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KinderMountain: Blazing a Trail from Maritime Missions to Adventurewear for Kids

The ASPIRE Military Spouse Program, proudly backed by the Boeing Foundation, is a transformative 4-week initiative offering essential small business technical assistance to military spouses. Serving as a gateway to entrepreneurship, ASPIRE empowers military spouses to pursue economic stability with confidence. This program stands as a testament to Boeing's unwavering commitment to fostering innovation and resilience within military families and their communities. KinderMountain is a shining success of that commitment.

 

Take a Hike

We live in a digital era where the pull of technology often overshadows the call of the great outdoors. Studies show children under the age of 8 have more than 2.5 hours of screen time each day. Furthermore, spending time off the screen and outdoors promotes curiosity, creativity, confidence, and critical thinking. That’s what Katie Peabody, owner of KinderMountain, has known since she was a child. It’s what she teaches her own children today and it’s the foundation on which she’s built her business. KinderMountain is more than an outdoor clothing brand for kids. It’s a movement to reconnect kids with nature and inspire them to live active, adventurous lives. Their slogan: we believe that kids belong outdoors.

“As a hiking family, we became frustrated at the lack of options for children, especially toddlers. We witnessed kids on the trail complaining of being cold or wet. We began researching the existing children's outdoor clothing market and discovered the limited options are substandard in materials or overpriced. I realized that was the gap in the market, a need for KinderMountain.”  

Hiking Fuss into Hiking Fun

Kinder Mountain provides quality outdoor children's clothing with unique designs kids will love and parents will find affordable, reliable, and sustainable. According to Katie, KinderMountain designs outdoor gear to keep tiny hikers comfy and inspire memorable adventures. Katie's motivation to create Kinder Mountain springs from her own profound experiences in the great outdoors. Her childhood was steeped in outdoor activities like hiking and rock climbing. She recognized the formative role of childhood experiences and the transformative power of nature on one's confidence and well-being.

As a devoted parent and longtime hiking enthusiast, the need for suitable outdoor clothing for children struck a personal chord with Katie. Katie also understood the pivotal role that the right hiking clothing can play in getting kids outside.  She had firsthand experience with the frustrations parents face when searching for appropriate outdoor wear that combines durability, comfort, and style. She had grappled with the challenges of finding clothing that could withstand the rigors of outdoor play. It was clear that there was an unmet need in the market for high-quality outdoor clothing designed specifically for children.

“I ask a lot of parents at outdoor retailers: do you have kids? They're like, yeah. Do you take them hiking? They say, no, not anymore. When I ask why, they say they got wet and were miserable the whole time. As a parent, I don't think that that's the right way to handle it. Let's make it a fun experience for everybody. Put them in better clothing and reduce the likelihood of screaming and crying about being uncomfortable.”  

Into the Woods

Katie's formative years were enriched by family traditions that were intricately woven around the grandeur of the outdoors. Her family's Sunday hiking excursions were more than just recreational outings; they laid the cornerstone of Katie's profound respect for nature's ability to forge human connections, strengthen relationships and shape character. The influence of nature on Katie's early life led to a position at a forest school in Germany. The experience solidified her conviction in the transformative potential of nature-based education. She witnessed firsthand the blossoming creativity, curiosity, and confidence of children immersed in the forest environment. She also realized the importance of empowering children to be active participants in their learning journeys, and the role nature can play in that.

Additionally, studies highlight nature's capacity to calm the mind through its non-uniform shapes. Katie says organic forms of trees induce relaxation, complemented by the soothing sounds of the outdoors. Katies says her oldest child, who navigates the demanding world of competitive soccer and rigorous academics, finds respite and renewal in the woods. Meanwhile, her youngest advocates for outdoor escapades every day of the week. This juxtaposition of reactions reinforces Katie's conviction that fostering an early bond with nature is pivotal.

“A Native American proverb states, "We don't inherit the earth from our elders. We borrow it from our children. Taking kids out to the woods for free play and just letting them look at this rock or that rock. This rock is smooth, one has holes. This pinecone's really big. This one is closed up and why. There's so much that kids can learn about the world just from being in nature. Playgrounds are great for building coordination and strength, but I think that being in the forest changes it.”  

Charting a Course

Katie’s childhood was a whirlwind of mobility and diversity, shaped by her family’s military roots. Though her father's Navy service prompted relocations across continents, their family hikes remained a family ritual wherever they moved. Katie says they hiked through the Alps, Scotland, Germany, Spain, Morocco, and everywhere in between. The dynamic nature of military life also fostered her ability to embrace change and uncertainty—a skill that would prove invaluable throughout her journey. After graduating high school, Katie struggled to find her place in college. "I didn't feel like I fit in in college because I'd seen so much of the world already. Suddenly I was surrounded by people who grew up in a small town, and that's all they knew. I felt like I had something else to offer."

At the height of the Iraq-Afghanistan war, Katie decided to enlist in the military. Concerned, her father steered her away from the army and suggested joining the Coast Guard. Katie says their emphasis on life-saving missions aligned more closely with Katie’s ideals. Amidst the challenges of military service, Katie discovered a profound love for the Coast Guard. It instilled in her a clear understanding of her aspirations. Katie then met her future husband, and as her time in the service drew to a close, she was ready to embrace a new direction.

“It's always funny because, in the veteran community, we like to tease each other's branches, right? Everyone will call out the Coast Guard as puddle pirates, right? It’s all in good fun. But as soon as someone not in the veteran community tries to like, attack anyone, we’re all like, no, we're not gonna do that.”  

ASPIRE to New Heights

With the support of her husband, Katie resumed her academics. She graduated with a business degree, yet she felt unprepared to navigate the intricate landscape of entrepreneurship. After some research, Katie learned about the ASPIRE Military Spouse Program funded through a generous grant from the Boeing Foundation. Her enrollment in the ASPIRE program marked a pivotal moment for Katie. ASPIRE became a beacon guiding her through the intricate landscape of entrepreneurship, offering her a toolkit of skills, insights, and connections. Through ASPIRE, Katie not only gained a clearer sense of the startup world's dynamics but also discovered a network of like-minded veterans who shared her aspirations. This supportive community provided her with a space to exchange ideas, seek advice, and collaborate.

“I met a lot of spouses, a lot of home-based businesses which I think is great because in the military, like as a spouse you can't really work in a job because you don't pay for childcare. You don't have the time and you'll move anyway. The MLM format never worked for me and it’s hard to relate to those women. You're not calling the shots on how it's run, so I couldn't relate with any of them.”  

Throughout the ASPIRE program, Katie says she appreciated the emphasis on formulating a robust value proposition, which was previously overlooked in her initial business plan. Contrasting with her prior experiences in multi-level marketing, Katie says ASPIRE's networking opportunities underscored the practical significance of seeking support and mentorship from peers who comprehend the complexities of establishing a business.

“The advice and personalization during the course was sincere and beyond helpful. I have recommended the course to many military spouses and veterans I know who are looking to pursue their own startups in the future."

Hitting a Snag

Ultimately, the rockiest challenge Katie has encountered has been sourcing the right manufacturer. While the outdoor clothing industry has its fair share of manufacturers, finding one with expertise in technical materials for small-sized children's clothing has proved to be an intricate puzzle. Katie says she’s learning to navigate the fine balance between aspiration and practicality, ensuring that every step she takes is not only fueled by passion but also backed by a solid understanding of the financial landscape. From engaging with manufacturers across the globe to formulating her budget, Katie's determination to surmount these challenges is a testament to her commitment to realizing the potential of KinderMountain and the positive impact it could have on young adventurers everywhere. Furthermore, specialty manufacturers are more expensive. Katie’s has a smaller inventory with orders of 200 pieces in contrast to larger companies like Patagonia ordering thousands in bulk.

“I'll pull up Bangladesh and I'll look up every manufacturer there and just rapid-fire emails to all of them. The next day, I pick a new country like Taiwan then the next day is Vietnam. There are a handful of companies that can make it work, but it will be more expensive. But a backpack company I spoke with said, hey, this is how we did it. We had a sample made and flew to Vietnam and walked around the district until we found somebody that could do it and we just bought their entire manufacturing plant. I guess I'll be scheduling a trip abroad soon if I can't do this virtually!”  

The Unbeaten Path

KinderMountain is already making waves at local trade shows. Katies says the feedback has been amazing with many families interested in purchasing products for their own little explorers. Through the ASPIRE program, Katie was connected to the ROSIE Network’s CEO program. She's eager to apply the skills she’s learned to grow KinderMountain strategically. Katie's immediate pursuit centers on crafting sample products that unite comfort and adventure. Katie also sources fabrics and collaborates with local seamstresses to ensure quality and functionality. She even asks for her son’s feedback as hands-on testing, reinforcing her drive for universal toddler apparel. The next step is rigorous testing to adhere to safety standards. Including intricate elements like hood strings and waistbands. She hopes for a 15-product launch in Spring 2024, initially in the US, followed by Canada. In the future, Katie hopes to expand to Europe, but more research is needed to meet EU standards.

Beyond her entrepreneurial aspirations, Katie carries on the family tradition of hiking as a way to bond through shared experiences. This summer, she orchestrated a hike to Mount Adams with her entire family spanning ages 3 to 67. Ever the adventurer, Katie dreams of transcending borders with an international trek through the picturesque Patagonia region of South America. When asked what she would say to other entrepreneurs looking to enter the industry, Katie says to do your research and remain passionate. Most of all, lean into the people and resources around you and be prepared to combat “no”.

“There's going to be negativity, so be prepared. Keep adapting your idea until people's opinions start changing and you'll succeed. Have passion behind it, because if you don't have passion when you hear "no" 50 times, you'll lose interest. Be flexible and use advice from coaches and the community that might already be involved in that industry. Use it all to help you grow as a person, grow as a business, and expand your thoughts. Do research on everything – go to industry events for the market you're trying to get into. Pay attention to little details as well as big ones, because it all goes together.” 

 

About the author

Janelle is a storyteller through and through. She was raised in a family of entrepreneurs who owned and managed a series of small businesses, including a Hawaiian restaurant, a video store, and several real estate properties. Growing up in a low-income community but attending schools as a minority in affluent areas, she struggled with the inequities she faced each day.

Janelle graduated with a degree in Creative Writing, specializing in screenwriting and playwriting. She has worked for a number of nonprofits and has remained steadfast in her commitment to using her craft to support the missions of each organization, and uplift underserved communities throughout the Bay Area.

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