Interview: Bee & Mae

It could just be my opinion, but I strongly feel that the small businesses that find the most success are the ones with business owners who are unapologetically themselves and make that known. Commerce is so saturated that it's not enough to just have a good product anymore, it also takes a person who customers root for and want to support. You can see where I'm going with this, right? Yep, today's feature is one of those shops that I think is easy to root for: Bee & Mae.

Amanda Thiessen, the creator behind the brand, is making items that she loves and selling them while keeping her authenticity. Bee & Mae found success with pop culture enamel pins (fun fact: I first discovered the shop when I placed an order on Amanda's Etsy for a Bob's Burgers/X-Files mash-up pin and a Larry David pin), and she's gained a loyal following through her relatable motherhood themed items. I was so pleased to learn more about how Bee & Mae came to be, and I'm positive you'll enjoy her story as well. Read on to learn more about how Amanda is designing for everyone (not just moms), learning the business side of things, and entering the podcast world. Enjoy!

Q: Let’s start from the beginning. Can you tell me a little bit about the process of starting your business? What made you want to do this and how did you turn your idea into a reality?

A: So I started by making a super simple Etsy page. I think I had like 1 or 2 products at most? I knew that I wanted to start a business, I’ve always had a small business since the kids were born. My first business was called Wild Frays and I made/sold bows for kids, then it morphed into infinity scarves for toddlers and then minky blankets for babies. I can honestly say I hated doing it so much - I loved keeping busy but hated what I was making. So I closed up that shop and took a year break from it all and then came back with wanting to make stuff I actually liked and would be able to use myself. Found a manufacturer within my budget and took the plunge. I’ve been going ever since and it’s been a fun ride --also exhausting, overwhelming, expensive and insane but still, totally fun.

Q: What was your first product to take off or find enough success that you were encouraged to do more?

A: So the first item I made was an enamel pin (never nude shorts, Arrested Development) and it was a HUGE hit at the time and every batch that was made would sell out so I just continued making pop culture pins and then I wanted to branch out a bit. So, I made 2 shirts on a whim that were my own designs and I was terrified they would do terrible (which they did in the beginning) haha. And then I wanted to create something that could connect more with the customers so I started making “mom theme” tees :) Mother Deer was the first one and a couple months after Mothers are Magic came out and it’s been our best seller ever since.

Q: Did you work another job while you were starting? How long did it take you to turn this into a full-time venture?

A: I didn’t work another job but I watched my kids full time (they were 4 and 2 at the time) and my oldest was receiving in-home therapy 35 hours a week so it was kind of like I was working haha. I found little bouts of time throughout the day to work on new designs, try to market my brand, make a website, create an office space that worked, etc. It took a good year/year and a half to really get the ball rolling on the business. I never thought it’d be as big as it is now, sometimes it’s to much to keep up with. Especially since it’s still just myself doing everything (social media, marketing, packaging, designing, returning emails, etc) It can be a lot of work! BUT I wouldn’t change it for anything. Being able to do this, something that is really fun, AND take care of my kids is really special for me. Definitely don’t take it for granted.

Q: Did you always intend for a lot of your products to have a focus on motherhood? How have your products evolved over the years?

A: I actually didn’t intend on doing any motherhood products but it just kind of naturally went in that direction. I think after I did so many pop culture references I wanted to do some more stuff that was original - which is also way more scary - but I was really itching to connect on a deeper level with customers. I always said I’m going to make what I like first, and if people dig it and want to purchase it that’s a bonus. So being able to make products about motherhood and have solidarity in that with so many people has been amazing. Mothers are Magic has been our huge seller and that spinned into Lonely Moms Club, Pretty Good Mother, Mothers are Really Fucking Tired, etc. Trying to connect on all levels like I SEE YOU, MOMS. We’re all just trying to hang in there and do our best so being able to create the Magical tees along with the lonely and tired tees is great. BUT I am really happy to create products for everyone still - I always want to keep that in my mind. Motherhood is great but everything isn’t a mom so we gotta continue making products for everyone. I am such a rambler, I’m sorry.