Real Talk With Anna Williams, Owner + Creative Director of NOM Maternity
If you look at Anna Williams’ resume, it’s an impressive one (helloooo, Kate Spade), but even more impressive is the fact that she left the world of NY fashion to head up two maternity clothing businesses in Seattle. Anna balances designing, managing, and leading NOM Maternity as well as Village Maternity, and she does it all with a fresh, honest mindset.
Name: Anna Williams
Location: Seattle, WA
Title: Owner and Creative Director
Company: NOM Maternity
What it is: A maternity and nursing clothing line that flatters your shape instead of hiding it.
Educational Background: MBA from Claremont Graduate University
Why did you leave the world of NY Fashion for the world of maternity fashion?
My mother started a wonderful baby and maternity boutique right after she had me in 1984 called Village Maternity. She wanted a place where women could go to ask questions, find stylish maternity and baby clothes, and trust the products they purchased. My mom passed away from cancer in 2012 and all of a sudden, I was the owner of this wonderful boutique in Seattle.
I had just moved from NYC and saw the need for maternity clothes that flatter a changing shape. When one of my favorite labels, NOM Maternity became available for sale, I jumped at the opportunity to put my own design spin on maternity clothes and purchased the brand.
What does a typical day look like for you?
One of the things I love most about my job is that no day is typical. As a small business owner, I get to do everything from unpacking inventory to pulling new colors and fabrics for the upcoming collection. The great news is I get to do all the things I love and the bad news is I have to do all the parts I don’t love.
What’s it like to take an existing business and work to improve it?
NOM Maternity had such a great history and as soon as I spoke with the original founder of NOM, I was incredibly inspired by her desire to disrupt the maternity clothing industry back in the ‘90s with maternity clothes that celebrated style and women’s bodies. That was a great jumping off point for me.
The brand continues to evolve to meet the needs of a dynamic mom to be in 2016. My focus right now is designing clothing that can work both during pregnancy and after without sacrificing style or comfort.
What’s the most important thing you learned when you transitioned to business owner?
Oh, where to begin! I do love that owning a business is a constant learning experience. Finding the right people to work with has been huge. Liking and respecting the people you work with is so important. Also, hiring people with very different skill sets is imperative!
How do you juggle two businesses? What’s your number one secret?
A fantastic team! I work with such an incredibly talented team of women who really treat the businesses like their own. It makes coming to work everyday much more fun (and we get a whole lot done!).
What’s your creative process like when you start designing for NOM?
The creative process is absolutely my favorite part of the business. I generally start with a mood board – I’m old school and still like magazines over the internet or Pinterest. Fabric shopping is next on my agenda – it’s really hard to find great fabrics that offer stretch for a growing belly without being too sheer or clingy. I do a lot of vintage inspiration shopping, which helps inspire new silhouettes and details like our Max Dress for Fall 2016. The essence of the brand has remained, but it’s really fun to continue evolving the look. I have quite a few customers who aren’t pregnant and still shop NOM, which is a huge success in my book!
What aspect of your work and businesses are you most proud of and why?
I am really proud of the people I work with. I get so much positive feedback from my customers on how helpful and approachable my staff is. Being pregnant is such an exciting and scary time in people’s lives, and I am so happy to have a store and a brand that people enjoy shopping.
If you could have given yourself a piece of knowledge or advice when you started, what would that be? Would you do anything differently?
Yes, sometimes I am more focused on getting things done and don’t listen to my gut because I just want to move on to the next thing. Whenever I rush through a decision, it’s often the wrong one. Taking time to think through things and trust your gut is so important!
How do you define success?
Having people like what we’re doing is huge for me. A good review, an email from a customer that says how much they appreciate our store — it’s those little things that make me feel successful.
How much do you use social media to help shape your brand?
Social media is definitely not my strength, so figuring out how to prioritize it has been difficult. We’re just hitting our stride with being able to better express the brand through our social media channels.
What are your hobbies? What do you do when you’re not working?
Travel is a big part of my life, and I try to fit in a few international trips a year. Other than that, you really can’t beat good food and good company!
How do you balance your work with your personal life?
Not very well!
What’s next for you?
I’m really focused on NOM right now and building it into the go-to brand for pregnant and nursing mamas. Oh, and I’m also engaged, so I have to fit a wedding in there somewhere!
You have to tell us. What was it like to work for Kate Spade?
It was an amazing opportunity. The Creative Director and President of the brand, Deborah Lloyd, is a true visionary and I learned so much from her. While I was at Kate Spade, we were experiencing a ton of growth and it was a lot to keep up with, but I learned more at that job than anywhere else. I will always have respect for Kate Spade – they really do things their own way and their creative team is brilliant at what they do.
If you weren’t running NOM Maternity and Village Maternity, what do you think you would be doing?
I love being an entrepreneur, so probably working on launching a new product.