When I first came across Totem Teepee, about two years ago, I had to contact Tammy for a replacement pole for a tepee that a client wanted me to use for their child’s party. I knew that I was working with a brand that valued their clients and took such pride in their product. I will never forget that Roy immediately offered to send a replacement pole to us at no cost! I could not believe it, so it’s with a warm heart that we share our interview questions and answers with Tammy:
Q: What is your Name and your Instagram handle?
A: Totem Teepee – @totemteepee
Q: Which social platforms are you currently on?
A: Facebook – facebook.com/totemteepee
Instagram – @totemteepee
Twitter – @totemteepee (not too active but we do occasionally post to twitter)
Q: When did you start your business specifically relating to children? When did you start your Instagram page?
A: We started in November 2009. My son was 2 and I had seen teepees online and decided I wanted to try make one for him. In those days there was no Pinterest, and because I grew up playing on the floor of my mom’s sewing room, I had learned to sew and knew I could make one. It took me 3 attempts to get the dimensions right. And over the years it’s been tweaked further, we are constantly trying to better our product. My Instagram account was begun in February 2015, up until then I’d run my Facebook account as our primary online presence since November 2011
Q: What is the best and worst thing about being an Instagram Mommy/ Instagram business woman / Blogger?
A: I am an introvert. Many people laugh when I tell them that, because I am a very jokey person and am not afraid to be part of the fun at social gatherings. But I NEED alone time. A lot! It recharges my batteries. Being a business woman means you need to interact with customers, and be enthusiastic and sometimes quite ballsy. This doesn’t come naturally to me! I have always shied away from the limelight, preferring to be a behind-the-scenes employee so I have to work hard to be in front marketing my biz. I think I also use humor as an ice breaker and am not afraid to be vulnerable at times and have a good laugh at myself. Humor is important to me, life is stressful, we need to laugh! But with vulnerability, comes criticism and I am sometimes hurt by the way people have commented and responded to me when I am being real. So those would be the hard things about being an insta-mom!
The good parts are that it has become a place to express myself, and I know it sounds contradictory to what I just said, I enjoy the forum to be real me, real Tammy! Some days I am strong enough to let the negativity that comes with that roll off my back, but others not. I am an incredibly sensitive and analytical person, so that also gets in the way sometimes!
But what I’ve loved most about the social media platform is the people I’ve met. In some ways these friends know me better than my ‘real life’ friends. Sounds crazy, but there’s a kinship that comes from knowing you are in the same boat as these other mama-makers! Subsequently I have a small circle of mamas who really get me and have my back as it were. They go above and beyond to help and encourage me. Those friends are like gold. We whatsapp almost every day and I consider these ladies important contributors to the success of our business. In many ways they keep me grounded especially in the false world of social media.
Also what I’ve loved about this journey is that my family is a part of it. We truly live the brand! My sons are so proud of their parents’ business. They offer teepees to many of their friends saying: ‘oh my mom makes teepees, if you ask your mom I’m sure my mom can make you one!’ That’s a frequently overheard line in their conversations, mostly when their friends see and question the rolls of fabric I have scattered all over my house! We often donate teepees to NGOs and schools for fundraisers, and my boys fight over who gets to deliver the teepee, both very proud that they are giving away such an amazing product!
My husband, Roy, works full time for Totem Teepee. He excels at the interacting with people. We are a good partnership, both working to our strengths as a team. It’s not always easy working with your spouse, so we’ve had challenging times, but it’s helped us grow in our understanding of one another.
Q: You have a trusted babysitter and the night off what would you do?
A: As a couple we seldom have a night off. But my ideal would be to book into a B&B in the KZN Midlands, go out to a local restaurant for dinner, and enjoy taking our time, sleeping in the following morning, and then exploring the local shops and countryside. We also love good coffee. A lot! Our favorite place is Fego at the Pavilion! (which I discovered on Monday night is closed!!!! #Nooooooo) It’s so low key, but it is definitely our coffee shop of choice. That and Circus Circus café at the beachfront. Roy and I have never been big culinary fanatics. We really are pretty simple folk, and enjoy good coffee, a movie, reading magazines together, watching series (and watching people!!!). Our date nights are few and far between as both of our families have all emigrated. No grandparents and aunts and uncles to help out! We really do enjoy spending time as a family, and seldom do things without our children.
Q: How important are trends for you with regards to what you buy for your children or yourself?
A: I am always watching global trends in terms of children’s’ decor and apparel. It helps me gauge the colors and styles which will reach South Africa within a season or two, ESPECIALLY in terms of my market which is very kiddie focused. Australia and parts of Europe are my go-to countries in terms of their application of current trends. Especially the minimalist Scandi look, in addition to an eclectic mix of modern and vintage. However, I don’t necessarily allow trends to dictate my path. After doing a Gallup Strengths Finder strengths test, my top strength came up as ‘Ideation’, followed by Futuristic, Empathy, Restorative and Input. I highly recommend everyone tries to do one of these online tests, it’s helped me so much in discovering what makes me tick, and how to optimize my best character traits. But having Ideation as my top strength confirmed to me that I am a forward and innovative thinker!
Q: Who are your current top children’s brands or local brands in South Africa?
A: Supporting and growing our local brands is high on my list of priorities. Mostly because I know how hard it is to succeed in our local environment.
My favourites include:
Clever Little Monkey
Q: Do you think South Africa should have a Kids Fashion week?
A: Yes absolutely!
Q: Which Instagram Mom/Moms/Blogger/Business woman inspires you?
A: I can’t possibly choose ONE (it’s so difficult!)
Chenel Kruger of @Raising.Little.James
I’ve yet to meet this precious friend, but I feel like she is a close friend.
Chenel is young, I think she’s 23!!! But she has a maturity that far surpasses her years!
She’s an incredibly high capacity woman, an accomplished professional photographer, outstanding mama to her little boys James and Jaxson plus a loving wife to Eugene. She has her head on straight, which I certainly didn’t have at that age!!!
Chenel is our main brand rep. She is incredibly devoted to Totem Teepee and loves our products which shows in the way she uses, styles and photographs them.
I admire her accomplishments for someone so young, and enjoy working with Chenel, we tend to view things quite similarly, and chat via whatsapp almost daily.
Teri-Jane Row or @choosearow on facebook and instagram
Teri lives near me, and so I’ve had the opportunity to get to know her in person. and like Chenel she bought her first teepee from us, which is a sign to me that she is committed to supporting and growing local brands without receiving a hand out. Unfortunately, South African reps are often looking for freebies, which there is a place for, but it reassures me of a person’s intentions when they don’t ask to brand rep for us with the expectation of free stuff!
Subsequently Teri has become a brand rep for us, along with her sweet daughter Skylar whom I feel is like a niece to me.
Most of all, Teri is very grounded. When it comes to how I interact with her, she is a great sounding board. I tend to be an impulsive person, so I ask her opinion on issues before I allow myself to respond to various situation. I love her no-nonsense approach to life, her content is relative and relatable, even for me with my children who are much older. She’s kind, and honest and has an affinity with people that I particularly admire. And she’s an incredible mom to her precious 2-year-old Skylar.
Q: If you could ask a fellow Instagram Mom/Blogger/Instagram Business one question, what would that be?
A: My question would be for bloggers: There are many bloggers out there. What sets yours apart, and how has having a blog helped the success of your business/brand? Would you recommend a blog as part of your online presence, for any small business who is trying to grow? Do people really care what you have to say!!!!!
I personally have gained such a stunning insight to the amazing woman that is behind the brand Totem Teepee, thank you so much Tammy for your honesty and being so open to this interview, you continue to inspire many of us who are just starting our instagram journey and we truly wish you only the most amazing success for your family and your brand today, tomorrow and the future!