Marin Mompreneur: Akiko Schertell & nibi + toko
Marin Mommies presents a "mompreneur" profile of Akiko Schertell, who created the online children's boutique nibi + toko, which offers stylish and comfortable baby clothes for newborns–24 months. We asked Akiko to tell us about herself, her family, and how she got started as a mompreneur here in Marin.
Right now nibi + toko is having a New Year’s sale! Get 20% off everything with code newyear2021 at checkout. Sale ends Tuesday, January 12. They also offer no-contact pickup at their Fairfax office and free next-day delivery for customers in Marin and San Francisco (with a $75 ot $100 minimum order, respectively).
Please tell us about yourself. What's your background?
I'm a mom of two originally from Japan and now living in Fairfax. In my twenties, I moved to New York where I worked as a photojournalist for Japanese magazines. I met my husband there and we were married in a historic East Village church just two weeks after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Soon after, we moved to Osaka, Japan where our kids were born. When they were both little, we moved back to the US where I have been a full-time mom ever since.
What inspired you to start nibi + toko?
When we moved back to the US, I wanted to continue to dress them in the same very simple, minimalistic and comfortable style they had grown accustomed to in Japan. I also wanted their clothes to be mostly gender neutral so my younger girl can wear her brother's hand-me-downs eventually. But I couldn’t really find anything here that I like — so I would have their clothes sent from from Japan or Korea. They are exceptional quality and much more reasonably priced than American high-end brands. This all got me thinking about opening a baby/children’s boutique. But you know when kids are small, there's no time, energy, or resources to start a new business. Now that they are in middle school and high school and now that we're all stuck at home due to the pandemic, I decided to finally sit down and launch my online business.
What were your biggest challenges in getting it off the ground?
The biggest challenge was to find a dedicated block of time for nibi+toko. We all stay home; my husband works in the downstairs office; the kids have distant learning Zoom classes, and I cook meals and sometimes help kids (especially at the beginning of the school year – but I still somehow have to keep eyes and ears on them!) so keeping my space and time for nibi+toko away from my family was a bit tough in the beginning but I think I found my rhythm which is, trying to work for nibi+toko when my daughter has classes, and after school gets out I return being a mom and take care of the kids and house stuff.
How do you balance being a mom and running a business?
I’m a mom – and that’s my priority always. But at the same time, they're becoming more and more independent and also very supportive of my new adventure. So balancing being a mom and running a business comes natural and I just follow whatever demands my attention most at any given time. So far it’s going great!
What is your favorite thing about your business and customers?
I just love baby clothes. Being surrounded by them reminds me of my kids when they were babies and I almost feel that postpartum happiness! My customers have been mostly local. Some of them come to pick up their purchase at my Fairfax office and I also have had a pop up store at the holiday market at the Marin Country Mart. I just love meeting my customers and their kids — even if just for contact-free pick up!
What do you and your family love most about living and working in Marin?
I love that Marin county is similar to Japan in the sense that I feel safe enough for kids to run around town by themselves with complete independence. It’s really walkable and bikable and there are so many towns in the county with their own unique characteristics — similar to European villages. I also like the beautiful nature around us (we are steps away from Deer Park!)
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