- By way of introduction, tell us a bit of who you are and maybe something most may not know about you?
My name is Whitney and I am the mom to two adventurous boys. I’m grew up in Glendale, AZ and I moved to Palo Alto, CA straight out of college for a Interior Design job. Five years ago, I started a fashion company called Sonnet James. Something that most may not know about me is that I’m an introvert and my favorite way to center myself is to lay down in my comfy bed and watch TV while eating brownies. I also mostly listen to classical radio while I drive.
- What do you do professionally?
I am the founder and creative director of Sonnet James. My company makes play dresses for playful moms to help make them feel beautiful and young at heart while still feeling comfortable.
- Sonnet James has done remarkable things. If you could pick your top five proudest moments for your brand what might they be?
- Kelly Kaposki wearing the Marni dress in Mini Magazine!
- Sarah Jessica Parker reposting my picture on Instagram and talking about loving my dress and styling!
- Designing, producing, packing up, and driving 4,000 dresses from San Francisco, CA to Provo, UT during the most difficult time in my life. Still to this day, I am so proud of that collection and the hard work I put into making things happen.
- Crossing off roller-skating in Times Square for a Sonnet James video from my bucket list.
- The first six weeks of Sonnet James teaching myself how to pattern draft and sew on my kitchen floor. I’ve never worked harder.
- Why the name Sonnet James?
Basically, Sonnet James is my third child. Both my pregnancies were surpise genders so I picked two names for each gender with each of my pregnancies. James was the name we had picked out for Satchel, if he was a girl and Sonnet was the name I had picked if my second son, Eero, had been born a girl. When coming up with a name for my company, I decided to merge both names and call it Sonnet James. It is sort of the daughter I never had.
- Did you always know you wanted to be an entrepreneur?
I certainly feel like I’ve always had an entrepreneurial spirit. When I was growing up, I had business ideas and started seven companies before I started Sonnet James. Sonnet James was a personal project that had more purpose, conviction, and motivation than anything I’d ever done in my life.
- We love the community you have built with Sonnet James. What do your think are some of the key factors in your growth?
My goal is to inspire joy and happiness and play. I believe so strongly that working with people who have that same mission is key. For growth, using the right channels to find my customer. For Sonnet James, Cup of Jo and Love Taza were essential to developing community and fostering growth.
- Walk us through the process of how you design a new piece or collection?
Designing a new collection looks like me listening to the same song on loop. This really helps me focus and get lost in the creative process. I move the furniture in our office around to have an open floor workspace where I’m able to display mood boards, magazine cut outs, and of course snacks. On a white board, I’ll write down my inspiration and what I want to achieve with the pieces I’m designing. Once I have sketches, I meet with my patternmaker who helps bounce ideas back and forth in order to create samples. Now, the fun part is when I’m able to share these pieces with my Instagram followers to gain feedback. Without a doubt, my customers are a huge help to the design process.
- Who do you look to for, or where do you find your inspiration?
I actually get a lot of ideas from both men and women’s style. Fashion Week’s street style is a huge inspiration for me as well as art. I also look to other moms to find inspiration.
- What do you love most about running your own business? And what do you love least about running your own business?
Being a working single mom who runs her own business can feel like total chaos. However, I actually think it makes me more alive, and I feel like it makes me a better mother. I feel like a lot of times I wish I didn’t work, and could just be at home, and just be 100% focused on them all the time, but honestly I think keeping that creative side of me going and flowing brings a whole other dimension to me that I think is really important to my relationships, especially with my children.
- You recently mentioned how you took a break to reevaluate what Sonnet James really was. What did you learn in that time?
I learned to bring things back to basics and remember why I started it. My mantra has always been to have fun, make mothers happy and to keep it simple. Sonnet James was created to help myself and other moms to stay present. And I wasn’t anymore. I was scared all the time of every decision I was making. I made a HUGE shift from fear-based decisions to love and trust.
-Are there pivotal choices in your life that led you to where you are today? Do you mind sharing some of those with us?
Basically every choice that has completely terrified me I’ve done and those have all been my best decisions and greatest moments of growth. Filing for divorce, starting Sonnet James, and the last 12 months have ben very pivotal.
After having kids I always had little side businesses, but I was primarily a stay at home mom. But then my marriage began to deteriorate to the point I realized I needed to get out. I was so scared to leave because I had no idea how to take care of myself and my kids. I think of myself as being independent, smart, capable — but it was the most vulnerable place to be a single mom without a promising job opportunity. I was basically on my own. This didn’t stop me from choosing to believe in myself and my ability of running my own fashion company.
- What advice would you give to someone who is chasing their dreams?
First off, I’m so proud of you. Go, girlfriend! I would say that you just have to chase what your passion is, and if you love something or believe in a mission strong enough, then you can do it. I think I didn’t realize how much I could do until I had that burning desire. I believed in Sonnet James so much that it pushed me to do things I never thought I could do before. I have worked harder at Sonnet James than I have ever worked at anything before in my entire life. You just need to be fearless. Fear is what limits us so much in life, it’s our fear of failure, and you just have to remove that from the table.
- Could you share with us what a day in your life looks like?
During the summer, I wake up at 7:00am. The boys make mac & cheese and have fruit loops for breakfast. Gross, I know! My day does look like chaos. My son has a reading coach and I’ll often take phone meetings in the car. After that, I’ll play soccer with Eero, pick up Satchel and head straight to the park. By then, I’ll be jumping on another work call and making lunch for the boys. Mid afternoon usually means I’ll be on my third work call for the day followed by answering emails. If all else falls into place, it will then be time for a lemonade stand! To finish the day, it’s dinner, dishes, and shower before bedtime stories.
- As a single working mother we are in of how you juggle all your roles. What’s one simple thing you have found to help you juggle all that’s before you?
Dinner at the table all together every night is a goal for me. I want to be the one who puts my kids to bed. I love walking the boys to school and walking them home, which is a luxury! I feel like my day isn’t complete without those important moments since I always want my boys to share how they are feeling and their day.
- Let’s talk travel. What’s your next spot to visit?
I recently went to Bali for a surf retreat and I totally fell in love with the culture and the kind people. I was on a female deity journey. For my next trip, I’d love to visit London. I’ve never been!
- If you could go back ten years, what would you tell yourself?
You are so strong. Forgive. It’s all happening for a reason. Trust yourself always.
- Lastly, what are your dreams, small or big?
The boys and I dream of owning a small house with a movie theatre, a big yard, two bathrooms, and a dog. Oh, and a garden for me and a zip-line for them, too.