Mountain Mama is a line of technical outdoor apparel for maternity because
adventure doesn’t end with pregnancy. It’s just beginning.
Expecting a business: In the second trimester of my pregnancy, it got cold and my Patagonia long underwear no longer fit. When I looked for maternity long underwear, I learned no such thing existed and a brand was born.
Calling all: Women ages 25-45. Pregnant or nursing. Hikers, skiers, climbers. Target geography: Rocky Mountains, West Coast, Alaska, Great Lakes. Because we had a lag of more than one year between launch and sales, we’ve been very focused on media attention, social networking statistics, and attention from buyers in select retail locations.Climbing mountains: Overcoming the perception that pregnant women don’t stay fit and active. Most apparel companies only include illustrations, not photos, in the workbooks they initially show buyers. One of our strategies from the beginning has been to include beautiful, compelling photos of active mamas-to-be in our workbooks, and anywhere else we can. Showing active maternity reminds would-be detractors that pregnant women are out there staying fit outdoors and need gear to keep up with them.
Surprises: Being inspired and motivated makes it possible to thrive on remarkably little sleep and money.
Projecting: Growth! At our first trade show, we had a 10×10 booth and had fewer than ten pieces to show. Six months later, we doubled the size of our booth, our collection and the pages in our catalog. We’ve been very deliberate about making it clear that we’re growing and are here to stay.
In retrospective, I would…: 1) Be very assertive about asking for tips, mentorship, contacts, etc. 2) Assume everything will take twice as long as estimated, 3) Not take for granted that big companies that have been at it longer than mine are more competent, professional, or have the best practices.
No thoughts of throwing in the towel: There’s nothing like creating a company that improves people’s lives. I’ve gotten hugs from so many strangers for knowing that women like them exist and for anticipating their needs. I’ve also gotten a lot of support from people for keeping our production domestic and with a very small footprint.
Next 12 months: Land orders from many of the most reputable outdoor stores in the country. We’re hiring a team of experienced sales reps in the outdoor industry from Maine to Hawaii.
Pricing power: I keep setting my prices too low! Advice: do the math and build in unlikely scenarios. [For funding,] we sold our house and pitched the company first to friends in the economic sector, all of whom advised me to try to get personal loans from family and friends first — it’s often the ‘most affordable’ money. Thankfully, several relatives contributed generously.
Industry jargon: Source domestically, keep it green, and network with the other women in the industry. It’s a boy’s club still, so sisters generally do a great job looking out for each other. [Read] SNEWS. The coverage is constant and thorough.
The absolute best part of owning my business is the opportunity to inspire and be inspired by some of the most amazing women in the world.
If I had to start over again, I would have trusted my intuition more initially. I never imagined producing apparel in the United States would be so difficult.
If standing on a rooftop facing crowds of aspiring or struggling small business owners, I would shout follow your instincts! If you know you’ve got a great concept and the ability to execute, what are you waiting for?
Photography credit: paulmuellerphotography.com