By Dawn Robinette APR | Photography by David Teran
“Inspiration can be found in strange places, but for Katy Mimari, Founder and CEO of Caden Lane, an ugly diaper bag was the spark. “
“I was straight out of college, driving with a good friend of mine on 1604, passing NW Military Hwy. I remember the moment. Her newborn was in the backseat, and she needed something from her diaper bag. I grabbed the bag for her, and it was horrid. She’d always had these great purses and style. When I asked her what she was doing with a quilted bag covered in teddy bears, she said it was the best she could find,” explains Mimari. “I didn’t have a baby at the time, but I thought, all it is is a purse with pockets, more pockets, and some washable things. And in my head, I said, ‘This. This is what I’m going to do.'”
Flash forward 15 years, and that epiphany is now Caden Lane, a privately-owned, direct-to-consumer lifestyle brand of baby products focused around the birth of a child. Known for newborn essentials, apparel, and personalized gifts, the company has seen nearly 2000% growth over the last four years. Caden Lane is ranked #279 in Inc. 5000’s fastest-growing companies in the United States and, with new product lines and an international expansion on tap for 2023, shows no signs of slowing down.
“Most women would probably say that the birth of their child is an even bigger day than their wedding day. For us to be a little part of that – what a huge privilege to be the outfit that they pack away in their newborn box and hold onto for their grandbaby to wear one day. It’s very humbling.
“I love the idea of creating a product or service that can be used around the world. How we started was no great discovery. It was just a friend that said, ‘This is the best that’s out there,’ and I knew I could do better. That’s kind of always been my mission. I’ve just wanted to create products that moms really like using and something that helps them. Whatever it is – getting a little bit of extra sleep or making diaper changing easier.
“I think moms really struggle with feeling inadequate. We all constantly feel like everyone is doing it better. And if I can support those moms and help them understand that we are all just getting by, I think the realness of that conversation really helps people.”
And while she wasn’t a mother when she looked at that teddy bear diaper bag in horror, she started her own family as she was founding Caden Lane. “Pregnant, I packed up my bag and flew to Mexico to meet with our first manufacturer and created our first prototypes. A few months later, I took my 6-week-old to my first New York market strapped to my chest in a baby carrier.”
Motherhood helped her understand her market even more, and the company evolved as she discovered more needs. “As I was having a boy, I started thinking about my nursery and couldn’t find anything I liked. That’s how I got into textile design. I taught myself how to do it, and we came out with a whole line of nursery bedding.”
“That was before I had an office or even an employee. I was breastfeeding my youngest on my floor in the dining room and answering the phone, ‘Good morning, Caden Lane,’ and the buyer from Nordstrom asked to speak with Katy. I asked her to hold, then changed my voice to talk to her,” she shares, laughing.
“It’s been baby steps for sure from the start, but from our first million to our first 100 million, I wouldn’t change a single step along the way. We have built our brand around the most amazing community of women, and most of our marketing from early on has come from word of mouth! And as any new mom will tell you, that’s the best kind of advice.”
And Mimari should know: She grew Caden Lane to an 8-figure business as a single mom of three. She also has two bonus children from her second marriage to Kevin Spanley. “I think kids learn by osmosis, and so I love that I’m able to show my children, especially my daughters, that women don’t have to pick between family and career. The best-kept secret about balance is that there is no balance. To me, balance is not an ultimate goal; it’s just a feeling that pivots to whatever needs your attention the most. Some days it’s work, some days it’s family, and some days it’s just a whirlwind mess of both.”
“The benefit of taking the road less traveled is that it’s a lot less crowded. I spent the rapid growth years of my business as a single mom with three kids. I made the decision early on that I can’t give 100% to everything and found great relief in being ‘good enough’ at most of it. I surrounded myself with the most incredible support team, hired the most talented people I could find, and focused on my family and my business. I’ve had sick kids on my couch at work and worked in the bleachers of the playoff game! I was never intimidated by what I didn’t know,” she explains.
“I’ve always felt that resilience is more of an active process. It never gets easier; you only get stronger. No great success story happens overnight. What might seem like an overnight success is usually the result of years and years of successes and failures.
“I think what I’ve done well is created my own definition of work and what it looks like. People can make and build a company into whatever they want it to be. We’ve defined it for ourselves. I always knew that I wanted to be an entrepreneur and be my own boss. I don’t think I ever thought that it couldn’t be. I always thought big. I knew I could do whatever I set my heart to.
“One of my very favorite sayings for a very long time was, ‘If you love what you do, then you won’t work a day in your life.’ But it’s not very true. It turns out that if you love what you do, you’ll work harder than you’ve ever worked before. It’s such a blessing to be able to wake up and be excited about what’s happening, where you’re going, and have control over it.”
Mimari doesn’t have a definition of success in mind. “I have no idea what I think success is. I have no target in my head. I think I sometimes that I fear stillness. I’m just always reaching for more, and the second I hit a goal, I push it further from myself. To me, that’s exciting, and it’s what drives me, always wanting to be better.”
Reaching for more has fueled Mimari to found the Conceive Fertility Foundation to help women struggling with infertility, a battle she faced in growing her own family. “Infertility does not discriminate. It impacts one in five women between the ages of 25 and 45. The average fertility treatment can cost $10,000 and is not covered by health insurance,” she explains. “I think everyone should have the opportunity to start a family. Starting a family should be something that is not negotiable.”
A percentage of Caden Lane profits will benefit the foundation and help deserving families struggling with infertility. Mimari’s goal is to donate at least $1M towards fertility treatments in 2023 and help bring new life to deserving families.
“The funding part is important, but the foundation is also a platform to educate moms. Maybe they’re just trying to get pregnant, maybe they’re struggling with fertility or on their first cycle of treatment, but there’s not a lot of really great information out there. We need to take it out of the shadows and make it part of the conversation. It’s a hard thing, and we need to support women through it.”
Looking back at her journey, Mimari has advice for her younger self and others with a dream. “Be more confident in the dream. You can do anything you set your heart to. I think we need to hear that because it’s easier to not believe in yourself than it is to believe in that dream. Create the dream, then make it happen.
“Write your own story; create the life you want to live. There are no rules. There’s only how someone else has done it, how you choose to do it, and what’s yet to come. I’ve learned time after time that fear truly limits you, and with great risk comes great reward.