Behind the Brand with Erika Oakes - Guest Post


We are so very excited to have Erika Oakes of Os + Oakes and The Blushing Babe Society, joining us as our first guest in a blog series we will be calling “Behind the Brand”. So much of our personal brand + vision for this blog, as well as our business facets (The OVer Company, OVer Collective, The Modern Mom Show), is about community. About getting to know the maker behind these incredible brands.  Sharing in their journey, encouraging them + lifting one another up as fellow small business entrepreneurs. Erika’s vision for her own brand so perfectly aligns with this big picture thinking.

Erika was such a pleasure to work with in this interview. We are SO EXCITED to share her takeaways + experiences so far as a Boss Babe and business entrepreneur. Grab a hot drink, cozy up, and enjoy reading this beautifully honest conversation with the lovely Erika Oakes: 

Where did you come up with the idea to start your own business? Why OS + Oakes?

I loved buying adorable clothing for my boys and often spent hours searching instagram for cute brands that I loved. I couldn’t always find exactly what I was looking for so I felt inspired to create a line of clothing that my kids could play in comfortably, while still looking fashionable and on-trend. My brother Michael also felt compelled to exert some creativity and design a sleek contemporary brand that would portray an adult look for toddlers. Partnering up, we drew up some designs created our little ostrich logo and sought out Canadian manufacturers.  We wanted to uphold some key standards in our production (ie Canadian made, making eco-conscious decisions etc) and of course we ensured we developed a quality product that both parents and kids would like!

Tell us a bit about how you came up with the Os + Oakes name, your logo choice and the concept behind your branding.

The name Os & Oakes came out of brainstorming session one night. Os stands for our Ostrich, we thought an Ostrich was different, quirky but still cool enough to be used on adult clothing if we ever wanted to expand our line. Oakes, is our family name but mainly represents my boys who were the inspiration behind the line. Secretly, I loved the alliteration of the double O (I was formerly an English teacher).


Our branding is simple, but classic. We like our look to be casual but cool. We often project an adult style into our children’s clothing, and keep most pieces in our line neutral in colour allowing them to be unisex. We like the clothing to speak for itself and often keep our images simple.


What advice would you give to someone else wanting to start up their own company?

Get ready to work your butt off! Owning your own business is a very rewarding experience but it can be all consuming at times. Its really important to find a community or a group of friends that are in a similar situation. Working for yourself can be lonely, connecting with likeminded people and finding a mentor or group that you can vent too is really important and can help keep your mind clear! 

What has been your favourite part about running OS & Oakes?

My favourite part of running Os & Oakes has been the many opportunities I’ve been given, to meet so many amazing people across a variety of industries. Owning this business has allowed me to connect with other entrepreneurs, and given me the confidence to reach out and meet new people all the time! This is something I was hesitant to do before starting my own business.

What has been your favourite product to create and why?

I loved developing the little girls bamboo dresses, mainly because I’m a boy mama. The dresses are handmade right here in London, and are a really fun addition to our line. Although they are a non-unisex piece, they are simple and classic - and little girls love how they twirl! Its been my favourite piece to create so far!

What/Who is the Blushing Babe Society?

The Blushing Babes Society is an organization/social enterprise I have started to encourage and connect the women of London. We have developed a social media presence (on instagram) and use that platform to highlight the many amazing women in London and surrounding area. 

Personally, I was meeting so many new people through my own business (Os & Oakes) however, I found it difficult to find the time to learn more about the wonderful women I was meeting- I also wanted the opportunity to not only use social media to connect but to also have a beautiful,modern, in-person gathering, to further those relationships and connect in real-life as well. We held our first ever Blushing Babes Social event in September and it was an amazing success. 

What led you to developing Blushing Babes Society concept? 

Social media is such an interesting place. I have found it to be an amazing platform for small businesses such Os & Oakes, however it can also lead to a negative and a self deprecating attitude. Comparing and competing can lead you into a really negative and unhealthy  headspace. I’d be the first to admit I was subjecting myself to these types of thoughts in the past. Selfishly, The Blushing Babes Society is way for me to escape that negativity, highlighting the many achievements of others and choosing motivational, fun quotes and pictures to share. This has really helped me focus on the positive things in life and in our community. Sharing the accomplishments of other women and cheering for them is way better then comparing or competing. 

I also think the concept of our Blushing Babes events was a missing piece of our London Entrepreneurial Ecosystem. Our events are an updated, modern and fun networking opportunity, and a chance to collaborate with other like-minded women in our community.  I hate to use the term “networking” because to me it sounds stuffy and corporate. The goals for our social gatherings are to create a beautiful, “instragrammable”, fun event, where women feel comfortable mingling, meeting and sharing their experiences. It’s an opportunity to reach out to those people you follow on instagram and put a real life face and name to those accounts you look up to! 

On a sponsorship level we have had so many businesses that want to be involved in our events, simply because of the value of connection with the women of our city. It is so beneficial to all parties. We all are looking to try new products and services, so by being introduced to female run businesses through this platform and our social event, makes the connection that much easier. 


What does the movement #babessupportingbabes mean to you?

I read a quote the other day stated by Miriam Alden, the creator of Brunette The Label, and this summarizes my complete mentality surrounding this term… 

“ For me Babes Supporting Babes is a lifestyle. It is where you choose to support others and help them grow without it being about yourself. It is the mentality that there is room enough for everyone and to be proud and supportive of everyones different choices and not be judgemental. It is to remove jealousy or insecurity and not feel worried about competition rather embrace and work together. Choosing to be kind.” 

The term “BABE” has attracted controversy recently.  Although everyone is entitled to their own opinion, the term Babe for me is one of empowerment.  It’s about breaking down past stereotypes of females being caddy, but rather it describes FEMALES who are positive, encouraging, supportive of one another, kind, and uplifting, recognizing the accomplishments of others.  I love this term, and will continue to describe all of the amazing women I meet as BABES! 

Who do you look up to the most?

This is a tough one. I have looked up to a long list of women throughout different moments and stages of my life. So many different people; other Moms, entrepreneurs, teachers etc… I think right now, I’m most inspired by businesses and entrepreneurs who have taken their passion for humanity and created a successful profitable business through the work that they do. Entrepreneurs that have been successful in creating a rewarding and sustainable career for themselves but also positively impacting the lives of others by leaving their mark on the world.

What motivates you to do what you do?

My kids motivate me most. I want them to be proud of the things I have created and I want them to see a mom that works hard not only for our family but for things that I’m passionate about too. 

What is the best piece of advice you’ve been given pertaining to life or business that you’d be willing to share

I had a lightbulb moment during a conference I had attended when I worked in entrepreneurial studies at Fanshawe College. I was listening to a lecture and I was at a turning point, trying to figure out my path in life - Do I go back to teaching? Do I go back to school and further my education, a business degree perhaps? Do I a start a business? The speaker at the conference stated, “so many times we associate starting a business as a risk and education as an investment, but you will never be able to pay for the type of learning experience owning your own business will give you”. Being a teacher and placing a very high value on education, this was an ah-ha moment for me. Starting a business was an investment in a learning experience I needed to try! And it’s true! If my businesses fail tomorrow, I would never have been able to pay for the knowledge and experience I gained from being an entrepreneur. 

What are 5 things that your followers may not know about you, who is Erika?

Ok here we go, get ready for some honesty! 
  1. Although I project a really positive attitude and image I still struggle with insecurity- specifically with my business. I’m in a competitive industry and it is hard not to feel envious of other businesses. Its especially difficult to not feel disappointed in situations where your ideas and hard work have been replicated. However I have learned (the hard way) that those negative feelings don’t change and will not change anything and that all you have power over is your brand and what you project into the world. I try really hard to remain positive and focus on my actions and creativity. 
  1. I had cancer. Yep, when I was 22 I was diagnosed with stage 2 malignant melonoma. Im so fortunate that it was caught in the early stages, but it was a very scary time in my life. I still think about when I was told by the Dr, although it still feels like a dream. I am an advocate for melanoma awareness and have taught lead seminars on sun safety. Its a cancer that shows itself on the outside, so being aware of what to look for is so important. Although my cancer has not returned, its something I have to be extremely diligent about. 
  1. I used to play competitive soccer. I love soccer! Many of my teammates from my teenage years are still my good friends today. I feel like you form bonds with teammates that can truly last a lifetime. Soccer taught me so many lessons in life and I’m so thankful I had the opportunity to play during my youth. 
  1. I’m part Italian. Im loud, chatty, and I love pasta, pizza, cheese and carbs! My Nonna and Nonno are Sicilian and we had the opportunity to visit Sicily in 2012 with them. it was a once in a lifetime experience I will always cherish!
  1. I’m surrounded by boys! My only sibling is my brother Mike (thank goodness I have a sister in law now), and in my family I have my husband and two sons! I was destined to be a boy mama! Although I sometimes dream about having a little girl, its not in our cards, and I wouldn’t change being a boy mom at all! I love the worms, trucks, dirt and energy my boys have - plus teaching them to be compassionate and sensitive is so important to me! 
What were some of the takeaways for those who couldn’t make it out to your Blushing Babe event this past September?

I think its hard to describe the vibe of that evening but there was such a great positive energy in the room!  I felt like most of the ladies were excited about the venue and the company they had. In terms of the panel discussion, we had some laughs and we also discussed the challenges that are faced by entrepreneurs.  We talked about the use of social media and talked about how to navigate business partnerships (especially with family). Based on the feedback we received the event was a great opportunity to meet those that you looked up to and create new collaborations. Plus there were some awesome door prizes won and everyone got some sweet swag and some delicious eats!

Can we expect more events in the future?

YES!!! We are planning our next event for Sunday February 3rd, 2019. It will be a brunch style event and I CANNOT WAIT to tell you whats in store, but its still in the works so I have to be patient! This will be a must attend event!!!!! EEK! Im so excited! 

EEk, we are so excited to hear more!! You’ve left us on a cliff hanger.

As we wrap up this interview, we’d love to ask you a few questions just for fun. Here goes…
How do you take your coffee?

For years I took a double double -but have been on a health kick lately and have switched to almond milk with stevia! ( I know boring right). 

What does the first 60-90 minutes of your day look like? 

I wake up to one of my boys poking me in the face, usually yell at them to get ready for school for the first hour, get dressed (hopefully brush my hair and teeth), make them breakfast. On most days its oatmeal or cereal. I’m usually not fancy. Make lunches, pack school bags, walk them to the bus stop, come home drink my coffee and eat my own breakfast while answering my emails and watching Your Morning! YAHOO! 

What's your go to baby gift?

For new mamas , I buy the one and only OVer! I so wish they were around when I had infant carseats,  but because I never had one I make sure all my friends do! 

What is something you’ve discovered about yourself lately?

Oh geez, this is deep! I think I have discovered that exercise and physical activity need to be a priority in my life. Not only do I physically feel better but mentally exercise does wonders! Its like therapy! I recently joined MVMT gym downtown in London and absolutely love the coaches and staff and the positive community that is going on there! 


Where can people find you? - Social media accounts, contact links

I have 4 social accounts - I know its ridiculous, BUT 3 that I use regularly. 

@osandoakes - the clothing biz
@blushingbabessociety - babes supporting babes
@erika.oakes - my everyday, personal and family account

You can also find Erika at the highly anticipated Modern Christmas Market on November 23 + 24th. To find out more about this event see www.themodernmomshow.com






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