If you’re just joining in, for the month of January we were inspired to change up our content for the month to focus on women who we find inspiring and can tell us about their journey of “becoming” based on our Book Club book of the month by Michelle Obama. You can read the first one with Grace Bonney here. Stay tuned for many more!
I asked our readers on Instastories who they would like to see in this interview series and we received a number of requests to feature Whitney Lundeen of Sonnet James. I am a proud Sonnet James fan and wearer so it was a natural, great choice. And, the timing couldn’t be more perfect as Whitney was a contestant on Shark Tank YESTERDAY! Go and watch her kill it (I’m going to watch it tonight on Hulu!)
Sonnet James is a clothing company for mothers that focuses on “playful clothes for playful moms”. Whitney started the company when she got divorced about 4 years ago. She had never made clothing before but taught herself how to make patterns, find a factory to make the dresses, which are all made ethically in San Francisco, and start and run a business. I’ve loved watching her brand explode and take off and find its loyal following and I’m constantly in awe of the partnerships she’s done. I love the images she’s created with moms, their children, and a great photographer and I’ll share some of my favorites today. I’m so pleased to introduce you to her!
What do you consider yourself? Example: Artist, designer, illustrator, maker, business person etc.?
A problem solver.
Who helped you “become” who you are?
My sister Tiffany. My mom. My neighbor growing up, Toni, who was a friend’s mom. But mostly me.
Do you feel like you’ve arrived at what you set out to do?
Not even close!
What more would you like to “become”?
Sonnet James made a big splash as soon as the doors opened. How did you garner such attention?
Gabby from Design Mom posted about Sonnet James. That is forever the Sonnet James’ claim to fame.
Do you like collaborating with other people or working on your own?
Both. It’s all about the people. If the flow is good working with other people is way better than working alone.
What are you most proud of in your career?
How brave I’ve been because I’ve been so scared. Risks are scary. Starting, growing and running and business and being a mother are all scary. I have kept working despite fears that could hold me back.
How did your childhood influence what you have become?
I think I was born the way I am in a lot of ways. I was naturally empathetic and a gentle soul but my childhood took me deep into this. My family was not educated about child development and that really harmed us. I don’t know if I would understand how important child development is if it weren’t for that childhood.
Did you feel pressured in any way to pursue a certain career path?
Oh yes! I felt pressure in high school. I chose a career in interior design because I liked it a lot but largely because I knew it would not be intimidating to men I might meet. I would have thrived in business and finance but I honestly thought that if I were in business or finance I would never get married. It was the culture I was raised in.
How did you get started in your field doing what you do?
When I was starting Sonnet James, I had a vision of doing something I believed in and knew almost nothing about clothing or fashion design. I wanted it badly enough that I did whatever I had to to make it happen. Sounds pretty simple, right!? 😉
What did you study? Did you go to school specifically for what you do?
I studied interior architecture and design at Brigham Young University Idaho.
Did you have anyone along the way that was instrumental in the trajectory of your life?
I worked for a total BOSS at Gensler (a global architecture, design, and planning firm) during my internship who was living a life I wanted to have. She was amazing, smart and talented and she ran the show. She told me she came to Gensler saying, I want this salary and I want to take my kids to school and pick them up every day. And they said, Deal. I always loved her for that.
What’s your workspace like?
It’s a black felt tip pen and a spiral notebook. Anywhere and everywhere that I have these two things I do my best work. I also work best if it’s quiet and uncluttered.
Did you always have an ultimate plan?
What’s coming up for you in 2019? And your company?
Big things! I’m predicting the biggest year yet for Sonnet James! The first thing is I’m on Shark Tank this month! (editor’s note: her episode aired on Sunday, January 20th.)
What do you do when someone copies your work?
Now, I work harder. Be better.
Who is your work intended for? Example: you, your readers, someone who you hope is watching…
It’s always for mothers. I’m always trying to design what I think they would enjoy. I design what I enjoy but toned down a little since I’m a bit risky with fashion.
What’s inspiring you lately?
What did you want to be when you were young versus when it was time to decide what to actually do?
I wanted to be a doctor when I was five. Then I wanted to be Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen. Then a CIA agent. Then Britney Spears for a looooonnnng time. I never decided to be what I am. I had a solution to a problem and so my new career began. No matter what my title is, I will first and always be a problem solver, a visionary and an introvert whose favorite thing is to lay in my bed.
Where you find Whitney
Thanks for your thoughts about “becoming”, Whitney! We’re so pleased to have you. Stay tuned for our next interview tomorrow!