Welcome to the self reliant living show. Today we have an interview with Emma Kelly. As you guys know from previous episodes, I always like to read the bio of our guests or my guests so I don’t get anything wrong and I don’t leave anything out because these people are just wonderful and the things they’ve done. I don’t want to leave anything out. Here we go.
Emma Kelly is the owner of Mini and Moon, a brand of carefully curated products for vibrant and creative home and garden. She’s born in San Francisco and she was raised by an artistic home maker and and entrepreneur father. She now lives in Philadelphia with her husbands and two teenage sons. Her experience growing up in a family business selling quality, European tools and her love for home centered on good food and simple living greatly influenced the products you’ll find in her company.
Before I bring Emma on, I just want to say really quick, be sure to listen through to the end because we have a special announcement. I want to give you a little bit of a teaser there. Welcome, Emma!
Emma: Hi, Jennifer! It’s so nice to be with you.
Jennifer: It’s so wonderful to have you here! Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your passion for you high quality goods? I’m really curious about how that got started and what spurred you on there?
Emma: My dad’s business was focused on good quality tools and so I learned about quality there and nice things growing up. I like things that work. A lot of the company and the products that I carry are because I got frustrated with dish cloths that didn’t dry, or dish towels that didn’t dry, dish cloths that didn’t clean up and gardening tools that didn’t really function. I really like my products to work and last. I don’t like to buy a lot of things that I end up throwing away. I try to carry things that are really nice quality and will be enjoyed by gardeners and cooks and people who like to be creative in their homes.
Jennifer: Everybody thinks, “well, if I spend money up front to get something that’s quality, it’s so expensive”, but saving up for that and then later on it doesn’t break, you’re actually saving money even though it doesn’t seem like it up front, but in the long run you actually save money. I always like to point that out because I don’t think people realize it. They don’t think long term.
Emma: I think that that’s true, but I think one of the reasons that can be hard, and something I struggled with when I try to buy a product that I don’t know the industry, you never know. Are you paying for quality? Are you paying for packaging or branding or marketing? That’s one thing I try to be really clear about. If I have something that’s a little bit more expensive, there’s a reason because of the workmanship, because of where it’s crafted, because of how it’s crafted, the materials used. I try to be really mindful that there’s really quality behind that price if there is something on the higher end. I think that’s one of the reasons it’s hard to make that choice sometimes because it’s not always clear that you’re paying for quality in the product. We try to make sure that everything we carry stands up. If it’s Emma proof it’s probably anyone proof.
Jennifer: What made you decide to start your own business? This is something that a lot of people aspire to. We at self reliant school, we are always advising that it’s a great thing to have a second string of income and then if that blossoms into a business that’s great, but what made you decide to start your business?
Emma: It’s funny, I always wanted to have my own business. That’s something i always knew I wanted. I had really good job security. I had a job that I loved and suddenly it was in limbo and I wasn’t sure where it was going. The very week that that started to happen, this company in England contacted me about being their distributor and they were products that I really loved. I loved the people who made them. I loved everything about it and it seemed like the perfect time for my dream to become a reality and to do my own thing.
I jumped right into it. It wasn’t something I had planned all that well. The opportunity came up and it was something I felt i could really get behind. That’s how it emerged, very quickly.
Jennifer: I always think of it as God sends us the opportunity. He sends us the people we need at the time that we need them. I like to look at it that way. Can you tell us your mission? What makes you stand out from the rest? What makes you a special brand? We sort of touched on that a minute ago, but can you elaborate on that?
Emma: It’s absolutely everything that I sell I use, I believe in, I’ve tried in my own home. I think about the product from where it’s made, how it’s made, to what’s going to happen to it when it’s run its course. A lot of natural materials, using things that are going to ultimately biodegrade and not in a thousand years. Really thinking about trying to support other small business in how I work. I buy from USA Made manufacturers whenever I can. It’s the quality, it’s knowing that things will work and that they’re made to function and they will function. We’ve tried them out pretty extensively to make sure that they work.
I think that’s something that’s different about what we do.
Jennifer: I love that that you’re thinking about the end of the life of the product and that it will eventually become part of the earth again rather than just be in a land fill somewhere trying to be part of the earth. I love that about you and the way that you use a lot of the products that you sell. People might be coming in and thinking, “what are you talking about? What products are you talking about?” Can you tell us a little bit about your gardening experience and how you incorporate that into your life and how you teach gardening to your kids? I know that’s a big part of what you do. Could you just tell us about that?
Emma: Yeah, absolutely. I am a passionate gardener. I am not by any stretch a master gardener or terribly knowledgeable gardener. I just like to garden. It’s probably centered on a love of good fresh food, wanting to have it as fresh as possible and being able to go out to the backyard and pick it. As far as instilling that in the boys, when they were young, they got to have their own little plot to grow things on their own and grow their own produce. I think that exposing them to having a garden, now I have teenage boys, that they know the difference between a really good, fresh tomato or an apple or something that’s been sitting around a warehouse for a long time.
They both will comment and have from an early age, “oh, this has flavor, this apple has flavor, this tomato has flavor” whatever it is. I can’t say at this age as teenagers that they’re super involved in the whole gardening process, but they do. They harvest food for dinner and that sort of thing. I always show them when I’m saving seeds this is what we did and this is what happens. We’re going to plant these again and sharing along the way. It’s nice to see them have grown to appreciate the difference in fresh produce versus not.
Jennifer: I love that. You’re setting the bar high so that when they do come across something that’s lower quality or not good tasting, they know right away. I love that.
Emma: The mixed blessing having food snobs as sons.
Jennifer: It’s not necessarily a bad thing. If it comes out of the garden, that is just fine. I can take that any day. We talked about having a second stream of income. What would you say are the basic steps that you took to start your own business and pursue something that you enjoy doing? You talked a little bit about how you were raised and all of that, but how could you explain it so that maybe some of our viewers could take actionable steps to do something that they’re passionate about?
Emma: That’s a really excellent question. In my case, because I did sort of dive into it, it wasn’t a really carefully planned process. It might have been nice to have a little extra time to plan how I was going to go about it, but in my case, I just did it. A little bit it worked itself out on it’s own. Sometimes that’s all it takes.
Jennifer: I think you’re right. The decision to go ahead and do it and learn along the way. The other thing I always tell people is, “Just don’t quit”. Those are the two keys really to being successful is starting and don’t quit. Improving, you don’t want to stay stagnant, looking for ways to improve, but everybody thinks that the mystery of success is super long and complicated, but I really honestly thing it’s probably those three things. It’s just deciding to start, don’t quit, and always look for ways to improve. Some of us take a little longer than others, but we eventually get there, I think, if we stick to those.
Emma: I think absolutely. Part of it is there is always, my background had me pretty well suited to start a business. It doesn’t matter. There’s so much that you’re learning and expanding and as you do it, you’re learning along the way. I think that it’s being open to the lessons that come to you and listening to them. I did have a friend of mine did say that to me. I was frustrated when I was first starting. Now when I first started, but when i was a little bit in, and she said, “don’t quit before the path comes. Don’t quite before it’s not so hard”. That was really good advice.
Jennifer: How do you pick out the tools? We were talking about they have to be quality, they have to last a long time. How do you pick something that carries your brand name that you’re okay with putting your name on?
Emma: A lot of times it’s because it’s something I want to carry. Like I said before, having something around the house that doesn’t work and trying to find something that does. Sometimes it’s because customers ask me for thing and I search out the best version of it that I can. It’s hard because I’m always balancing between a little bit of me that’s a little bit not a super consumer. I don’t like to buy a whole lot of things and balancing that with having a business that sells things. I try to make them things that I would want to buy that I would feel happy to have in my home that, like I say, will give joy for a good long time and not have to be replaced.
There’s several things I look at. How well does it function? What is the quality? Is it beautiful? Who make it? Where is it made? What is it made of? I have a big long checklist that I look at. Does this meet most of these criteria when I’m choosing them. Get the best version of the product that I can find.
Jennifer: There’s a big movement for people going back to living more simply with fewer things. The things that you do have, you want to have all those qualities that you just mentioned. I think that’s very timely. I feel like it’s a better way to live.
Jennifer: Can you tell us a little bit about the business? What are a few products that you didn’t think would do well that they really did, they surprised you?
Emma: One of the items was really funny. It’s actually discontinued, but it was a pot brush. It was my best selling item in the first year. I’m not a meticulous gardener, so I’m not scrubbing my flower pots. That one sold like crazy. People loved it. Another one, I did have it right here for you, was a simple natural nail brush made in the USA. People have a really hard time finding a really nice hand scrub brush. Whether you’re gardening or cooking or whatever it is. This is a very popular item with our customers. I was a little surprised, actually, at how popular it is.
Jennifer: It’s hard to find things. The thing that you find at a box store, their bristles come out and it’s a mess. I understand that. That’s awesome. Let’s talk about the name of your company, “Minnie and Moon”. Where did that come from?
Emma: Those are the names of my grandmothers. My grandmother, Minnie, her family had hardware stores in Napa Valley, California. Her father and grandfather owned the hardware store on main street in Napa. They supplied the agricultural supplies to the vineyards of Napa Valley in California. She and her husband moved to San Francisco, started a hardware store which my dad took over and then started his own business.
That’s really the line where I learned about quality tools and the nuts and bolts of things. My grandmother, Moon, she was the descendant of Danish Homesteaders in California and a very practical, resourceful, they grew their own food. She was a cook, she was always canning, making jams, just a very, like I say, resourceful, practical person. That’s the homemaking side of the business and the beautiful, practical side of things. I’d like to think I don’t have anything they wouldn’t be proud to have me carry.
Jennifer: That’s wonderful. Wow, I didn’t even think of that. Every time I’m going to say the name of your company now, it’s a tribute to them it’s wonderful.
Jennifer: Can you tell us a little bit about our work with school gardens?
Emma: Yeah, that’s something several of our tools, like we have this little dibber here. This little tool for planting bulbs and seed, onions, garlic, that sort of thing. It’s really popular in school gardens in England. This item and then the paper potter which I think you might have one of these.
Jennifer: I do, I do. I can hold it up.
Emma: Oh, wonderful. You take strips of recycled newspaper and you make seed pots, biodegradable seed pots. You never have to buy seed pots again. These are made in England. They’re made from sustainably harvested oak. I have a program where school gardens can place a fairly small order and get a nice discount to help stock their school garden with some of the supplies. We do have a lot of nice things for gardening with kids. A lot of nice products for them to stock at a discount. I know that a lot of school garden programs are not all that well funded.
Jennifer: I love it because it goes back to setting the bar high when you’re teaching children. When they go out and start their own gardens, they’re not going to want the flimsy, plastic, whatever. They know there’s something better and something that doesn’t destroy the earth. That’s wonderful, I love that.
Emma: There’s definitely something about starting learning with nice tools. It’s hard to go back. It’s hard o go back from that.
Jennifer: We’ve been talking a little bit about the different tools that you have. Can you tell us what are the different times? Can you give us the gambit there?
Emma: Yeah, we have a lot. We have tools for gardening. The paper potter and the diver. Things like this, this is a string on a stand which is juke twine. This can be used for tying. It has a blade in the top, by the way. This is again, made in England made from sustainably harvested oak. This is a little bit. We have the garden stuff and then we have the stuff that sort of goes in between. This can be used for tying your plants, but it’s also beautiful with craft paper and tying up gifts or tying up herbs, or thinks around the house too. It’s a really handy little thing.
Then we have a lot of things for basically food storage and preservation. We have an herb dryer. Once you’re done with your gardening and you’re wanting to preserve your harvest, we have an herb dryer here. It has three layers of unbleached cotton sheets. Space saving situation for drying your herbs. Then we have things like cloth bags. I have one here. These are made in the USA from unbleached cotton. These are for storing greens. They keep greens fresh two to three times longer so once you’ve harvested your greens or kale, chard, that kind of thing without putting them in plastic, you have these reusable bags for putting them in.
Then we have things like dish cloths and dish towels. These are USA dish cloths that are really soft. Long lasting, they absorb really well. They don’t just move things around when you’re wiping the counters. It can be used for dishes, cleaning, mopping floors, all kinds of things. I really like things that are versatile as well.
We have aprons, we have all kinds of things. Kitchen, garden, and we look forward to having more products for throughout the home that fit the quality and functionality that we’re looking for.
Jennifer: Are you located in stores? Are you online only? How is it you get your products to market, so to speak?
Emma: I do sell online, on our website. I sell to stores around the country. We’re still getting that program going, but we do have several good ones all over the place. It’s a smattering around the country, it’s not a blanket of stores quite yet, but we do sell to stores from coast to coast. That’s been great. Those are our two avenues. We do a lot of shows too.
Jennifer: Craft shows and getting your name out there.
Emma: And farmer’s markets!
Jennifer: Oh yeah, farmer’s markets, that’s great.
Emma: People who like good food really tend to like our stuff.
Jennifer: What is your best gardening tip?
Emma: My best gardening tip, it’s my same tip for starting a business. Would be just to do it. I’m a good example. Especially as I’ve been starting this business, I’m traveling a little more than I would like. I’m really busy. It’s amazing how my garden comes through for me. I’ll be gone, I come home and there’s still produce there. I’ll go out and be able to harvest food for dinner, even though it’s kind of neglected.
Jennifer: Everything just wants to grow, wants to flourish and have life. I love that too. It’s okay if your garden has weeds in it. It’s okay. Still do it, right? It doesn’t have to be perfect.
Emma: Still do it. Don’t worry about having the time or the space. Even if it’s just a couple pots. Get your perennials in early. That’s the only other thing. I’m glad I have the asparagus going.
Jennifer: If you’re just a beginning gardener, you’ve never tried to do this, it’s intimidating, whatever the reasons. What are some tools that you would really recommend for somebody who was just starting out?
Emma: I would say our dibber is number one. It’s graduated in inches. It’s a really nice day. Basically what you do is you just pop holes in the ground for your seeds or your bulbs. It’s a really nice planting tool. It’s a very British tool. Here a lot of times people will dig with a trowel or something but this is a very efficient nice way, simple way to plant that I think we could start to adopt a little bit more over on this side of the pond. That’s definitely one.
A couple things, the paper potter, which I know we already talked about, but especially if you’re starting from seeds. One of the best things I think about the paper potter is that you never run out of seed pots.
Jennifer: I love it. I just love it.
Emma: I’ll get some seeds and I don’t have to think, “oh, what am I going to do about seed pots?” Oh I have newspaper, I’m good.
Jennifer: Those are two. Give me three more. I know as well, on my mind, Christmas is just around the corner. The top five. You named two, so give me three more of the best you have.
Emma: This is our mini pruning set that I absolutely adore. This is not even my brand of product, but I sell them because I’ve been using my set for seven years and it’s held up so beautifully. It’s not terribly expensive. It’s a lovely little set. There’s one that has a tapered edge. That’s for dead heading or harvesting herbs, that kind of thing. Then there’s this one with a curved blade. This is for small pruning tasks. I keep this in my kitchen drawer so when I run around and harvest something or arrange flowers or prune something, I have those handy.
Then I showed you the herb dryer before which is a really nice Christmas gift. This is definitely more in the gift price range. That’s a nice one. The string on a stand, which I showed you earlier. We also have cute little things. This is a British made garden statue which was designed, actually, as a fence post protector. It has that little square bottom on it. We have ten different birds, little silhouettes around the garden. Even if you’re not sure, if it’s a gift and you’re not quite sure what someone would love, this is a nice little touch for anyone’s garden. Did I get you five, or not quite?
Jennifer: I think so. I love it, though. I could shop all day on your website. It’s beautiful. It’s fun to look at, too.
Emma: Thank you.
Jennifer: You’re window shopping. That’s the next question. It’s been wonderful to have you here. Where can people find out more about you and can they follow you on social media? Do you have Facebook, twitter, YouTube, all of that?
Emma: Yeah, I am on all of them. Minnie and Moon, it’s M-I-N-N-I-E A-N-D M-O-O-N. We’re on Instagram, we’re on twitter, I don’t use all that much, Facebook and then our website. I think you have a link in the show notes today, too, going to our website.
Jennifer: I do, yes I do. Thank you so much, Emma, for joining us. It’s been so wonderful to talk to you. I love gardening, I love to have things that last, and I love that they’re pretty on top of that.
Emma: Thanks so much for having me today, its been really fun.
Jennifer: Everybody who has waited for my special announcement here, that is I have a coupon code for Minnie and Moon. The coupon code is SRS10. That is to save 10% on your order. You can go to selfreliantschool.com/moon. That is how you can be taken straight to Minnie and Moon and then you can use that coupon code. Like I said, Christmas is top of mind, at least it is for me, and so I think that getting something that will last for years, and years, and years giving that as a gift is just wonderful and it’s wonderful to talk to Emma about how she started her business.
It was just one of those things that, like I said, just do it. If there’s something that you’re passionate about and you think would benefit others, just do it. You can learn along the way. I believe in that because that’s kind of how I did things. I just did it and learned along the way. I love the journey, I love the people, I love talking to you guys. Anyway, that is something that I was really thrilled to talk to Emma about, then of course, like I said, looking at all her pretty things is like going into a shop and looking at all the beautiful things.
I’m going to introduce myself one more time. If you are just coming in in the middle of this broadcast, my name is Jennifer Osuch and you can find me at selfreliantschool.com. I have been talking to Emma Kelly and she is from Minnie and Moon. It was so wonderful to have her on the show today.
Remember, being self reliant is not about being selfish. It’s not about just you. It’s about taking care of yourself so you can take care of the ones that you love. Take care until we talk again!