I’m so excited to introduce my amazing readers to Sarah Bodnar, creator of Smelly Faces! Smelly Faces are essential oil diffusing soft toys for children. Their huggable shape and oil infused brains that you put essential oils on for aromatherapy can be amazing tools to help children battling anxiety. A few drops of calming blends of oil and a huge hug from their soft friend can help children relax!
Hi, Sarah! First off, tell us a bit about yourself!
Hello!!! My name is Sarah and I live in upstate New York with my husband and two small kiddos. I married my husband 6 years ago right after he got home from Afghanistan at 21 years old. Since then we have lived in six different places, hoping we stay put for a while now though!
Can you tell me a bit about how Smelly Faces work?
Smelly Faces are stuffed animal essential oil diffusers! All you have to do is place 2-3 drops of your favorite essential oil on the wool “brain” and plop it back in the pocket located at the top of the head. Snuggle and Sniff!
How did you come up with the idea for Smelly Faces?
After college I frankly was quite lost. Moving from place to place and therefore hopping from job to job I found myself struggling very deeply with anxiety and depression. One day after helping my aunt with photography for her book, I felt that creative spark again for a for a flickering instant. That night the name “Smelly Faces” popped in my head along with the idea for the potato shaped creatures. I had decided to take this randomness for what it was and move forward with it, setting all fears/emotions aside. The next morning, after messing around on a sewing machine, the original Smelly Face was born!
Do you illustrate all of your designs & branding yourself?
I do!! This is honestly one of my favorite parts. I have a background in digital media arts: animation so being able to draw, design, and brand everything myself gets me so pumped! I remember it took me a while to convince myself I was “fancy” enough to actually be a company. Branding and logos helped me a lot in this. It was a silly way to trick myself and feel “legit” but it worked! Cause if I have a mug with my company logo on it then it’s the real deal right?
You were into essential oils before it was trendy – tell me how you discovered them and decided you wanted to share your love of holistic health with others through Smelly Faces.
My mom got me into them! Five years ago, were they trendy then? I think that aromatherapy can be so great for everyone. Just like a smell can bring you back to a favorite childhood memory, more vivid than you thought possible, I think the smell of essential oils can help provide a similar affect.
Which of your Smelly Faces is your top seller?
Probably the Unicorn!!!
You recently published a children’s book that is super cute! That is such a different creative process from sewing – tell us what inspired you to write & illustrate a book
Oh dang, writing and illustrating children’s books is my passion. I love everything about it. Creating a new world, exploring characters and building a story line makes me geek out hardcore. I could write a whole essay answering this question, but I shall refrain. If anyone is interested in the importance and impact that stories have on us read The Hero with a Thousand Faces by Jospeh Campbell. It dives deep into how stories are routed in all of us as humans. This topic sparks all sorts of passion in me.
How do you balance your busy shop with motherhood?
I value efficiency pretty highly. So when I do get time in my office I won’t spend too much time on any one thing. If there are too many hiccups I usually will just take that for what it is and move along. My husband works second shift so he usually plays with the kiddos for a couple hours in the early afternoon before leaving for work. This gives me time to sew. When I’m hanging with my babies I’ll often plot and plan in a notebook. I’ll also often get them involved in the process! Meaning, as I stuff a Smelly Face, they throw fluff at each other and draw on the cardboard box. Then after I put the kids down at night, I’m right back working again.
What are your favorite ways to unwind from the handmade hustle?
My favorite way to unwind is to watch an incredibly ridiculous movie that I’ve seen about 3,847,284 times. Dumb and Dumber & Billy Madison are both some of my classic go-tos but there are many on the list. Also, cranking Led Zepplin or Michael Bolton (the cheesier the better) usually does the trick.
What is your top advice for moms who want to begin to use essential oils for aromatherapy with their children?
That it is awesome! I’d say to do lots of research and pick which oils you personally as a parent feel comfortable with. Find a community of people you feel happy with to help you get educated on the subject!
$1 from every Monster sold through luanded.com will go to end food poverty in American schools.
Lunch shaming is an embarrassing epidemic for children in America. When children have insufficient funds on their lunch accounts, most schools have policies where the child’s hot lunch is taken away and substituted with a brown bag lunch consisting of a cold sandwich and piece of fruit – or in some cases, they are forced to watch staff discard their tray of food into the trash, and are left with nothing at all to eat for lunch, a cruel form of punishment for a problem that they can’t control. You can read more about the sad epidemic of food poverty in American schools here.
I am passionate about creating change with this little monster making business of mine. I already make a monumental environmental impact by using only textile discards, which diverts tens of thousands of pounds of textiles from landfills annually, but I want to use Lu & Ed to directly create positive change in children’s lives as well. I’ve been working out the kinks for the Lu & Ed Lunch Program since January, and I’m so excited to launch it!
*My original choice to donate to received a grant and is able to offer free lunches to students for the 18-19 school year, yay! With the help of the staff, I selected Riverbend Elementary, a school where over 50% of students are on food assistance.
Beginning in September, I will take also be taking submissions for the next school to donate to in my Facebook group.
Members can submit their child(ren)’s school or a school in their community through the 7th of each month, then I’ll create a poll for members to vote for the next school to receive donations. Members can add family or friends to the group to use their voices to vote for their local school.
The same school won’t be chosen twice in one academic year, allowing for a total of twelve schools that will receive donations from the Lu & Ed Lunch Program to pay off student lunch debt & load funds onto low income students lunch accounts, and to help fund summer lunch programs for communities where children face hunger at alarming rates.
How you can help:
Spread the word about the Lu & Ed Lunch Program – share this blog post with your friends
As a mother to a preteen AND a baby, I can honestly say it is super exciting to see how much the children’s fashion industry has evolved since my son was a baby/toddler! There is still a huge fast fashion market, but you can also build a lasting wardrobe for your child that is fun, fashionable & ethical through independent designers, makers & creatives! Today, I am so excited to introduce Mindy of Milkweed Baby & share her shop (plus a sweet discount code!) with you! She makes the most adorable, high quality and durable baby shoes I have encountered – Milkweed Baby are the only baby shoes we have ever bought for Zoey Rose, and the only ones Zoey will actually keep on her tootsies! Mindy is mama maker driven by quality & great design, and below, you can get to know her & see a sampling of her work!
Tell us about yourself:
Born & raised KC… and still here. But I think it’s great here! The only thing that would get me to move is a beach on the west coast! I had planned to be a golfer, I played in high school until an injury stopped all that. So instead of a golf scholarship I went to art school. I majored in painting at KU and dropped out with 3 semesters left because I was afraid of a “do you want fries with that?” degree. I worked a variety of jobs after that. The last was 9 years as a marketing coordinator for a seminar company. While working there I started my first business, by Mindy. I was laid off while on maternity leave 2 years ago and it was during that time that Milkweed Baby was born.
When did you first find your love of creating?
I don’t remember a time when I didn’t love creating.
Have you always been a textile sewist?
NOPE! I learned to sew when I was 27. I wanted to make a gift for each of my bridesmaids, so my mom helped me sew them each a bag. And that was that! I was hooked!!!
When did you begin to create baby products/How did this become your central
I started making baby shoes in 2010. I’d been making a variety of things, coffee cup sleeves, totes, bow ties, knit ties, clutches, aprons and so on. Nothing felt right.
I was at a pop up and saw how people couldn’t control themselves with baby items. They are just so cute! So I decided it was the market I wanted to get into.
I did a bunch of research and found the soft soled shoes that I thought looked cool were really hard to find. So that’s what I was going to make. And through a bunch of trial and error, I worked it out.
What sets your baby shoes apart from the rest?
1. My style (I don’t do ugly). 2. My quality (read attention to detail & perfectionist nature).
The baby & children’s market is heavily saturated and highly competitive –
what is your advice for makers in this industry to help them stand out &
grow their client base? Find your style identity and stay true to it. It’s really easy to pander to the audience, but it’s not satisfying. “YOU DO YOU”. Get your product in front of as many people as you can. If you are passionate and make a good quality product, people will buy.
How did having your first baby impact running your small business?
This is complicated. Having my first baby almost killed my business and made my business my full time gig. I basically took a year off when I had my daughter, and during this time a local gal hard core ripped off my designs, undercut my price by a mile (she uses lesser quality materials) and moved in on all the local shows. Also during this time, I was laid off from my full time job of 9 years… so this became my full time job. I have to say, I thought it would be easy to work and take care of a kid! HA!!! Only someone without a kid would make that assumption!
What can makers & small business owners expecting a baby do to prepare
their business – and themselves! – for such a big change?
You know, so much depends on what kind of kid you have. Mine rolled over at 6 days old, so she could never be left alone. My best advice is to prepare your finances to have some down time. Amp up as much stock as you can before baby comes so you can still keep up with shows and online without needing to make much (prevent people from moving in on your “turf”).
Expect the unexpected.
What is your favorite method of self-care as a mama & a maker?
Walks, Sleep, Wine, meal planning (it’s the only way we eat healthy), and every 3 weeks I get my eyebrows waxed
Do you bring your baby to events you vend at? If so, how do you balance motherhood & face-to-face business transactions with customers?
Mostly we have my mother-in-law watch my daughter while my husband & I run my booth at shows. However, we are about to do 2 big ones where childcare is not going to be an option. So we will see. I think the plan is to get a cheap tablet and load Daniel Tiger on it. And coloring books and crayons. Probably, my husband and I will take turns chasing after my daughter and making sure she doesn’t break any ceramics or topple any displays. And my husband will have to leave me for a couple hours each day to handle her naps.
How many pairs of your handmade baby shoes does your own sweet little baby
She has 1. I know, I know. Everyone always gasps when I tell them that. Here’s the deal…
I love all of my fabrics, so choosing is impossible. So I just pick 1 or let her pick 1. I make a pair & that’s it. I need to be making these shoes to sell because I need the income.
I recall something about the cobbler’s child has no shoes?
What is your favorite color?
Green (many shades of green… aqua, seaglass, olive, mint, kelly, emerald… just not hunter)
What is your drink of choice while you sew?
5pm —> WINE (shiraz or rose)
Television or music while you work?
Music (TV is too distracting and I really need to be looking at the sewing machine)
Lastly – Have you ever made yourself an adult size pair of slippers?
No. Maybe next year!
I hope you enjoyed getting to know Mindy of Milkweed Baby! Be sure to visit her on Facebook & Instagram, and you can use code LUANDED to save 20% of baby shoes in her online store!