Like many baby brands, Lili Collection was born from a new mom’s search for a better shoe.
Not satisfied with the options at retail, Megan Linke started making soft-sole styles for her own son, Liam, and other neighborhood kids in 2014. Word spread and Linke soon found she had a budding business on her hands.
Two years later, Lili boasts a thriving e-commerce business at Lilicollection.com and a growing roster of wholesale accounts. The $50-to-$70 collection, which started with moccasins and baby booties decorated with animal and food motifs, has expanded to include rubber-sole styles for bigger kids, including oxfords and loafers.
As part of Lili’s commitment to making its products in the U.S., its soft-sole shoes are hand-sewn in New York. The rubber-sole styles are being produced by Pennsylvania-based Zimmerman Shoes, an offshoot of Kepner-Scott, one of the oldest children’s manufacturers in the country.
Linke hand-selects all of her leathers and other materials from New York’s Garment District. “Every hide is different — the color, the feel, the flaws. I want to make sure I have the best leathers possible,” she explained.
As a new player in a competitive category, she credits Instagram for fueling Lili’s rapid growth. The brand, which has more than 65,000 followers, frequently collaborates and cross-promotes with other small brands and retailers to generate buzz and drive sales.
“Instagram has been huge for us,” said Linke. “There is a growing group of conscious consumers who care about the who, what, where, why and how behind products. Customers want to connect with the companies they buy from. Social media is changing the game for small brands like mine.”
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Looking ahead to fall ’16, Lili plans to introduce new styles, including looks featuring cork uppers and custom-designed prints. “You’ll see fun motifs like ice cream cones, guitars, headphones, bicycles — all things kid,” Linke said.
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