1. Tell us about your beginnings, please. How did it all start?
It all started with my (Asia’s) and Michał’s first child – Franek (Kasia is his Godmother). As a young mum, I was learning the secrets of motherhood and attachment parenting. I fell in love with wraps and carriers which appeared to be hard to reach in Poland. I didn’t manage to buy a wrap and a carrier. Waiting for them for three months was the LennyLamb starting point.
I thought that producing one couldn’t be so hard to do. My husband Michał picked up on the idea and visualized everything. The website and the name were born just that same evening. LennyLamb is a paraphrase of a music band’s name – the one which music we loved at that time. I am a pharmacist and Michał is an IT specialist. For me, it was suppose to be a project for maternity leave, for Michał a place to pursue his IT and photographic passions. Lenny the lamb settled down in our small apartment with us as our next child.
Despite the idea of a company, a brand and products were really specified, we knew it would be hard to do it all alone. We invited my sister Kasia and her husband Piotr to cooperate with us. They were just graduating in Łódź, a Polish city with textile traditions, and Piotr was studying the secrets of a production of fabrics. Unaware of hardships awaiting us, we started with great enthusiasm, putting our hearts into it.
2. Have you dreamt of having a company that would be known around the world - or it just came naturally?
At the beginning, each and every sold wrap was a great success for us. Despite the fact that it was to be a family and local project, for our children, day by day, month by month, year by year Lenny has won hearts in other cities, countries, and continents. Actually, every day was a new challenge because we had to learn to run and manage the developing enterprise. We’ve been surprised by many problems but solving them gave us lots of satisfaction, at the same time pushing the company forward in the direction unknown for us at that point. The talents of all four people were very useful here, and also the people who were joining the team were invaluable.
3. Tell us please about the process of certification. What does it mean that your products are certified?
This is a very interesting and wide topic in which I feel a specialist now. Confirming quality of our products has always been important for us since the company beginning. The trouble was that certificates on the market did not fully predict such a product which was a novelty at that time. Wraps and soft carriers appeared to be more of a textile products than baby carries known to all so far certifying institutions. At first, we focused on fabrics. As we didn’t find proper fabrics amongst those available on the market, we developed our own requirements and both the fabrics and the knitwear were made-on-order in personally checked production plants from which we required the Oeko-tex 100 certifications. Nowadays, we have the whole process under control at our own place.
Good quality and safty of thechildren fabric mean a lot in such products, but it is still not enough for us. Our finished products were undergoing regular strength tests, flammability tests, chemical tests and compliance with European baby carriers norms valid at that time.
Within last 10 years, a lot have changed in terms of requirements and many studies on wraps and baby soft carriers safety have developed in the USA . For all these years, we’ve been in touch with such institutions as CPSC, ASTM International, KOMAG. We’re a member of BCIA, at the same time realizing all recommendations and regularly testing products according to new norms. For the last few years, no carriers without newly developed ASTM certificates can be launched onto USA market, and starting from 1st Feb 2018 similar requirements will be applied to wraps. We are always prepared for such changes ahead of time :)
4. Why did you decide to have all your production in Poland - knowing that the costs might be lower if you choose Turkey or India?
Poland is our home. LennyLamb has never been just a business project. LennyLamb success would never bring us satisfaction if we couldn’t share it with our loved ones, our neighbours, people from our region. Besides, keeping an eye on it all we are sure of the quality of our products. In the last 10 years, the company has completely moved to our hometown, to a place where I and Kasia were brought up – it may not be the easiest and cheapest place to run a company, but this is exactly where we want to run and develop it – in the heart of Europe. Feel free to visit us.
5. What were some of the biggest obstacles that you had to face on the way?
All the hardships we’ve met on our way I see now as development opportunities. First, and the one that almost destroyed us, was the distance and difficulty in communication between marketing and sales departments run by me (Asia) and Michał from Warsaw and production department managed by Kasia and Piotr from Kłudzice, 140km away. Growing popularity of the brand caused for example sales to take an order for something that couldn’t be manufactured on time. Sales didn’t understand why it was this way, and production why a specific order is so important, and why quality matters so much.
The decision to move into one place made communication more efficient, as well as shipment and quality come straight from the production place.
It frequently happened that having solved one problem, we faced another one. Many of them have been solved with a tailor-made IT system created, maintained and still being developed by Michał. The programme counts what is to be produced on a given day, makes sure there are no mistakes in shipments, and does many other things we don’t even remember about.
An important point in company’s development,which strongly has pushed us forward, was solving the case of fabrics availability. The decision to open our weaving mill was one of the bigger challenges that Piotr and Michał took on their shoulders. Today, it is a place we’re very proud of.
6. Who is the creator of all these amazing designs? For example of the Symphony line...
Designing pattern lines in our company have always been a teamwork. At first, discussions took place only in our circle, and so Kasia is behind our timeless Sunset Rainbow stripes, which has been popular and appreciated for 8 years now.
Michal set himself a goal, which was the point of honour for him, of weaving Man of War between two Galleys – Pieter Bruegel’s engraving, and this is how our famous Galleons wrap was created, a wrap the entire babywearing world was talking about at the time, Piotr is behind the Snow Queen pattern. Nowadays, marketing and fabric production department is resomonsible for that.There are three graphic designers Ania, Sebastian, Szymon and there are Asia, Emil, Dominika and Monika who work on patterns. There is always a person from the Board who moderates the meeting. Once a week we have a project meeting where we decide on patterns and motifs, and colours. It is only a part of the job to be done. For the next week, our specialists work to see how a given pattern looks on the fabric, how to put on the strands so that it works well as a wrap. Symphony was born at such a meeting, and Asia Makowska is behind it.
7. Being two busy moms - how do you manage running a company and being a mom? Have you ever dreamt of having a company that will be known around the world?
At first, I want to say that on an everyday basis we work with loads of great mums who are no less busy than we are. Most of the women working in our company, which employs 120 people, shares their responsibilities just as we do. I think we learn how to do it from one another every day, and the work is interspersed with conversations about our children, joys, and worries we have.
I have always dreamt of traveling and one of the places I wanted to see is New Zealand. This dream has not come true yet, but I clearly remember a day when we sent a few of our products to New Zealand. Later, I got a thank you e-mail with beautiful photos of a mother in our caffe latte fleece for two. I felt then that running such a company is a real adventure and was really proud :D
8. What´s your favourite baby carrier and your favourite design?
I definitely refuse to answer this question. I love them all. I know our full buckle carriers in every detail – starting from a strip or elastic length, the way of sewing or adjusting – because I designed them. I worked on most of the patterns personally, together we chose colors, strands, I decided whether and when they will be available – even though there are plenty of them there is a story behind every single one of them today I am very happy to be testing them personally again!
9. Have you ever been to Chile or Latin America?
Not yet. They are on my top 10 list. I spent last 10 years on working and bringing up children, with trips mostly locally here in Europe, but it is all before us.
10. Can you tell us anything about your future plans?
My private plan is to be a good person and a good enough parent. A lot of struggles are stilll ahead of me. And for business plans – we’ve been in love with fabrics for ages now and from time to time we manage to use some of them in clothes made for us. Slowly, we’re working on LennyLove brand which will allow us to use our knowledge and skills to create unique clothes for adults and children. We want our beautiful fabrics, which we have created, to be used more widely.