Kristin Vailliencourt started her first business in second grade, selling painted rocks from her front lawn. In mid-November, roughly three decades later, she opened her second biz, a children's boutique called Sprout. This time she's peddling children's toys and clothes instead of decorative stones, and ditched the yard marketplace for an absolutely adorable space inside the Katie Gingrass Gallery at 241 N. Broadway.
"I am excited to be the first children's store in the Historic Third Ward," says Vailliencourt, who has a 3-year-old son named Ian, the company's official "toy tester."
Inspired by a shop in Madison called Capitol Kids, Sprout carries toys and clothes for kids ages 0-6. The majority of the merchandise is not available in malls, like bibs printed with sushi rolls, wooden toys from Germany, retro-looking clothing, musical instruments ranging from mini-accordions to kazoos, and ingenious articles like a portable chalkboard mat made for dining out with easily bored little ones.
Sprout is an upscale playland for adults with fun stuff for kids to do like build on the "Lego walls."
As the mother of a son, Vailliencourt knows how difficult it is to find original little guy clothing that's not embossed with sports or trucks.
"It's easier to find cool things for girls, however I am on a personal mission to make sure boys aren't left out of the shopping fun," she says.
Vailliencourt chose the name Sprout because it described how quickly children grow and change.
"My son changes constantly. Some mornings my husband looks at me and says Ian's brain has grown overnight. I really wanted a name that captured the exciting and rapid growth that happens between 0 and 6," she says.
The Sprout venture is a family affair. Vailliencourt's husband Jim left his job as a graphic designer to be a stay-at-home dad and plans to work in the shop a few days a week. Her mother, Karen Otto, and sister, Stephanie Sherman (who is married to OMC's Jeff Sherman and owner of Lela, also in the Third Ward), helped out with everything from marketing to brainstorming to product selection.
Before opening Sprout, Vailliencourt was a teacher and worked at the Kimberly-Clark Corp.
"I have spent the past seven years selling the need for project management, and I think it will be a lot more fun getting people excited about baby boxer shorts and cowboy guitars," she says. "Fashion for kids should be functional, fun and unique so that kids can express their personalities."
Molly Snyder started writing and publishing her work at the age 10, when her community newspaper printed her poem, "The Unicorn.” Since then, she's expanded beyond the subject of mythical creatures and written in many different mediums but, nearest and dearest to her heart, thousands of articles for OnMilwaukee.
Molly is a regular contributor to FOX6 News and numerous radio stations as well as the co-host of "Dandelions: A Podcast For Women.” She's received five Milwaukee Press Club Awards, served as the Pfister Narrator and is the Wisconsin State Fair’s Celebrity Cream Puff Eating Champion of 2019.