Sramana: How did you handle such a big event so early on? I imagine it was quite an ordeal to get ready for celebrity exposure.
Amber Schaub: I only needed 300 pieces to be able to do the event, so I had the factory send the completed work out to the hotel in LA. I was crossing my fingers that everything would be OK, and of course when I got there that was not the case. When I arrived and started going through the bloomers, I saw that half of them were made perfectly and the other half were a mess. I went through and found the best of the best so that the celebrities could represent our brand well.
We pulled that off and we made an impression on some of the celebrities. Ali Landry took her daughter to the beach in Malibu wearing our RuffleButt Bloomer. The pictures of her were on TMZ. She was just one of many who was very supportive of what we were doing. That catapulted our brand from the very beginning.
Sramana: Did that create buzz around the brand that drew traffic in?
Amber Schaub: Yes. I would also work with any publicist that would pay attention to me. I would email them my story and beg them to cover it. We were fortunate to get into Baby Talk Magazine as an editor’s pick with a picture of a baby wearing our RuffleButts Bloomer. Back then, Mark and I would celebrate getting a couple of hundred orders. Today that is a slow day. With all the celebrity and press, the stores started to come to us.
Sramana: The e-commerce business you were developing was basically a shell business. It sounds like the retailers were the ones ordering products.
Amber Schaub: We had folks like Nordstrom’s and Target call us. Mom and pop boutiques all over the country were applying to carry our products because customers were asking for our products. In the beginning, 95% of the stores we sold to came to us, which was incredible.
On the retail side, the publicity also drove consumers to us. They were very supportive of my story. They would promote us on their Facebook pages. They have always been very supportive of us.
Sramana: There is a built-in viral aspect to your product. Moms like to take pictures of their babies.
Amber Schaub: Exactly. We are so lucky that we have a product that is all about happy moments and childhood. When I started the business, I thought that moms and grandmothers would be fun customers. I wanted to have a product that would make people happy. You take your child out in RuffleButts and you will get compliments from everyone. We are very fortunate to have that organic aspect.
Sramana: You started in August of 2007. How did your business ramp during your first year?
Amber Schaub: When we received the first shipment, I faced the harsh reality of what entrepreneurship really is. When that first shipment arrived, half of the apparel was unsuitable to sell. Production was very bad. I debated whether or not I wanted to share that publicly because I did not want people to think bad about our brand. However, I wanted other entrepreneurs to see the reality of what starting a business is all about.
I had to fly my mother to Florida so that we could measure each garment. I was not about to sell products that did not meet my quality standards. I questioned if I was really ready to do this. We did not start selling until January of 2008. That first year, we sold about $100,000 of products.