For some entrepreneurs, innovative ideas can strike at literally any time – and for Monica + Andy founder Monica Royer, her business concept certainly hit her at an interesting time. She had just given birth to her first child when she realized she wasn't crazy about how the hospital had dressed her new baby girl.
“I was so surprised when I had my daughter, and I realized there had been no innovation in what your baby wears in the hospital,” Monica Royer told Forbes. “Her skin was super sensitive, and yet all the fabrics felt rough and were sprayed with flame retardants."
And while she first encountered the problem of middling to low-quality kids' clothing in the hospital, Royer quickly realized it was more or less an epidemic issue in the market for baby clothes in general. If one was looking for sustainable, organic cotton clothing for children, that was actually hard to find in a centralized location.
Thus, along with Royer's first child, the idea of Monica + Andy was born, offering clothes for babies and young children featuring kid-friendly fabrics free of lead, phthalates and flame retardants.
The jump from idea to execution was not exactly a short one. Royer noted that the process of developing their product actually started with a three-year research project of founding a line of children's clothing that actually lived up to her specifications. But Royer has a secret weapon of sorts: a little brother. But her little brother, Andy Dunn, is more than just the other half of her business' name – he is also the chairman of Monica + Andy's board, and the founder of Bonobos. Dunn's bespoke menswear company would go on to be acquired by Walmart for over $300 million.
Monica + Andy, which launched in 2014, started out with their "Cuddle Box" product: a hand-wrapped gift box that includes an organic blanket (in cotton or muslin) and a range of organic newborn essentials. The prices can range from as little as $51 a box to as much as $2,500 for those seeking the most luxurious cuddle with a newborn available.
“We are really trying to be innovative by listening to our customers and creating a category that doesn’t exist,” Royer said. “Layette seems old school, but what I found as a mom, one thing a baby does need is clothes, and they constantly need new clothes as they are growing rapidly. With our Cuddle Box, we are looking to target women who are seven to nine months pregnant who have done their baby shower and maybe gotten everything else they need … it is a personal shopping experience to pick out the first thing your baby will wear at the hospital.”
And while one might assume that moms would be the leading consumer group for Monica + Andy, it turns out that non-moms are 50 percent of their business, and some of their most active repeat customers.
Which is why Monica + Andy is looking to expand past its direct-to-consumer internet roots. The brand has expanded in both its digital and physical presence, boasting 250 percent year-over-year growth. It has also added six retail stores, three permanent and three nine-month pop-ups. A Boston location is set to open soon.
The brand has also captured big endorsements from new moms like Serena Williams and Jessica Alba, who have both posted Instagram photos of the soft, pastel prints.
The point, according to Royer, is finding new ways to bring a personal touch to the most personal of purchases. When designing in store, she said, that means a variety of active and educational services catered to their shopping community. Music, art, story time, milk and cookie bars, lactation consultants, pregnancy classes and one-on-one layette appointments are just some of their offerings.
And even when customers are ordering online, she noted, Monica + Andy hopes to offer a bit more than just a shopping experience.
"We as a team hand gift-wrapped every item, putting personal notes in. With this brand, we weren't jamming things in a cardboard box or a plastic bag," Royer says. "In this digital world, that human touch is more important than it ever was before. There is always a human behind what we're doing, and it's always close to where I am."