By Keysha Drexel
It’s only fitting that a working mother of three is behind bringing a children’s clothing line called Busy Bees to Over the Mountain shoppers.
The classic-inspired collection for boys, girls and tweens has found a new home in several local clothing boutiques thanks to its chief financial officer, Shannon Spotswood, who recently moved to Mountain Brook from San Francisco with her husband, son and two daughters.
Defined by preppy-chic styling and clean lines, the clothing line can now be found at Mountain Brook’s Christine’s Across the Street, Swaddle in Homewood, Snap Kids and also online.
Headquartered in Ross, Calif., a suburb of San Francisco, Busy Bees was founded in 2009 by Maryam Barrett, whose oldest daughter went to preschool with Spotswood’s oldest daughter.
At that time, Spotswood was working in finance, her first love.
“I was the kid who asked for a subscription to the Wall Street Journal when I was 14,” Spotswood said. Yet “I was always interested in fashion and clothing and style and my mother was something of a fashionista, but I never dreamt of a career in this industry.”
From 1994 until June 2011, Spotswood held various positions in the investment and hedge fund industries and was working with a San Francisco-based hedge fund called Symphony Asset Management.
That’s where she experienced success investing in the retail sector and became enthralled with the idea of creating and building a brand.
“I became fascinated with building brands. Retail is one of the most dynamic industries because all of the peaks and troughs,” she said.
Spotswood said she began thinking about Barrett’s children’s clothing line during this time.
“That’s when Busy Bees was just getting off the ground, and Maryam had defined this desire for preppy-chic, classic clothing with a modern twist that resonated with me,” she said.
Spotswood partnered with Barrett to become the company’s CFO and dove into an industry she calls “intensely competitive, highly creative, offering immediate gratification (and) demanding detail to the most mundane and repetitive tasks.”
The retail fashion industry, Spotswood said, is one that straddles both the present and the future as she and Barrett are constantly looking two or three seasons ahead.
“We are designing Fall 2014 and already thinking about brand extensions for Spring 2015,” she said.
Most recently, Busy Bees has captured the attention of actress and style icon Gwyneth Paltrow.
Paltrow, the mother of two, discovered Busy Bees online and wrote about the company in her popular lifestyle blog, GOOP, describing the line “as the kind of clothes my kids love to wear–clothes that are super comfortable and look good, too.”
That unsolicited celebrity endorsement opened the door for Busy Bees to be carried at Neiman Marcus and more than 150 high-end children’s boutiques around the world, Spotswood said.
It also led to Busy Bees launching an exclusive collaboration with Paltrow’s lifestyle blog, which is only available at www.goop.com.
“Paltrow was very involved and very hands-on. She approved every detail from the fabrics to the colors to the buttons. We sent her samples and her team photographed the collection, and it was very interesting to see our brand interpreted through another mother’s lenses,” Spotswood said.
When Busy Bees offered to send VIP goodie bags to Paltrow’s friends, they were star-struck when they read the list of Hollywood moms who would be receiving Busy Bees merchandise, Spotswood said.
“It read like a who’s who of Hollywood with names like Kate Hudson, Beyonce and Reese Witherspoon,” she said. “It was all a little bit surreal and just amazing.”
Busy Bees has also designed exclusive collections for the Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts and the Alys Beach Shoppe, Spotswood said.
The company last year launched a clothing line for girls ages 7-16 after recognizing a void in children’s fashion for sophisticated yet youthful and appropriate clothing for tween girls, she said.
“Going against the mini-me styles of adult clothing, Miss b has brought distinctive styles to the market that today’s girls want to wear,” she said.
Spotswood said she leaves the design aspect of the business up to Barrett.
“But I do love to weigh in at the 11th hour,” she said. “My role is more in the business and strategy side of things, and that’s what we’ve been doing for two years now–really refining our brand.”
And part of that refinement is expanding the company’s presence in places like the Over the Mountain area, Spotswood said.
“It has always been a part of our long-term strategy to establish a Busy Bees corporate presence in the South as this is our biggest market and where many of our most loyal and passionate customers live,” she said. “I will commute back to California as needed but will work full time in Birmingham.”
When she’s not working to grow Busy Bees, Spotswood said she’s settling into her new Mountain Brook home with her husband, Matt, and their children, Vivi, 8, Eastin, 6, and Georgia, 5 who are sure to be dressed in the latest from Busy Bees!
“I think fashion is real-time history,” she said. “One of our greatest joys at Busy Bees is creating a collection that dresses the entire family in a coordinated but not identical look. The kids will wear these clothes for the Christmas or Easter celebration, and the picture from that event becomes part of their family history. It is a great honor, and we take pride in the small part we play in making that moment memorable.”
To view the Fall 2013 collection, visit www.busybees-kids.com and www.missbtween.com.