Never mind The Devil Wears Prada gossip. Working with Vogue’s Anna Wintour is a fantastic training ground—long hours, fashion contacts, brand expertise, exceptional work. High-profile professional success typically comes at a high cost—less family time. To that, two ex-Vogue momtrepreneurs say B.S.! Well, they might if weren’t so professional, cosmopolitan and routinely working around kids.
Former Wintour protégés Sylvana Ward-Durrett and Luisana Mendoza de Roccia are flipping the script on traditional office rules (and etiquette) as working mothers and founders of lifestyle e-tailer Maisonette, the premier digital marketplace for high-quality children’s brands and boutiques. At the company’s new family-first Brooklyn headquarters (conceived by interior design wizard Homepolish), any day is “Bring Your Child To Work Day.” Long hours are still routine, but only on the co-founders’ millennial-age terms.
As the first to exclusively aggregate the stylish boutique children’s space, Maisonette is revolutionizing its industry as a convenient one-stop shopping destination of high-quality apparel, accessories, toys, furniture and home décor for children up to 12 years old. Offering world-class brands like Bobo Choses, Native, Minnow Swim, Petit Pehr, Caramel London, PlanToys and Oeuf, Maisonette.com is attracting legions of worldwide parent groupies, including celebrity moms Chrissy Teigen, Gwyneth Paltrow, Keri Russell, and Molly Sims.
Launched in 2017 from Ward-Durrett’s home kitchen island (with just six employees), Maisonette sprouted quicker than a four-year-old toddler. Now, fresh off explosive growth (40 employees) and $15 million in Series A funding, the company is primed for its next growth spurt—even from the single desk the co-founders still share, with family at its core.
“As moms, we understood the struggle between balancing a career and motherhood, which is why it was important for us to create a work-life blend rather than a work-life balance environment for our team,” says CCO Mendoza de Roccia. “If parents have a doctor’s appointment or a kid’s birthday, we want to support them as much as possible so they can be present for those special moments in their children’s lives. This culture continues to be integrated throughout everything we do, down to the design of our office.”
Maisonette is a collaborative corporate playground where kids are affectionally called “minis,” nap time is encouraged, and motivated millennial staffers chip in for babysitting duty.
“I’m a firm believer that you need breaks throughout the workday to be most efficient, and what better distraction than spending time with the ones who inspired our vision,” says CEO Ward-Durrett. “When a mini is in the office for the day, the entire team is always lining up to have their turn to play.”
As a growing start-up, an open layout was essential to encourage collaboration between teams and departments (also to keep eyes on wandering minis). The office pops with sophisticated, nursery-style pastel hues and eclectic multi-purpose nooks curated for work and play—a waiting room/library, communal meeting spaces/playrooms, and a showroom chock-full of toys and books from Maisonette vendors.
“It was important for the office to double as a showroom where we can interact with products we carry day-to-day,” Mendoza de Roccia adds.
Homepolish designer Ariel Okin infused playful elements into the efficient 2,200-square-foot headquarters for staff and their 22 collective children (so far)—long collaboration conference tables, a concealed daybed, activity stations, Dr. Seuss and Roald Dahl-titled conference rooms, and an entry scribble wall inspired by The Inside’s signature doodle print design. Marketing campaign artwork starring Maisonette minis adorably adorn gallery walls.
For privacy, Okin created a small telephone room where staff can take personal calls or meetings. The inviting kitchen is for snacking, lunching or inter-department water-coolering.
“Every feature and piece of furniture was carefully selected with this [family first culture] idea in mind, including a kitchen stocked with organic gummies and snacks; Oeuf activity tables and chairs as an office coloring and sticker station; an overflowing toy shelf; low, stocked bookshelves while [kids wait] for mom or dad; and a large daybed piled high with pillows for nap time,” says Ward-Durrett, who lives minutes from the office.
The dynamic duo co-founders run the company from a shared desk in their glass-walled corner office, which is decorated with whimsical Bandelier meeting chairs and a Tory Burch-gifted Aerin Lauder frame—which holds a photograph of Ward-Durrett (when pregnant with her second daughter) and her husband as she ran the Met Gala for Vogue. From this space, the business partners plan strategy, schmooze with investors or interview job candidates.
“We’ve always been used to working in a shared space, dating back to our days at Vogue and transitioning to launching Maisonette out of Sylvana’s kitchen,” says Mendoza de Roccia. “Sharing a desk is the most natural and effective way for us to run a company, and second family together.”
Maisonette is among the wave of vibrant companies revitalizing this bustling DUMBO neighborhood between the Manhattan Bridge and Brooklyn Bridge—along with Etsy, Amplify, Huge, Song Kick, Mouth Foods, etc. DUMBO has become Brooklyn’s entrepreneurial nerve center forged by big city millennials who eschew skyscrapers for the neighborhood vibe—a quick Uber or subway ride from Manhattan.
Shortly after Ward-Durrett and Mendoza de Roccia became mothers, they discovered a “huge gap” in the children’s online market. After many frustrating nights researching dozens of children’s websites for high-quality, stylish clothes for their kids, something clicked.
“We were treating shopping as a chore instead of something that is supposed to be enjoyable,” says Mendoza de Roccia. “We knew there had to be a better way…” Obviously, there is.
Maisonette launched two new initiatives in 2018—an digital magazine called Le Scoop (as a parent resource and community forum) and Petite Profile which allows customers to create distinct e-commerce profiles for their minis (age, size, preference, etc.).
The co-founders say Maisonette’s family-first culture is designed for comfort—where staff feels at home and excited to come to work. They say having their minis nearby is an authentic sounding board for the products they sell. It’s an ideal workplace if you can get it. Here, the kids are growing up so fast—and so is Maisonette. It seems like both were born just yesterday.