Everyday Icon: Childrenswear Designer Ana Manzano

We sat down with Ana to hear how her business has evolved over the years, how she stokes her creativity, and what it means to "JFDI."
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Ana Manzano may have started her children’s clothing and accessories business at her kitchen table, but her big-picture plans were always in the back of her mind. She now has a physical manifestation of her brand, Ana Apple, in the form of a shop in Sacramento, California’s historic district.

We recently caught up with the shop owner to learn more about how moving into the world of brick-and-mortar business has helped her grow as an individual, why she always remembers the humble beginnings of Ana Apple and how preparing for her first child has taught her to pay attention to what matters.

The last time we spoke, your Ana Apple storefront and the adjacent creative learning space, The Greenhouse, had been open for about four months, and you were just settling in after years of creating your products out of your home and other warehouse-type spaces. How has that growth changed you, Ana Manzano, and your brand, Ana Apple, over the last year or so?

I think the last year has changed me just as much as the several years leading up to it have prepared me for that year’s journey. I believe that I’m the sum of the seven years of energy I’ve put into building this brand plus the unwavering support from my team, family and network of perfect strangers who believe in my vision. And both the brand and I continue to be a work in progress as we more closely define and express what we’re really all about.

I will say, however, that when I’m having one of those days when things just aren’t going my way (the to-do list keeps growing, it’s a slow sales day, a marketing campaign falls flat—you know, those days!), I try to remember to take that figurative step back, even for a moment, to reflect on how far I’ve come from playing with fabric on the kitchen table in 2009. I now have fledgling entrepreneurs asking me for advice. It’s humbling to think about and motivating to keep moving forward.

Let’s chat about The Greenhouse. We love that you program that space as a way for kids of all ages (you even have some 21+ creative workshops!) to unplug and learn a craft or skill. Why is that learning component such an important part of your store?

The Greenhouse was launched with the mission to expand our positive social messaging from the Ana Apple product line into a service-based component. Our sister brand allows us to introduce children and adults to a range of creative topics, from calligraphy to movement to cupcake decorating. We love that we’ve built a space for parents to connect with their kids in a hands-on, artistic way. And the fact that it’s adjacent to the store means that there is a lot potential for us to cross-promote each aspect of the business and serve more families.

More and more, we seem to be seeing online businesses transition into having a physical storefront of some kind, and we love that it brings the human connection back to the shopping experience. What is your favorite part of having a physical, brick-and-mortar shop in Sacramento’s historic district?

That’s tricky, as there are so many privileges about a physical space. We’re able to get first-hand feedback on our designs. Having our production studio just behind our store means that custom orders are completed with a quick turnaround. We can showcase other makers from all over California and help them connect with a wider audience. Above all else, we’re able to provide a premium level of service to everyone that walks in our doors.

One thing we love about your designs is that they’re a reflection of your personality—they’re fun, quirky and have a whole lot of heart! How has creating gifts and apparel for children influenced your outlook on life?

Children have unbridled creativity that needs to be cultivated. Whenever I’m in a rut and the ideas just aren’t flowing, what usually helps is to jump on a video call with one of my nieces or to look through the coloring pages we’ve collected from kids visiting the store.

I’ve also reaffirmed that people are inherently generous. Our Ana Apple audience not only loves to give special, handmade gifts to the cherished little ones in their lives, but also values a brand that is fueled by a mission to financially and energetically contribute to the community.

Our mission here at Clementine Daily is to appreciate the many layers of our everyday lives—the good, the bad and everything in between. How do you relate to that mission?

It’s the perfect way to sum up life as an entrepreneur. Running a business is the most challenging adventure I’ve ever embarked on, full of ups and downs, and I wouldn’t exchange it for anything.

I can also relate as a mama-to-be. Preparing for the arrival of my daughter has taught me to look at what really matters in my life. My goal now is to surround myself with as much positive energy and to let any negative energy, people, and habits go with grace. Let’s hope that all of my years as a business owner will come in handy for my approach to parenting!

Lastly, do you keep any mantras or quotes handy to get you through your days? If so, do you mind sharing them with us?

“Build with balance.” With every stage of growth, I do regular check-ins on the business and personal level to make sure my team feels empowered, we’re devoting our energies to leveraging what’s working and rethinking what isn’t, and perhaps most importantly, ensuring that self-care and quality time with my family are not compromised in order to achieve business success.

Also, “JFDI” (just effing do it)—because sometimes I need to give myself the tough love to do the dirty, un-fun work.

We’ve been there, Ana!

p.s. If you’d like to learn more about Ana’s story, you can listen to her candid interview on the Creating Your Own Path podcast!