Kodomo Founder Jasmine Punzalan Follows her Dreams

Kodomo founder Jasmine Punzalan on entrepreneurship, Instagram, and never giving up

Jasmine Punzalan is a fighter—a woman who doesn’t let anything stand in her way. The founder of kodomo (meaning child in Japanese) opened her doors just months after a surprise diagnosis with Stage III breast cancer. Having switched gears from a demanding, international corporate career to life as a yoga instructor and mother, Jasmine’s commitment to mindfulness, health, and family—not to mention her beautifully curated selection of ethically sourced children’s apparel— is nothing short of astonishing. Punzalan graciously spoke to Junior Style about her personal journey, charitable work, and being an entrepreneur.

What part of Boston are you in? Do the locals have any favourite designers? What seems to sell the best in the brick and mortar?

We are located in the historic and quaint south end neighbourhood of Boston where you will see many small and locally owned coffee shops, boutiques, and restaurants. Our local customers love playful and comfortable clothing so Nununu, Mini Rodini, Marmar Copenhagen do very well.  Shoes also sell well in the brick and mortar because parents have an opportunity to bring their kids in to try on unique shoes you won’t find everywhere on-line.

As a mother and a businesswoman, you are juggling a lot. What helps you get through it all? How do you unwind?

I have been practising yoga for almost 2 decades and have taught for 10 years.  Yoga is what helps me to unwind and is a huge priority.  I make time for it every day – whether 5 min or 2 hours.  I have my mat and props all set up in our office at the store so when it’s quiet i can find time to practice at work. I taught vinyasa yoga for almost 10 years.  I stopped teaching in order to pursue my teacher training in Iyengar yoga and to devote my studies to that lineage of yoga.  I began my two-year teacher training with Patricia Walden this past September. Again, I wasn’t going to allow my breast cancer diagnosis to get in the way of my plans.

Last fall you helped Akid kick off their charitable donation to a local children’s charity. How did your partnership with Ashleigh Dempster come about? Any new collaborations on the horizon?

We are very lucky to have formed a friendship with Ashleigh from Akid.  She is such a warm, creative, and generous person – not to mention a huge supporter of small business.  We carry a big selection of Akid shoes so I contacted her to see if she would be interested in collaborating for an event.  Through several emails and conference calls, I learned about her desire to donate shoes to children in need.  I am involved with the home for little wanderers here in Boston.  At that moment, the stars and moon aligned and we were on our way to a very successful event together!

You’ve produced two very beautiful look books, both of them shot by Jose Carlier. How did you first discover Jose’s work? Has investing in professionally styled and shot look books paid off for Kodomo?

Jose and I met through Katehrine Edmonds of Wovenplay, who at the time I was a huge moral supporter behind my ideas and branding for kodomo.  I have never ventured into the world of children’s fashion before, so having Katherine to bounce my ideas to really helped my confidence to go forth with my plans for kodomo.

I love Jose’s editorial style of photography and she understands our brand so well, so we really work well together. We love to mix different designers together in our looks so it’s been a great way to present the kodomo brand as a whole (versus each individual designer).

In light of your health challenges, did you at any point question the path you were walking in terms of opening a new store? 

I had been working on this concept for almost two years when I was diagnosed in May (we opened in August).  I never asked for breast cancer to pummel into my life and so I wasn’t going to allow this diagnosis from stopping me from doing what I have always dreamed of.  If anything, the almost simultaneous diagnosis and opening a store situation empowered me even more and keeping busy has helped in distracting me from the difficult side effects of treatment.

Is their anything about being an entrepreneur that has taken you by surprise? What advice would you give to another woman who has caught the baby fashion bug and is considering opening her own store?

Honestly, it’s how much thought social media requires! I had taken myself completely off Facebook before Instagram even started.  Now that I am a small business owner, I feel it necessary to use social networks to promote my business…but it does take a lot of my time to find a good picture and come up with something witty to say.  Then I have to pull myself away from tracking how many likes I get – ha!!

Advice: take your time to write a very good business plan.  Consider everything…the time involved in running the store, the impact on your family both time wise and financially.  It’s a lot of fun owning a retail shop, but it is extremely challenging to compete with big department stores and Amazon.  You need to be patient and give yourself lots of wiggle room to make mistakes.

Shop kodomo HERE.


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