by Anne Bruno
Photograph by Aaron Pinkston
CEO and Founder, A Little Bundle
Scroll through pictures of happy babies and it’s hard to stop: A little guy, smartly dressed in blue and white complete with striped suspenders, sits with his BFF, a stuffed toy penguin named Stuart. A pair of beaming toddlers, arm in arm, wear matching organic cotton tees, one emblazoned with the word “best” and the other with “friend.” Such is the addicting stuff of the Instagram feed for A Little Bundle, an online source of curated goods that celebrates all things mother and baby.
Annie Lin, who launched her Austin-based business at about the same time Instagram hit the masses, has become a leader in the world where artful design meets babies. With more than 52,000 followers, Lin has set the tone that other retailers, bloggers and social media mavens yearn for — real, but beautiful, individual and authentic. Lin’s success with A Little Bundle has led to a consulting business called Unicorn and Rainbows, where she helps other entrepreneurs take their brand personality digital. Like any good mom does with her kids, Lin shares with her clients the lessons she’s learned about how to shine your own light in a crowded world.
Anne Bruno: You launched A Little Bundle in 2013 after three years of running the women’s contemporary clothing line you created with your sister in New York. Why the switch from women to babies?
Annie Lin: I’d always known I wanted to work in the baby space. I wasn’t seeing great design … everything kind of looked the same, nothing felt terribly special. A friend in New York had started an online subscription service for dog toys and treats. I thought it was a brilliant business model that could work in the baby world. So it started with me putting together monthly, curated bundles of items — baby clothes, high-quality toys, well-designed things for new moms.
As time went on and we really took off, I realized that half the fun is putting a bundle together yourself, which is what we’ve transitioned to now. People can choose from one of the bundles we put together, or they can shop our curated site to build their own and we send it to the recipient. It’s something fun and different to do for a friend, a relative or maybe a coworker who’s having a baby.
AB: Why Austin when New York is still considered the big fashion capital?
AL: For one thing, I’d gone to Parsons to study graphic design and illustration. After living in New York for eight years, I was ready for a change and a different pace. My sister had moved to Austin, and when my boyfriend — now my husband — and I visited, we both thought, “This place is great!” Everyone’s so friendly … it’s not too cold … and two months later, we were here for good.
The other thing is that Austin is a wonderful city to start a business in. People are very supportive of entrepreneurs and small business in general. Those are two things that mean a lot to me.
AB: You credit Instagram with helping get A Little Bundle on people’s radars when you first launched the company. Were you already skilled in social media and photography?
AL: Oh, no, not at the time I started. No one was really marketing like that. Back then, the term “influencer” didn’t even exist. I basically built up my audience and my skill set over time, by trial and error and just diving in.
AB: Your following grew pretty quickly. How?
AL: Well, I think people liked that my feed was authentic and had a different look to it. Remember, at that time, you didn’t see much interesting design in baby things. Today, it’s a lot more common with big stores like Target getting in on it. But I’m always telling my Unicorn and Rainbows clients — you have to find your own voice and then use it to tell your story, which is not the same as anyone else’s. Because that’s where the connection happens.
And the products! Some things I design myself, and others are exclusive partnerships with high-quality brands, small businesses who I love supporting. For the clothes, they have to be the absolute softest. Comfort is number one, and they have to be durable for play, so I always imagine myself moving and crawling around in something. I have two girls, who are nine months and two and a half years, so I like to think I know what I am talking about.