Chris Lumley is the Founder of Clek Brand. He lives in Canada with his wife and two young children.
1) Who are you and what do you do for a living?
On the side, I am an entrepreneur who, through a ton of sweat and luck and the help of a lot of great people, founded the Clek brand. Everyday, I get to be a salesperson, a manager, a customer service rep, a designer and an engineer (a lot of people would argue the merits of that last role though) and through each of these roles I get to build a brand that people want to be associated with and to produce products that kids want to ride in (including my own).
Or simply put… as my son, Cooper, likes to explain…I’m a seat-maker.
2) What career path has landed you where you are today?
A: I began my career with Magna International, one of the world’s largest and most diversified automotive suppliers, where I worked for 10 years. Throughout that time, I was fortunate enough to be mentored by a few amazing individuals (still am to this day), who moved me through the company providing exposure to all facets of the business – marketing, finance, operations and corporate development – which armed me with the skill set necessary to run a business.
About 4 years ago, I was approached by Magna’s Executive Vice Chairman at the time and asked to start a consumer products business. Being a new father and having spent a few years in Magna’s Seating group, I became interested in an early-stage Research and Development child seating program. They were working with a safety organization in Canada to develop an innovative booster seat… 3 products and 1 brand later… here we are.
3) What aspects of your job do you find most exciting & inspiring?
A: Hands down my favorite thing is seeing my own child in my product. He can’t figure out why other people also have monkey seats because I’m the seat maker and the monkey seat is only for him – gotta love 4-year old logic! A close second is getting his design advice on our next-gen products. Hearing kids talk about our products, whether it’s my son or a parent recounting what their child said when they sat in one of our seats, is a definite high because you know you’ve created something that made a child proud of a product category they have historically labeled as babyish.
4) How has being a dad influenced your career and how you approach day-to-day business decisions?
A: The day you become a parent your life changes. It is obviously the most rewarding experience in the world, but it’s also a role filled with compromises that you didn’t have to (or chose not to) deal with before. Child passenger seats are a perfect example of this: you give up convenience for safety; you sacrifice design for function. Because I’m a dad, I understand the necessity for giving up certain things for the benefit of my kids. However, I realized this was one area we didn’t have to sacrifice – parents should have it all when it comes to their kids’ vehicle seats: safety, functionality, ease-of-use, comfort and design. This spirit of “no compromise” essentially drives the designs we make and being a dad that uses our product on a daily basis definitely influenced that.
5) How have you balanced your career and spending better time with your family?
A: No question about it – it is a daily struggle. Launching a business, being a father and being a husband are usually always at odds with one another. We all go through it regardless of what we do for a living. Knowing what to prioritize and when gives you balance.
When I’m not on the road, I try to be home for dinner a few nights a week and will put the work on hold until after the kids go to bed. We’ve just moved the offices closer to home, so that will help out a ton.
Weekends are reserved for family and we make a point of taking vacations. It limits the at home distractions and are worth every penny.
I find the hardest part in the whole equation is finding the time to spend with my wife. When she has a spare moment, she spends it helping out with the business. So, we try to grab the time when we can – even if it’s taking 15 minutes to catch up when the kids go to bed – we both realize it’s still important. While we try our best to have a life together outside of work and kids, it’s usually the one that gets shafted. Thank God she’s so amazing and is fully supportive of the big picture.
6) What brands and activities did you love growing up that you’ve made it a point to share with your kids?
A: The cool thing about today is so many of the things that were around when I was a kid are coming back.
So, I get to see my kids (particularly my son as my daughter is still too young) do the same things that I did as a kid. My son’s Saturday morning is nearly identical (down to the cartoon episode) to what mine was as a child.
Cooper’s Saturday morning consists of eating a sugary cereal (Frosted Flakes, Captain Crunch or Froot Loops), going to hockey with Dad, grabbing a Timmy’s (you need to look that up if you don’t know what it is – Canadiana at its best), going home to watch the same retro cartoons that I did (Spiderman, Transformers, GI Joe, Scooby Doo, etc.) and then heading outside to play ball hockey or baseball in the backyard.
There is a kid in all of us and being able to play in that arena for a living is super cool. Offering brands like Paul Frank that appeal to the kid in the kid and the kid in the parent is what makes brands magical.