VoyageLA Article (published March 14, 2017)
Today we’d like to introduce you to Summer Sinclair-Menkee.
Summer, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
When my first son, Sage, was born I had the good fortune of learning Indian baby massage from my mother-in-law, a revered expert in Northern India. During his first two months of life, she massaged him daily using homemade mustard oil on a special waterproof towel from India. She also made him a mustard seed pillow to elevate his head and prevent spit-up during massage, which we also used to help correct his torticollis (difficulty turning head to one side) and early signs of Plagiocephaly (flat-head syndrome). I created the summer & sage Infant Massage Kit to help other families have access to the same Indian baby care benefits I received as a new mom in in the U.S. (thanks to my Indian husband).
When Sage was a little over two months old, I began implementing infant massage as part of his nightly bedtime routine. I have experienced firsthand the deep, long-lasting benefits, and was surprised to learn how many of my new mommy friends were unaware of this beautiful and essential baby care practice. I got certified to teach other parents, through the International Association of Infant Massage, when Sage was 6 months old. He came to the training with me, was my demo model, and the instructor was flexible with our breastfeeding and nap needs. When my second son, Neel, was born, I began massaging him daily at 1 week old, after his umbilical cord fell off (just as my mother in law had begun with Sage).
I now teach infant massage new parents with newborns to pre-crawling babies through Parent & Me classes and private sessions. I currently sell our Infant Massage Kit and holistic baby care products on Amazon and through our website.
We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
Starting a new business has not been a smooth road for me, especially as a mom of two under three years old! There have definitely been some struggles along the way. For instance, I started my business on the Westside of Los Angeles, in the Pico/Robertson area, and just as I was getting things going we bought a house on the Eastside, which Angelenos know is like moving to a whole other city, not just a new neighborhood.
I work closely with my beloved Pediatrician, Dr. Edmond Saraff, who is located close to Beverly Hills. He sends me to his “concierge” families’ homes for infant massage instruction, especially for newborns with colic & gas, respiratory issues or difficult birth journeys. I am so grateful for my partnership with SoCal Integrative Wellness; however, I am driving forty-five minutes to an hour to some homes.
Thanks to my new mom clients in NELA, including Becca Gordon of Two Doulas Birth, I have been able to tap into a wonderful mompreneur community on the Eastside! Renting classroom space for my group classes has not been easy, because mommy & me businesses are hard to maintain in the trendy, ever gentrifying neighborhoods of Silverlake and Atwater Village. While I enjoyed teaching Parent & Me classes at Wallaby (Silverlake), it closed shortly after I came aboard. I moved my classes to The Great Escape Club (Atwater), which also was forced out of their space due to crazy rent increases. Thankfully for Atwater families, they were able to reopen their indoor playground across the street! Finally, the building owner of my son’s preschool, in Atwater Village, approached me with the question, “You have a business, what do you need?” I responded that I need my own classroom, a product warehouse and a private consultation room. She said, “I have exactly what you need.” Needless to say, I am opening my very own classroom in April on the same block as my Sage’s preschool in Atwater Village!
Also, there have been struggles manufacturing my own product- finding a factory in downtown L.A. who will do smaller runs. Finding a creative way to import smaller quantities of product samples from India. My wonderful organic, cold-pressed mustard seed oil distributor stopped making it in the U.S. Now, I’ve had to find a comparable distributor from India. Starting and maintaining an online store on Amazon, and on my website, has been challenging as well, but I am grateful for the learning curve. All my experiences these past three years have stretched me in ways as an entrepreneur I never knew were possible!
So let’s switch gears a bit and go into the summer & sage story. Tell us more about the business.
Summer & sage specializes in Infant Massage instruction and support for new parents. We create and curate products designed for a comfortable infant massage routine at home- for both parents and baby.
I, Summer Sinclair-Menkee (Owner/Designer), am also a Certified Educator of Infant Massage known for teaching Parent & Me Infant Massage classes- currently at The Family Room (San Marino/Pasadena) and at my new space in Atwater Village (opening soon this April), previously at Bini Birth (Sherman Oaks) and Tender Loving Childbirth (Pico/Robertson), and coming soon to Books And Cookies LA (Santa Monica)! I look forward to hiring additional CEIMs to work with summer & sage to teach more classes throughout Los Angeles.
I am most proud of our holistic baby care products that have multi-uses beyond infant massage: diaper-free time with our waterproof towels, diaper rash treatment/prevention with our organic cold-pressed oils, Plagiocephaly and tortilcolis prevention/treatment with our mustard seed infant pillows. I will be exhibiting (vendor booth) our products at Babies Bellies And Beyond expo at Magic Box/The Reef in Downtown L.A. – April 8th from 11am-4pm.
I am also grateful to spread awareness about the many health and bonding benefits of Infant Massage to new parents through our classes, private instruction and how-to videos (subscription only) at our website.
I am the only certified educator of infant massage to have studied directly under Indian Baby Massage expert, Rajkumari Jha. Summer & sage is the only U.S. distributer of plush, waterproof Indian Baby massage towels, mustard seed infant pillows, and one of the only U.S. distributors of organic, cold-pressed mustard seed oil.
Pre-production for a documentary on Infant Massage, the challenges many families face in baby’s first year of life, and how early touch provides much needed bonding and health benefits is underway! Trailer coming soon for grant proposals and fundraising.
Has luck played a meaningful role in your life and business?
I feel very lucky, at forty years old, to be a mom of two beautiful, healthy boys – age 1 and 3. I feel lucky that these two souls chose me to be their mom. I feel very lucky that I had a home birth VBAC (vaginal birth after cesarean) with my second baby, after a 42-week cesarean delivery with my first! I am lucky to have such a supportive women’s circle and mom community to help me navigate the often isolating territory of small business startup and motherhood. I’m also lucky that I married into an Indian family with a mother-in-law who taught me firsthand what mothers in India get from their sisterhood circle of grandmas, aunties, cousins and sisters. It takes a village!
I am lucky that the owner/landlord of The Little Village preschool, where my son Sage goes, offered me my own classroom space for Parent & Me classes! Our first brick and mortar is now a reality because of her belief in me and my business!
Women helping women is the biggest pillar of my support system. As a member of The New Hollywood Women, I was recently awarded a micro-grant to help kick start my documentary project, and I am grateful to my daily accountability partners who keep me on track with my business goals. I am proud to co-lead a mom’s group within TNH called ‘Wine & Cheerios’. I also just led my first TNH Charity Challenge this past quarter! We held a health & wellness in-house spa day at Elizabeth House, where Licensed Massage Therapists and Estheticians volunteered their services to pamper and nurture new moms just home from the hospital.
summer & sage Contact Info:
Family photo (horizontal) by MMGray Photography
Business photos by Ragan Brooks Photography
Please note that not all experiences, beliefs and ideas are shared by each member of “The New Hollywood.” We are a group of shepherds, not sheep.