One of our favorite features in our magazines is our Inspiring Mama features! We always love the opportunity to get to know some of the most amazing working mamas on a more personal level. For our Summer issue we had the honor of getting to interview the incredibly talented + sweet, Katie Richardson, founding designer + creative force behind the innovative product brand for parents, Puj. We have been long time fans and users of Puj products and they are well known for their tub that can easily fit into most sinks! Lucky for you, Puj is so graciously offering a FREE GIFT to all of our LP readers!
We wanted to say thank you to Katie and her family for sharing a bit of their life at home with us. And a huge thank you to the talented Shannon Sewell for capturing these beautiful images for us! Get to know Katie more in our interview below!
What first inspired you to create products for parents + children?
Ever since I was a little child, I have loved problem-solving by making things with my own hands. Whether the material is wood, metal, or fabric, I have always been a maker. My mother had all kinds of tools in the garage that she used to make crafts. It was growing up in this environment that ultimately inspired me to become an industrial designer. And then once I started having children, it was very natural to start problem-solving in the baby space. Babies require a lot of gear, and I want solutions that are simple and intuitive. Bathing a baby is particularly difficult and I knew there had to be a better way. So I decided to simplify bath time with the Puj Tub. Luckily, my little idea caught on quickly and Puj is now a globally recognized brand.
After a long busy week what do you like to do with your family to unwind and have fun?
We keep things pretty simple in our home. Especially with a toddler. These days we take it easy on the weekend with a simple dinner like tacos and then a wild round of family game night. My boys are loving Settlers of Catan, Blokus, and Rumikube. On Saturdays we love driving up the beautiful Oregon Gorge with our bows & arrows and sling-shots to try and find some good ol’ fashioned adventure.
What are some things that inspire your designs?
Inspiration can come from anywhere, I just have to keep my eyes open. The colors on a mossy rock can inspire me or the brilliant way a plant funnels water to its roots. When I see something clever, I try to capture the idea in my red moleskine or with a photo. Who knows, nature may have figured out the perfect color palette for my latest project. The inspiration for the Puj Tub came from an ordinary brown paper sack. It easily stores flat and in an instant can be popped open to hold volume. There is no mechanism or parts, only a living hinge. The first Puj Tub concepts started with a sketch. Then once I had the concept and form figured out, it was time to move to the third dimension. The first prototypes were figured as a scaled down paper version. With scissors and paper I could quickly see which ideas were working and which were not. This is how I figured out the folds in the tub so it would comfortably hold an infant and help them relax. Once the form was dialed in, I scaled it up and cut the first prototype out of hypoallergenic foam that is soft but does not absorb water. And BAM, the Puj Tub was born. The design you see today is the result of many rounds of simplifying and asking the question “what else can be taken away from the design?” Simplification is a process. But once I have distilled an idea down to its essence, THAT is where the magic happens! POW!
What is one of your favorite parts of your job?
I love connecting with parents all over the globe. And thanks to the Internet, that happened instantly for me. I still remember boxing up my first international order. It was going to a new mother in Holland. We chatted over Skype so I could get her credit card info easily. I could see in the background her beautiful all-white home that was modern and minimal. She was so excited to use the latest bathtub innovation from a young mom in the states. I remember sitting in my tiny bedroom office thinking, “Wow! I posted a picture of my invention on the world wide web and a mom on the other side of the world just paid me money for it. This is an amazing time to be alive!”
What is your theory on balancing work life and family life?
My theory is you CAN find balance between family and work, but you must be very clear on your priorities and be extremely disciplined. For me that means starting my day at 5:30am and going to the gym or attending a Barre 3 class. Pushing my body in hard ways gives me the emotional and physical strength I need to be a happy mom and entrepreneur. And then continuing to take care of myself by drinking a lot of water and eating an abundance of greens throughout the day. All of these little things add up to me being in a state of greater optimism, patience, and having a sense of humor. But if mean mommy tries to show up, I grab a few bites of dark chocolate 😉
What is your best advice you could give to other women?
Our kids grow up so fast. Some day we will look back fondly on the days of feeling the crunch of Cheerio’s under-foot or the hustle and bustle of a busy home. So take a deep breath and soak it all in. Especially in the early hours holding a fevered child praying they fall back to sleep.
What quote best describes you and what you live by?
If you want to be happy in life, then you must define what happiness means to you. For me, happiness comes through being there for my kids. My success as a mother is more important than any other success in my career. This means my family comes first. It requires rearranging sometimes, but I have never regretted putting family before work.
Where did you come up with the name Puj?
I wanted a name that embodied the essence of my brand. Simple, clever, minimal (only 3 letters) and something I could trademark. I remember hand writing several pages of names and Puj met all of my criteria. Plus it represents the whole reason I started this business, my children. I have very pudgy babies!
Besides being a business owner + designer, what are some other things you like to do?
Oh goodness I have a lot of interests. I love sewing with leather on my industrial sewing machine. Riding my bike up into the hills at dawn is a personal favorite. I juice greens, make cinnamon rolls, canning, and baking bread. I love furniture making, lathing, and welding. And I love humorous photo manipulation (you know, head swapping and such!)