Today we meet Esther Freedman, founder and creative director of cuteheads. cuteheads is a kidswear label made for girls up to 8 years old, offering unique high-quality outfits made for special occasions. Esther has steadily grown her business since its founding in 2011, but, like all of us, has faced some challenges in the last year due to COVID-19. How has she adapted and overcome these challenges? How has she harnessed the unique qualities of Pinterest to promote and boost her brand? Let’s find out!
My name is Esther Freedman, I’m the founder and creative director of cuteheads, a kidswear label made for girls newborn through 8y. We specialize in special occasions, making heirloom-quality clothing for birthdays, holidays, and any day that requires something timeless and unique. cuteheads is cute, girly, one of a kind, and made with love in Houston, TX. This is and has been my full-time job, aside from being a mom, for almost ten years. This is my first business.
cuteheads was founded in 2011. I realized back then that I wanted to work for myself to give myself the flexibility to work on my own terms and raise a family. The name cuteheads was derived from a nickname my husband and I gave our dog Winnie; I thought it was a cute name for a clothing brand, which is what I had planned to start. After a pretty extensive search turned up no use of the name, I went with it.
The first products we created were mix and match knits: think leggings, tops, tees, tunics, and other play-type clothing. Not many years into the business, we hired an incredible seamstress, who was able to create one of a kind pieces for our customers who wanted something a little more special. We quickly realized that the special pieces were what we were really good at and what people really wanted, so we pivoted away from everyday clothing to special occasion, and the rest is history.
We’ve been working on Valentine’s Day dress and rompers, as well as SS21, which is highly Easter-driven. We work in seasons, and usually drop three collections a year: Spring/Summer, Fall/Winter and Holiday. In between those seasons, we release other dresses and bubble rompers, and we usually share them with our VIP customers in our Facebook group first.
We are also working on email strategy, specifically re-engagement campaigns, retention campaigns, and setting up funnels that keep customers engaged. Our focus is on profitability right now and repeat business. As we look ahead to 2021, we will implement more growth strategy, mostly through social media advertising, which has worked well for us in the past.
Our biggest challenge last year has most definitely been COVID-19. The holiday season is usually a time when I’m at multiple pop-up shops and markets a week, and that is where I get to really engage with the customers. I haven’t been able to do any markets this season, so my team has been very focused on meeting our goals through online channels, which is a challenge because people are used to being able to shop cuteheads in person this time of year. Luckily, we have amazing customers who have really shown up for us this year.
My motivation is that I truly love what I do, in spite of the challenges and difficulties. I never wake up and don’t want to go to work. I really enjoy tweaking things, making small changes, and trying new things. I’m also motivated by my two girls who are 5 and 7. They absolutely love what I do, and they think it’s so cool. When they see their friends wearing dresses that mommy made, they’re so proud. I love being an example for them of what a working mom can be.
A few things have been very effective for us. The most effective by far has been Pinterest. We spend a lot of time and resources cultivating our Pinterest growth and strategy and it has paid off in a big way. I highly recommend investing in Pinterest for any business that has a lot of creative assets and is highly visual, like kids’ clothing.
We also invest a lot in Facebook and Instagram advertising; although we haven’t been doing as much of that last year, in past years, we’ve put a lot of resources into social media advertising campaigns and it’s been very effective. I love that you can track everything so easily and you know exactly what your ROI is versus traditional advertising. We also utilize a VIP Facebook group, where we can connect daily with potential customers, host group-only giveaways, show them previews of what’s coming, and more. It’s been a great way to keep up with people who already shop our brand or are interested in doing so.
A few pieces of advice have really helped me throughout the years. The first is knowing that you don’t know everything. I’m always one to hire an expert because I’d rather it be done well and quickly. I think of my time in terms of how much I’d be getting paid per hour, and if I’d have to spend too many hours on a job I’m unqualified to do, it’s not worth it.
I would also tell anyone interested in starting a clothing business that 90% of it is not cute or fun. It is mostly very, very hard work, but the payoff is incredibly rewarding. Make sure you really, really love it because it’s going to be a marathon, not a sprint.
I also love the quote, “Done is better than perfect.” You will NEVER be perfect. Nothing will ever be perfect. If you wait until it is, you’ll never launch and you’ll never start. Start somewhere, make mistakes, and learn along the way. Just don’t bet the farm on any one thing and you’ll come out on the other side just fine.
I absolutely love everything by Seth Godin, especially the book Linchpin. I also like Malcolm Gladwell (he has a great podcast called Revisionist History). I listen to a lot of podcasts, not necessarily about business, but I do think it’s important to expand your mind and be open to new ideas, regardless of the topic.
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