I’ve known Sonia Smith-Kang for several years now. We are both bloggers, but beyond that we have several other things in common: we both live in the same area of the Valley, our children are similar ages & we have similar interests. One of those interests has to do with the subject of multiculturalism. For Sonia, it is not just an interest but a passion project that has turned into a business.
Sonia is the founder & creative designer for Mixed Up Clothing, which is a children’s apparel line that celebrates culture in fun, fashion prints. I adore the clothing – the styles are super cute, trendy, age appropriate & so colorful! Last year Sonia co-hosted the MultiCulti Mixer event, which brought together wonderful guest speakers, a Mixed Up Clothing fashion show & a Mixed Me book reading by Taye Diggs. It was a great event & I’m looking forward to more in the future!
Sonia has such an interesting background & I’m excited that she is sharing it with you. Please meet the latest Real Mom of the SFV, Sonia Smith-Kang!
How/why did you begin your business?
Sonia: I was a critical care pediatric Registered Nurse and as you can imagine it is a high stress position. As a stress reliever I would design and sew clothes for my children. I loved going downtown to the garment district and find fabrics that had cultural prints on them. As a multiracial/multicultural mom of four, it was very important to impart cultural pride in my children. The fabrics I sourced had fun prints like piñatas from Mexico, kente cloth prints from Africa and Hibiscus flowers from Hawaii. I would then sew the fabric into different silhouettes like rompers, dresses and tops. Anytime the kids wore my outfits, I would get stopped on the street and folks would ask about their clothes and I would explain the cultural significance to them. We would be there for a long time just chatting about the culture and sharing each other’s customs and traditions. I had my Oprah “A-ha moment!” If my clothing was such a conversation starter about culture, why don’t I do something with them? If these strangers wanted to know about them, maybe others would as well. Mixed Up Clothing was born in 2011.
As a working mother, what is one tip or piece of advice that you would give to other female entrepreneurs?
Sonia: I would encourage them to network in their line of business as well as in an adjacent field. For instance, I design children’s clothing, so of course I will network with designers but I also network with stylists, bloggers/media and photographers. Anyone that you can team up with will be an asset to you. Be sure to develop and cultivate the relationships. Don’t just be a taker, give to them as well. Folks want to see you are as committed to their success as you are to your own. I always say there is plenty of room for us all at the top. We do not have to step on others to get there or not help someone else out of fear that they will make it before us. If you are genuine in your approach, people will know and good things will happen. I think that was more than one piece of advice. Lol!
What do you like best about having a business in the San Fernando Valley?
Sonia: When my family and I moved from Hawaii to the Mainland, San Fernando Valley became home. It only made sense that I would not only live here but work here as well. As a mom of four, I have to keep my life as easy as possible, so working close to home is important and giving back to the community I live in is important to the mission of my business.
If there was one thing you wish you knew before you began your business, what would that be?
Sonia: I wish I knew about all the resources out there that are in place to help you start and run a business. I went to college to be a RN. I can do CPR with my eyes closed and start an IV in seconds. Starting a business was intimidating and I functioned as a “hobby” instead of as a business because I didn’t know the business aspect and it kept me frozen from acting on my dream. Little did I know that there are agencies out there that can help. I contacted the SBA, Women’s Center, Valley Economic Development Center, and took an entrepreneurial training program. In the class, they helped me get my business license, wholesale permit, and any certification I needed. After 6 weeks, I was a certified small business owner. Ask questions, do your research. If you want it, you can do it and there are folks out there (some are free) that can help.
I love Sonia’s advice about networking & cultivating business relationships, especially the part about being a giver & not just a taker. You want to reciprocate & support each other! I also think it’s great that she gives back to the San Fernando Valley community.
Disclosure: No monetary compensation was received for this post. All images are my own unless otherwise noted. As always, my opinions are 100% my own.