By Caitlin Walsh
The Eagle-Tribune, North Andover, Mass.
Rebecca McCrensky is the first to admit that the way she went about building her brand was a little unorthodox.
“I think most people generally start the reverse way, they usually start with a store and then move online,” she said. “I’m kind of doing it backwards.”
Luckily for her, it seems to have worked.
Where Cute As A Button once resided on North Main Street, McCrensky’s Altar Ego apparel store has moved in and opened its doors, selling her originally designed, printed yoga pants, tops, hoodies, boots and jewelry.
For the past year and a half, however, the yoga apparel company has solely been based online, where it blossomed into an internationally known brand with 1,500 “ambassadors” promoting it worldwide and an Instagram following of more than 18,000.
After seeing such success, and with much thought and consideration, McCrensky decided it was time to open a physical storefront, as well.
“As much as the virtual world is a huge opportunity, and you can sell to people whether it’s in Mongolia or Australia or Paris, there’s still something to be said for having a physical store,” McCrensky said.
“People want to touch things, they want to try them on, they want to experience the brand. So as much as the Internet has been an amazing step for me, I do think having those components for the company, being able to offer that in-store experience, is going to really help.”
Part of the draw for her bohemian-inspired styles, she suspects, is customer appreciation for American-made products and local businesses.
The manufacturing process for Altar Ego was an intricate one, something McCrensky has learned as she has gone along.
Each new piece begins with a sketch she develops in collaboration with a graphic designer, who is based in Atlanta, Georgia.
Then she sends the design and the fabric she purchases in bulk from Italy to be printed in Virginia. The printed pieces are then sent back and cut in Haverhill, and from there, McCrensky transports the cut pieces to a sewing company in Lowell.
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“I do a lot of driving,” she admitted. “I’m driving all over the place, all the time.”
A native of Chelmsford who graduated from Phillips Exeter Academy in New Hampshire, McCrensky, 34, points to her business background as a major factor in her success.
Her father, a builder, owns his own business, and she grew up with that influence. In 2010, she left her position with the women’s specialty retailer Talbots and entered a two-year Master of Business Administration program at Babson College in Wellesley. After graduation and a brief employment at Puma athletic wear, however, she decided to try her hand at something she had noticed an emerging market for — printed yoga apparel.
Prior to the opening of the brick and mortar Altar Ego, McCrensky had been storing her inventory and running her business from the comforts of her parents’ Andover home, where she’s been living. She said she’s been incredibly grateful for their support as she’s launched the business.
She’s also benefited by the assistance of a few Andover High School interns, who she has hired to help her pack and ship product, manage the ever-growing Instagram account, and even occasionally model some of her clothing.
But mostly, she credits her success to the power of social media.
“The power of Instagram as a start-up is just unparallelled. It really gives people like me access that even five years ago you couldn’t have,” she said. “So for example, about 25 percent of my sales are international, and it’s because of Instagram.”
169 North Main St., Andover