We love Bitte for numerous reasons, but primarily because they carry sustainable, ethically sourced kid & baby products. Oh, and they’re SO cute! Maia McDonald Smith founded the shop with her mom (who also started her own business). Now, she’s showing us around her home office with her own daughter. We have a lot to learn from the goal-oriented working mama and hope you enjoy hearing about the ins & outs of her business as much as we did!
Tell us a little bit about you and your beautiful family!
My name is Maia, and my husband Travis and I have a beautiful, funny 2 year-old daughter named Ingrid. My husband and I are both originally from Wisconsin, where we met. We moved about 6 years ago to the Bay Area and then last year to Sacramento, CA.
Although we loved the Bay area, after having our daughter and starting our new business, we needed more space. And we really wanted a yard for our daughter to play in. That’s what brought us to Sacramento and so far we are really loving it. Now, our home has our dream yard, filled with fruit trees, space to run, and a playhouse for Ingrid.
Before starting Bitte, I worked for years as a graphic designer and Art director for brands such as Shopbop.com, Williams-Sonoma and Guyana. I also currently work as the art director for Rue Magazine. This past summer I celebrated my 4th year and 31st issue with them. My husband is a stay at home dad but also works a lot on Bitte since it’s our family business. That is us in a nutshell – it’s pretty hectic but we love it!
Why did you start Bitte Shop?
I had often discussed starting a business with my mom one day. She had started her own sustainably minded children’s toy company, Magic Cabin, when I was a toddler. I loved watching her do that growing up. By the time I was an adult she had sold that business, so we would daydream about what we could build together. However, it wasn’t until I had my own daughter that the idea for Bitte really started to form and I felt ready to take the leap.
When I was pregnant and starting to shop for baby things I really wanted one, trusted place where I knew I could find beautifully designed items that were created and manufactured sustainably and ethically. Since I couldn’t find that, we decided to create it ourselves, thus Bitte was born.
Since your mom founded her own business as well, did she have any great business advice for you?
My mom is very hard working so I think I learned that from just watching her all those years. She also always stresses the importance of listening to and knowing our customers. We want to make their shopping experience as good as it possibly can be.
We love that everything you carry is sustainable. Was it difficult to source such well made and great brands?
Luckily there are more and more brands cropping up that are focusing on sustainability so it’s getting easier to source beautifully made items with that in mind. The issue we have is sometimes those items are more expensive, and it’s our job to convey to the customer why the price is worth it. We really take care to find items that are not only sustainably made but are very well crafted out of quality materials. This way, it will last you and your family for a long time and can even be handed down to siblings, cousins or friends. To me, it’s really about that life cycle of an item. These aren’t items that will quickly end up in a land fill, but rather, will be bringing happiness to children for generations.
What are some of your favorite pieces and products for kids right now? Any fall fashion favorites?
Lastly, I’m particularly proud of our book selection, I think we’ve curated a really special collection. Just a few of my favorite new additions include Over the Ocean by Taro Gomi, Sleep Tight Farm by Eugenie Doyle and Amelia Earhart by Ma Isabel Sanchez Vergara.
You make everything look even cuter (if that’s possible) on Instagram! Are there any social media rules you live by?
I try to be consistent about posting, both in look and frequency. Also, I rely a lot on our amazing customers who take and share beautiful pictures of our goods. I love reposting those because it’s always fun to see our products being loved and used in families’ homes.
Tell us a little bit about what goes on here in your office on a typical day.
A lot of answering emails; I currently answer every customer email myself! Working with my mom on finding and purchasing new product. Taking photos of new product that has arrived in the shop, helping my husband pack and ship out orders and trying to take a few breaks to spend time with my daughter. It’s controlled chaos, I think anyone with small children probably understands 🙂
Your daughter Ingrid is adorable! Does she like ‘coming to work’ with you?
Since the business is run out of our home she doesn’t really have a choice in coming to work or not 🙂 but she does like it. She loves to try to help, which sometimes makes a task take longer but we try to involve her as much as you possibly can with a 2 year old.
Where do you see Bitte in 5 years?
My goal is that in 5 years we would have outgrown our “home business” and we will have created a trusted brand that families know they can count on for quality, sustainably made products. I also see us expanding into more categories, and growing our collection of exclusive and in-house designed items.
Do you have any dream collaborations?
I’d love to work with Kate Arends. She hasn’t designed kids products that I know of, but I think her clean, sophisticated design sense would lend itself really beautifully to them.
Jessica Hische would be a dream because I’ve admired her work for so long. I also think a witty saying in her beautiful typographer on a onesie or baby tee would be a hit.
Amanda Jane Jones is another designer who I’ve followed for a long time and love her aesthetic. I particularly loved the collaborations she did with Solly baby a few years ago.
In terms of a brand, Honest Co. would be amazing to collaborate with in some capacity. I really admire what Jessica Alba has created and I think the brand has a lot of the same ideals and goals as Bitte. Mostly, I would like to work with all of these people because I think I could learn so much!