s Italian restaurant on Park Road. We have never had a dish we didn’t like. We see plenty of kids in there, so you could bring the whole gang, but Logan and I call it “our place” and we always go alone!
Best place to get great deals on kids clothes?
I am thrifty by nature, so I rarely go anywhere but Old Navy and Target. But the CMOMS consignment sale is next month, so I’m getting ready for one big shop. Twice a year the club has a HUGE consignment sale at the Metrolina Expo. Even if you do not have twins, you don’t want to miss this sale. If I plan ahead, I can usually get the kids a whole seasonal wardrobe at the sale and not buy much else throughout the summer or winter.
Favorite park in Charlotte?
My kids really enjoy Freedom Park where they can climb aboard the big steam locomotive and dig in the huge sandbox. We also stop into Park Road Park because it is close-by and the kids love to ride those animals on springs.
What is favorite family outing?
Our favorite family outing is riding the LYNX light rail up to Fuel pizza on East Blvd. The kids LOVE to ride “just like Daddy” on a “real” train. Fuel always has balls of dough and coloring pages for the kids to play with. The pizza is as close to NY style as I can find without heading home to Buffalo. And the walk from the train to the restaurant makes the kids feel like they are “in the big city”.
Best birthday party you have attended or given for your kids?
Hayden is 3 ½ and the twins are just 2, so we haven’t had the experience of attending too many birthdays. My son would probably say “Chuck E. Cheese” with no hesitation. That was the last party we attended and he was in heaven!
Minivan or SUV?
My Honda Odyssey had me at hello. Can’t live without it. If you are driving around with three or more carseats, I swear that it is the easiest thing to get in and out of.
Best thing about raising a family in Charlotte?
I like living in a big city that is still easily accessible and fairly family friendly. Even though we live in a neighborhood right off South Blvd., it still has a suburb feel to it.
Thank you Claire! If you have a Smarty Mom that you would like to “mominate” please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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