Carly Jean adventures around sunny Malibu with her four little ones, she can be found exploring the shores and the best eateries in LA. Shifting hats from Mama mode, Carly is the founder of Carly Jean Los Angeles. In 2010, Carly transformed her previous from brick and mortar shop to an online platform. To celebrate Mother’s Day, we had the honor of interviewing Carly - where she shared about being a successful entrepreneur while balancing mom life.
Share a little piece of your story! How did you get started with the Carly Jean Brand?
When I was 19, I convinced my parents to let me drop out of college. I was so bored and was struggling in school. It just wasn’t for me. I worked retail for the previous four years and was in love with it! I loved clothing, I loved helping people find things that made them feel and look amazing, and it didn’t feel like work, it was so fun! I asked my parents if I could open a little clothing store and told them if it failed I’d figure something else out. My parents were supportive and so encouraging. They agreed to let me go for it! My mom, even though money was tight, offered to give me the few thousand dollars she had inherited after my grandfather passed away to help me start it. Thanks to their belief in me and support, Carly Jean took off, and the boutique grew so much over those years. In the six years of our brick and mortar shop, we moved three times, each time into a bigger shop! I met my husband Chad at that time, and he was a big help in us expanding and growing as well! We got married and started our family. A few years later I was pregnant with my second son, and we realized it was going to be tricky for me to do it all, or to do it well...something needed to give in that season. It was just way too full. After a few months of praying and thinking, we decided to close CJLA so that I could be at home with our little ones. It was a super hard decision, but I knew it was best for us in that season and it really was what I wanted. Chad assured me that the shop could always come again and it did!
Six years after we closed it down, we reopened it... but in a whole new way, online! If it were up to me, I probably would have opened a little shop again, because I already knew how to do it! I was clueless about where we would start with an online store and building a site. That felt so unknown, but thankfully Chad was savvy to where shopping was heading and knew we needed to go where we’d have the ability to reach so many more people! He helped me build a site. We started small and out of our house. We spread the word on Instagram, and kind friends shared, we had monthly pop up shops in friends’ homes and often our own home. It was small, organic, and so much work but also so much fun! I turned a room of our house into a shop and used it as an “appointment only” store where gals would come shop. I’d help style them and build their capsules, and it was so fun to watch them walk out inspired and excited about feeling amazing in their new clothes! We called it “secret shop” and it was a blast! We jammed for two years and until our house was turning into a warehouse.
Our online orders and volume were growing quickly, and we knew something had to change fast!! So many details in between but…fast forward to today, thankfully we are out of our house! We have grown an amazing HQ team who runs customer service and social media with us out of our offices, in Tarzana, just outside Los Angeles. We are the same people with the same heart for women; it’s just exciting that it’s on a much bigger scale! We have a massive team who packs and ships for us daily at a warehouse in Santa Clarita, thankfully not our living room anymore! And this year, we are expanding two new lines, men and kids! It’s been a wild ride since the beginning, but the most amazing story of something I never dreamed that CJLA could or would grow to become!
With four sweet little ones and a successful business, can you tell us what a day in your life looks like?
Each day of the week is so different! But a week overview kind of looks like this: After I drop the kids off at school, I work in the office Monday’s, I meet with the team, do management meetings and schedule all our creative things for the week! I try to leave the office at two to do school pickups as much as I can! Some weeks are easier than others, but I love to be with my kids as much as possible! I do production and photo shoots on Tuesday’s, so those days are often a bit more full or far away! Wednesday’s I take the morning to “re-fuel” and take some quiet time solo. I never used to do this, but have found it so refreshing and has allowed me to stop saying “I have no time to take care of myself.” Wednesday morning is literally booked out for rest, and it’s blocked on my calendar, it’s been life-changing. I try to do home and personal stuff on that day as well. I’ll pick the kids up from school, run to their practices, and then be home that evening for a chill family night. Thursday’s I work at home and do stories from my home office. I preview and show new collections and get to show capsules - so that shipping can be easier for our clients!
Recently, Chad and I try to do date nights on Thursday nights, so I throw on my new favorite CJLA sample, and we hit the town! We love to explore new yummy restaurants in town, or a #cjsfavespots is a little hashtag I use to document all my faves! Take a peek on Instagram if you're looking for yummy L.A. spots! Friday’s I work at the office, and in the morning, I get to be with the team and connect with my amazing crew! Next, I pick up the kids! They have half days on Friday so I don’t pack them lunch that day, we have it planned to go out to eat somewhere fun and usually hit the skatepark after! Weekends we either rest and lay low, or we go adventure and explore! We love to try new spots, go for hikes, and hit estate sales or grab our boards and head to the beach!
Continuing on that thought, how do you keep a healthy balance between Mama and work mode?
It’s such a dance, but one thing that has been a huge game changer for me is scheduling “work” time and “not work” time — literally blocking it out into the calendar. Separating my schedule has helped me to be able to jam on work when I’m in work mode, and to unplug when I’m not working. It’s allowed me to separate the space much better and allowed me to start to be more present in both those places -- I haven't mastered it but I’m growing. Second I would say that I realize that I can’t do it all and I give myself grace to get help where I need it. I think people think that I do it all and I have to say that’s the furthest thing from the truth! I have an amazing team around me who helps me make things happen.
California recently went through another bad fire season, many of our readers can sympathize with you and your family about dealing with the Malibu Fires last year. Can you share more about how you’ve guided your family after the fires ended?
Sure! It’s been a unique season for us and so many families in Malibu, it’s been weighty and so sad to see our entire neighborhood destroyed. We are not alone though; it’s crazy to have countless friends going through the same thing. We have learned so much in this, and it’s hard even to know where to start. I think to answer how we’ve guided our family in this, has just been to see the good in everything. It’s allowed us to be reminded of what is most important. It’s shown us that things are just things and they can be replaced. It’s made us grateful for the things we had after they’re gone or taken away for a season. It’s given us a new perspective on everything. It’s been amazing to see this community be full of hope! And it’s been pretty unreal to see how everyone is jumping in and caring for each other.
What is one of the greatest lessons you’ve learned since starting Carly Jean?
“The only failure is quitting, everything else is gathering information”.
I saw this quote come across my feed recently and I think this would be my answer. Having this perspective has been one of the biggest lessons over the years I’ve learned through CJLA! It makes me think of the countless trials and struggles along the way that have come and yet through all of it, it has grown me and changed me for the better. I think that often people see challenges or hard things and quit too soon. All the trial and error is gathering information to improve and better everything! Don’t be disheartened, learn from everything and use it for good! Keep going; you never know what each lesson is leading you to and what’s right around the corner!
You have a sweet community of other business mamas -- how do you feel about having like-minded friends help in the dance between running to a photo shoot and bringing something to your kids’ bake sale?
I’m so so thankful for all the women and mommas around me! I have several other moms on the Carly Jean team, and those gals are a huge support of understanding the mom/work aspect of what I do. We encourage each other in making our family’s our priority all while encouraging each other to grow in excellence in our work and creativity as well! My crew of other business mommas either entrepreneurs themselves or wives of entrepreneurs has been an amazing support behind the scenes as well. I’m so grateful for their care and encouragement over the years. Whether it’s a dinner out together to check in and stay connected, or a quick call or message to say “keep up the good work” those times of human interaction and connection mean so much and have so much impact on me. I believe that surrounding yourself with like-minded people who share your vision and values for life does nothing but spur you on for good! Those gals keep me accountable, grounded, cared for and focused; they help me stay encouraged and motivated too!
On your Instagram, you’ve been very vulnerable about the grandmas and mamas in your life, how did these women influence the way you lead your kids and the way you build your brand?
I feel like I could write a book for this answer. Oh my word, I’ve been influenced by so many amazing women and mommas in my life. But one woman who would be so proud of me today and who I think of often as I’m raising my own children would be my grandma Jenny. She’s battled Alzheimer’s for years now, but if she could see the impact she’s had on my life, and what that looks like today I think she’d be so amazed and so proud to see her heart for others carried on. I strive to be like her in so many ways. For me, she modeled the example of never giving up. Her story and life was one that most would see as having been doomed or hopeless. Her father commuted suicide after the war and left her mom with five young kids; they had no money, no support and were left stranded. Her mom (a hero herself) raised them to be the most optimistic and hardworking people...fast forward years later, my grandmother got married and had six kids of her own, and my grandfather left her, she was left to care for her family and provide for them all by herself. I can’t even imagine the amount of weight and stress that must have been. But she, as always, did it with strength and grace. She was full of hope and determination to make sure her children had the best lives and opportunities. She worked nights for almost 20 years as a nurse to provide for them. All the while sewing clothes for her kids, supporting their creative and athletic desires and was an amazing mom who would do anything to support and be there for them. My favorite thing about her was that you’d never know her story of hardship by the way she lived. She never complained. She served others. She cared for people who needed help, not just in her family but in the world. She was generous. She was kind. She was full of hope and grateful for all the good things around her. That’s who I want to be and who I hope for my children to be: People who spread love and hope like confetti everywhere they go!
What is your favorite way to style your Parker Clay?
Y’all! I’m obsessed with your bags! The quality, the style, the comfy function, I love it all! I love that they’re pieces that will last forever and go with absolutely everything! That’s what my clothing company, Carly Jean Los Angeles is all about! We are Capsule based brand, so everything has to be able to mix and match and wear a million ways! Parker Clay bags are just that! They’re capsule bags to me, and I love that they pair with absolutely everything in my closet and from our brand! They're versatile! Wearable in every season! And they’re functional, pieces that you’ll wear in real life, every day, over and over again!
Carly with the Miramar Backpack
Where are your favorite Malibu hangs to take the kids?
There are so many spots that could be a book too! But if I had to narrow down a few fav hangs or activities, I’d say these are all the top faves with my crew!
- Zuma Beach to play, picnic and surf. Bring your boards, volleyball, football, and sunscreen! I grew up here as a kid, coming out often and dreaming of living here one day. I still can’t get over how fun it is to be here; there’s so much to do at the beach!
- Malibu Country Mart for a bite to eat and to play at the park! We love lunch at Malibu Kitchen; their salads and meatloaf may change your life! Next, grab a smoothie or açaí bowl at SunLife Organics before you head to the park!
- We love to hike in Malibu! There’s endless trails, views, waterfalls and more! We love the app @alltrails! It’s amazing and can help you pick the perfect hike for what you’re looking for! We love finding new spots from it! It keeps it fresh and fun!
- We love 1st point, which is basically Malibu Pier! Malibu Farm is yummy, and a beautiful spot to eat and the beach next to it is an amazing surf spot and family hang! Walking distance is an incredible historic property of the Adamson House Park; it’s definitely worth a peek to see its beautiful architecture/design in the home and phenomenal landscaping! It’s free to explore and a lovely spot to picnic or hang at as well!
Thank you guys for having me! Love what you are doing with Parker Clay and love to see the impact you are making with these beautiful bags!!