goumi is a small company that wants to make a big difference.
We are Lili and Linsey, the co-founders of goumi. We met in high school, and then stayed friends through college, marriages, and career evolutions. As new moms, we were both having trouble finding mittens and socks for our babies that would stay on. We decided to start a company that would be mission-led and product- supported so we could nurture our babies and make more good in the world where our children would grow up.
Lili Yeo and Linsey Ebuen are the co-founders of goumi. Read this interview to learn more about their story.
How long have you known each other?
LY: We first met in our 9th grade English class, in Portland, Oregon. Little did we know that our friendship would see us through not only four years of high school, but also through college, business schools, career evolutions, marriages, pregnancies, motherhood, and ultimately lead to us becoming business partners with a mission to make good goods, and inspire others.
LE: Yes. But our company was born after our babies were born.
How did goumi begin?
LE: It started one day I came to visit Lili during her first maternity leave. I already had two toddlers…
LY: We were sitting at my kitchen table catching up. I asked Linsey what she was up to and she said she was working on a couple of baby products… booties and mittens that would stay on.
LE: Being a mother felt very natural to me. But it was so hard in so many ways. For one thing…nobody had prepared me for the fact that babies come with razor sharp finger nails!
LY: Right! Me either!
LE: My daughters were always scratching their faces. It was horrifying! The mittens I bought wouldn’t stay on and kept falling off! We had the same challenge and struggle with socks, baby booties and baby shoes; they just wouldn’t stay on their little wiggly feet!
What was it like to be new moms starting a new company?
LY: I was a brand new mom … but becoming a mother had not always been my vision… so I was like what have I gotten myself into here?
LE: I had always wanted to have kids, and had taken a sabbatical after my daughters were born. I returned back to corporate American when my daughters were 3 1Ž2 years old and 6 months old. A few weeks after I started I was laid off with 30% of my co-workers. So I was a young mother… a young unemployed mother! As scary as it was, it was also a blessing in disguise.
LY: Sometimes adversity and challenges are what push us to grow the most. Before having my kids I had already started rethinking and reinventing what I wanted my work life to be. Becoming a mom made me realize that I wanted to be the best mom I could be, AND the best professional… but that my work had to support my being a mom.
LE: I had been researching baby booties and mittens in the market, and was seriously beginning to explore starting my own business. When I returned from a tradeshow to visit lili and meet baby iliana for the first time, I told lili about my ideas and that I wanted to start a business and bring these products to market.
LY: Both of us agreed that becoming moms gave us a whole new outlook on life. Suddenly we weren’t only responsible for ourselves; we had these tiny human beings we were responsible for! We talked a lot about work/life balance.
LE: So I showed Lili the prototypes I was developing.
LY: And I said, “You know I know how to help bring products to market, right? I think I can help you with that!”
LE: And so our journey began!
Why are you called goumi?
LE: We wanted to select a company name that reflected what we were about – small, purposeful, and multifaceted …
LY: Yes… we had a lot of “AND’s.” We wanted to make beautiful AND sustainable products. We wanted to be profitable AND we wanted to give back. AND we wanted to nurture potential AND celebrate everyday heroes.
LE: The idea of growing something beneficial and good made us think of fruit, and all the “and’s” made us think of fruits that had many dimensions in terms of health benefits.
LY: In the beginning we named ourselves after the guava… because guava’s are so good for you. But as we grew, we realized that guava as a name had some limitations and thankfully, we discovered goumi berries … a little-known berry that is a nutritional powerhouse. We were also “little known” but intended to be a powerhouse, so we became Goumikids.
LE: Today we are Goumi, and we make goumigoods. Our “goods” are our products. One of our goods is Goumikids, our line of beautiful baby essentials: mittens, booties, hats, and jammies. Another of our goods is Goumigiving; our focused effort to help victims of human trafficking.
Tell us about your giving.
LY: Giving has always been a part of our DNA. Since our first collection, we committed 10% of our proceeds to our giving initiative. There were scary moments in the earliest years - because startups just inhale cash - but this was part of our company design. It was a non-negotiable, and we were determined to make it work so that as we grow, our giving grows.
LE: Five years in and we’re so excited about our latest collection, our first line of prints that are goumi-designed including a dedicated goumigiving print. 100% of all the proceeds from our goumigiving print products go to our giving initiative.
LY: Everyday we find ourselves inspired by everyday heroes who share this same desire for convergence in their lives and want to join us in the journey, whether through goumi’s social media streams, in the events that we participate in or simply running into them out there in the world.
Tell us more about what motivates you.
LY: But there has always been a bigger idea – a purposeful passion - behind what we do. We don’t just want to make stuff. We want to make good stuff and do good things.
LE: We knew that if our tiny babies could impact us so greatly, then that was proof that the size of a thing does not dictate it’s ability to bring change. We set out to prove that small can indeed be very intentional, multifaceted - and ultimately very impactful. We wanted to be a small company that made a big difference.
LY: Yes. We wanted to create a “pan-purposeful” company. I believe I was born to live and celebrate multifaceted-ness. As a start, I am both dual-cultured in ethnicity and citizenship. 10 years ago, I started on a journey to integrate all these clues that I knew to be true about myself - what I’m passionate about, skills that came naturally to me and the life experiences I found myself in. I was on a mission to do what I was born to do. In a word, I wanted to live a life of convergence. Little did I know that part of my journey would include co-creating multifaceted goumi and helping others find that place of convergence as well!
LE: Growing up, I never really thought of myself as a creative person because I wasn’t good at drawing, painting and producing art with my hands. However, being artistic and creative comes in many different forms and facets. I discovered that I am artistic and I do have a creative mind (art and creativity just manifest itself differently in my world). I have an inventive mind. I have an open mind. I have an open heart. I have a joyous spirit. Through this “mamapreneur” journey, I have been able to use my creative, inventive, open-minded, open-hearted, fun-loving, joyful spirit to create, network, relationship build, negotiate and open doors in my personal and professional life. To me Goumi is more than a company. It’s a passion with a purpose.
What is the best part of goumi?
LE: There is something powerful and almost magical that happens when you find yourself to be doing what it is that you were really meant to do. Goumi is thriving, and we want to help others thrive and reach their fullest potential too.
LY: Our passion for all of this… our kids, meaningful work lives, giving back to our world and making a difference – especially difference from the smallest of places, the everyday – is what drives Goumi.
LE: We really do believe that we can make more good together.