You are about to meet a great woman. Kathy is Canadian, and it is in Canada that she met her Italian (better, Milanese…) husband, whom she decided to follow in the Bel Paese.
Her story is interesting not only because it shows how it is possible to continue to thrive as an individual even in a foreign culture, but also because Kathy has been able to perfectly mix her passions and interests into a business that serves a large community and keeps her balanced and happy.
We met Kathy in Milan, on a hot August day, and not far from her maternity shop, the space she has created for pregnant women and mothers. So we take it from here…
Kathy, tell us about your shop and how did you get the idea of setting it up?
I have always been passionate about anything that surrounds women so working in the realm of motherhood, birth and children was a natural transition for me once I became a mom myself. I’ve worked hard to develop my shop to where it is today: a place where mothers-to-be and young mothers can find any help they might need before, during and after pregnancy. The idea is to provide products with a wide range of prices. I don’t want to represent a single, expensive brand, but rather provide a selection of different ideas and products.
The Milk Bar Milano is not only a shop, though. What else does it offer?
My idea was to provide a comprehensive space where mothers could relax and take a break from the heavy routine of having to take care of a baby without judgement! I went through this: I came to Milan with a six-week-old baby. There was a huge heat wave at the moment, I knew nobody, spoke no Italian and had no Internet connection at home! I would have paid to have a place where to meet other mothers. Things went well eventually, but the idea remained of creating such a space. As I’ve practiced yoga since I was a child, I thought I would start by giving mom and child yoga classes, and then the ideas just kept coming! Today we offer yoga for pregnant women, for children, birth preparation courses, and much more.
How did you set all this up, being a foreigner with little experience of burocratic processes in Italy?
I am very lucky because I have married a man from this city, and he has helped me enormously to set up everything. Also, when I opened, I already had a certain amount of experience in Italy. I had worked in a law firm (I am a lawyer by training), and I quickly picked up Italian as the years went by.
Today I have three partners, Alessia, who teaches English, Paola, who is a photographer, and Delphine, a lovely French lady, who gives birth preparation courses in French. I also collaborate with a baby-sitting agency, SpazioCuore. The project has evolved and there are now many more people involved, including midwives, doulas, dance teachers, etc.
I know that before opening your shop, you had founded another amazing project, Kalila. What can you tell us about this?
Kalila is my true love. In two words, it is a community devoted to the wellbeing of mothers, through the prenatal period and after birth. We have an online community, a clothing line and most importantly a foundation dedicated to financially supporting maternal health initiatives globally.
Kalila started with the idea of changing the approach to women’s health, especially during such a complex and magical time as pregnancy. When I was pregnant in Canada, I couldn’t find appropriate clothes to keep on with running or resources for my level of fitness. I found it so frustrating that I decided to create something that was not yet available. I met my business partner, Claire, through a mom and baby group in Milan. We hit it off immediately and we are still going strong almost 5 years later. We created Kalila Community online with articles and videos for pregnancy and beyond. Through friends, we met an Italian fashion designer, named Giovanna and we started working on the first collection. That’s essentially how Kalila was born. We’ve focused a lot on defining our mission, which is changing the mentality surrounding women’s health issues and on our site we ensure all articles are inclusive and non-judgemental. For Kalilawear, our line of clothing, our collection has just been launched and I could not be more excited!
We bet you are! You have created something absolutely meaningful for pregnant women and mothers, something through which you can funnel your passions, while at the same time offering support, human warmth and solidarity to a big community. Congratulations Kathy!
Please, if you can support Kalila’s campaign! Have a look at it here.
Kalila website: www.kalila.co.uk
The Milk Bar Milano website: www.themilkbar.eu
Interview collected by Claudia Landini
Photo credit ©Kathy