After starting her career in interior design, it became obvious to Morgan Hutchinson that fashion was where her heart was. So, while she was living in New York City, she managed to launch a successful lingerie collection with her two best friends. But eventually their separate paths put that dream on hold. It was then that Morgan followed her heart, left the country, and made a major move to Beijing to be with her now husband Brett.
Just four weeks after moving back to the U.S. from China, she became a mother to her adorable daughter, Olive Bee. As a new mom, Morgan quickly realized that there was a huge void in the fashion industry. She struggled to find items that were stylish and luxurious, yet still comfortable and functional. “I needed easy access to nurse, silhouettes to hide leftover baby weight, and washable fabrics for spit-up disasters,” she explains, “I also needed (and wanted) them to be fantastic!” Thus the idea for BURU was born.
Today, Morgan makes her living as the founder and CEO of BURU, a company that offers curated, ready-to-wear fashion for new moms and beyond. And while she loves what she does, she’s not interested in sugarcoating the raw parts of her life. She’s incredibly open about her struggles with bipolar disorder, as well as the effect it can have. “Bipolar sneaks up on me just about the time I think I have it managed. It throws a lot of curve balls at me and trying to dodge them becomes a full-time job at times,” she adds.
Read on to find out more about Morgan’s rise to success, how she juggles motherhood with a career in fashion, and why you should never let individual circumstances stand in the way of your dreams.
Name: Morgan Hutchinson
Location: Salt Lake City, UT
Current Title/Company: Founder/CEO of BURU
Education: BS in Interior Design from The University of Alabama
What was your first job out of college, and how did you land that position?
I worked as an interior designer for a large furniture company in Austin, Texas—planning and designing new store layouts and aesthetics.
I graduated with a degree in interior design from the University of Alabama. Though I hoped to find work in the residential field, there were many more opportunities in the commercial space. I would say I landed the job partly because of my portfolio of work and mostly because of the interview process. I went in with the confidence of Diane Keaton in Baby Boom (i.e. strong face and shaky knees) and the poise of Dolly Parton in Steel Magnolias (i.e. the perfect balance of sweet and spicy).
Your company BURU offers hand-picked fashion for new moms. Can you share a bit about your fashion background, and what drove you to launch this business?
After a few years of working in interior design, it was clear to me that my true passion was fashion. I was living in NYC at the time and my two best friends and I started a collection of lingerie called Passport Panties. The line was sold in over 500 specialty stores and boutiques including Henri Bendel and Neiman Marcus. After four years of business, we found ourselves at a crossroads. It was 2009 – the economy was still in the tank, my partners were both pregnant, and I was in the midst of moving to China for love. We decided to put PP on hold, and I made the bold decision to move to Beijing (for Brett – my husband). Without an official working visa I couldn’t get on with a big company, but through the contact of a great friend and successful make-up artist, I started styling for photo shoots part-time. I discovered very quickly that styling was my favorite aspect of fashion.
When I became a mother just four weeks after moving back from China, I quickly learned that #momstyle comes with an entirely new set of challenges. I needed easy access to nurse, silhouettes to hide leftover baby weight, and washable fabrics for spit-up disasters. I also needed (and wanted) them to be fantastic! I knew I was not the only mother in search of these styles, so with the support of my husband and inspiration of our daughter Olive Bee, BURU was born.
All of the fashion on BURU is so chic and beautiful! Tell me about how you select the pieces to include on the website.
First, thank you so much for saying that!
I want BURU to be a reminder that just because a style is nursing friendly or has an elastic waist to accommodate a fluctuating waistline, it doesn’t mean it can’t be exquisite. I spend countless hours searching for silhouettes, textiles, and styles to make a mom’s wardrobe more wearable and more fabulous.
Though a large number of the designers we carry are actually mothers, many of the reps for the collections are girls in their early twenties. It can be tough to explain all the needs of #momstyle to girls who can still get away sans bra! The first thing I do when viewing a collection is remove any obvious no-no’s. So no high neck dresses, anything suede, super short skirts, or overly structured styles. I avoid anything that would force a BURU mama to strip to her skivvies to breastfeed or get her sent to the principal’s office for being risqué at carpool pick-up.
Let’s talk a little bit about BURU’s operations. How many people are on your team? Do you work together in an office, or do you work remotely? What do your daily duties typically entail?
I think I should lead with the fact that we are scrappy. We work constantly to keep things nice and tight, which means that we are constantly working. We are a grassroots company with no outside investors at this time. Every advisor I speak to tells me to hold out as long as possible.
But to answer you more specifically, there are three of us full-time. In Kentucky, we had a legit office outside of our home, but our relocation to Salt Lake City has shifted a few things. We are now in the process of a home renovation, which includes turning the entire third floor into BURU’s headquarters. That’s something I am very excited about. As a mother, I am thrilled to have a space that allows me to be with Olive during bubble water and snack breaks, but remains removed enough to take care of business. We will each have our own offices after the remodel is complete, along with enough space to warehouse inventory and have a permanent photo studio in place.
To keep our full-time employee roster tight, we outsource talent. We keep a PR team on retainer, we use an outside tech company to help with website updates over our heads, an overseas photo editing team, and we use innovative apps to streamline shipping.
My daily duties are constantly evolving. In the beginning I did all the shipping myself. Thankfully that has shifted which gives me more time to work on content for the site, to collaborate with other amazing moms, and to contribute to other publications in hopes to spread the knowledge I have gained regarding mom style.
You have some pretty impressive and influential women as BURU tastemakers. How did you form these partnerships? Any amazing networking tips we should know?
To be honest, most of our connections have happened organically by reaching out personally via email or phone. It’s about hustling, highlighting, and promoting the skills of so many talented moms, and honestly, expecting very little in return. To be associated with these impressive women is reward enough, but what is so very encouraging is that almost all of them share with their readers/followers without us even asking.
Things don’t always happen as fast as you may hope, but I am not one to pressure or push. When things happen naturally and authentically, the end result is far greater than anything that is not a fit for the women with which we have partnered.
My networking tip: Be yourself. Honesty and sincerity are your strongest assets.
Be yourself. Honesty and sincerity are your strongest assets.
Balancing being a busy mom and a successful business owner has got to be a challenge. How do you fit it all in?
I would love to tell you I have an answer to this question. Wouldn’t we all? For me it’s about waking up early (a couple hours before Olive) and pounding out some work while things are quiet. I keep my nose to the grindstone while she is at school and I don’t miss a pick-up opportunity. Car time and after school snack right after her day ends is priceless. My mom taught me that. I also work at night but only after Brett and I have shared dinner with a glass of wine and great conversation.
Taking an idea and turning it into a booming business is no small feat. Can you tell me about some of the steps you took to turn your dream into reality? Any advice for aspiring business owners?
First things first, you have to start. Researching and writing business plans are important, but you will learn far more by diving in and evolving from your own mistakes. My steps involved taking big risks (like inventory), trusting my gut, and quickly moving on when I missed the mark. My advice is to not be afraid to hear the word no, and don’t be afraid to say it either. They are some of the most important skills you can cultivate.
You’ve been really open on your blog about living with bipolar disorder. Can you tell me more about what that’s like?
Transparency is really important to me. Instagram and all social media outlets are covered with the perfect side of life—the edited moments. My life is messy a lot of the time. Bipolar sneaks up on me just about the time I think I have it managed. It throws a lot of curve balls at me and trying to dodge them becomes a full-time job at times. The inconsistency of my energy levels presents a challenge – especially during the down times when my plate of tasks feels completely overwhelming. That said, the high side of it is my favorite. I am incredibly productive, but on the flip side also very vulnerable to the pitfalls of the disease.
I also have an incredible support system, and very carefully monitored medicine management is crucial.
Being so open, honest, and raw is very admirable. What has the response been to sharing your story? Have you been able to connect with anyone with similar circumstances?
The response has been overwhelmingly positive. I am encouraged to keep sharing and keep the conversation going. So many of us are struggling. It’s feels nice to help create a community where moms (and anyone really) feel safe and open to sharing their own battles. I have connected with so many amazing women in similar circumstances. There are too many to count really.
What inspiration and advice can you offer women to persevere, no matter their circumstances?
Good things don’t always happen overnight. In fact, they rarely do. And, that’s OK.
When things get tough and don’t go your way, it’s so easy to want to throw in the towel or not start at all when you face obstacles in the beginning stages. Believe me—I am in that place far more than I would like to admit. But, when things are going good (and believe me you will have those days too), there is little comparison to how great it feels to know that you are doing it. You are moving the needle for women everywhere. You are making a difference no matter how small it may seem at the time.
My advice in regards to perseverance is to be sure that you surround yourself with at least one person (the more the merrier) who believes in you. Let’s face it—naysayers kind of suck. Cheerleaders are necessary for survival. Also, remember that your timing may not be the world’s timing. Good things don’t always happen overnight. In fact, they rarely do. And, that’s OK.
What advice would you give your 23-year-old self?
Stop drinking Diet Coke (I cut that out a while back) and learn how to write code!
Morgan Hutchinson is The Everygirl…
Favorite way to blow off steam?
An evening stroll with Brett and Olive with a red wine roadie.
If you could have lunch any woman, who would it be and what would you order?
I think Jaime King is one of the loveliest Hollywood moms. Her posts are honest, supportive, and so very kind. I would suggest sushi. It’s pretty easy to eat and share.
Biggest fashion faux pas you’re guilty of?
I basically wore business casual my entire college career (other than the stretch pants from Express). I have no idea why I did this. Wasted youth. Wink wink.
I wish I knew how to…
Best advice you’ve ever received?
Keep going and be nice.
main image via Emmy Lowe Photo