This week, we interviewed Kathryn Johnson Wiley, CEO to Rockin’ Baby and mother of six children. After successfully leading a family business through historic renovations of inner city housing and establishing a millshop where her husband crafts beautifully appointed historic woodwork, Kathryn knew it was time to branch out into a field of her own.
Ten years ago, her eldest son, Abel, made her a mother through adoption. The first purchase for him was a Rockin’ Baby sling made in California! Kathryn bought the company and initiated the ‘Mother to Mother’ mission which brought a new dimension to the already successful baby carrier company.
You’re the founder of Rockin’Baby. What inspired you to buy the company in 2011?
I had a Rockin’ Baby sling for all of my children. Each one would have a new sling, and I would put each in their “special boxes” when they grew out of theirs. I believed that my babies were not fussy and super happy because they were in the place they wanted to be. I was already selling them to everyone I knew, and I had nothing to do with the company. When it went for sale, I was 1 of 10 people that were seriously inquiring. They chose me, and I was thrilled to take the company that I believed in, and knew that with a social mission, it would be the Golden touch!
For every Rockin’ Baby sling you sell, you donate one to a mother in need in Haiti. Tell us a bit about this initiative and what difference does this make to the mothers in need?
I had travelled to Haiti many times prior to buying Rockin’ Baby. I love the Haitian people and I love their survival spirit to choose joy in any situation. When I bought Rockin’ Baby I knew that I wanted to add a social mission. I realised that the Haitian infant mortality rate was the highest in the western hemisphere and the 3rd highest in the world. This tragic statistic was then underlined by the fact that they do not wear their babies! Though the country has African roots, the women do not practice babywearing. Because of this, the women have to leave their babies home alone, with a younger sibling, or with a neighbour. The babies are not breastfed regularly, and often fed with water containing cholera.
I had an ‘aha!’ moment when I began to think about providing these women slings to keep their babies close! I contacted midwives working in Haiti and processed my Mother-to-Mother mission with them. They immediately said that it would be life changing for these women and babies. I knew that no matter what, Rockin’ Baby was set out to make a difference!
What’s been the highlight of your career so far?
The highlight of my career has definitely been seeing women (both our retail customers, and our mamas that we donate to) who have babies that are fussy and don’t want to be put down become happy and content babies by being worn in their Rockin’ Baby sling! That is why I am doing this. I believe in the bond that parents are creating by keeping them close as babies and toddlers!
You have biological and adopted children, what made you decide to adopt and what advice would you give to our readers who are thinking of adopting?
From childhood, I knew that I wanted to adopt. It was a desire I have always had. Family can come together in so many ways, and I knew that adoption was something I wanted for my family. My husband Matthew and I decided that we didn’t want to be the couple that had “wanted to adopt”, and once life got busier, could not make that happen. We chose to adopt before we had our biological children to ensure that it was a priority for our family. I can’t explain the miracle of adoption, but, I guess that is like trying to explain the miracle of birth! They are both different, amazing experiences in their own right! For those that are thinking of adopting, I will say that do not let the process or the financial aspect stop you from adopting, It can be conquered, and it is absolutely worth the journey! There are 153 million orphans in the world right now, and anyone that can help with that statistic and make their lives richer will be blessed by the experience in ways that are difficult to explain!
Share with us your favourite family recipe.
I don’t know what this is called, but we love to make it, especially for the children who get all of the food groups in one-full-swoop!
Chicken Bowtie Pasta!
- 1 pkg Bowtie Pasta
- 3 colorful Peppers (red, orange and yellow!)
- Onion (I put in ½ most of the time, but you can use the whole thing, too!)
- 1 large jar of your favorite Marinara sauce
1 lb cut up chicken breasts
- Saute Peppers and Onion
- Saute Chicken in a little Olive Oil
- Cook Pasta
- Combine Peppers, Onion, Chicken and Marinara Sauce
Add them all together and you have an amazingly tasty dish!
Besides your Rockin’ Baby slings, what’s the one baby product you couldn’t have lived without?
Though not a baby product, my mother’s intuition is what I could not live without! Simple is better in our family, as we don’t have a lot of extra baby stuff around the house. I sit with, read with and love on my babies a lot. They truly just want to be with their mum as often as possible. I take that seriously and try to be present and listen to what my intuition says when parenting. Books can be great, but I think we all know how to be the best mum inside of us all!
Describe an ideal weekend spent with the family.
The ideal family weekend would be in a cabin in the woods, running and playing – just being with one another. Thankfully, my children love to be with each other, so they enjoy time spent together. This is a blessing as they grow, because I know they will WANT to be with each other even when they are not MADE to be together! Raising children to slow down and just be with each other has been an important part of our families’ values. No agenda; just them and nature sounds blissful!
You are such a busy mama with six children, how do you find time to relax?
Truthfully, this is something that is not yet figured out! I work so much around the children and their schedules, that when one might relax, I am working. Because I still have a 1 and 2 year old, life is busy with them! When they get a little older, I think I will be able to find more time to myself. I consider this a season of life right now. It too shall pass, but being present for my kids and family is paramount.
What’s in the pipeline for you next?
This is the SUPER exciting part of what Rockin’ Baby has going on! We have JUST launched our new CHILD TO CHILD mission! We have just designed and began selling Kidswear for Fall 2015 ! When I bought the business in 2011, I took the word sling off of the name so that I could eventually be an international children’s brand, not only a carrier company. I knew there was an opportunity to make a difference in the children’s industry, and I am thrilled the time is here!
How would you sum yourself up in one sentence?
I want to forever be an advocate for those that can’t advocate for themselves.
Rockin’ Baby products can be purchased at Mothercare.