Kate Marie Grinold Sigfusson is an expectant first-time mommy and the CEO and founder of Babies4Babies, the luxury baby brand with a mission to reduce global child mortality. Driven by a strong belief in the power and potential of women and girls, Kate Marie has dedicated much of her career to increasing marginalized girls’ access to education and economic opportunity. A graduate of the George Washington University Elliott School of International Affairs, Kate Marie holds a BA in international affairs; is a director on the FAIR Girls board; is the recipient of the 2011 Envest Foundation “40 Under 40” award; and has been a World Economic Forum Global Shaper since 2010, co-founding the Chicago Global Shaper hub in 2012. In 2009, Kate Marie, then Miss DC 2008, placed in the top 10 at Miss America.
Occupation: Founder/CEO of Babies4Babies
Twitter Handle: @babies4babies
Facebook Page: www.facebook.com/babies4babies
What are three words that best describe you? This is a better question for my husband but I’ll give you one word that won’t make me look good or bad: tenacious…for better or worse, I have a really hard time giving up.
Could you describe your business? Babies4Babies is the luxury baby brand that saves lives. (We are a for profit company with a social impact mission.) Through our “buy one, save two” model, the customer is empowered to give life saving medical treatments to two babies in need by purchasing a beautiful gift for the baby they love.
What is your role, where are you based? I am the Founder and CEO of Babies4Babies. Our offices and factory are based in the great city of Chicago.
What inspires you most about your work? As a mother-to-be, I think a lot about how I am going to care for my little one, the products that will help me along the way, and how to lead by example and do good in the world. This drives my love creating fashion forward, quality driven, mission inspired baby products.
Was there anything in your past that pointed you in the direction you’ve taken? After many wonderful and inspiring years working to empower women and girls from the non-profit side, I took a little leap and crossed over to the for-profit side. I believe that the right combination of profit and purpose creates a new and sustainable model for helping others. As a for-profit company with a social mission, Babies4Babies’ impact will grow with each sale and what makes it such an amazing experience for me is the fact that we as a company are providing a platform to help each customer give back through the purchases that add value to their everyday lives. It’s a win-win-win situation!
What experience in your career are you most proud of? On November 25, 2013, I (soft) launched my company: Babies4Babies, the luxury baby brand that saves lives!
What advice would you share with those still in school? When you’re twenty-two and about to graduate you start to panic because you feel like you should know exactly what you’re supposed to do in life. My advice is to let that pressure go and focus on getting the best, most interesting, eye-opening experiences you can. Instead of finding your dream job, find a job that will teach you something (anything!) and get into the community and volunteer, join a running club or improv group, and don’t be afraid to wait tables or tend bar when you need the extra cash to pay rent. Your early twenties should be a time of struggle, experience, and even drama. You’ll come out humbler, wiser, and if you’re lucky, with a better idea of where to go next.
Why is giving back is important to you? Whether it’s our time, talent or treasure, I believe each of us has a responsibility to invest in the lives of those in our communities.
How has giving back helped you? When you invest in a life, you are investing in a family, and ultimately, an entire community. When that’s your community, either local or global, I’d argue you are actually giving back to and helping yourself!
How do you incorporate giving back into your life? As a pair of newlyweds, my husband and I are developing our family’s long-term giving philosophy. We’d like to invest at least 10% of our annual income in the work of non-profit and social enterprise businesses and to contribute our time through direct volunteerism and mentorship in our community. My company, Babies4Babies, is for-profit but our “buy one, save two” model makes the brand one that would not exist without our mission to reduce global child mortality. That I have been able to blend my passion for empowering women and children with my ambition to build a profitable company while doing motherhood, is more than I could ever ask for.
Which charities are near and dear to you and why? I am a superfan supporter of FAIR Girls, a girls’ empowerment and anti-human trafficking non-profit organization. I have spent time as a FAIR Girls volunteer, youth mentor, staff member, and am currently a director on the FAIR Girls board. I cannot speak highly enough of this organization and have personally benefitted so much from the opportunity to serve such an amazing and inspiring group of young women and girls. FAIR Girls is currently fundraising to open the first safe home for sexually exploited girls in Washington, DC; you can learn more, get involved, and donate at www.fairgirls.org!
When it comes to your own philanthropic efforts, what do you look back on and feel made the largest impact on those that you set out to help? The biggest impact I’ve had has been through my long-term mentorship of two teen and now young adult girls. Our friendships have evolved over time to where I feel they actually give me so much more than I ever could give them. Seeing them rise above obstacles and begin to create beautiful lives for themselves is more than I could ever ask for in return for just a little bit of my time and attention. Of course, financially contributing to causes is also so important and beyond traditional donations, there are many purpose-oriented brands, like Babies4Babies and Warby Parker, that help you give back and invest in lives through your everyday purchases.
What is the most creative fundraising idea you’ve come across? I am obsessed with crowdfunding and recently spoke to the good people at Samahope about their work to crowdfund for safe births. The idea that 100 people can come together with $1 donations and fund a safe birth for a mother and her baby is incredible. Another similar crowdfunding organization, Kangu.org, let’s you search for mothers by due date so of course I found Annet, who has the same due date as me, and am starting a crowdfunding campaign among my friends to provide Annet and her baby with a safe birth. (If you want to join in, click here for Annet’s page.)
What are some must-attend charity events for you? Pearls of Purpose is FAIR Girls’ annual spring benefit and I never miss it. Save the date: May 8, 2014!
What brands do you wear most often? Lately, anything with a stretchy waistband! My perfect outfit is a combination of chic-looking quality and comfort and I am obsessed with soft fabrics. Most days this means dark maternity jeggings, a camel or black cashmere sweater, boots, and my go to pearl earrings, a gift from my sweet husband.
What is your favorite beauty product? You can never go wrong with Dior BB cream, a Nars blush and bronzer duo, and any black mascara.
How would you describe your home décor? We live in an industrial loft with large concrete pillars and industrial floor to ceiling windows. I softened it up a bit with a French countryside inspired décor (antique wood chests, lux upholstery with nail-head trim, vintage frames, and an amazing flokati rug).
What is your secret for hosting a great party? It’s all about creating the right mix of people. I
love bringing new and old friends together so I craft my guest lists to include folks from all parts of my life.
Favorite food: I have never had a favorite food, per se, but lately I’ve been eating a lot of apples with almond butter. With the exception of a few things like bananas, as much as possible, our family tries to eat seasonal and local meats and produce.
Favorite cocktail: A beautiful glass of champagne with brunch is the perfect cocktail. I’m already planning my post-baby champagne brunch!
Favorite restaurant: Mario Batali just opened an Eataly in Chicago (a.k.a. heaven for pregnant women).
If you could host a dinner party for 8, who would you invite living or dead? I feel like I should come up with something really creative and exciting, but honestly, I’d choose my closest family and friends. We had 104 guests at our wedding and it was the most amazing dinner party of my life because everyone I loved was breaking bread, laughing, and dancing under one roof.
Favorite vacation spot: Diving on the Great Barrier Reef, trekking Argentina’s Perito Moreno glacier, walking the Champs-Elysees…experiencing new places in this beautiful world is always my favorite vacation.
Do you have any tips for parents? As a mommy-to-be, I don’t have any specific advice (yet!), but Babies4Babies has seven incredible mommy advisors who do. Click here to meet them and to read their stories and advice on first-time motherhood.
Favorite movie/song/TV show: This question always stumps me! I’ve never had a favorite movie or a favorite song, but my husband and I did dress up as Jim and Pam from The Office a few years ago, so I guess I’d have to say that’s my favorite TV show.
Favorite book: In no particular order, the most interesting books I read in 2013 were Beyond the Beautiful Forevers; The Hole in Our Gospel; Animal, Vegetable, Miracle; Lean In; Havana Real; Delivering Happiness; and Life of Pi. (I am a big reader and will read any genre as long as it’s well written.)
Favorite apps: I am constantly documenting the Babies4Babies story on Instagram. It’s a joy to give friends and customers a peek into the startup life, which includes a bit about my personal journey into motherhood and how it influences the brand.
iPhone or Android: iPhone, but always the older model. I don’t get worked up about the newest technology, but my husband is a different story, so I tend to inherit his old phones and other electronics.
Favorite workout: I love living an active lifestyle and hate working out just for the sake of it, so I am constantly trying new classes and styles of fitness. A few I tend to keep in the mix are cycling (road bike in the summer and indoor cycling in the winter), TRX, tabata with both weights and cardio, and a good vinyasa flow.
Where do you get your news? I love to read, but recently, with a baby on board and Babies4Babies to run, I’ve been relying on theSkimm, a women-run daily e-newsletter that helps me catch up on the day’s top stories and events.