The story behind this business is one of those tales that sounds like something out of a movie. A clever person tries to buy a product, finds the product isn’t available on the market, so she invents the product and launches a company to get it to market.
But that’s how it went down for Julie Thompson.
We interviewed the founder and invented of Lil’ tights by Skights – toddler tights with cold-weather and knee protection – on life as an inventor, the head of a company and a single mother to two young boys.
What inspired you to become an entrepreneur?
I never planned on becoming an entrepreneur, it was something I stumbled into quite unexpectedly. I was out at the mall shopping with a friend who was trying to buy tights for her son who was 16 months at the time. I was surprised they made tights for little boys because I remembered when my eldest was a toddler I would put pyjama bottoms that were too short underneath his pants to give him extra protection against the cold. My girlfriend then explained she purchases “girl tights” in neutral colours such as black and uses them to keep her son’s legs warm.
That night I went home and thought to myself they should make tights for little boys and since there was nothing I could find on the market, I was going to create it.
It’s great to be your own boss, you get to make all of the rules and decisions and essentially you set the tone.
What’s the best part about owning your own business?
The best part of owning my business can also be the worst. It’s great to be your own boss, you get to make all of the rules and decisions and essentially you set the tone. That being said, being responsible for everything can at times be frustrating and overwhelming. If things are not moving as quickly as you like there is the tendency to get discouraged or to feel unmotivated.
This is normal and comes with owning your business. You will hot always hit targets and MANY people will say “no” to you. Try to focus on the positives and remember for every “no” you receive you are one step closer to receiving that “yes”. Stay focused on what it is you want to achieve, have patience and faith knowing you will eventually get there. It may not happen within the time period you would like, however I do believe it will happen. Perseverance is the key to your success.
Describe a typical day:
A day in the life of Mama Skights begins at 5:30 am. I like the early rise to take a few minutes to just sit and breathe in the new day and all of its gifts that is has to bring. This sometimes however does not always work out. Getting out of bed in itself can be a feat. My youngest who is 3 has made it a habit of coming into my bed EVERY night and if I don’t turn myself into a Navy Seal and get out of bed undetected I will have a 3 year old screaming down the house. If I can get out undetected I start my day with breakfast, pack up the lunches and head upstairs to wake the children.
I am on the go from 5:30 am to 8:30 pm during this time I am responsible for a number of things. Getting kids to school/daycare, working a full eight hour shift, pick up from school/daycare, preparing dinner, helping kids with homework, getting kids ready for bed. Once my youngest is in bed, my daytime responsibilities end and my nighttime responsibilities begin. I devote this time to working on the business, it’s not always the most effective way as many businesses are open during the day and any correspondence has to be done via email. I do take vacation throughout the year and have spent the day contacting businesses, which can sometimes work in my favour even if the owner is not available.
Who do you count on for help? Do you have a network of family that answer the call?
My immediate family live four hours away making it almost impossible for them to help. Starting a business is challenging and starting one as a single parent can offer additional challenges a two parent family may not face. I am very fortunate to have a close network of friends who believe in me and my vision for Skights. When the call for help goes out there is always someone who will step up to the plate to help me out.
Have you ever had to sacrifice something at work to make the family work?
There were many times when I needed to get work done however my toddler was not interested in my work and wanted me off the computer so I could spend time with him. It’s during these times I pause and take some time for family.
I have deadlines to meet but at the same time one of the motivators for starting Skights was to allow me to spend more time with my children.
What do you do on a day off? Do you even know what a day off is?
I do take days off, I have to!! Otherwise it becomes too overwhelming and confusing. I no longer work myself past exhaustion. It doesn’t do myself, my family or my business any good and I end up paying for it the next day. I have set days and set hours that I work on my business. If I’m not feeling tired I will put in a few extra hours and if I am feeling very tired I will cut the evening short. It’s all about balance, healthy mom, healthy family and healthy business
What does the future look like?
We are looking to expand across Ontario, Canada and into the United States. In addition, we are in the process of creating a line specifically for girls.
Are you active in your local MOMpreneur community?
I am, I belong to several Facebook MOMpreneur groups. These groups are great resources, all the women have similar stories and I find are more than willing to assist you any way that they can.
Name another MOMpreneur who inspires you:
Marissa Mctasney the founder of Moxie Trades. Moxie Trade creates gear for women in construction industry. Marissa pitched her signature product, the “pink” work boots in a 2011 episode of Dragon’s Den. I have been fortunate to have had her mentor me along my process.
Any tips for moms thinking of starting a business?
If you have a vision that you are passionate about I say, go for it. Don’t spend your entire life thinking about it because unlike you, life is not indecisiveness and keeps going and before you know it your dreams may pass you by. Every successful business was once a thought and from there it expanded. All that is required from you is to take that leap of faith and start, one step at a time, just as marathons are run. I wish you much success and happiness along your journey and I am looking forward to sharing your dream with the rest of us.