Stacy Struminger was frustrated with the lack of a fashionable rain gear. While there are a lot of cute jackets and coats, there is nothing available in the market that is lightweight (perfect for summer storms) yet rain repellant. She discussed her idea with her best friend Rachel Teyssier, and they decided to create their own line of fashionable waterproof garment for women who won’t let rain dampen their fashion cred. RAINRAP™ was born.
We interviewed RAINRAP™ co-founders Stacy Struminger and Rachel Teyssier on their journey to starting their business:
What is RAINRAP™? What makes it different from other products in the market?
The RAINRAP™ is a new, innovative accessory for the practical and fashion conscious consumer. The RAINRAP™ is a fashionable alternative to traditional rain gear that is not available in today’s retail market. The design of the RAINRAP™ combines the popular style of the pashmina and wrap. The RAINRAP™ is waterproof, reversible, light-weight, fast drying, easy to store (folds up to fit in your handbag and/or suitcase), and comes in four colorful combinations.
What inspired you to create the product?
In the spring of 2011, a weeklong rainstorm left me frustrated by the lack of a fashionable, waterproof garment in my wardrobe. Searching my coat closet in vain, I had the inspiration for a waterproof wrap that was not only utilitarian but also stylish.
How did you find the process of turning your idea into an actual product? What challenges did you face at this time?
After discussing the idea with my friend and partner and brainstorming, we reached out to friends who had experience in the areas that we knew we would need direction in. For example, one was a friend who was a trademark attorney; another was a friend in the fashion industry and so on. Challenges that we faced were finding the right material for the RAINRAP, the perfect design and keeping the idea and concept a secret until we were ready to launch.
How are you protecting your business idea?
Unfortunately, it is very difficult to receive a patent on a garment. We have trademarked our name and logo and hope that people will want to purchase the Original RAINRAP and not a copy.
What is it like working with a partner? What do you think are the factors that make a partnership work?
We have been lucky because our roles have been clearly defined without having to design a plan in writing. We each know our strengths and weakness and appreciate each other’s constructive criticism. Factors that make the partnership work are being able communicate with each other, trust each other and enjoy each company.
Where can buyers purchase your product? How hard it is to find distributors to carry your product?
Right now buyers can purchase our product from our website, as well as a handful of retailers around the country. Our first goal was to not use a middle man, so we have turned down sales reps who have been interested in representing our line. We have been fortunate enough to be published in a couple of trade magazines (Accessories Magazine and Gift Shop Magazine) which has allowed retailers to contact us directly, eliminating the middle man. For now, being such a young company, we are not in a position to pay a middleman.
What was the biggest challenge you faced when starting the business?
The biggest challenge was selling the concept to our husbands. Luckily it was an easy sell!. Also, manufacturing in China came many obstacles. We learned quickly we need to educate ourselves when it came to dealing with Customs, Letters of Credit, Insurance and much more.
How are you marketing the business?
We knew right away that we wanted to hire a professional to help market our product to print, online and TV outlets. We were lucky to find the right person on our first call. Our PR person has been extremely instrumental in marketing our product for us. We also rely on social media which has become a must in today’s world.
Are you planning on expanding your product line in the next five years?
Yes, most definitely. We have some great ideas that we are excited to implement.
How has RAINRAP™ changed your lives? What does this business represent to you?
Finding a career that still allowed us to be home with our children at the end of the day, was very important to us. We feel lucky that we have been able to fulfill the void we had by not working with the dream to start our own business and be at home with our children at the end of the day.
Based on your experience, what are the 3 biggest lessons in starting and running a business that you want to share to other women entrepreneurs?
- Willing to devote 24/7 to the business. Our customer service is never closed (only when we are sleeping :)). We are known to respond to our customers all hours of the day. Being an internet company allows us to respond to our customers immediately. Our customers who shop at midnight are always pleasantly surprised when they receive an email response back from us so quickly. We are passionate about our service and our business. We want our customers to be happy with their whole experience when shopping with us. It is our way of thanking them for supporting us!
- Understanding that as hard as we are working and as much time as we devote, we are not receiving a paycheck for now. Our money is being reinvested into our company, to continue to improve and offer new products to our customers —- and that is ok.
- Our first return we took we took personally. We now realize that with an internet company, as with catalog companies, it is inevitable that you will have a certain percentage of returns.