How does a busy mom with a new baby at home launch her own business? For Alison Talbot, it all started with the floors.
“My husband and I bought this really charming 1922 house in Wenatchee and it’s got the original fir floors, which are so gorgeous, and also so splintery. I was picking splinters from my baby son and I realized very quickly that he needed something more than soft socks to protect his little feet. I just decided to make him some little leather moccasins.”
So she bought some leather scraps and went to work creating a pair of tiny shoes for baby Jasper.
“And then at play dates other people started asking me, ‘Could you whip up a pair for my son or my niece,’ and it just kind of went from there.” She named her new footwear company littleRÜTZ, pronounced “little roots.”
“I just felt like roots were very grounding, and here we are putting down roots in Wenatchee as we start our family. And I think of little feet. The tree of life. Children. It just felt kind of natural…And I like that the Ü looked like a smiley face, too.”
Alison soon realized that, while there are a lot of moccasins for babies on the market, most are made using lots of nasty chemicals and heavy metals. She found a leather manufacturer in Germany that makes leather in a healthier, non-toxic way: with vegetable dyes and a natural tanning process.
“I realized there are not many healthy shoe options out there, especially for the soft soles, so I thought I could fill that niche.”
She started sewing more of the comfy, durable, completely adorable shoes, usually during Jasper’s nap time or late at night.
“I’m often very tired but I put on some female stand up comedians on Netflix…and so when Jasper goes to nap, it’s kind of like my self time. I’m absentmindedly cutting out moccasins and laughing my ass off to myself, trying to be quiet while he sleeps.”
And her husband, Jeff McDonald, is totally supportive.
“My husband will help with Jasper some evenings by taking him on little adventures so I can get some work done. They’ve hiked up Mission Ridge, Lake Clara/Marion, and Saddlerock just the two of them while I get things done… Jeff also makes dinner sometimes so I can cut and sew moccasins. So, it’s not ALL done at nap time and bed times, just mostly.”
Now Alison cuts out the moccs at her kitchen table and has carved out a small space on her sun porch where she sews.
“I told my husband, ‘Do not put any of your projects over here. This is my space to clutter and clean. I can’t have you putting dirty garden tools on my cutting board.’ So I’ve gotten protective of my space.”
I asked Alison how in the world she has the energy to cut, sew and grow her company at the end of long days with a baby. Because, quite frankly, I couldn’t do it. How does she find the motivation to keep working?
“I don’t know that I’ve found the right rhythm for myself, but I’m learning. I’ve decided to give myself permission to have nights where, OK, I’m going to sit down with my husband and chat or watch a show together, be absentminded, or tonight I am just going to bed because it was a hard day or because he didn’t nap well, and tomorrow I’ll get back at it. So yes, things do get pushed off, but because this is still so small, there is that leeway. And I find motivation every time I order new leather. I get really excited about the creative process. What colors do I want to put together? This fall I’m doing some cool things with color blocking and infusing new life into the moccasins.”
And then there’s Jasper.
“He’s been my inspiration for a lot of different things. Our garden is insane this year. I just wanted to plant everything because I wanted to show him everything. He’s out there helping me pick tomatoes and dig potatoes and just getting his hands dirty. (And with the shoe business…) “I look back and see Jasper sucking on his foot in his car seat and it’s like, well, OK, it’s a healthy leather.”
You can find littleRÜTZ on the company’s website, on Instagram and Facebook, at Trick Pony gift shop in Twisp, and soon at the Mazama Store and American Shoe Shop.
And, if you or someone you know is looking for some part-time work, (and have an industrial sewing machine), contact Alison.
“As I grow and expand I want to be able to keep up with demand. Part of being a business owner is recognizing your limits and preparing to handle growth (a good thing!). LittleRÜTZ is ready to bring on that team member this fall! Inquiries can be directed to Alison at: firstname.lastname@example.org.”