Travelling and music festivals might be a part of our lives but for Irish mum and Cake & Elf owner Kate Jackson, it had a deep impact on her career path.
The Cork native grew up loving all things craft and design as her father, Ken Jackson, before her. Ken ran his own business creating bespoke soft furnishings and custom furniture.
Having this artistic influence in her life lead Kate to study Fashion Design at Mallow College of Design and Tailoring. She went on to take a course in Fashion Buying and Merchandising in Dublin before the travel bug bit her.
Being in charge of her own path gave Kate a great sense of self. She did alterations, bridesmaids’ dresses and worked for other designers but wanted more.
In 2011, she embarked on a new chapter by setting up her own business, Cake & Elf. During that time she met the love of her life, Damien. Like the designer herself, he too is a creative and talented visual artist.
The couple set out on an adventure to India and once again, exploration gave birth to inspiration for the young entrepreneur.
The vibrant colours and stunning clothes motivated her to combine two of her favourite things, fashion and music festivals. Speaking about her time in India, she shared, ‘I loved all the colours especially all the silk Sarees.
‘I started making dresses from vintage Sarees and we went to all the Big Music Festivals like Electric Picnic with our shop Cake & Elf!’
While building her brand and travelling to markets and festivals meant life was pretty busy, it became a lot more hectic with the arrival of her first child, Sìofra, in 2013. But motherhood did not slow her down.
‘I wore her in the sling trading at all the festivals and markets,’ Kate told RollerCoaster. ‘We had a campervan and loved travelling to all the music festivals especially the small ones like Knockanstockan.’
Two years after having their baby girl, she and her partner Damien welcomed their son Uisneach. As their family expanded, life began to take a shift.
The couple decided to move their family to Leitrim and took a step back from their day-to-day routine. More change came in 2017 when little Cuàn Fionn entered the world.
Although she loved being on the road and including her children in the business, Kate and Damien felt it was time to take a break from music festivals.
The respite allowed her to re-examine her work and a new path became clear when she looked at the fashion available for her own kids. She explained: ‘Life had slowed down and I was finally getting more time to sew. I started making baby and children’s clothing.
‘I hated the high street clothes for kids, especially the boy’s section. The pallet is so boring and they can be too grown up. I love bright comfortable clothes for kids.
‘I had always wanted to sew for my children and had previously made cloth nappies and reusable items for them. I started making items for my own family and moved on to making pieces to sell.
‘I really wanted to create comfortable, functional clothes allowing free play, ethically produced and bright colours.’
Kate rebranded Cake & Elf and created handmade organic baby and children’s clothing that is both colourful and fun. Speaking about the new direction of her business, she explained that she is more environmentally conscious for her kids.
‘I try to minimise any waste created by my business, using up even the smallest offcuts of fabric,’ said the mumpreneur. ‘Also not using any plastic in our packaging materials.’
Kate and her family moved back to where it all began in 2019 and settled into a home by the coast near Clonakilty just in time for little Oisìn to join the family.
While her family has been her main source of inspiration, she is also influenced by Swedish fabric designer Linda Forsberg and other Scandinavian designers who use vintage style prints.
Like any business owner, there has been highs and lows for the mum. For Kate, the joy of assembling the colours and prints to fit together and finish a piece gives her great satisfaction.
Another positive factor for her is seeing little one’s happily wearing her pieces. With all this comes a great deal of responsibility and pressure.
The uncertainty of being self-employed and the challenges of finding time in the day for work and her family can be a low for her. Despite this, Cake & Elf celebrated its ten year anniversary.
The key to her success is simple, set boundaries. She explained: ‘It is so important to set boundaries. I work in the mornings when they are in school, [when] Oisìn’s naps and when they are in bed in the evening.
‘It’s important to be able to close the door on the business and put away the phone and spend quality time with the children.’
For mums who are looking to start their own business, Kate shared: ‘I would advise anyone starting out to not undervalue your work. Your skills are unique to you and your time should be valued.’
She also advises anyone who is looking to embark down this road to ‘be the change you wish to see in the world’. Words Kate continues to apply to her life