Q&A with Iksplor co-founder Karissa Akin
Karissa Akin and Kailey Gieck are the co-founders and sister duo behind Iksplor, a 100% merino wool clothing line for newborns and kids. Their mission is to create functional layers born for adventure, to help get kids get outside and stay outside longer! Iksplor is currently in the prototype phase, and Karissa and Kailey are excited to be building a community passionate about getting little ones outside in quality clothing that lasts!
At Wonderkin, we’re passionate about quality gear and highlighting female entrepreneurs and thought leaders working to advance the children’s nature play movement. We know you’ll enjoy learning more about Karissa’s story…
What is your favorite outdoor childhood memory?
Some of my favorite memories from childhood are from our family road trips to Hood River every summer. Our family would spend a month camping along the Columbia River. My parents would windsurf each day while my brother, sister and I explored the riverbank. Some of our favorite activities were picking blackberries, collecting sea glass and building forts. Those unstructured adventures together created an unbreakable bond between us siblings and memories that will last a lifetime.
What inspired you to found Iksplor?
My daughter Everleigh was our inspiration for Iksplor. Living in Jackson, Wyoming, we are all too familiar with the importance of appropriate layering, especially the next to skin layer. I searched all over for a clothing brand that could outlast a toddler. Most items I found were permanently stretched out or stained after the first few wears. The amount of waste created from these essentially disposable garments really bothered me. I wanted to find a base layer with the quality of adult clothing, a long lasting item that could grow with my child and be passed on to others. As I searched for such a garment, I discovered the many benefits of merino wool for sleep health, temperature regulation, and odor resistance. I also found that it is the ideal fabric for people with sensitive skin or eczema. Merino wool also has a big environmental + in the fact it is a renewable material, biodegradable and durable. All these positive attributes spoke to me as a mother and fueled my sister and I’s determination to create a company centered around providing long lasting essential base layers for children out of 100% merino wool.
What's the biggest challenge you've faced in building a new business?
The biggest challenge has been making sure the core principles of our company are maintained. We are adamant on having a high quality, long-lasting product that helps get kids and families outside all while maintaining a low impact on the environment. There are many shortcuts out there: lower quality fabric, questionably ethical labors, and production with unacceptably high environmental impact. Sticking to our values, and working alongside my sister has been an amazing experience. We have attacked these issues and so many more. We have discovered that not only do we want to provide the best possible clothing solution for my daughter and children everywhere, but also make sure we take care of the planet we are leaving them.
What will success with Iksplor look like to you?
We are big believers in celebrating each success small and large. Right now the biggest immediate measure of success is getting Iksplor launched! We can’t wait to get feedback from parents and caregivers. A big success for us will be hearing that our base layers make it a easier for kids to get outside and comfortably stay outside. Outdoor time is critical for our kids emotional and functional growth - seeing families outside together in our layers will be an incredible milestone to reach.
What’s one pro tip you’d offer parents looking to spend more time outdoors with their children?
Simple – the more comfortable a child is the more they will enjoy being outside (happy kids = happy parents). If a child is cold, wet, or uncomfortable, any and all outdoor excursions will not be tolerated well and eventually dreaded by all parties involved. Winter is too long to just avoid going outside. I make a point of getting outside for some activity everyday – make it a habit. Outdoor play is essential for children and the enjoyable and comfortable it is for them, the more they will want to do it.
Finish this sentence: "Spending time in nature makes me feel…”