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Bratt Owner, Mary Bauer, on Cover of Child Style

October, 2010
What inspired you to design cribs?
The inspiration was the creation of our first nursery. Stephen is a trained artist and furniture designer, and when we couldn't find any furnishings that spoke to our tastes, he designed one for our baby. We worked together and put things into that crib that spoke to each of us personally. For me, it was the medium of French wrought iron, which I love. For him, it was the ostrich plumes from his beloved home of South Africa. The blending was sublime, and unlike anything that had ever existed.

How has your company grown over the years?
Our company has grown and morphed with our growing family, and the changing needs and tastes of our clients. Design is a fluid movement.

What advice would you give to someone pursuing their dreams?
I would say, absolutely, go for it! If you've been awakened, deep within your spirit, with a desire to bring something forth, you must pursue that. Every single one of us is unique, with one of kind talents, vision, and experiences, and what we have to offer is ours alone. The world would be less if people ignored their dreams.

What was a pivotal moment for you?
I think a real pivotal moment for us was Christmastime 1996. Stephen and I were in NYC walking along 5th Avenue, and we saw our Zanzibar cradle in the window of a beautiful boutique. It was a dreamy, winter white wonderland, and our design was the centerpiece. We had no idea it would be there, and seeing our work in the biggest city in the world, on one of the most noted streets of the world, thrilled us to our core. We felt we had a real business at that point.

What was your make it or break it point?
It came early in our business. When we designed that first crib, we had it made here in Maryland. We commissioned the skills of a local iron foundry that produced the crib for us. The cost was around $900 for the iron work alone. Once we incorporated all the other costs, we realized we'd have to wholesale that crib for at least $2500, which would price us completely out of the market. We knew that we'd have to find other manufacturing if we were going to have any business at all. This was back in the mid 90's, and obtaining foreign manufacturing for a company that did not yet exist, was a great challenge to say the least. We knew that if we were unsuccessful we'd have no company. But, we did find a source, and that set us on the road for success.

What do you think about trade shows?
I think they are exhausting, exhilarating, expensive and for now, necessary.

What are your thoughts about on line marketing?
I love all the new social marketing media, and think it gives smaller companies like us a wonderful opportunity that we couldn't afford otherwise. It allows for honest, consistent conversation between us and our customers.

What has made the biggest difference in the success of your company?
My faith.

What had been your branding strategy?
From the start, I knew that our designs could and would be emulated, but no one could copy our name, originality, or personal voice. With that in mind I always made sure the Bratt Decor logo was credited everywhere our designs were displayed. We have a consistent level of extraordinary quality (primarily because my husband is an uncompromising perfectionist when it comes to design and quality), and what we create is wholly personal. I wanted to link that to the Bratt Decor brand. I also choose to market our brand more directly to the consumer rather than the trade, because they are the ones that ultimately drive a brand.

What do you love about this niche?
I love the innovation, purity and excitement of the industry. Many of us didn't get into this industry to get rich; we got into it because of a love for our own children, and good old entrepreneurial spirit. So many products are born from parents who found a hole and filled it.

What’s next for your company?
World domination! No, seriously, it's to continue to grow, and create and be true to ourselves. We have a very cool new design in development for the Fall, and we are formulating new ways to speak our design to the world, cool new photo shoots, a blog, a new catalogue.

How do you balance work and home?
That was a struggle for me for a very long time, but after 15 years, I've figured it out, mostly. For me, it's done by setting my priorities and sticking to them. I commit to leave work every day at 2:30 to pick my kids up from school and to being available to them every single day. I cook dinner, I'm around if they need me. Being available for my kids was the motivation for the company, and my primary desire. I am at work everyday by 8:30 and I work very hard while I'm there. After I come home, I still am working until 5 or 6, because our entire company is run virtually. But, I still struggle with the guilt I feel for leaving work somedays. And, there have been consequences for me putting family first. Bratt Decor did not grow as fast as other companies. I sat by and watched companies come on the scene and gain more market share in a year then I had gotten in 10. That's tough to swallow. But, then I look at my boys and my husband, and I know I've made the right choices for me.

Any life balance tips?
Know your priorities and stick to them. Do your best and be okay with that, even if you fall short sometimes. Take advantage of all the amazing technology that allows us to do more with less time. Have a spiritual life. Take time out for yourself, and above all, learn to laugh at yourself and the absurdity that life can be sometimes.

What has been the biggest reward?
It is working with my husband and creating what I believe to be the absolute best baby furniture company in the world.

Written by: Gemma Booker


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