Kids' clothing company plays outside the box

Paige Manning and her husband Kaleb conceived Little Bean + Co. on a stormy night during their honeymoon in Tofino.

It was pouring rain and the newlyweds were huddled in their hotel room that looked out at the rolling ocean waves. They began mapping out their future together, one that included a family business.

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The couple’s infant daugh­ter, Finley, was napping near them and would later become the inspiration behind the fam­ily venture.

Paige had quit her career job at ICBC’s head office in North Vancouver, shortly after Finley was born two years ago. She wanted to follow her dream and be her own boss, inheriting that entrepreneurial enthusiasm from her parents.

The Lynn Valley family used to run a tanning studio in Lower Lonsdale, “as well as many other ventures my dad took us on,” says Paige.

She and Kaleb toyed with the idea of opening a chil­dren’s play centre in North Van, but the high commercial real estate cost quashed that plan.

“It made us want to think outside the box,” says Paige.

An egg-shaped camper caught the couple’s eye, as they scoured the Internet for inventive business ideas. They ended up purchasing the 1975 Boler travel trailer – 10 days after returning home from their honeymoon – and repur­posed it to house a children’s mobile clothing boutique.

It was clear the vintage camper needed some TLC – and a modern makeover.

“The outside used to be an awful cigarette-colour yellow,” says Paige with a laugh.

It took Paige and her fam­ily close to three weeks to painstakingly sand and prep the trailer for painting. Their labour of love emerged with a fresh, white and teal esthetic – and Little Bean + Co. was born.

The trailer’s interior had been completely gutted and redesigned as a miniature bou­tique with four hanging racks and four shelves. A cushioned bench was added to make the small-scale shopping experi­ence more comfortable for parents and kids.

When curating the clothing collection, Paige ensures the adorable items pass the Finley test. In fact, the company is named after Finley, who is affectionately called “Bean” because she looked like a kid­ney bean in her swaddle.

“A lot of the stuff my daughter has tried and worn and are kind of the style we like,” says Paige, who person­ally knows a lot of the moms behind the brands.

Before Paige started Little Bean she would post snap­shots of photogenic, blond hair, hazel-eyed Finley on Instagram, attracting the atten­tion of kids clothing designers who would send her their pint-sized apparel.

North Shore brands Little Bean + Co. carries include Good Husbands Apparel, which creates clothing influ­enced by current pop culture. Their trademark North Shore neighbourhood shirts are hard to miss.

Monkey and Peanut makes colourful kids belts and is another North Shore com­pany carried by Little Bean, which loves supporting local business.

Abandoning the brick-and-mortar model and embracing the pop-up shop trend has proven successful for Paige. She’s popped up at markets and events from Squamish to Chilliwack.

“I wanted a mobile aspect that was attractive and not just the typical food truck that you see,” says Paige, explain­ing how potential customers gravitate towards the teal trailer. The “showpiece” has saved her some money on advertising.

One of Paige’s favourite North Shore pop-ups is The Juicery Co., which col­laborates with Little Bean for cross-promotions.

“A lot of people really like that because they get to try something new,” says Paige.

Recently, Paige has been lobbying local municipalities to create more pop-up retail opportunities.

“Five years ago, buying a taco out of a food truck was so absurd and now it’s totally the norm,” says Paige. “So, I don’t doubt that this is the same way mobile vending is going to go.”

Little Bean + Co. is cur­rently nominated for a Small Business B.C. Award, with online voting open until Nov. 30. You can check out the mobile clothing boutique this Saturday, Oct. 22 at the Fall for Local: Pop Up Market at The Pipe Shop in Lower Lonsdale.

The market will feature more than 75 vendors, free coffee and a photo booth.

For more information visit fallforlo­cal.com/markets.

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