Welcome to On Small Business’s series spotlighting interesting crowdfunding campaigns in Washington. Every other week, we’ll feature a new company or individual attempting to raise money through these new online portals.
Who: Rebecca Melsky and Eva St. Clair, founders of Princess Awesome.
Melsky received her master’s in education from Northwestern University and teaches third grade at the Jewish Primary Day School of the Nation’s Capital in the District of Columbia. St. Clair earned a bachelor’s degree from Stanford University and works in Website development in addition to being a stay-at-home mom. Melsky has two children, and St. Clair has four.
Where: Silver Spring, Md., out of St. Clair’s basement. Melsky lives in the District.
When: Started in April 2013
Raised / Goal: Raised $167,821 of an initial $35,000 goal (as of Feb. 26). The founders have since set a stretch goal of $175,000.
What’s the pitch?
Melsky: Many of the little girls that we know – and ones we know are out there around the world – like stereotypically girly things, but a lot of them like math and science and dinosaurs and pirates, too. In today’s mainstream clothing stores, you can’t find both of those in one item of girls’ clothing. We want to change that. We think that girls should be able to wear all that they are and that they should be given the message that math and science and dinosaurs are just as much for girls as they are for boys.
Where did you get the idea?
Melsky: When my daughter turned two, she only wanted to wear dresses – like all the time. I loved buying them for her, but for her pajamas, I would get some from the girls section and some from the boys section, because she also likes spaceships and robots and dinosaurs and things like that. One day when I was buying her pajamas and walking through the store, I thought, “Why don’t they make any cute twirly dresses that also have a dinosaur or a spaceship on them? She would love that.”
My next thought was, “Someone should do that. Wait, I should do that. How do I do that?” I asked Eva, she said “yes” immediately, and we started working.
Where did you start?
St. Clair: Well, we had our first business meeting and we went and bought a bunch of odds and ends – tutus, leotards, and children’s clothes with robots and spaceships and such. We did a lot of cutting and pasting to see what it would look like on girlswear. From there, we collaborated to create what we call the Busy Road dress, with cars and trucks and planes.
After that, we started looking for patterns on the Internet and began buying them in quilting material, and we started making and selling the dresses at a little church bazaar near my house. They sold really well, so we created an online shop, and they sold really well there, too. We had nothing left, so we started looking into how to go into a factory.
Why did you turn to crowdfunding?
St. Clair: When we started looking at factory options, we knew we wanted to print our own fabric, because the patterns we wanted weren’t available on the kind of fabric we wanted – that stretchy jersey material. The quilt fabric is just too stiff for kids to play in. But when we started sourcing the materials and looking into the costs of printing, it was horrifyingly expensive, to the point where we nearly gave up last February.
We kept looking though, and we finally found a printing company that was affordable and had the right quality. Even then, the cost of the fabric and the labor was still high, and it was more money than we could have put in on our own.
Melsky: We had also seen the tremendous success of other Kickstarter campaigns with similar themes – such as Goldiblocks and Roominate – and we knew there was a cultural conversation going on about what choices are given to girls in, for instance, their toys and their clothes. We thought that we could be successful through crowdfunding, and if we weren’t, well, we would regroup and go a different route.
What’s your long-term vision for the company?
St. Clair: Honestly, we feel like we have already jumped to where we expected to be in five years. We will now have a play dress line with five dresses in a larger number of sizes. Going forward, we are going to start working on our Art Dress line, which will be party dresses based on works of art, including a Monet and a Van Gogh. We have an idea for an entire line of science-themed dresses, too, which will come with a booklet written by a scientist explaining the theme and the images on the dresses.
Melsky: We’re really hoping to create a company that’s sustainable over time and that has variety of different lines and products for girls of all ages, to give them more options to wear all the things that they are and do and love.
Editors note: Our coverage in this series does not constitute an endorsement. For more information about crowdfunding, please check out this SEC Fact Sheet.
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