Imagine you’re hunting for the perfect baby shower gift, something that speaks to you, the mother-to-be and the new little one. You search and come up with … nothing. This is precisely what happened to Nell Lindquist while she shopped at a big-box store for a friend’s new baby. Frustrated, she called her sister, Maggie Allen, to vent. “We started Hi Little One when we noticed there was a void in the baby-gifting industry for personal gifts that are cute but not too cute,” says Allen, who lives in Deephaven. “We wanted to give gifts that went beyond pink and blue.”
Lindquist, who lives in Denver, originally began making funny shirts and customized clothes for family and friends using iron-on decals. The items typically depicted inside jokes or fun nicknames. (She once made an Oh Henry! chocolate bar T-shirt for Allen’s son Henry.) The items became so popular that people wanted to purchase more for gifts. The sisters immediately started researching how to increase the quality of their customized clothing—how to take things beyond iron-on. Launching a Kickstarter campaign in February 2015, they hoped to raise enough money to purchase the printer they needed to produce the high-quality apparel they’d been envisioning. They not only hit their goal, but surpassed it in the 30-day crowd- funding period.
Family and friends contributed to the campaign, and so did strangers. Grateful for the support, Lindquist and Allen dove head-first into making Hi Little One, their new boutique line, a success—working long hours and running the company mostly in cyberspace, from their home bases in Deephaven and Denver. “I’ve always wanted to be my own boss,” explains Lindquist. “I spoke with a number of entrepreneurs, and they all urged me to take the plunge.”
Allen contributes her business savvy and merchandising expertise, using her background in retail and experience working with corporations like Marshall Field’s. Lindquist, formerly a graphic designer for 1-800-Flowers, is the architect behind the line’s beautiful and playful designs. Hi Little One is now a full-time job for both sisters.
Allen and Lindquist grew up in the Lake Minnetonka area in an incredibly close-knit family. Now, they’re able to include and honor their family by giving back to organizations dedicated to fighting pediatric cancers. “Our dad lost three brothers to leukemia, two as children,” explains Lindquist. “Our younger brother, Sean, survived a bout with Hodgkin’s disease when he was 12, as did Maggie back in 1997. Supporting pediatric cancer research has always been important to our family, which is why 10 percent of all of our sales go to charity.”
Hi Little One has contributed gift cards and giveaways through social media in collaboration with the Pinky Swear Foundation and Love Your Melon, both local nonprofits that support pediatric cancer research.
In addition to charitable giving, Hi Little One gives back in another way, too—through a commitment to American-made products. Allen and Lindquist print all their designs on USA-produced apparel. As Hi Little One’s sales increase, so does its footprint, which now includes selling in a brick-and-mortar location at Fleurish, a small boutique in Excelsior. The shop stocks some of their ready-made products, as well as a catalogue for customers to peruse before making a fully customized special order.
Hi Little One was also featured as a finalist in the Martha Stewart American Made Competition last September. The competition highlights goods produced by craftspeople and artisans in the United States to help build successful businesses and communities. Sisters Allen and Lindquist say this is exactly what Hi Little One strives to do as well—their goal is to produce beautiful, personality-driven pieces that make gift-giving a joy, while giving back to the community that helped strengthen their own family.