RuffleButts is a perfect story on how to bootstrap with a paycheck. Amber Schaub started RuffleButts, a children’s apparel company, in March of 2007, backed by her husband’s full-time job. He later joined in 2010 as the COO after the company had gained traction.
Sramana: Let’s start at the very beginning of each of your stories. I imagine you co-founded the company?
Amber Schaub: I grew up in Louisville, Kentucky. I had the entrepreneurial spirit from a very young age. I used to convince my cousins to help me start lemonade stands, baby sitting clubs, and we even tried to start a grocery delivery business in middle school. My dad is an entrepreneur. My parents were divorced so I watched what my mother had to do as a single mother. She worked a 9 to 5 job for a utility company and had to raise a child on that income. We did not live a lavish lifestyle, but I always had what I needed.
I knew that if I wanted to go to college, I was going to have to pay for that one my own. When I graduated from college I was very enticed by the money to take a job in pharmaceutical sales. I was not passionate about what I was doing but the company car and paycheck was good. That did not last all that long because I got enticed into real estate during the boom years, but once again I was not fulfilled. I was shocked by the lack of ethics in the business world. I made a decision very early on that I was going to run a business based on the golden rule. Ethics are extremely important to me and I attribute that to my mother.
Sramana: When was RuffleButts founded?
Amber Schaub: I founded it in March of 2007 which means I conceived the idea and got the trademark. I started down the path of teaching myself how to run a children’s apparel company. I had no experience in retail, designing, or selling. I had no children of my own, so children’s apparel was not something that I would have considered myself an expert at.
Sramana: So why did you decide to launch a company in children’s apparel? I hear stories about this from moms who are passionate about their kids and that is what led them to start the business.
Amber Schaub: I get that a lot. I was passionate about children although I did not have any at the time. I was passionate about the business side and about creating a product that I could be proud of. I knew I wanted to start a business and it took me three months to figure out what business that was going to be. Mark was supportive of my quitting my job to start a company. I did a lot of research to decide what business to start. At that time, there were a lot of glossy stories about entrepreneurs who followed their dreams to start 10 million dollar businesses.
We had a longer road to parenthood than we wanted at the time. RuffleButts became my baby. The idea came because I wore ruffled bloomers when I was a baby and she always called them my rufflebutts. I went into a store looking for them when I was shopping for a gift for a friend. I asked the lady if they had them and she told me they did not, but she did not know why they did not carry them because people came in looking for them all the time. That is what spurred me to get into this specific industry.
I thought everyone called them rufflebutts and fortunately found out that nobody else knew about that name. The trademark and the domain name were both open. That is how the name of the company was born.