🐻🌙 Once upon a dreamy starlit night, in a world where softness and comfort danced hand in hand, there was a visionary dream-weaver named Tamara Kaakani, who embarked on a magical journey to create something extraordinary. And thus, Bellabu Bear was born – a premium bamboo pajama company that brought warmth, coziness, and endless smiles to families across the land!
In a world of hustle and bustle, Tamara understood the power of cherishing moments with loved ones and creating unforgettable memories. Like a tender-hearted bear, she embraced the enchantment of bedtime stories, whispered lullabies, and late-night giggles under the moonlit sky.
But Tamara yearned for more – she sought to craft pajamas that would envelop families in a gentle, soothing embrace. With every stitch, she infused love and dedication into each design, ensuring that Bellabu Bear's pajamas were not only irresistibly soft but also gentle on the planet we all call home.
In this blog, we invite you to dive into the captivating tale of Tamara – the dreamer, the creator, and the heart behind Bellabu Bear. Discover her passion for sustainability, her unwavering commitment to quality, and the countless smiles she has bestowed upon families worldwide.
So, gather 'round, dear friends, as we venture into the enchanting world of Bellabu Bear, where pajamas are not just garments but a gateway to the sweetest dreams and warmest memories. Embrace the spirit of cuddles, love, and togetherness, for with Bellabu Bear, every bedtime becomes a whimsical adventure filled with bear hugs and snuggly dreams! 🌟💤
Where did you grow up?
"I was born in Florida, but moved to Wisconsin before I turned two. When I was 15 I went with my father to visit his home country of Lebanon, his first time returning in 20 years. I thought it was just a short visit, but immediately fell in love with the people and the culture, and decided to continue my junior year of high school there. I completed high school and continued on through undergrad and my MBA program as well. I lived in Beirut, Lebanon for 13 years before moving back to the United States with my Lebanese husband (and high school sweet heart) to start our family."
Did you ever think you would start your own company?
"I've always had a desire to create things that I believed needed to exist. When I was in Undergrad before I started my Master's, I would be in class with my thoughts drifting off to ideas I had for clothing and shoes. I would sketch them in my notebook and then pass by craft stores on my way home to collect materials to create them. The first idea I brought to life were these adorable ballet flats that would be more comfortable and unique then what was currently available. It was like wearing a high heel with no heel.
I started drawing them in my notebook, and when I knew I had something good, I started looking for manufacturers. I went to many different manufacturers, none of whom spoke any English, so I had to negotiate in Arabic, a language that I could barely speak myself. It was truly a learning experience! After a lot of horrible and unwearable samples, and nearly giving up, my best friend turned me onto a really good manufacturer who delivered a beautiful sample with my brand name “Tamara Joy” engraved into it. All of the materials were imported from Italy, and all of the designs were hand made by me! Some were painted on, some had Swarovski crystals hand glued on, and some with feathers or lace. Once I realized how much I enjoyed designing things, I used the same lace and gems to start making dresses for my friends and I, and eventually started selling them. The first boutique to carry the brand sold out on the first day and called me, demanding I make more.
The products turned out gorgeous and all the stores wanted them, so eventually they were carried in all of the top boutiques in Lebanon. I was super excited when Miss Lebanon wore my dress on the runway! There was a lot of nice media and such around it.
However, I stopped this venture because I felt like I needed more corporate company experience if I were to ever take my brand to the next level. I received a really decent offer as a Buyer for a big Department Chain in Lebanon and the Middle East and I gained a lot of experience there that helps me to this day. I reluctantly left that job to make the move to the US, where I could be closer to family when starting our own. I continued on as a Buyer in the US, and I thought that after maternity leave I would go back to my corporate job, but as soon as my first child, Bella, was born, I knew I didn't want to go back!
This is where the Bellabu Bear brand first sprouted! I got my entrepreneurial itch again as I was trying to find a better sleep solution for Bella. I was gifted so many options of clothing from her baby shower, but none that were cutting it functionally, fabric, or looks wise."
Were your children the inspiration behind starting an Eczema-safe brand?
"Bellabu Bear developed into an eczema-safe brand once Bella turned 15 months old. Before that her skin was fine, but dealing with certain non-functional baby clothing made me want to create my own. I spent so many nights where she's wide awake and I'm trying to put her back to sleep after a diaper change but so many little things are keeping her up. For example, she was overheating in her footies when in a sleep sack, but then shivering in the morning if her pajamas didn’t have feet covers. So I just got to the point where I wondered why it couldn’t be convertible? Next came a lot of cutting up and sewing things together to see what would work. This was the first big reason why I created the brand. The next involved making softer fabric, cuter patterns, and adding double zippers (because snaps are a pain in the butt, literally).
But then comes this horrible skin breakout on poor little 15-month-old Bella, and I had no idea where to start. When I learned of her eczema, I tried all of the organic fabrics and softest styles I could find, I cut tags out of all her clothes, but she was still getting rashes with no sign of relief. I ran across this old pajama of hers that wasn’t pretty, but it was soft, and it didn’t cause her skin to be irritated, so I only dressed her up in that. The secret was bamboo! So I knew that if I was creating my convertible footies and pajamas that they would use the highest quality, organic grown bamboo, certified free of chemicals, no harsh dyes, customized fabric that would have no tags ever."
How did you decide on the logo?
"I always called Bella the nickname Bellabu Bear. Once we used bamboo for the fabric, we knew the bear portion had to be a panda, since we know that bamboo is a panda’s favorite food!
We wanted a logo to include two B’s for BellaBu, and the bear being the third. If you look into the logo, you can make out the arm for the first B, then the bamboo heart as the second B, and then the panda, which was perfect. The green heart was meant to represent our love for the planet. Similar to our designs, there was so much meaning into one cute little logo."
What was the toughest part of starting Bellabu Bear?
"The initial challenges surrounding finding a manufacturer, coming up with designs, finding an artist, choosing a name, even registering, since you have to go through a lot of legal stuff too. We went through so many legal battles just for the Bellabu Bear name. First, we weren’t allowed to spell it only “Bellabu,” and then we weren’t allowed to use “Bear.” Finally, we came down to a settlement with two different big companies, which I did without involving any lawyers.
When you’re starting up a business, funds are limited, and you want to reserve those to where they are needed most - inventory. So that was a big thing to me to figure out the legal stuff on my own.
That was easy compared to trying to find the right manufacturing partner. We went through 14 different manufacturers in California alone trying to find one that could get our double zipper right. We finally found someone in LA who was able to get the zipper right because they produced lingerie, which has a lot of fine details. Go figure!
We used to not have everything done under one roof as well. I used to import the yarn, and had a supplier who would then make the yarn into fabric here in the US on the East Coast, and then sent to us in California. I would have to take the finished fabric to a print place to get it printed or dyed. Then we would take it to the manufacturer where they would have further steps of handling it and possibly sending it out. All of the heat transfers were from one place, tags from another, waistbands, thread, bags; all of it was me handling it and providing it to the final part of the production. We used to heat transfer all the grip on the footies from home. I got used to all the steps and it wasn’t too bad, but when I had the opportunity to do this all under one roof, it was a no brainer."
What made you want to do the marketing for your company yourself rather than going with an agency?
"We started in house, but when we started growing we knew we needed help because we didn’t know how best to market. After a while however, my husband and I figured out Facebook Ads together through watching Youtube tutorials on our Friday nights instead of going out; and we taught ourselves how to build our own website, coding and all. We tried multiple different marketing companies, but we never felt the personal care for our brand from them. They’re helping us sell a product, but they don’t really understand the product and its purpose and our passion for wanting to share it with families everywhere. We knew we could give more care to it and market ourselves better than anyone else, so we brought it back in house. About a year and a half into the Bellabu Bear, my sister joined on as our graphic designer, and my husband took over the Facebook Ads, checking on them constantly and tweaking them so they perform better, being very hands on. It’s important to have people who put that much care into the brand. We’ve all gotten to the point where we each have become experts in all areas of the industry. And now it feels like we can share our knowledge with other small/new businesses in a full circle type of moment."
Who comes up with the cute prints? What is the inspiration?
"We have an artist from Ukraine who has been with us from the very beginning. We find that it’s nice working with one artist rather than going with multiple artists in the collection so all of the prints are more cohesive and stay true to who we are as a brand. When I first found her I knew it was right, because she could perfectly draw my vision on paper. It’s very cool to come up with an idea like a boiled egg on skis and her being able to just take it and add on and on to it. She knows me so well now that I don’t have to give her very many notes of what I’m looking for. I just give her my ideas and she just delivers exactly what I was thinking."
What does a typical day at work look like?
"A typical day for us, ultimately does not exist. In a small business that is experiencing a rapid growth, every day is unique, and it is important that as a team we all work collaboratively in a way that we are all ready to jump from one task to another and help each other out.
I’ll try not to look at emails or at my phone until I’m in the office now. This way I can fully focus on my kids and getting them ready for school. If they are not at school, they are at the office with us. At the office, I’ll do the initial scan through of emails and forward anything that I can possibly delegate on, so that I can focus on what needs my attention most. I’ll then check in with everybody to see what is on their plate for the day and make sure nobody is waiting on anyone else; I don’t like to stop the process. We are still a very small but very mighty team and we all work extremely well together. It is important for us to support each other as we all wear multiple hats. We have just hired on two new employees this week, and we are so excited for the growth and additions to the team."
What is the biggest accomplishment for the Bellabu Bear brand so far?
"Getting awarded the Seal of Acceptance from the National Eczema Association was our first major accomplishment and happened the same week we launched our online store. To me, it verified all of the hard work I put into the research and design of our products. Second to that was getting into the big department stores such as Nordstrom, Saks, and Bloomingdale’s. And currently, I am most excited for our partnership with Nickelodeon. It was a long-term goal of mine that my kids would be able to wear the characters they love, in a fabric that did not irritate their skin. To have been able to achieve this goal and to do it with the most amazing team, it means so much to me. The Paramount team is the most like-able and amazing team of women, and it was so important for us to pick the right partners in this, partners aligned for the same goals. Essentially, I like to think they picked us, for being female founded and run, and with our environmentally friendly and sustainability goals aligned. It’s also something I’m personally excited about because all of the characters, whether it was from my childhood or my kids', we love. My kids if they could pick anything would be Paw Patrol, and I grew up with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. So not only is our partnership a huge accomplishment, but a really enjoyable one too."
How is it having your kids be so involved with the brand?
"There's always a big toll on how much time I have to put into the business. I think whenever you're a female and a mom entrepreneur, there's a lot of mom-guilt involved. So being able to at least justify that with the amount of learning experience my kids are getting through us having this company and them being so involved with it; is really rewarding. Bella has played the biggest role in this. It was designed for her, and after her, and to meet all of her needs from her sensitive skin and eczema, to her pickiness in how things feel. She tests out every single product and gives me her feedback. If she doesn’t approve, it doesn’t go into production. I have loved seeing her grow with the brand. Even when she was at school creating logos with her class, she created her own logo that looked legit because she knew from us that it was best to keep the design simple, whereas everybody else went kind of crazy and silly with theirs. Seeing them pick up on these little bits of skills is really fun and I just love knowing the experience they are gaining is priceless.
And then on top of that, making them a little famous. We went to New York City and people literally recognized our brand from seeing and recognizing Bella. Her and her little brother, Kareem, are the face of the brand and they LOVE being involved which makes it more fun for me."
What are some of your personal tip for parents with kids suffering with Eczema?
"Hands down, the first thing I did to help her eczema clear up exponentially was switching all her clothes to our bamboo material. That’s why I stand so strongly behind our brand.
There's a lot of other little steps I took that I have shared in this article on how to relieve baby's eczema:
In addition to those tips, I would advise to bathe every other day instead of every day so you don’t dry out your skin. The soaps you use shouldn’t have any strong fragrance. I’ll use very organic bubble soap or no soap at all. Oat baths seemed to work well when Bella was having breakouts. The water you don’t want to be too hot or too cold, lukewarm is the best. It’s best to pat her dry with the towel instead of rubbing and while the skin is still damp apply whatever lotion or cream works best. I would put CeraVe or Aveeno, depending on what your skin needs, since every skin is different. Bella’s skin liked CeraVe, because it was an oil, cream moisturizer that built a layer on her skin
before putting her into bamboo pajamas. It absorbs that extra bit of moisture, but at the same time gives her that breathability so she’s sleeping perfectly and waking up the next day with her skin back to the beautiful baby soft skin it deserves to be."
There's also a few more tips on how to handle sensitive skin here:
Why is sustainability such a focus at Bellabu Bear?
"I think there’s already so many big companies that have done a lot of damage to the environment over the years. I care about the environment myself, but I also care because I have children and I want to make sure that they grow up with an environment that is not being destroyed. I couldn’t stand behind a brand that harms the environment, so while any sort of clothing production doesn’t necessarily help the environment, I’m making sure it doesn’t hurt the environment at least. It’s important to keep in mind your impact on the world as a growing company.
There are ways we as a brand attempt to help the environment. The first thing with us was making sure we were a plastic-free company; that we’re not adding any plastics, rather making sure anything we use is recycled. All our products come in biodegradable and reusable packaging, even our mailer bags are from recycled kraft paper. We preach Reduce, Reuse, Recycle!
For each product we create, we also donate and give back. Environmental charities are one of the top things we consider when giving donations. For example…
- For our Ocean Pajamas, every pajama sold we cleaned one pound of trash from the beaches, coastlines, and oceans by partnering with Seven Seas Media through the Ocean Foundation.
- For our Lemonade prints, we gave back to Pediatric Cancer Research through Alex’s Lemonade Stand.
- For our Koala print, 100% of the proceeds went to WIRES, Australia after the wildfires.
Our Daisy Pajamas donate to Save The Bees.
Recently after the fire in Maui, we have dedicated 50% of the proceeds of our Vintage Surf pajamas to the Hawai'i Community Foundation.
Instead of just coming up with a cute print, we see what’s happening in the world and create a print to help with that specific cause. A big thing for us is watching our impact for us now and the generations we come. We want to make sure we have a positive impact overall and contribute the best we can.”
What are your future goals for Bellabu Bear?
"I would love for Bellabu Bear to be worldwide and on every child in every home! I’d love to go out and see kids wearing our brand. It would be really cool to get to the day where almost every kid in the world has worn Bellabu Bear pajamas no matter their income or situation. We want to make our clothing accessible since it is so beneficial to their sleep and provides feelings of comfort, safety, and happiness. Our mission is to provide a comfortable and safe sleep for every child."
And so, dear dreamers, as we bid adieu to our heartwarming journey through the magical world of Bellabu Bear, we leave with hearts overflowing with warmth and inspiration. Tamara's unwavering passion for creating the coziest bamboo pajamas for families has touched us deeply, reminding us of the power of dreams and the joy of togetherness.
With every pair of Bellabu Bear pajamas, a sprinkle of love, dedication, and sustainability is woven into the fabric, making bedtime a cherished moment for families to treasure forever. As the moonlight casts its gentle glow, and the stars twinkle like dreams waiting to be caught, Tamara's vision continues to shine brightly.
In a world that sometimes whirls too fast, Bellabu Bear's bamboo pajamas serve as a gentle reminder to slow down, embrace the cuddles, and savor every magical moment with our loved ones. Let's bask in the comfort of these cozy creations and create bedtime stories that shall be retold for generations to come.