Being an entrepreneur is embedded in Tina Spence’s DNA. Growing up in Chestnut Hill, West Mt. Airy and Lafayette Hill, she learned about running a business through osmosis. Her grandfather was …
Being an entrepreneur is embedded in Tina Spence’s DNA. Growing up in Chestnut Hill, West Mt. Airy and Lafayette Hill, she learned about running a business through osmosis. Her grandfather was a notable contractor in Northwest Philadelphia, while her mother operated a funeral home in Germantown.
After serving as an executive assistant to CEOs of corporate and nonprofit firms, Spence, 48, came up with a business plan that would be a winner on Shark Tank. She saw a need in the market and filled it.
“When my son Baron was four months old and drooling uncontrollably, the only available bibs gave him a rash on his neck. And they were so babyish with ducks and bunnies. I wanted something him to have something a cool kid would wear. So, I taught myself how to sew by watching YouTube videos.”
Eventually, Spence launched her online business Buddha Babe in 2014, making bibs out of organic cotton in bright prints. Her tag line? “Luxe style and comfort your little one will drool over.” Yes, even droolers can be stylish. Why Buddha Babe? “That’s what my baby looked like when he laughed. A happy Buddha,” said Spence.
Fabrics go a long way to establishing Buddha Babe’s brand identity. “I found suppliers by trial and error, ordering swatches from dozens of vendors and evaluating which fit my ethos and would be relationships worth building,” said Spence.
As a result, she exclusively uses prints from North Carolina, bamboo fleece from Bensalem and faux llama wool from LA. “We now make over 20 products that are available online and at retailers across the country.” The Buddha Baby collection includes baby-size protective face masks, luxury blankies, leggings, t-shirts, booty shorts, swaddles and toddler scarves. The most popular item? “The blankies, hands down,” said Spence.
On Small Business Saturday, Nov 28, Spence will take her business to the next level, opening Buddha Babe, a luxury design studio at 7101 Emlen St. “It's a bright, sunny, active corner of a very vibrant community. I spent a few years of my childhood living on Wellesley Road and have great memories here.”
The contemporary décor and upscale design of her shop are a statement in themselves. Looking through the shop window, you may catch of glimpse of Spence and her now six-year-old son, a first-grader at Penn Charter. Make no mistake, this kid is not just a silent partner.
“Baron helps choose prints seasonally and is very engaged in the design process,” said Spence. “For instance, he encouraged me to make the drop in our harem pants a little less deep, so that he would not continue to get his pants caught in his car seat.”
Spence no longer fills all the orders on her own. She now employs three full-time stitchers and has two student interns. “Since March, it is the baby masks that have kept us alive. Because of the popularity of our mask designs, I was able to reach thousands of customers that did not originally fit within my marketing plan.”
Thanks to an appearance on FYI Philly, a magazine format show on TV Channel 6, and a feature in Philadelphia Magazine, word about this upscale baby emporium is spreading fast.
Being an owner, CEO and single mom has its challenges. “It's a struggle, but I make the most out of each hour in the day,” said Spence. “Part of our new space includes a joint office, where my son's side is fully stocked with educational and entertainment options, as well as virtual learning.”
You will not be seeing Buddha Babe on Shark Tank for a good reason. “I was approached by a producer in 2016 but declined,” said Spence. “I believe that any investor of that magnitude would immediately force me to outsource production and decrease material cost by procuring fabric from overseas. I refuse to do that. My entire brand positioning focuses on handcrafted, organic and as local as possible.”
For more information, visit BuddhaBabe.us