By Debra D. Bass
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Meet the two St. Louis moms who run graciekates.com, an online and mobile children’s clothing boutique for newborns to 7 years old. These budding entrepreneurs hope to make kids clothing affordable to all.
Co-owners –Debra Bevard and Jenny Riggs
Age –Both 38
Family –Jenny’s husband Bill, married 14 years with three children Jacob, 12; Evan, 8; and Allison, 2; Debra’s husband Darren, married 11 years with three children Connor, 7; Christian, 4; Kate, 2
What they sell –Boutique children’s clothing from newborn to 7 years old, all $40 and under, available at private trunk shows, boutique markets and graciekates.com.
Remaking retail –After launching in March, the duo didn’t know what to expect. Neither Debra Bevard nor Jenny Riggs had dreamed of running a retail business, but they both had worked in clothing sales at some point in the past.
One day, the women, who became acquainted as neighbors and then became friends, were lamenting the cost of kids clothing. They had girls three weeks apart, so they made frequent shopping trips together. “Then one day, we were like, I wonder if we could find some of these clothes at better prices,” Riggs said. They knew they had an eye for product because their girls became their best marketing tool (measured in compliments). Soon they wondered if they could get enough product to sell to other moms.
Along came Ruffle Butts –For the small, mobile at-home business to work, they needed to persuade manufacturers to trust them with their brands. Some manufacturers don’t bother with small operations, but soon the start-up gained the attention of upscale children’s clothing brands like Ruffle Butts, Mud Pie, Wee Squeak, Rugged Butts, Bonnie Jean and Pink Chicken.
Let’s hear it for the boys –Though their girls clothing side is more lucrative, the moms say parents are really appreciative of their boys brand offerings. “Boys clothes … nice, unique boys clothes are harder to find. There’s always a lot less options for boys,” Bevard said. “We noticed that, and we heard it from other moms.” She said that boys also tend to play rougher and that’s rougher on clothes, so moms wanted durable options that were actually attractive and not so cookie-cutter.
Six long months’ labor –That’s how long the women debated opening their online and mobile operations. “It took six months, because I’d be nervous and then she’d be gung ho, so we’d wait and then I’d be excited and she’d be like ‘I don’t know’,” Riggs said. Eventually, they both ended up excited on the same day and ended up working into the wee hours to create a website overnight and launched their newest baby.
Reluctant entrepreneurs –“We have the best marketing tools in our little girls, and we just hear all the time from moms who are like ‘That’s really cute, where’d you get it,’ and we are like, ‘um, well, actually we sell them,'” Riggs said. Bevard agreed that it feels weird to make a sales pitch, but they are getting more comfortable with it.
Next up –The co-owners are always open to suggestions, and they are considering expanding their size range. They’ve already made significant adjustments. When they launched, it was only size 4 to 7 years and now they are down to newborns. So larger sizes might be coming once they experience their first holiday shopping season.
Name such –The company name was among their first struggles because of the difficulty getting not just something unique, but something with available websites and social media handles. They wanted to use their daughters’ first names but “Kate and Allie” was an ’80s sitcom featuring two divorced moms, so that didn’t seem right. Butterfly Kisses was also a top contender but it sounded too cutesy. Instead Jenny proposed using Allison’s middle name, Grace, and then Gracie Kate’s just rolled off her tongue and it stuck.