FEARLESS FOUNDERS | Founders of Kip&CO Alex Mccabe & Hayley Pannekoecke
Join us for an intimate conversation as we sit down with the founders of Kip&Co in a Fearless Founders Q&A. From the inception of Kip&Co to their decade-long journey of creative and strategic growth, we delve into the inspirations and challenges that have shaped this vibrant brand. Uncover the secrets behind Kip&Co's bold and unique designs, the 'pinch me' moments in their collaborations, and the keys to building a cult-like community. Explore the creative synergy behind the portier x Kip&Co baby carrier and the story woven into the embroidery design on our Limitless carrier. From entrepreneurial wisdom to the delicate balance of parenthood and business, get ready for an authentic discussion that offers a glimpse into the fearless world of Kip&Co.
FOUNDER – Alex Mccabe
How did Kip & Co begin? What was your initial inspiration?
We launched the brand in 2012 with a $30K investment between us. The brand was born out of a moment of reflection we shared as we turned 30. We had all enjoyed various careers – we’ve had seven careers between us. Myself in law, marketing and communications, Hayley as a naturopath and Kate as an auditor and business manager. Hayley and Kate had also run a small health food store together, but the three of us knew we wanted to build something that gave us a brighter future - that's how Kip&Co was born.
We really wanted to start a business together, but we weren’t exactly sure what – we just knew it had to be something creative and flexible. Kate was on a trip to the US in 2010 and she came across a brightly covered quilted bedspread. We soon realised that there was nothing like that in Australia and Kip&Co was born to fill that gap - bright, colourful, bedding! We really wanted to be masters of our own destiny and to this day we are still self-funded, 11 years later.
How have you continued to grow the brand creatively and strategically in the decade since?
We’re genuinely passionate about interiors, design and craftsmanship – that’s been the driving force of the business as we’ve continued to expand the product range each season.
kip&co is known for its bold and unique designs. How do you approach the creative process when designing new collections or products?
Kip&Co’s aesthetic reflects our own personal style and values, so for us the design side of things has always come very naturally. We love trawling vintage markets, travelling and meeting local artisans, and take inspiration from the world around us, our family and our friends.
You have built such a cult following- what has been key to building such a strong community?
Our timing definitely played a part – when we launched Instagram was relatively new and building that initial following was relatively easy. Maintaining that growth has required a lot more strategic work – we are constantly creating content that is considered, on brand, and engaging. We do photo shoots every week to feed the content beast! And we spend a lot of time engaging directly with our community through social media, asking for their opinions and responding to their questions. It’s key to how we grow as a brand.
Authenticity is the name of the game in both motherhood and entrepreneurship. How do you stay true to yourself while juggling multiple roles?
I think being present in whatever you’re doing helps – as hard as that can be. I must say it’s probably easier for me to be authentic and bring my “whole self” to work as the boss, because I don’t feel the need to hide any part of my personal life for fear of what my superiors my say or think. That’s a privileged position to be in and one I am very grateful for – if you can find a place of employment that always has honesty then stick with them, it’s hard to find!
As a Founder and a mother, How do you manage the delicate balance between running a business and being a parent?
I am not sure there’s such a thing as “balance” when you are both a parent and worker. There’s always one role that is tipping the scale. I think the best thing to do is ask for help – each of us has been lucky enough to find partners that share the load in both parenting, domestic and work, but that’s not enough! We still call on friends, family and other support to get through the week. Having a good bottle of bubbles in the fridge and a great group of girlfriends helps too!
What's the best piece of advice you have received?
Go for it!
FEARLESS FOUNDERS – Hayley
What tips do you have for ensuring your kids' room doesn't cramp the style of your home?
We just lean into the chaos. We love it when the little tackers get to unleash their creativity and we encourage them to find their own style in their own space.
You have collaborated with a roll call of incredible artists over the years; what have been some of your "pinch me" moments?
I think Ken Done, he’s truly one of the most iconic Australian artists and was on our bucket list to collaborate with from day one. Our collaboration with him which coincided with our 10th birthday was certainly a career highlight.
Are there any memorable collaborations that stand out to you, and if so, what made them special?
We’ve just launched our collaboration with the longest running indigenous arts centre in Australia, Ernabella Arts. The arts centre is also one of the most artistically diverse in Australia, starting as a space for Anangu women to loom floor rugs and wall weavings, before becoming renowned for its batik. That spirit of independence, adaptation, creativity and transformation shone out across the community and the incredible seven artists whose art tells the ancestral stories of their beautiful country and culture. We were lucky enough to spend time in Pukatja, together with our families, an experience we will honestly cherish for the rest of our lives.
How did the portier x kip&co baby carrier come about? Tell us about this collaboration with portier - what drew you to the brand and this partnership?
With eight kids between us we know a thing or two about life with little kids. Baby carriers remain one of the few pockets of baby products that still feel very traditional – function over fun. So when we spotted Portier on Instagram, disrupting the industry, we knew we were kindred spirits and reached out.
What is the story behind the embroidery design featured on our Limitless baby carrier?
We’re pretty obsessed with butterflies - it’s one of those rare motifs that talks to all ages. You’ll see butterflies fluttering past on everything from baby gear to high end designer women’s wear (hello Gucci). And that’s exactly what you need when you’re thinking about a baby carrier: something that’s appropriate for both mum and bub! There’s also something beautiful about the concept of a butterfly emerging from its cocoon, just like the little baby you’ve been nourishing in your oven. So with all of that in mind we’ve created a bold butterfly design that will fly straight into your hearts.
Starting and growing a brand presents many challenges. What were some of the biggest challenges you faced? and what valuable lessons or insights did you gain from them?
I think COVID was probably the biggest challenge for us, like many businesses. In the early days of COVID we really didn’t know which way was up – we made some significant cutbacks in stock to ensure we insulated the business, but in hindsight we should have been INCREASING stock.
We weren’t to know though (nobody did!), and have since learned some valuable lessons from that experience around being nimble.
ALEX - Our Fearless Quickfire
Early bird or night owl?
Wine or Gin?
Favourite productivity hack?
To do lists
Best source of motivation?
Are you a planner or lastminiute.com?
Must-have item in your entrepreneur/mum survival kit?
One word to describe your parenting style?
Go-to stress-relief technique?
Favourite podcast or book for inspiration or business insights?
One thing you wish you had more time for?
One word that describes the intersection of motherhood and entrepreneurship for you?
Perfectly imperfect (sorry that’s two)
What is the story behind the embroidery design featured on our Limitless carrier?