Not Your Mother’s Maternity Wear: Rosie Pope Maternity & MomPrep
Rosie Pope has her hands full. Not only is she growing her booming business, Rosie Pope Maternity, into a multi-faceted lifestyle brand, but she is also raising an expanding family. She launched her business around the time her son, James (“JR”), was born two years ago and since then, the maternity-wear brand has expanded to include MomPrep, a contemporary school for expecting parents— blocks away from their storefront on the Upper East Side. The company will be the subject of a new Bravo reality show, “Pregnant in Heels;” ironically, just a month after Rosie’s due date for her second child.
The show will introduce the brand, popular with New York City moms, to the rest of the country. In anticipation of going from a regional to a national market, Rosie, the creative director, and her husband, the company’s CEO, Daron are preparing their company for the anticipated growth.
When Rosie started to shop for maternity wear, she noticed inadequacy in the maternity-wear industry—even in a cosmopolitan city, like Manhattan. “The maternity industry at large is an incredibly underserved industry, but yet, being a mother and celebrity moms are huge hot topics that people are into,” Rosie says. “It was amazing to me that I lived in this most amazing city, and yet every single person I met who was pregnant was dissatisfied by the services out there.”
Rosie Pope Maternity has a storefront that carries her line of maternity wear that she designs, and according to Rosie, serving as designer, manufacturer, and retailer for her products has several advantages to designing and wholesaling. When selling designs wholesale to boutiques, “it’s very hard to know how those dresses that somebody bought in Pennsylvania are really working with the customer,” Rosie says. “What sets us apart from other labels, aside from the style, fit, and fabric of our clothes, is we’re just not willing to say ‘Oh, clients will buy our stuff because they have no other options.’ That’s such a failure in this industry.”
Based on feedback and requests she receives when interacting with customers in her store, Rosie makes changes and improvements to her lines. In her designs, Rosie not only leverages her experience with the physicality of being pregnant, but she also references the experience of being a mom-to-be in the services their company provides. “In the store, every day is a baby shower,” Daron says. “Everything from the candy we offer to the music we play to the way the store feels sets it apart. Our customers have said, ‘This is the cool maternity place.’” By creating this positive atmosphere, the duo has been able to utilize “word-of-mom” marketing to keep growing their customer base.
Creating New Revenue Streams
Rosie also saw an opportunity to embrace what she calls “the era of educated parents”—where moms and dads want to make decisions for their families, instead of relying on the doctor’s orders. “Today, people are really interested in making their own decisions about how they raise their children, how they’re pregnant; before they weren’t able to make those choices,” Rosie says. “It used to be you just go in and a nurse would tell you ‘It’s this way’, and then you’d be scared not to do it that way. It’s not like that now.”
As a result, Rosie Pope Maternity branched out in 2010 and created MomPrep, a school offering curricula, classes, and one-on-one training. By launching MomPrep, Rosie was able to tap into another missing component in her industry. “Moms don’t want to just learn about how painful labor is going to be,” Rosie says. “They also want to learn about how to decorate their nursery, how to take better pictures of their children, and fitness. And until now, that wasn’t just offered in one place.”
Reality of Running a Company
Through MomPrep, the company also offers a “pregnancy concierge” service that can do everything from setting up birthing classes to designing personalized dresses for the stages of pregnancy –including the day a woman gives birth. This service bore Rosie and Daron’s new reality show, “Pregnant in Heels,” which will debut on the Bravo network this spring. Just being a guest on an episode of Bravo’s “Bethenny Getting Married?” for a minute and a half gave them a substantial spike in website traffic. In addition to preparing for the invasion into their personal life, Rosie and Daron are also prepping their business for the anticipated boom.
The show will take Rosie Pope Maternity from being a New York company to a national business, and their day-to-day operations will have to change to meet the challenges and opportunities this exposure will bring. Currently, Daron oversees the financial and technical side of running the business and Rosie deals with designing the clothes, running the store, and managing MomPrep.
When the show airs, she’ll have to take a step back. “When the media tour begins, it’s going to become a lot to balance,” Daron says. “We have to be realistic about her schedule going forward.” Getting Ready for Growth Even more than raising children and raising a business, the Popes believe the most difficult part of being entrepreneurs is finding the right employees.
And while they have posted to job boards, the majority of their top talent has been lured away from already successful careers in different industries. In fact, no member of their eight-person team has a background in fashion. “We hired people who we think are really intelligent and talented in what they do, but may not have experience in our industry,” Rosie says. “Our belief is that if they believe in what we do, they can learn.” Another reason for hiring outside of the fashion world is due to the fact that actual fashion design accounts for few of the company’s functions. “It’s always disappointing for people who wanted to be in fashion when they actually start working in fashion. It’s all spreadsheets and mathematics,” Rosie says. “So coming from a different non-fashion-focused angle, I really enjoy the creative moments, but I’m also not upset that a lot of the company isn’t that.”
It is also difficult to evoke the same passion the Popes have for the company in their employees. “When you first start a business, you’re talking about it around your kitchen table and you’re passionate about it, but not everybody else is passionate about it,” Rosie says. “Persuading good people to come on board is virtually impossible because they’re not really willing to take the risk. But when you find people who are, they are the few special gems and often you have to pull them away from great careers.”
So how do they entice these individuals to take the plunge? Rosie and Daron take that person out for coffee without telling him or her why. The Popes use this meeting to test the waters and make sure this person is a fit for their company. If they’re convinced, they’ll turn the conversation towards the position they’d like the candidate to take, and a more formal interview will follow.
To help prepare the business for the expected growth once “Pregnant in Heels” debuts, they are increasing their staff and attempting to estimate orders to stimulate their inventory. Daron is also working with developers to expand their e-commerce with different technologies and a social media strategy.
They are also working to accommodate a larger demographic of moms. For example, they are going to produce some products overseas for the first time in an effort to make some of the line more affordable to a greater population of expecting moms. “We’re working on getting our price point down,” Rosie says. “It’s really important to be appealing to the mass American market, as opposed to being known as the highend New York brand. We want everybody to feel that they can buy something from Rosie Pope Maternity or take a class at MomPrep.”