Marketplace: Little Ones Design finds a home in Park City
After moving from Argentina, owners have big dreams for company
February 3, 2017
Sofia Mantoni remembers how it all began: Quite simply, she thought she could do it better.
Years ago, she recalled, she would walk through stores in her home country of Argentina to buy clothes for her five children, but would leave frustrated by the options. The products were expensive, and none seemed to quite capture the style she preferred. So she did something about it.
Mantoni is an architect by trade, but she called upon the sewing skills she'd learned as a girl, which in Argentina is a tradition passed through the generations. Instead of settling for whatever the stores were offering, she began making clothes for her children herself. And almost immediately, people began to take notice.
"I started doing it on my own, and people around us started saying, 'Where did you get that?'" she said.
It wasn't long before she started making more clothes for the children of family and friends, and her husband, Sergio Mantoni, got an intriguing idea: What if they could turn her skills into a business? But Sergio, an Argentinian economist, had another idea, too.
If they were going to use Sofia's skills to start a company, he thought, there wouldn't be a better place to do it than the United States, where he predicted manufacturing costs were set to decline. So they took a leap of faith. Nearly a year and a half ago, they moved to Park City and founded Little Ones Design, a company that manufactures and sells children's clothing.
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The Mantonis said the time since they decided to leave their home country has been a whirlwind. They chose Park City for its lifestyle and atmosphere, and the town has embraced them as they have gotten the company, which they hope to eventually spread across the globe, off the ground.
Looking back, they wouldn't change a thing.
"Five years ago, we started traveling around the U.S. to find where we wanted to live because we could do it anywhere," Sofia said. "There are children everywhere, and people have to dress their children everywhere. But we love the energy and the community here."
The company offers a range of clothing, from shorts to ski wear, on its website, littleonesdesign.com. But in addition to selling high-quality clothes, the Mantonis said they want customers to get as much use out of them as possible. That's why many of the clothes come with features that prevent children from immediately outgrowing them, such as pants with expandable waistbands. So far, the reception to the clothing has been excellent, they said.
"We are trying to do clothes that are different in quality," Sofia said. "We are very picky with the fabrics and everything like that. It's not like we're inventing anything new — they're still skirts, pants and shirts — but they have colored stitching and details and things you don't find as much for kids."
They are also billing the company as a way to help improve the lives of children. They said there is evidence that children who dress well perform better in school. They've seen that happen with their own children, and they're hoping it holds true for other children who wear Little Ones Design's clothes.
"It creates the atmosphere to succeed," Sergio said. "One of the things kids have to face is that they don't feel comfortable when they are growing. So when they are well dressed, they feel that confidence. They perform better because they're confident."
Currently, the company operates online, but the Mantonis said they would like to open a brick-and-mortar shop in the Park City area soon. From there, they hope the brand continues to take off so they can expand it to new markets
"We're thinking big," Sofia said. "We want everything for this company."
Sergio added that, while they understand they may not reach all their goals, it would be against their nature not to try. It is the third start-up company they have founded, and they are optimistic that, with enough hard work, they can transform the company into a success.
"Failure is an option," he said. "But you should keep positive about what you're doing, and we did our two other start-ups in that way. You know you are risking everything, but for us, it's just another challenge."
Little Ones Design
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