Within the first five minutes of our interview, Stacy Nordlund, 30, was singing the song her mom taught her to help remember how to spell her name. She and Abbie Kelley, 31, have been friends since childhood. Now, as grown-ups, they’ve combined their backgrounds in fashion and psychotherapy to create Little Monsters Gear, a children’s clothing line representing the fun, lovable qualities in every adorable kiddo.
I had a blast spending time with them and couldn’t help but notice the parallels between Abbie and Stacy and me and Alysse—way different personalities that complement each other at work and in life.
Read on to find out how they turned their talents and bond into a thriving business.
People with Panache: Let’s start with a little background. Where did the idea come from for the clothing line?
Abbie Kelley: Well, I’m the third of 15 and my dad had nicknames for all of us. After college, I started making characters and shirts for my brothers and sisters based off their nicknames. After that, I did it for friends and other family so it just started picking up that way. That’s where it started—as a passion project.
Stacy Nordlund: So she’d been doing this, and I’d seen it and said, “Abbie this is amazing. You have to do something with this! Let me help you.” I went to school at FIT in New York. At the end of 2011, we started making it official, turning it into a brand, streamlining things and making it more available to the public. So it’s been really good so far.
AK: It became a business when Stacy came on. We had the 10 monsters and then we did our official retail launch in January of this year when we went to STYLEMAX, a trade show in Chicago, to open it up to boutiques.
“It’s gonna be a monster world. Watch out!” —Stacy Nordlund
PWP: Your monsters have such unique personalities. Where do you find the inspiration for each one?
AK: I think my brothers and sisters—kids in general. I work with a lot of kids as a children’s psychotherapist. Each monster is a whole character, and that makes them unique. It’s not just a design. They each have their own stories. We think, “What would this guy look like? How is his personality?”
PWP: Who’s your favorite monster?
AK: Daredevil is my favorite right now. I think because it was so nerve-wracking coming out with our first launch; it was a very vulnerable feeling in general. Stacy’s the one who gave me a lot of courage. So I think me channeling Daredevil right now is appropriate.
PWP: Did you ever dream one day you’d start a children’s fashion brand?
SN: I always wanted to have my own business. Always. But it just really happened organically. It was the right thing to do for us.
AK: It’s pretty in line with something I would have done. Not necessarily how it manifested. But Stacy and I have always been really driven and have that entrepreneurial spirit.
SN: We like all the little details, and we like to be in charge. Every day we’re like “Oh look what we learned how to do!” All the little things where other people might think that’s crazy and annoying, but we’re like, “I can feel my brain expanding!”
AK: And what we’ve found, especially when we went to STYLEMAX, is that other business owners really embrace each other and the community in general.
SN: It’s so rewarding to be vulnerable and put yourself out there. And when you get responses, it’s all worth it.
PWP: How has the journey been so far?
SN: We’re on a rollercoaster—a fabulous one. You have a lot of ups and downs and everything in between, figuring out and navigating through all the decisions that we’re making. We’ve made some decisions and said, ”Okay, we won’t do that again,” or “Oh wow, that really worked out like we were hoping it would!”
AK: I really like black-and-white decision making, and I think one of the hardest things for me has been that I’ll be really excited about something and then there’s always something more. There’s never an end, a place to sit back and be done. That’s been a process for me. Every decision you make opens a door to something else.
PWP: What would you say is the mission of your monsters?
AK: A big part of our brand—and even ourselves—is empowerment. Celebrate the world around you, and celebrate kids and their unique perspectives.
SN: Kids with unique personalities grow into adults with unique personalities.
AK: And we want to celebrate the uniqueness of children, or monsters, and create a monster world. It’s definitely a world I would want to be in. I love imagining it—seeing the world through children’s eyes. That’s really what’s so fun about it.
SN: It’s gonna be a monster world. Watch out! Stinker’s bounding down the street.
“Whenever I think I know something concretely, it changes. I know this job is only going to keep getting better and better.” —Abbie Kelley
PWP: Would you say this is your dream job?
SN: Yes, 100 percent. This doesn’t feel like work because we’re so passionate about it. I could do it 24/7 and be incredibly happy.
AK: I would say this is one of my dream jobs. And I think what’s fun is that we get to create a world like this, and this job is going to keep evolving for us. That’s what I love about it. It’s not stagnant. Whenever I think I know something concretely, it changes. I know this job is only going to keep getting better and better.
PWP: What’s the biggest thing you’ve learned from starting your own company?
SN: Trust yourself. And keep going. KEEP GOING. Also let yourself be vulnerable. That’s been a big word in our lives lately. Just being okay with vulnerability.
AK: Not taking it personally. I’m finally okay with that. You either get our brand and you get our monsters, or you don’t. It’s a business. Stacy helped me, but that’s a big reason why I didn’t put it out there initially.
SN: Trust yourself and stay true to yourself. This is very much us. It’s either going to make you smile or it might not and that’s okay. And you have to be able to learn from yourself and laugh at yourself.
PWP: What makes you happiest?
SN: My relationships. With my friends, with my family.
AK: That’s what I was going to say!
SN: Was it? Aw, I love you! And making those strong. If I don’t see my friends or my family for like a week, I’m a hot mess.
AK: Definitely relationships make me the happiest. My friends, my family, I wouldn’t be who I am today without my family. My poor husband having to support me with all this… What if I had said money?
SN: Money, money, money. Every day I’m hustling.
Check out Little Monsters Gear for monster bios and way more—the only thing it’s missing is a clip of Stacy’s fabulous singing.
[Photos provided by Abbie and Stacy]