Terje Jaamann is a colorful force of creativity. A native of Estonia, she holds a degree is interior design and has quite a bit of experience designing an array of commercial spaces in New York City. I was thrilled when she chose Atlantic Highlands to open her magical children’s boutique and couldn’t wait to spread the word. I sat down with Terje in March and loved hearing about her dreams, brain maps and plans to yarn bomb the world of green children’s products.
Tell us a bit about your background, your journeys, and how you ultimately ended up opening Cloud Kissed Kids?
Came to the US 17 years ago from Estonia. First I came to Fair Haven, NJ. I didn’t speak ANY English. My first job interview was all in German. I took some English classes at Brookdale, and then art classes and some design classes. Then I went to New School of Interior Design in New York City. After that, I worked for a few commercial interior design firms, mainly commercial restaurants, a few retails stores, and lots of spas. I worked on interior design as well as graphics and signage – the whole corporate identity. It was so much fun. Then my daughter Skye was born and I got really into the holistic lifestyle and products and eating. I did lots of research online to create her room – from the mattress to her socks – to get everything organic and natural. I gained a lot of knowledge about new, interesting products. And of course I was always involved in design so I liked this designing of children’s spaces. I wanted to stay home for 2 years after Skye was born to really enjoy the journey. I thought with all of my research I should open an online store. So I opened up the online store and also added the design business to do kids rooms. After that, I thought, “I have all of these products now, I should open a real store”. But I was always worried because of the economy. I don’t know how I found the courage but I just did it.
Was there a pivotal moment where or when you decided to stop, switch gears, and start selling products for children?
When my daughter Skye was born. Absolutely. She was my biggest inspiration. I thought, “This little person comes into the world and I want her to start her journey really pure and the very best way she can”. That’s why it was so important.
How do you find inspiration and decide what to buy and/or make for your store?
The inspiration always comes very easily to me. Since I opened the store, I’m very overwhelmed with all the administrative stuff and all the extra things that I have to do as a business person and entrepreneur. I feel I’m less inspired lately. But suddenly I see things or, I don’t know, I’m driving and I’m at the traffic light and I’m thinking this, this, and this and sometimes my head it gets so full with ideas! Lately I’ve been making my brain maps and putting down priorities. And then sometimes it takes me time, sometimes I feel like this idea is not right. And the products…when I research an idea online, one products search leads to another product. I also know a lot of artists and follow trends.
Is there a vast difference between your online store and your physical store here in Atlantic Highlands? What is the most rewarding part about being a small business owner? What is the best part about owning a physical store?
So different! You’re really meeting the people here and focusing on customer service which I think is SO very important to talk to people and give the absolute best customer service. I think it’s most important. With a physical store, you know what people are really into. What they like. You can learn those things online too. Online customer service is very important – to answer them right away, take care of them. But I think it’s so interesting on a personal level – to see them light up and say “Oh, I love, love this!” and it’s really gives you more energy to keep going. I’m so interested in touching the product, to see the quality of the product. You might think it’s expensive when you see it online but you can’t tell the quality of the materials until you touch them.
I’ve always admired your use of everyday materials when creating new craft projects in the store. What are your favorite crafting supplies?
Oh my gosh. It’s definitely Yarn! And I haven’t even used it yet! I don’t know…I’m so intrigued by crocheting and yarn – making something from yarn. I don’t know why. Now my new idea is to try this ultra-thick almost rope-like yarn which kids can use so easily. Kids can even crochet with their fingers if they don’t want to do it with a hook. Most importantly it goes very fast. Good for impatient kids because they can create a pretty big piece in just an house.
What about rocks? (laughter)
Rocks!! I forgot about rocks. Of course. I’ve been obsessed with rocks! I don’t know, the rocks are so interesting, the entire project…going to gather them, finding them. Some rocks are telling you “Turn this into this”. I have tons of ideas and I have tons of rocks are everywhere in my house. There are so many supplies to experiment with. Like the white ink and Indian ink. I tried different technical drawing tools that I used to use before computer programs. When everything was still hand drawn. I use technical markers. But my next thing is to combine rocks and crocheting. I’m thinking about crocheting around the rocks. Get one big rock and crochet around it. It can be like a chair. See how my ideas are coming??? (laughter)
What is the more rewarding part of owning a store?
There is a lot of good stuff about owning a store. More good stuff, less bad stuff. Most importantly, you can really make your own decisions – what to do, what direction to go in, what’s important to you. When I worked for someone else, you have these great ideas but you couldn’t apply them because there were always clients that had their own ideas. I think interior designers need to let clients know what they want because clients really don’t know what they want. And I’m doing what I really love – all the arts and crafts and designing, it’s all coming together. And I’m still discovering how everything should work. It is so exciting to find new, cool products and introduce them to people.
What are some new creative projects that you are currently dreaming about?
(laugh) There are so many! Well, one would be to feature different countries and show all of the amazing products from these countries. There are so many great products, natural and unique, that could be really beneficial to people here. I wish to connect them to the children and help out in some way. I don’t know exactly how, maybe through some kind of letter writing like pen pals. And the children could help them as well as learn about their culture. We could exhibit them in the stores along with pictures. Eventually I would like this business to run better so I can give back and help more.
So talk to me a little bit about your book idea. You don’t have to tell me much, but I know you love children’s books.
Yes! I love children’s books and I think there is so much more that can be done in this area. Take a different approach. A lot of children’s books are very similar and I think that there are so many more ways to go. I have so many ideas it’s hard to narrow down!! Books are one of the best selling items in the store. I was very surprised by this but I think there is always a market for children’s books. This is how they learn to read – from the pictures and the photographs. Especially having a book read out loud – the storytelling is so important.
Another one of my biggest dreams would be product design for kids. This has been going on in my head so so long. I think there is a lot of room to create green products for children. I would like to start with toys. I know that it is very challenging because you have to meet all the standards and it takes a lot of time and money. I’m also really interested in creating a lot of yarn products. There are not a lot of funky yarn projects for kids’ rooms. Something totally different.
So books, products…You’re going to be a all-inclusive children’s lifestyle brand!
A children’s Martha Stewart! (laughter) Yes.