When Charlotte Hale found herself at a career crossroads years ago, she decided to take her love of loungewear and turn it into a full-fledged business. But how exactly did she do that? With a background in marketing, the genius idea to make robes an essential part of a bridal party’s “getting ready” process, and a lot of hard work, Charlotte built her company, Plum Pretty Sugar, into a successful business that sells gorgeous clothing to women in popular stores like Nordstrom and BHLDN. Oh, and she completely changed the wedding industry in the process. So cool, right?!
Keep reading to find out more about Charlotte’s company, take a peek inside her jam-packed daily routine running a business while raising two kids, and learn her best mom hacks for doing it all!
Name: Charlotte Hale, Founder and CEO of Plum Pretty Sugar
Location: Southern California
Education: Business and Fashion, Pepperdine University
Children: Richard Hale IV, 6, and Delphine Lilly Honor, 3
You’re the founder and CEO of Plum Pretty Sugar! Can you tell us a bit about your company?
I founded the company 10 years ago, and it grew out of another business that I had prior. When I started it, I thought the products we were going to sell would be mostly gifts people bought for others. From my first business, I learned that loungewear and robes sold very well and that people embraced them. I had access to some fabrics and started to put together a seasonal line for holiday and I thought after the season passed I would be done and would figure out what I was going to do with the rest of my life. I gave the brand the whimsical, fun name “Plum Pretty Sugar” and went ahead — and the rest is history. The temporary business became the real business! I wasn’t quite expecting that.
What ultimately led you to start your own company?
Initially, I thought I wanted to work in entertainment marketing. I quickly scratched that and realized I still like marketing but wanted to work with a consumer good. I didn’t want to market a person or a personality. I wanted the consumer good to be something that I could relate to and enjoy not like car tires or thermometers. I actually went to work in marketing for a nutrition bar company called Balance Bar. At the time, it was very small, and there were three layers: Balance Bar, Power Bar, and Clif Bar. I saw the company go public, and then Kraft Foods bought the company. They relocated me from Santa Barbara to New York, so I worked in marketing for Kraft Foods. I learned a lot of “big business” things in New York. Then, I got married. The man I married was from a small town in Colorado. I left my big job in New York, moved to that small town, and thought, “What the heck am I going to do here?” I started a branding and sales company for beauty products. That company went on for eight years until I ended up getting divorced. At that time, the company was dissolved, and we sold some of it. That was the nexus where I found myself asking, “Well, what am I going to do next?”
How has the business and your product line evolved since you first started?
Right now, we are online only. We just recently closed our retail store because we’re relocating. We’re also in Nordstrom, BHLDN, and some smaller boutique retailers. We’re really about loungewear and dresses. We also do a lot of maternity that splits into both of those categories. I always love it when our brides shop our getting ready pieces then come back to us years later for another robe for the hospital or a beautiful dress. To be a part of those stories is everything for us.
Did you always intend to market towards the wedding and bridal industry?
That was something that I sought out. Ten years ago, this whole “getting ready” category of fashion didn’t exist. I’ve been credited with creating it, and I feel like I really did. One day, I asked myself, “What’s a new usage for robes?” I sat with it, dug through marketing platforms, explored when people used them and when people could use them, and thought about how I could bring a new joy to the product. I came across the idea that it was best used for getting ready and came to my next question, “Who gets ready?” I thought about brides and then bridesmaids. I wondered, “Wouldn’t it be awesome if we could extend the wedding day and create this whole getting ready period? Oh, by the way – I have this perfect product for it.” I went down that path pretty purposefully, and now, it’s a whole thing!
How did you decide on your company’s name, Plum Pretty Sugar?
I wanted to do something that they tell you not to do in your business and marketing classes. They tell you to “not use long names” and to “avoid names that already exist.” At that point in my career, I wanted to do what I wanted to do and didn’t care what the rules were. I knew that doing so would be a good conversation point, and I wanted that discussion. I think at the time, it was a fun, silly string of words that I put together — and they worked.
How has your company grown over the years?
I have a really great team, and we rely a lot on independent contractors and freelancers. Instead of having a graphic artist or marketing person in-house, we source that work out. We’ve had the freelance and independent contractors for so long that they’re a true part of our team. It’s easier for me to have a smaller team and freelancers than to have a large group that I have to oversee.
What is your favorite item that you sell within your collections?
As a founder and CEO of a company, what does your typical workday look like?
I work more than full time, as any sort of founder does. I work early in the morning, late at night, and take breaks where I can. I work throughout the weekend because online business doesn’t stop. I used to require a lot of sleep, but, since having kids, I’ve realized that I don’t need as much sleep as I once did. I’ve adapted, and I’m shocked by it! My husband is an entrepreneur and works full time as well. Our kids are surrounded by a mom and dad who are working and actively doing everything they can through every part of the day to be business forward.
Can you walk us through your typical daily routine?
I wake up around 5 or 5:30am each morning and my husband leaves early, around 5am. I wake up and do what I can. I see what needs to be done for the day, or I answer emails. New York and Australia have been awake and have been working while I was sleeping, so I usually have work communication to catch up on. I have an hour or two before my kids get up. They usually wake up around 6:30 or 7am. I’ll get them dressed, which is not always so much fun. Both of them go to a private school and have uniforms and that has been worth its weight in gold. I don’t have that “what am I wearing” battle and that makes it easier to get them dressed.
Breakfast is simple. We do a bowl of Cheerios, an apple, or yogurt to get them going in the morning. While I’m doing all of this, I’m still answering emails. I have a thing where I want to make their lunches because it’s really important for me to feel like I’m a part of their day. I make their lunches, get their water bottles ready, and get them all set up. I head out the door at 7am. I do have a live-in nanny who will take them to school. Once in a while, depending on the day, I try to drop them off at school, but, to be honest, that rarely happens because I try to get on the road as soon as possible, as I work an hour away. They start school, and I get to work at 8am.
I try to leave my work around 2pm to beat some of the traffic and when I get home, I continue working. I don’t typically pick my kids up from school and won’t see them until after I’m done working for the day. I will either meet them at their after school activities or the nanny will bring them home, depending on the day. I know the minute they come back home I can’t work, and I don’t want to work, so sometimes I’ll tell the nanny to bring them to dinner until I’m done working around 6pm. Every day is different.
Sadly, we don’t sit down and eat dinner together — our schedules are too wild and crazy. Our family and our dogs come together when my husband gets off of work around 6:30pm. We have popcorn and talk about our day in our master bedroom. I don’t know how or why, but that’s become our hangout spot! It’s really a good bonding opportunity. It’s cute and cuddly! Delphine puts herself to bed. She’s one of those amazing kids that says, “I’m tired, I’m going to bed.” It’s wonderful. That usually happens around 8pm, and that’s usually when my husband goes to bed too. Hale likes to stay up and watch a cartoon or play Legos, so he usually goes to bed around 8:30 or 9pm. When Hale goes to sleep, I’ll stay up working until 10:30 or 11pm before going to sleep.
Can you tell us more about the childcare you have for Hale and Delphine?
We have a live-in nanny and some very involved grandparents that help out for last-minute things. We really rely on our nanny, for sure. We actually work with a mother-daughter nanny duo. They both don’t stay with us at the same time — they alternate. Sometimes, if we have a wedding to go to, we’ll ask one of them to come and hang for a few hours on the weekend, and those times are usually planned ahead of time.
As the CEO and founder of your company, did you have the opportunity to take traditional maternity leaves?
I wish I could have taken maternity leave, but no, I did not take maternity leave with either child. The business is also my child, so I don’t really think I could have done it. To be away from it would be heartbreaking for me. I was back in my office three days after I gave birth. It was kind of ridiculous. Delphine was born over Black Friday which is a huge shopping weekend. I was answering work emails from the hospital.
You’re also an advocate for anti-domestic violence and environmental sustainability causes — can you tell us why you’re passionate about those topics in particular?
I grew up being bullied. My acceptance level of what was and wasn’t normal in relationships was different. Unfortunately, when I grew up, I accepted relationships that were essentially different forms of bullying. I’m very sensitive. It’s hard for me to shake things off, whether it be someone being mean to me or someone writing a bad review about my company. I take everything really personally as a result of having that history. For me, it’s about bringing awareness to the idea that what you see might not be what is actually going on behind the scenes of a relationship. I think it’s important to know what to do and how to act if someone comes to you asking for advice or help regarding these situations. At the time, I felt like I didn’t have anyone who knew how to help me.
My interest in environmental sustainability has really grown because of my kids. I do realize that if we don’t start thinking about our universe now and acting more cleanly, our kids’ kids will suffer. It’s real. When I see my kids, I think about what life will be like for them. It’s something I’m really aware of and try to make good decisions about. It’s not like I don’t wear shoes because they’re leather, but I believe we have to protect this planet, and we have to start making better choices. I don’t think every person has to make every single right decision, but that they have to make a couple of good decisions. If every person can make a couple of good decisions for the environment, then I think, as a planet, we’ll be better for it.
At Plum Pretty Sugar, we started thinking about environmental sustainability from a business perspective by looking at our fabric. We’ve moved from a more conventional printing that causes more run-off into the environment, and we’ve moved to digital printing which is more expensive but better for the environment. We are working on an environmental, organic product line. In terms of packaging, we’ve moved from a cute box with a ribbon to a more minimalistic packaging with less waste. Paper and plastic are recycled, and it’s a minimal amount of “stuff” that’s going to end up in a trash can.
How has your view of motherhood changed since you’ve become a mother?
I think early on in my life, I was really career-focused and not super excited about the prospect of having kids. It wasn’t on my bucket list at the time. As I got to my mid-30s and was divorced, I thought, “I think I want to get married and have some kids.” The importance came on quickly and drastically changed my personality and how I interact with the world. I think a lot of that had to do with me being older and more mature.
What is the most rewarding part of being a mom? And what is the most challenging aspect of parenthood?
This is going to sound so simple, but I think the greatest thing is being loved. Being loved without judgment or without motive. It’s so genuine and so rewarding. It fills me to the brim to the point where I might cry right now. That kind of love is something that I haven’t had a lot of in my life, and it goes a long way with me.
I think that, for me, the most challenging thing is the level of tiredness that I carry being a working mother. I’m not young anymore. I don’t have the energy level that I wish I did with these two very energetic, wonderful children.
When it comes to being a mom, what are you most confident about? On the flip side, what are you still insecure about?
I’m pretty confident that I’m teaching them right from wrong, that they understand the value of love, and how to be good humans. I used to be so worried about that, but I feel like I’m actually doing OK there with them. They see right from wrong, identify it, and talk about it.
For me, I’m insecure about how much I’m working. Am I giving them enough time and attention? It’s a burden of guilt. I feel like it’s hard right now because there’s no one else that can make the decision for me. If it goes badly, I’m the only one who is responsible for it. I wrestle with that a lot. Could I hire someone? Could I do things differently? Ultimately, I think I’m OK. I think I’m teaching my children the value of hard work.
If you could give your 25-year-old self one piece of advice, what would it be?
I think that there is a path and a time for everything, everything happens for a reason, and things will happen when you are ready. Don’t worry so much.
Can you share with us four mom hacks you rely on to make things work in your day-to-day life?
1. Buying pajamas the kids love and laugh at. It makes it easy for them to get into them and into bed every night!
2. No liquids after 6pm. (Enough said!)
3. Invest in good hairbrushes… my kids have a lot of hair, and a good brush makes life much easier.
4. Buy fun toothbrushes!
Charlotte Hale is The Everymom…
Favorite family tradition? I can’t say there is just one! Going to dad’s office before Halloween, Little League Opening Ceremonies, Opening Day at Santa Anita Racetrack, birthdays, pool hangs in the desert.
Easy go-to family meal to prepare? Spaghetti Bolognese
Your dream vacation? Safari in Africa!
Last home item you splurged on? Vases from Target
Guilty pleasure? Reading a good book!
Most embarrassing mom moment? I missed the memo that my daughter had to wear black leggings in one of her recital dance numbers. She went on stage in stripes instead!
Proudest career achievement? Reaching 10 years being in business!
Favorite date night activity? Sushi
Best mom advice you’ve been given? Love them now and appreciate every moment.