ELMHURST – A newborn baby can turn life upside down; yet only one month after her son was born, Kristin Gudmundsson Ceddia took on a role that felt like she gave birth again when she started her first company inspired by gifts for her son.
“My mom and stepmom would give him items they had knitted themselves – hats, scarves and sweater jackets,” the Elmhurst resident said. “When my son was wearing a knitted item, everyone would stop and compliment me on it.”
The attention convinced Ceddia to use her own gift for fashion design to create a line of accessories made by hand with natural fibers. Just like motherhood, her journey to become an entrepreneur meant facing unpredictable obstacles, managing new demands on her own time and persevering with help from others.
Now that her “babies” are about to turn three years old this winter, Ceddia is proud of how far both have come: Niklas is walking and talking, and Loveknitz is making and selling cashmere hats and scarves for customers in the Elmhurst area and beyond.
“When you’re first starting off, it seems impossible to get everything accomplished. Sometimes I thought: What am I doing? I’m taking on too much at once,” said Ceddia, reflecting on those times when she was “hoping to get where I am now.”
The Loveknitz collection includes six different kinds of cashmere hats in a wide variety of colors selling for $145 to $175, cashmere/wool scarves for $195 and fur pompoms for $75 sold alone or attached to a hat. Many styles are one-size-fits-all, so they work for men, women and children as young as 2 years old.
Ceddia sold more than $10,000 worth of products in one month during her successful Kickstarter campaign, which she said was supported by “a lot of purchases from Elmhurst.”
The local entrepreneur is donating 10 percent of sales of the ombre slouchy hat to support UNICEF’s work in Nepal, a decision encouraged by her former employer and business mentor Susan Nethero, who founded the Intimacy chain of boutiques in 1992. Ceddia was still working full-time as store manager at the Oakbrook Center location (renamed Rigby & Peller after Nethero sold the company) when she launched Loveknitz.
“It’s a lot of hours,” Ceddia said. “You work all day and come home, and you gotta keep going. I always wanted to grow my career. When my son was born, I felt like it was now or never. Between my dad and husband’s mom, they would take my son. Family help was the only way to make that happen.”
Ceddia doesn’t knit herself and said the biggest challenge was finding the right company to produce her designs.
“I found a company based out of Nepal and the scarves are hand woven,” she said, adding that it was important her products weren’t made of synthetic fibers or mass produced.
“The hats are knit by hand with machine. They are naturally dyed. It takes more time. One is not exactly like the other. It’s more special.”
Ceddia said she couldn’t find any companies in the United States that could manufacture her collection by hand, and she is confident the Nepal company’s labor practices are socially responsible because “UNICEF does some vetting before they get involved.”
As a board member for UNICEF, Nethero said she has seen firsthand how “every dollar spent internationally makes a difference. She’s employing people to make her products. That’s a big contribution,” added Nethero, managing director of the Golden Seeds angel investment network.
“I believe in Kristin,” Nethero said. “She’s a terrific business woman. She’s got great styles. People want vintage and handmade.”
You can find the Loveknitz collection at Felt Chicago women’s boutique in Logan Square or at loveknitz.com.