New entrepreneur aims to please with Canadiana-themed baby store

Canadian Baby Co.
“I wanted to stock things that I liked to purchase and use when my children were little and more of a Canadian lifestyle theme," says owner of new baby boutique. Photo provided.

A Canadian Baby Co., eh?

After 23 years of data entry and finance, that’s exactly what Pembroke’s Carleen Clouthier has created, all with the Canuck baby in mind.

You won’t find any traditional pinks or blues here. Instead, Clouthier has carefully curated a line of goods that features a lot of plaid, as well as patterns with moose and bears, owls and foxes.

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“I wanted to stock things that I liked to purchase and use when my children were little and more of a Canadian lifestyle theme,” Clouthier says. “A lot of stores have the pastels, dinosaurs and rainbows and I just thought it would be kind of neat and different to try and gear my business towards a Canadian lifestyle as opposed to your typical traditional baby stores.”

In fact, she deliberately shies away from the usual gender-specific pinks and blues and prefers to stock more neutral colours.

“I find as a business I have a better chance of selling something if it’s neutral than if it’s pink or blue and geared towards a girl or a boy. That’s going to cut my chance of selling it in half basically. So if it’s something that can be worn by either/or, my chances of selling it are a lot higher,” explains Clouthier.

Clouthier spent most of her career doing data entry and finance for the Pembroke Regional Hospital. Her plan was to retire at 55, but years of desk work had taken their toll on her body. At 42, she realized she had to find a new career and so she created the Canadian Baby Co.

Canadian Baby Co. storefront

A desire to please keeps Clouthier focused on customer service. “I feel that if there is a will, there is a way and if someone wants something in particular, I will go out of my way to make it happen for them,” she says.

This drive even extended to reaching out to the town’s existing baby clothing store with an offer to work together.

“Carleen’s greatest strength as an entrepreneur is her willingness and desire to collaborate rather than compete,” says Heather Inwood-Montrose, small business advisor with Enterprise Renfrew County. 

“When she opened her business in downtown Pembroke, there was an existing baby clothing store nearby. Carleen immediately reached out to suggest partnering to promote both businesses, as their offerings differed, and this would reduce advertising costs for both. This approach encouraged relationship-building and strengthened both businesses by cross-promoting each other.” 

Clouthier also reached out to her local regional access centre because, although she knew she had some understanding of running a business in terms of insurance and accounting, she wanted to be better informed and to explore anything that would help her as a starting entrepreneur.

“I just wanted to participate in that and gain any knowledge that I could on starting a small business in retail,” says Clouthier.

Besides winning a $4,000 grant, she says the program helped her with her website, marketing and advertising. It also helped rein in her desire to stock everything for everyone at once.

Canadian Baby Co. interior display

“I’m a bit of a people pleaser and I really aim to please. I am just notorious for wanting to have everything for everybody,” chuckles Clouthier.

“Carleen can’t fathom kids going without warm clothing and this transfers to caring about her customers and their families and into ordering items such as snowsuits to ensure there are enough for everyone. As a new business owner, there was room for her to learn more about seasonal trends and how many of each item will actually be required,” says Inwood-Montrose.

A mother of two teenage boys, Clouthier says she delights in their interest and occasional help with her business. While she has only been operating for six months, she says she has been surprised by the success of her business. Her online sales have been good, but it’s her physical store that’s really taken off.

“I don’t know if it’s because we’re coming out of COVID and people are tired of shopping online and want to come out and see and feel and touch and smell. They want actual physical goods, they want baby gifts and new baby presents,” enthuses Clouthier.

Clouthier says she loves the social aspect of the store; the interaction with customers, from babies to grandparents, and the excitement of not knowing what the day will bring.

“The suspense is kinda what triggers me in the morning. I wonder, ‘What’s today going to be like?’” she laughs. 

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