Being a mom often means searching for creative solutions to whatever challenges parenthood throws your way. And that’s exactly what Ying Liu was doing when the idea for Kyte Baby was born.
Liu’s daughter Kei suffered from chronic eczema, and pajamas made her hot and uncomfortable. Liu was determined to find a material to alleviate her baby’s irritation. She discovered bamboo fabric, which had yet to make its way to the mainstream clothing market. Liu began dressing Kei in bamboo clothing and swaddling her in bamboo blankets. Kei’s skin and sleep improved almost immediately. It was an aha! moment for Liu, who was raised in China and earned a Ph.D. in economics in Canada before moving to Dallas-Fort Worth.
Liu went on to create Kyte Baby, a bamboo-based clothing line for babies, toddlers and adults. While the business struggled during its early years, her perseverance and leadership made Kyte Baby a success—with its soft, sustainable products sold online and in baby boutiques nationwide.
Fast Facts About Ying Liu
Career Founder and owner of Kyte Baby, a line of bamboo-based clothing and other items
Lives in Southlake
Hails from Guangzhou, China
First job Interpreter and guide for American adoption groups in China
Education Holds a Ph.D. in economics
Significant other Husband Chin Lau; they met while working as economists in Canada
Children Sons Tin, 17, and Tone, 7, and daughters Fe’, 14, Cee, 12, and Kei, 10
Shop her line kytebaby.com
One-on-One with Ying Liu
DFWChild: Economics to the baby industry—how did that career change come about?
Ying Liu: After the birth of our first child, Tin, I just couldn’t stand the thought of being away from him. I didn’t want to miss a thing. I quit my job and opened up a baby boutique in Canada. I could bring him to work with me. (Laughs.) He even slept in the demo cribs in the store, which sometimes surprised customers at first.
C: You didn’t grow up in a big family, and neither did your husband Chin Lau. Was having five kids always part of your plan?
YL: No, but I think being in the baby industry helped. We were constantly surrounded by pregnant women and baby products. It was just the world we lived in. And it was just so easy to bring the kids to work.
C: Before having children, did you and Chin Lau agree on parenting styles?
YL: Most importantly, we agreed we want them to be happy. In fact, each of their names starts with Lok, which means “happiness” in Cantonese. We know that they watch and learn from us, so we spend a lot of time together just having fun. We want to always be there to have fun and spend time with them.
C: What brought your family here from Canada?
YL: The demand for most of our products was coming from the United States, so it just made sense to move our headquarters. Being in Texas had major business benefits, like no state income taxes, and then the Dallas-Fort Worth area was especially attractive because of the Dallas-Fort Worth airport. Then we discovered Southlake and it was just so clean and organized. The schools were great, and the cost of living was so much better than it was in Canada.
“We know that [our kids] watch and learn from us, so we spend a lot of time together just having fun.”
C: Starting a company can be overwhelming and frustrating. How did you do it?
YL: It wasn’t easy. We attended a lot of trade shows where we’d come back with little to no orders. I remember traveling to Austin and San Antonio and literally going door to door talking to boutique owners. I learned to have very thick skin. Bamboo was such a new material at the time that people weren’t familiar with its benefits. We spent a lot of time educating people.
C: Was there ever a time when you wanted to give up?
YL: No, we just kept putting ourselves out there. Luckily, we still had our baby boutiques in Canada, so we weren’t counting on Kyte Baby to pay the mortgage. And it helped that our background was in economics; we weren’t scared of the numbers.
C: Tell us about the name Kyte Baby.
YL: The name is very purposeful. It symbolizes the whimsical activity of flying a kite, which is meant to evoke a feeling of innocence, freedom and a return to nature.
C: What’s your favorite part of your job?
YL: I love connecting with other moms. Lately, I’ve really enjoyed interacting with our customers on Instagram stories.
C: How did the pandemic affect Kyte Baby and your family life?
YL: We were lucky to be one of the businesses that actually benefited. People were spending more time at home shopping, so online sales were great for all lines—babies, toddlers and our adult loungewear. And like most, we spent a lot of time together at home, which I’m very thankful for. We bought a trampoline to help burn off the energy. Throughout everything, it’s just incredible to see how resilient kids can be.
C: Being a mom to five children and running a business sounds daunting. What’s your secret?
YL: It’s all about resource allocation. I’m very aware that I can’t do it all. I’ve also learned it’s not about work-life balance. It’s just all blurred together.
C: Is Kyte Baby truly a family business? Are your husband and kids involved?
YL: Yes, very much so. None of us have official titles but my husband helps out with our computer systems, logistics and operations. [I mentioned that as babies and toddlers, our children] often slept in our demo cribs, and they played in the stores. Now that they’re older, they’ll work in the warehouse, and when we’re traveling, they help me set up social media videos so l can stay connected with our customers.
C: Do you hope that your children take over the business one day?
YL: It would be nice if business stays in the family, but I also want them to pursue their own passion.
C: What advice would you give to someone who wants to open their own business?
YL: When you can do something you’re passionate about, it’s not work. Find your sparkle, the thing that guides you.
Photos courtesy of Willow Dyln