Hold on Tight to Your Dreams: Featuring Kim Rodriguez with Kandle Kidswear
Kim Rodriguez is co-owner and co-founder of Kandle Kidswear. Together with her business partner, Laura Dooley, they started Kandle Kidswear 8 years ago. Kim is someone I instantly liked when we met, even before I knew she was “that Kim.” Meaning one of the makers of those cute shirts and onesies that Austinites are seeing all over town.
Kim is a warm and friendly person, but also one of those people you can tell has vision. She has a confident and creative energy about her, but without even a trace of arrogance or snobbery. I’m always drawn to people like that.
Steven, Aaron and I had been toying with the idea of featuring interviews with artists and other creatives in our blog, telling some of their interesting backstories. When I asked Kim about her tattoo, and she began to tell me the story, I knew instantly I wanted to interview her for this. So, thank you Kim for agreeing to be the first to be featured in Creative Backstory with Image + Sound.
Q: Tell me about your path as an entrepreneur.
Kim: After having my first baby, I was struggling to find balance in work and parenting. Eventually I decided to try being a full-time stay-at-home-mom, but I quickly realized I missed working. I knew I wanted to do something that would allow me to work and still have the flexibility to spend the time I wanted to spend with my son.
When Max turned one, my dear friend Laura made him an adorable shirt with a green and yellow felt dinosaur appliqued onto it. I loved it. My husband, who was working as a graphic designer at the time, loved it as well. He was the one who suggested we make a business out of it. I laughed and joked to Laura in an email and said “Tom said we should go into business together.” She didn’t get my joking tone, and said “Let’s do it!” Here we are 8-years later!”
Q: What is the story behind the tattoo on your arm?
Kim: My dad and I were very close. He died too soon, in 2009, at the age of 62. I wear his ring on my right hand, but I wanted a more permanent daily reminder of him – the tattoo. It took me two years to decide what I wanted and where. My sister-in- law, Stephanie Purnell, owns and operates the Electric Chair Tattoo shop in Houston, and she did the tattoo in my Dad’s own distinctive handwriting
I decided to get the tattoo on the inside of my right arm, so I would see it while writing, typing, driving, etc. I love having the tattoo in a highly visible place. I see it all day and it is my way of having my Dad close to me. I knew people would ask about it, and I’m the kind of person that will tell anyone anything, and I wanted to talk about him. I wanted everyone to know how lucky I was to be his daughter and how much I missed him.
Q: What is the significance of “Hold on Tight to Your Dreams”?
Kim: Dad’s favorite band of all time was ELO and his favorite song was “Hold on Tight”. My siblings and I grew up hearing ELO blaring in the car and we all knew the words and could sing along. My dad wanted it played at his memorial. It was the ending song. The main lyrics to the song are “Hold on tight to your dreams.”
Since I wanted the words in my dad’s handwriting, my husband put his graphic design background to work and pasted individual letters together to make the words that we did not have. Stephanie did a beautiful job, and it was so meaningful to have a family member – someone I know and love – do the work for me.
Q : What have the words come to mean for you ?
Kim: The words have become a sort of mantra, and even a family motto. It’s a reminder to never let go of what I want for me and for my family. It’s a big dream to do things the way you want to and to create a work-life balance that is outside of the norm. It often calms me to glance at my tattoo, think of the song, and keep going.
Q : How did your Dad inspire you, in your work and life?
Kim: My Dad was always the person I could talk to about work and life and worries. He was a great listener, gave me wise advice and always lifted me up. He was my biggest champion. I never doubted how proud he was of me for starting my own business, because he told me all the time. He knew that in Kandle Kidswear I could find both a creative work outlet and the flexibility that I so desired for my family. He and my Mum lent us the seed money to purchase a die cut machine that allowed us to take the business out of the realm of hobby and into something we could really grow.
Q: As a creative entrepreneur I know relationships and community are really important to you. How do the people around you inspire you to “Hold on Tight to Your Dreams?”
Kim: The people around me, my family and friends, are the treasures of my life. I am so happy to have them all. They are endlessly supportive of my work in Kandle Kidswear and their encouragement inspires me to continue and work harder. My three kids inspire me every day to be the best I can be as a mom and as a person. I like that they see me working on Kandle Kidswear. Being in Austin, I am also a part of the very well established and supportive community of local designers and artisans. Their passion and encouragement is always inspiring.
Q: What is some of the best business advice you’ve been given, that has encouraged you to focus on your dreams?
Kim: Laura and I met with a friend of hers, who is a financial advisor, early on in the life of our business. He said, “If you think you have bitten off more than you can chew, chew harder.” That advice has stuck with us. We’ve been chewing hard ever since. It is nuggets of wisdom like this, from trusted friends and family that keep us going and dreaming.
Q: What makes a store a good fit for Kandle Kidswear?
Kim: A store that we see as potentially a good fit will have a well-curated selection of baby and children’s clothes, yet will still have a space for Kandle Kidswear, because our line is so unique. When we launch our line in a new store and see it pop among the other offerings already in the store, that’s a great feeling and I’m reminded that we have a really good product.
Q: What’s next for you and Kandle Kidswear? What are you dreaming about?
Kim: We had a maintenance period for while, mainly because I had two more children! Now that all of our respective kids are in school, we have more time to really focus on Kandle Kidswear and really grow. We have an established brand, good relationships with stores, and a solid customer base. We are dreaming of moving outside of Austin and into surrounding cities to share the Kandle Kidswear love.
Thanks so much to Kim for inspiring us with your story.