Owner and designer of Rylee & Cru
Home: Encinitas, California
Kids: Rylee (6), Cru (3), Quincy (9 months)
Guilty pleasure: “The Bachelor”
Dream vacation: Tulum, Mexico
Most used emoji: Laughing with tears face
Phone background: Photo of her and her husband, Sam
Last book she read: Savor by Shauna Niequist
The first thing Kelli Murray does when she wakes up in the morning is feed her 9-month-old, Quincy, a notoriously early-riser who she jokingly calls her alarm clock.
From there the day could go in a myriad of directions depending on where she is in the development process. As the owner of the children’s clothing brand Rylee & Cru, the mom of three is either brainstorming themes for a collection, designing new silhouettes, communicating with the factory on fit changes or swatch approvals, illustrating and creating patterns, or working on photo shoots and newsletters. It’s a lot to juggle, especially considering the fact that her husband, Sam, is also an entrepreneur.
“We both are fully aware of the time demand that comes with owning your own business, so in that sense, we do our best to support each other when one of us needs the help.” The duo also has a nanny who watches their two youngest kiddos three days a week. But when the workday is done, it’s family time. “My husband and I are both home around 5 most days and then it’s all about the kids. Dinner, playing, stories, bed—and then we do it all over again.”
With Rylee & Cru just celebrating its third year, the mama maker has really found her stride. “It’s a dance. My work life and family life are so intertwined, for me it is more about keeping my priorities straight,” she explains. If it wasn’t clear from the brand’s name, it was her little ones who helped inspire what would become her business.
“After having my daughter in 2011, I became enthralled with the world of children’s fashion,” she recalls. “I was already working as a freelance illustrator and with my background in fashion, I felt like there was a niche there that I could possibly fill.” She partnered with her dad, who at the time owned a large screen-print factory, and together they launched the company “on a hope and a prayer,” as Murray says. The first collection sold out in two short weeks, which is when she realized she was on to something special.
In the years since, Rylee & Cru has flourished and added new products and accessories along the way, including a women’s capsule collection last year and, more recently, a line of bedding and a collaboration with Solly Baby to create three special edition wraps. And (spoiler alert!) a new basics/layette range is currently in the works.
Whatever the product might be, every single print starts as a painting or illustration that Murray does by hand. “Our original art is one of the things that I feel has set us apart as a brand,” she points out. Her biggest source of inspiration? Nature, which makes sense considering her family lives mere minutes from the beach, and you can usually find them there on days off. (Well, there or Target.)
Being able to take that time away from the office is what Murray loves most about her gig. “The best thing about working for yourself is the flexibility it provides. I know I can be there for my kids whenever they need me—and whenever I need it, too.” That attitude has been particularly helpful now that a third babe has joined their crew, which was a game-changer for the new-again mom. “The whole ‘two hands, two kids’ got thrown out the window, and we are now playing zone defense,” she says good-humoredly.
As Murray‘s family has grown in number, so has her confidence. “As a new mom, I think it’s natural to worry a little bit more and doubt some of your parenting decisions,” she assures. “But after you’ve had a few kids … and you have some experience under your belt, everything just feels a little less overwhelming.”
While she’s quick to note that Quincy is the sweetest baby, she admits that her youngest doesn’t sleep very well yet, so Murray and her husband are often exhausted. “We’re looking forward to the day when we can get a full night’s sleep again!” Despite the challenges of being outnumbered, she wouldn’t change a thing. “We thought we would probably be done with two and then Quincy came along, and we can’t imagine our lives without her.”