In the past several years, there has been a shift in the way people purchase clothing. Online shopping is the norm, and subscription services have grown in popularity. In addition, people are more aware of the environmental impact of textile manufacturing. This has prompted many to seek more sustainable ways to purchase their clothing.
“Overall in both baby and adult – people are relooking at their purchases and there is a shift in terms of trying to minimize the impact of textiles on the environment. Especially now, with the virus, consumers are being more thoughtful about their purchases,” said Tara Ghei, founder of Romp + Tumble.
Her Atlanta-based company is offering a sustainable way to clothe growing babies and toddlers. Parents who subscribe to Romp + Tumble get a bundle of curated clothes shipped to their door, and they can send back clothes once their child outgrows them. Best of all, shipping is free both ways.
Ghei said, “In the baby space this is harder because babies outgrow their clothes so quickly so we need to replenish more frequently. With Romp + Tumble we are looking to stop the purchases before they even happen. Obviously in-person thrift and online shops like ThredUp exist, but parents still need to go through the sites and invest the time to find the items. With Romp + Tumble, you fill out a design questionnaire and we curate bundles of 22 items and send them to you – this covers most daily essentials. Plus to exchange you send them back versus trying to find someone else to give them to. We are also focused on end of life – once we cannot use them, we donate or will be working with textile recyclers.”
“Parents enjoy seeing their babies in cute clothes,” said Ghei. “However, babies grow so fast that parents, particularly moms, invest a lot of time shopping, organizing and storing clothes. Then there’s the added challenge of how to get the clothes out of your home, sustainably.”
Romp + Tumble rents baby and toddler clothes, from sizes newborn to 3T. Parents who subscribe to the sharing/exchanging platform have the option to fill out a design questionnaire. The team at Romp + Tumble then curates a personalized bundle for every child based on age, size, and developmental stage. Each bundle consists of 22 items of new and “like-new” eco-friendly clothing–stain, hole, and odor-free. The company partners with women-led brands that ethically produce clothing crafted from quality raw materials.
Most companies are founded by providing a solution to an existing problem. “Coming from a demanding career in corporate finance, I have experienced and observed the challenges faced by working moms who are also managing “second” and “third” shifts at home. This is the problem I can’t let go of,” said Ghei.
The entrepreneur spent most of her adult life as a finance leader, holding positions at several Fortune 500 Companies. When Ghei became a mother, she continued to achieve success at her professional goals while also raising two young boys in a dual career household.
She explained, “On paper it looked great: my resume didn’t show the string of burnouts that I pushed through regularly after having kids. My friends and family didn’t understand why I was perpetually exhausted. And I am not alone. Many of us are struggling to keep it together…with kids, a demanding career and often a partner who also has a time consuming career.”
Ghei founded Romp + Tumble by merging her background in business with her role as a mother. The inspiration to start her own business struck one day as she was boxing up her children’s baby clothes to send to a good friend in New Jersey. Ghei was shocked by the amount of barely worn baby clothes she had…and disappointed at the amount of waste for items temporary in nature.
Ghei said, “According to the Council for Textile Recycling, only 15% of post-consumer textile waste is recycled, leaving 85% in landfills.”
A Rent the Runway Unlimited customer herself, Ghei began to wonder why there weren’t easy solutions to sustainably outfit babies. She began working on the concept and started gathering information through focus groups and customer discovery. After several late nights, Ghei made a plan to go live later in the year. When it became clear the pandemic was going to last much longer than initially thought, Ghei resigned from her role as a Senior Finance Director for WestRock Company in June to focus full time on Romp + Tumble.
“We are solving a real problem that could help working moms everywhere and that is what we are trying to share in every customer contact – whether its our website or our conversations with customers and partners. We want to maintain the joy, but reduce the burdens,” said Ghei.
Romp + Tumble launched in mid-September. The company accelerated the launch in response to the significant burdens families are facing in the midst of a global pandemic. Romp + Tumble also implemented additional precautions during the cleaning process, to ensure families could feel comfortable with the sharing model.
Ghei said, “We added in extra sanitization and steaming to exceed CDC guidelines that state that viruses are killed with heat above 167 degrees Fahrenheit.”
To prepare for the early launch, Romp + Tumble relied on social media engagement and word of mouth. Ghei’s friends and family shared posts on their networks, and the company posted regularly on Facebook and Slack. Romp + Tumble also participated in an online new brand baby event targeting press and mom influencers. Ghei has spent time speaking with companies to understand how to create partnerships, and continues to try different channels to grow her brand.
“We believe our model creates sustainable change for busy parents, particularly working moms, and we are currently looking at corporate partners who want to invest in helping working parents reduce the “invisible work” after hours. We recently worked with an influencer out of NY who we have strong values alignment with, and we also have a small affiliate program we are trying out this fall.”
Romp + Tumble has been seeking innovative ways to reach out to customers as well.
“Our service requires a mindset shift so consumer education has been key for us to share what we do. We have been spending quite a bit of time on this and are always thinking of new ways to approach.”
In August, Romp + Tumble hosted an online event with Larissa the Mama Coach, a registered nurse, sleep coach and lactation counselor. During the interactive event, Larissa provided information on children’s sleep habits and answered questions.
Romp + Tumble knows their customers care about how clothes are made and the impact of the manufacturing process on the people who make them. For this reason, Ghei said, Romp + Tumble is also dedicated to safer manufacturing processes and ethical working conditions for people who make the clothes they sell.
Romp +Tumble strives for sustainability through the shipping and receiving process as well. They ship in recyclable brown corrugated boxes, and ask customers to reuse them for exchange or return shipments. Romp + Tumble uses a sustainable eco packaging company called noissue for the tissue inside the boxes and the packing tape on the outside.
“We know we are not perfect and there will always be areas we can improve, but we care deeply about the world we are leaving for our kids.”
For Ghei, creating a consumer product brand like Romp + Tumble during a pandemic has been a journey with its own unique challenges.
“New businesses like ours rely on USPS to deliver to customers in a timely manner. With the pressures being faced by USPS, the timing of delivery has been unpredictable. This is both on our end to our customers as well as from the brands delivering to us. Supply chain timing is a challenge right now.”
Despite this, Romp + Tumble is poised for success. Ghei says the Atlanta community has been very supportive.
Even though we are in the midst of the pandemic, the connectivity and support from these communities has been key.” – Tara Ghei
“Atlanta is amazing because of the expertise that comes from so many who have worked at other big brands…Coca-Cola for instance. We have been able to tap into a great community of educators, mentors and consultants who have guided us through our focus groups, customer discovery and customer journey. They have done it for other great brands. Consumer brand aside, Atlanta has a great start-up and founder community. We are connected with The Lola Womxn’s Club, Atlanta Tech Village (It Takes a Village) and LaunchPad 2X, which have all been amazing resources. Even though we are in the midst of the pandemic, the connectivity and support from these communities has been key.”
Romp + Tumble is already looking at ways to expand. Their long-term goals include increasing the range of sizes, and offering different types of merchandise.
“We are currently piloting a clean out your closet program in the Atlanta area and will be looking at creating targeting seasonal bundles – holiday and outdoor. Also, with Halloween coming and going, we want to create a costume bundle – for dress up or small birthday parties. Little kids love dressing up and parents buy a costume once and it rarely gets used again. We also believe there is an opportunity to expand to other products such as toys, books and gear down the line,” said Ghei.
For parents, Romp + Tumble offers three subscription options, starting at $69.99 per month. For those looking for a baby shower or holiday gift, the company also offers gift cards, with subscription options of one month for $79.99, or three months for $224.97.