Mount Airy mainstay The Nesting House, established in 2010, started out as a hobby but has since blossomed into a community hub that benefits new mothers. The store offers classes on everything from swaddling to reusable to diapers, as well as new parent groups.
Jennifer Kinka, co-owner since 2010, started the business with a small inheritance from her mom. Kinka wanted to honor her mother, who was a single mother, by creating a store that would benefit mostly single moms. She wanted to create a safe community space where mothers could find support from each other and provide affordable retail for young families.
Jennifer’s husband, Chris Kinka, started out at the periphery of the business but became a co-owner in 2013. He stepped in, offering a helping hand to his wife when her original business partner had to step away.
The store’s primary business is buying and selling secondhand children’s clothes. Because children grow out of their clothes so quickly, the Kinkas’ goal is to make it more affordable for families to dress their kids in cute outfits, while also reducing their impact on the environment. Today, the business continues to thrive through its website and in-store sales
Chris Kinka discussed the early years of the business, as well as the role the Kinkas hope The Nesting House plays in the community.
What was the inspiration behind The Nesting House?
Chris Kinka: So it was my wife Jen, this would have been back in 2010. She had just given birth to our second child. Her and a business partner had young babies, they were looking to kind of reenter the workforce. They had all these creative energies and were really trying to figure out something they could do that would really benefit the community, specifically, moms of young babies. They were looking at ideas that involved a community center, but also providing.
It came from a brainstorm that the two of them had over a cup of coffee and pecan pie. They said they just kind of started shooting ideas around. It was really sort of a project, a hobby they could do for fun and also to sort of create community in various ways. I was kind of loosely involved at that point. It was clearly her business, and they rented a space in Mount Airy and I renovated it for them so they could open their store. I was kind of on the periphery but involved in getting it off the ground.
Being on the outside, what would you say was one of the biggest challenges the business has faced?
The biggest one was three years later. So in 2013, my wife’s business partner moved away and basically said, “I need to leave the business.” Jen was really scrambling and at that point, she had our third and final child, who was just born. So she had a newborn at home, a 4-year-old, and a 7-year-old. So she had a young family and she has this small business. At this point, it was just a one-level shop in Mount Airy, but she was all alone.
Was this your reasoning for joining the business alongside your wife?
I had been going through some professional challenges at that time and wasn’t quite sure what I wanted to do moving forward. So I said to her, “let’s give it a chance together.” What I did was join the business in 2013, and it was a true mom-and-pop shop at that point. We were running the business, exclusively, just the two of us.
What were those early years running the store together like?
There was not a supplementary income. It was The Nesting House or bust as a family. It wasn’t like I was bringing in a salary on the side, and Jen was running her business, and if the business had tough months or struggled, it’s not a big deal because it’s at least supplemented by my income. This was the income.
Failure didn’t feel like an option, we had to succeed, or we weren’t going to have any money to pay our bills. It’s like we decided to jump in with two feet and really what that did more than anything is begin to establish within us more than we ever knew possible, this idea of faith. We saw enough to know that it was worth taking this risk of us going into business together.
What opportunities came after taking this leap of faith?
Each and every time we had to make pretty dramatic pivots, those pivots were what really helped the business to succeed. Soon after, I said, “let’s open a second one,” so we started doing some research. We ended up opening a second store in Collingswood, New Jersey. We thought to space them out pretty dramatically so we didn’t have overlapping customers and lose some amount of Mount Airy customers because the second store is so close.
The second store became a third and the third store became a fourth. At one point we had a store in Mount Airy, Collingswood, New Jersey, South Philadelphia, and West Philadelphia. Each and every one of those decisions was another leap of faith. It didn’t always work out and Collingswood ended up closing on its own merit because it just did not get the sales. Now, I have South Jersey customers that I would never have had if I only had a store at Mount Airy. On the surface, you could say, “oh that was a failure,” but it wasn’t. It wasn’t because it really grew our brand.
What advice would you give to business owners growing through a rough patch?
One of the first things that I think is important is if you have a good product, you don’t need to necessarily have all the bells and whistles out of the gate. I think a lot of businesses go into business and they go into enormous debt to open their doors before they have an established customer base. Now they are playing catch up.
I think the advice would be that it’s OK to start small and build off of that and grow incrementally. I think that’s one of the things that helped us. Specifically, small businesses that are not majorly funded by some third party, but we’re talking like just regular everyday entrepreneurs, who are trying to do something cool. I think it’s important to not go in too hard, because then you may get yourself in some trouble.
Another piece is to have faith in yourself and your product. If you have something good, stick with it. If you can just keep your head up, and keep your attitude positive, and give it its due time, as much as you’re able to. You know, that’s what worked for us. We had our good times, we had our bad times, but we kept putting one foot in front of the other and we’re still here and our business is pretty successful.
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