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MILF: Kelli Murray, Founder of Rylee + Cru

One of our fave Dopple customers and Lonny Magazine Managing Editor Angela Tafoya chatted with Kelli Murray, the founder of Rylee + Cru, about #momfails, Justin Timberlake, and those near-perfect tresses. Learn more about our first MILF below!

You’re the founder of one of the biggest independent kids’ brands and a mom of three (adorable little monsters). How do you balance the business with family…tell us your ways!

I think that balance is a bit of a myth as a working mom. I didn’t always think that though. I used to be pretty hard on myself for not being able to ‘do it all’. I found myself with a lot of guilt and stress over juggling a blooming career and very young babies. At the early stages of my business, it was definitely a learning curve figuring out what worked for me and what didn’t. The key for me was getting organized and getting help (two things I was not very good at!). I also had to learn to really make the most of my time at work and my time at home and limit distractions and time wasters (tv, social media, etc). My husband and I both own our own businesses so both of our schedules are super flexible which has honestly made all the difference in the world. This whole balancing act, it’s still a work in progress for us and I think it will always be. We just try our best and give ourselves grace along the way.

Teach us — what’s been pivotal to the success of Rylee?  What have been your big wins?

I knew a lot about brand development before starting Rylee + Cru. I worked as a graphic designer and merchandiser for a clothing company for five years prior before going freelance as an illustrator in 2012.  So after having my daughter and realizing that children’s’ clothing was something I wanted to pursue, I had a lot of experience to pull from. I partnered with my father, who has owned and operated a large screen-print factory here in San Diego for over 30 years and has a ton of brand experience himself.  I am 100% creative, and he is 100% business (in the best way!) and we make a great team — both of our roles are essential to making the business run smoothly. Luckily, when I launched my very first collection in 2014, it was at the height of Instagram. Remember when everyone who followed you saw your posts and you didn’t have to pay for it!? Ha!  I say that sarcastically, but it really did majorly impact the growth of my brand in those early days. I had a pretty decent personal social media following at that time (primarily mothers) who then turned right into customers when I launched Rylee + Cru. From there, growth was super organic. I remember pinching myself when some of my favorite children’s boutiques started contacting us wanting to carry our collection. Today we are in over 500 shops around the world (and recently Anthropologie — another ‘pinch me’ moment!).  All along I have just tried to stay true to myself. I create clothes that I love and that I think my kids will love. I create every single print and pattern myself, usually with a paintbrush. And I’ve surrounded myself with a great team, all of whom are vital in making the wheels turn here.

Owning your own (VERY successful!) business while parenting is no joke, how do you carve out time for yourself?

I would say that I for sure have workaholic tendencies and I have always had a really hard time taking care of ME. It’s always family, business, me — in that order.  I’ve realized the hard way that this is not the way to live and I’ve been slowly trying to change that. One of my favorite things to do is just get out of the house and spend time with my girlfriends, who are also mothers, who just get me. There is something about connecting with other mothers that helps me feel understood and not so alone.  A few other ‘me’’ favorites are massages, shopping (alone!), and painting.

Any epic #momfail moments that standout?  

Oh gosh, where to begin!? There are too many to recount but there is one that sticks out, I think only because it made me feel like such a terrible parent! My daughter started kindergarten this year (mind you, it was also my first experience as a parent with a kid in elementary school) and apparently every Friday they get out early at 12:45. Well, week one I had no idea and the poor girl had to wait an hour for me to drive back from work and pick her up in the principal’s office. But, for the next two consecutive weeks the same thing happened (no excuse, I just forgot). On that third week I could hardly look the principal in the eyes when I picked her up, I could feel her judgement (or possibly my own) without even lifting my head. It was an uphill battle from there gaining anyone’s trust back. Ha!


Do you feel pressure to do it for the IG? What’s different IRL than it is on IG?

People would laugh out loud if they saw the ‘behind the scenes’ on Rylee + Cru photoshoots! Starting this business I NEVER would have imagined photoshoots being one of the hardest part of my job…..but it is. Shoot days are gnarly and exhausting and totally unpredictable with kids. The cute photo you see on instagram was probably one out of 50 shots.  As a brand, I think it’s super important to stay consistent in your presentation and visuals. I’ve always been a stickler on having an ‘aesthetically pleasing’ instagram feed, because I feel like it is one of the most important marketing tools we have right now. Someone will immediately get a sense for who you are and what you’re all about by scrolling through you feed.  BUT, with that said, Instagram is a highlight reel. For me, it’s all a part of our creative story as a brand and with everything I do, I want it to be beautiful. I think people just have to know that real life is never that curated. IRL….there are babies crying, lollipops stuck in hair, mama’s breastfeeding, and me, dancing around like a monkey and making ridiculous noises to ‘get the shot’.

Favorite app?

Pinterest  and Instagram — even tie.

Your hair is amazing. Spill the tea!

Thanks! My sister has done it since I have been in high school!  Honestly, my hair style hasn’t changed since then either. It’s pretty fine and stick straight so I cut bangs to give me a ‘style’ without having to do anything with it.  I guess you can just call me lazy. haha. Oh, and my secret for platinum blondes is purple shampoo. It keeps it from getting too brassy.

3 things you can’t live without?

My family, my phone, and chocolate 😉

What makes you feel sexy (especially as a mom)?  

When my husband takes me out on a date and holds my hand and tells me I’m beautiful. His affirmations make me feel the most sexy and confident.


Favorite Rylee moment (i.e. TK celeb wore TK)…ever?
 

When Justin Timberlake’s kids were spotted wearing our stuff (I love him!).


What are your favorite womenswear brands?  

Isabel Marant, Reformation, Madewell, Doen.

What are your other fave kid’s brands?

Nico Nico, Tocoto Vintage, Little Creative Factory.

SHOP KELLI’S FAVES!
(password = KELLIBFF)

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