Anna-Maria Mountfort came up with the idea for her business while changing her daughter's diaper.
To distract the fidgety baby, the Toronto-based mother of two put the child's socks onto her flailing hands. It worked. The image of her daughter trying - and failing - to remove the garments stuck in Mountfort's mind, leading her to create mimiTENS, a line of children's mittens that stay on without the help of strings.
Though the idea was born in 2006, it took Mountfort more than two years of research to get her product to market; she insisted on making the mittens entirely in Canada. Even as her business snowballs - mimitens is manufacturing up to 15,000 pairs of mittens this year - Mountfort continues to hold fast to her values. "I love the idea of creating work in Canada and reclaiming the honour and dignity in making things," she says.
The process starts with sock tubes that pull up snugly to the elbow, which is the key to making the mittens stay put. The tubes are then attached to precut fabric panels, which are embroidered individually in one of the brand's more than 20 popular designs such as "Princess" and "Skulls vs. Robots."
Practical, attractive and made of eco-friendly bamboo and organic cotton, mimitens got the requisite celebrity boost when Gwyneth Paltrow anointed them a must-have in her popular Goop newsletter earlier this year. Now Paltrow can pick up her own pair, as Mountfort has expanded into adult wear with Smartpretty mittens, a similar concept.
With her products in stores across Canada and the United States, as well as online, Mountfort wants to keep growing. "I am more and more interested in building a family business," she says. "A brand that has staying power."
Just like those mittens.