MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – When her kids were young, she loved making them things: onesies, snap-backs, blankets or bedding. You name it, she tried it.
Then she took her talent a step further, and Oh Baby! was born.
Mary Lauer is the founder and CEO of Oh Baby! – a kids clothing store at the Galleria and in Wayzata.
But, that’s just a small part of Lauer’s story
Before kids, sewing, stitching and decorating were just hobbies for Lauer, and that makes her a Minnesotan to Meet this holiday shopping season.
Lauer credits her twin boys for her success.
Before kids, Lauer created clothes as a hobby. Then, in 1990, motherhood came along and so did something else.
“I’m drawn to texture, fabric, material, colors and a palette,” Lauer said.
All of which she uses to create colorful characters shown through her products.
“I create the characters, like Willow the Fox and Boo Boo the Bear, and then they all have dolls and hats that coordinate with them. Masks too,” Lauer said.
All the characters come in stuffed animal form and with a matching outfit. They got their start after Lauer and her husband, Tom — now business partner too, welcomed twins.
“I started when Alex and Tyler were little, making their clothes. I’ve always sewn and created my own things,” Lauer said.
The Minnesota mom enjoyed it so much she started showing off her work at local craft shows.
“I watched my neighbor’s kids and then she watched mine. She did her thing – she did folk art. And then I sewed and painted. And we traded off so we could afford to stay home and make our things,” she said.
And that’s when her work started to get noticed.
First, it was Mall of America in 1994.
Next, the OH Baby! brand was officially born at the Galleria, and then downtown Wayzata.
“This is one thing we’ve done since the beginning, the donkey two-piece set,” Lauer said. “People still want it. I try and retire some things and bring them back later, but [people say] ‘But, that’s my favorite thing to get!’ So, I want to make people happy.”
It really is a family affair. Her son Tyler does all the photography for the website and string art in the store.
“He’s our filmmaker, photographer, handy-guy, artist,” Lauer said. “So, he does painting and photography for us. He does our Vimeo clips, makes little movies, and he does our string art.”
Once her youngest son graduated, Lauer turned her focus to wholesale. Her brand is now in big names like Barney’s for the holiday season.
The mother of three admits she has trouble focusing.
“When I put together collections, I think, ‘Oh, this would be so cute in Palm Beach! And this would be so cute in the Hamptons. And this they would buy in Italy!'” she said.
She has now shifted her attention to selling clothes outside of the state and turning the Oh Baby! brand into a global enterprise. The clothes are now available in places like Dubai, Saudi Arabia, Italy and France. She calls the process a collaborative effort.
Her fabric is milled in Los Angeles but made in Minnesota, at a warehouse in Northeast Minneapolis that’s seen significant growth.
“We’re just doubling our warehouse space now for the third time, in a year and half,” she said.
But, even if she is an empty nester, this mother’s focus is always on kids.