Local entrepreneur provides kids clothing with boutique quality and affordability in mind.
By Bao Nguyen
November 10, 2017
As we’re getting prepared for the the 2017 International District Holiday Festival, we’re working with many local vendors to make the event a success. Time after time, we’re amazed at the entrepreneurial spirit and energy of these immigrant and minority business owners. They are what truly make America great and we want to share their stories with you.
In the next couple of weeks, we will tell you about some of the vendors who are participating in the pop-up market on November 25th. We hope their stories will inspire you to come support them and others like them. Who knows? Maybe they’ll stir up your own dreams. They are the reason we do our work!
CHARLEE SINTARAGA, founder & owner of Panda Kids.
Usually, when someone says that they are tired of working for corporate America, of the 9 to 5 daily grind to pad the pockets of executives, it stays just that, a complaint. Rarely does anyone take the next steps to address their predicament. But once in a while, someone does.
“I used to work for corporate America,” says Charlee Sintaraga, founder and owner of Panda Kids, an online company that specializes in products for babies and kids up to 6 years old. “But it really tired me out and I thought that if I can make companies this much money, I can make the same for myself.”
Charlee is what you’d call a serial entrepreneur.
Originally from Brooklyn, New York, she has travelled extensively and spent time living in Intaly, the Netherlands, Japan, and Indonesia and has visited many other countries. Nothing beats the U.S., she says, but overall, Europe and Japan are special to her heart.
Her current home is Seattle where, while working for Microsoft, she started an online company selling accessories for women. It became a success and was eventually acquired by another well-known e-commerce company after a few years. Something shifted in Charlee at this point and two weeks later, she quit Microsoft to start all over again.
With many of her friends now being married with kids, Charlee was constantly hearing about how expensive kids’ clothes are. Using her experience in supply chain management and e-commerce, she started doing her research, looking into industry trends and asking parents what they really want when they buy clothes for their children. After learning what she needed to know, she founded Panda Kids.
“When I first started, I was on my own, sewing and all of that,” Charlee recalls. “It took a lot of time, days and sleepless nights, just to finish one product. I finally realized that I can’t do this alone so I started to work with vendors and suppliers.”
Charlee now works with 4 designers and at least 12 suppliers, locally and internationally, while staying “hands on in everything” to keep her products boutique quality and affordable. Tapping into her knowledge of commodities, Charlee is able to offer hard to find materials like organic and Japanese cotton. She’s currently testing the waters with cashmere.
The term “terrible twos” describe a stage when kids start to want independence but are still reliant on the care of adults. Toddlers at this age can be unpredictable and stubborn. After three and a half years in operation, Panda Kids is showing similar signs.
“Instead of the terrible twos, we’re in the terrible threes right now,” Charlee says with a hearty laugh. “Running a company is never easy. I want to build a dream team. I want it to run on its own.”
Family and friends tell her that she’s going to be the next Jeff Bezos in 5 to 10 years. Most people would appreciate this compliment but probably dismiss the lofty comparison. Not Charlee.
“I have to work really hard to be him!” she says excitedly, as if it’s a challenge she gladly accepts.
Oh yeah, she’s also partnering with a friend to start a catering company.