Many of us sit at our office desk, dreaming of a big idea we would love to turn into reality. Unlike most of us, Anita Rajendra made it happen. Rajendra left Coca Cola to create La Belle Bump, a fashion subscription service for expecting mothers that delivers sizes at pace with their growing bumps. No more hoarding clothes that don’t fit or endless trips to the mall. Instead, La Belle Bump offers a personal stylist to address your fashion needs and packs up a seasonal box for you every month — a sort of “Rent the Runway” for pregnant women.
Rajendra’s enthusiasm for her business is contagious and quickly wins over crowds (including at the Switchyard’s Consumer Show, where she shared her pitch practice tips here on the Hypepotamus Instagram). The mother of three has grown her business through word of mouth, offering great customer service and high-quality pieces that keep moms-t0-be looking sharp.
Here, Rajendra talks about what helped her transition from Corporate America to entrepreneurship and how she makes her business bump ahead from the rest.
What inspired you to create La Belle Bump?
I’ve always wanted to have my own company. I like the idea of creating something, building something from scratch, and seeing it all the way through. My background is Corporate America. I was most recently with Coca Cola, for eight years, and moved around within different marketing functions. Then, prior to that, I worked at General Motors, for Saturn specifically, up in Detroit.
I had great experiences at these companies, but like I said, just always had a passion for entrepreneurship.
How has that prior Corporate America experience helped you so far?
That’s a good question. It’s definitely different being in the startup world, specifically the entrepreneurial side, because of resources — people and budget. I’m doing it. I have a couple other people now helping, but I just can’t do everything all the time.
What helped your transition from corporate employee to CEO in the startup world?
I think what’s helped me a lot, too, frankly is networking. Because the corporate and startup world are totally different. When I was in corporate, I didn’t know of all these resources in the startup world. I knew a few entrepreneurs on the periphery, but I didn’t really know them, I didn’t talk to them deeply about what was going on. I think networking has been so key. It’s helped me a countless number of times in terms of saving money, time, and effort. You can talk to someone, and they might have an idea. The website platform I’m using, I found out through someone I met at a conference. That saved me a ton of money and time. It’s things like that that add up. For me, just getting into this new world, and meeting people, and networking has been really key.
How many people are on your team right now?
It’s myself, which is 100%. I have another person who helps on the digital side, she’s out of San Francisco. I knew her from my Coke days. She actually has her own digital agency. Then, I have an intern right now, so the three of us.
What’s your revenue model?
I have two subscription packages, the three and the five item. I do have a one-time product. That’s the special occasion box, is what we call it, it’s primarily for special events. Think like a black tie event where you need a formal dress for one event. It’s a shorter rental period, seven days, because you just need it for that one event.
You would get your first box and you’d start with those items. Let’s say you chose a five item box, get five items initially, wear them as if they’re your own clothes. Then let’s say you loved three of them. You want to keep them longer, but the other two — you decide that you’re ready for something else. You can return those two in a prepaid mailer that’s provided, and then we’ll send two items back. You always have that same number, but you have the benefit of variety. It’s kind of like a rotating closet.
What’s your packaging process?
We have a space in my house. Thankfully, I have some space that I’ve dedicated for this. We’ve got some inventory there. I have wholesale accounts with different maternity lines, so I have some inventory. If something comes up, I can reach out to my vendors and ask, do you have this, or anything that’s like this? We have good relationships that way.
Your customers are, in a way, temporary. How are you dealing with this challenge?
I’m constantly adding new vendors, so right now I probably have between seven and nine. I’m in a unique position because of the fact that this is pregnancy, so I’m constantly in customer acquisition mode. Even though my customers are loving the product, and service, and savings, they’re temporary.
My plan was always to extend that by leveraging nursing wear, as well, and renting that out. I’m starting to do that now. I’m not really promoting it, but as my customers are ending their pregnancy, or getting towards the end, I’ll mention it to see if there’s interest. I have some that have continued, and some that are like, I’ll see how I do, and then come back. I have a lot of professional women, working women that need to be presentable. One of my customers who is a doctor, she loved the service, and she posted it on a closed online group of physician moms, and so from that I got a lot more. That was cool. For professional women, it’s great.
Do you have any other competitors, and if so, how do you stand out from them?
There are a few companies that have been around for a while, but they are specifically the rental model and don’t incorporate the stylist model. That’s our big differentiator. I think they tend to have, because they are only the rental model, a limited inventory, so it’s not as comprehensive as what I’m able to have.
They call themselves a personal stylist, but in reality it’s not really personal stylist, it’s much more computer-generated. There’s not that one-on-one with their consumer feedback. For instance, I know someone who has been using their non-maternity for awhile, and every month she tells them the same feedback. Like, she doesn’t want short skirts, and they keep sending her short skirts. I think, also, because it’s computer-generated, it doesn’t always take into account weather. For instance, I tested it out the maternity in the wintertime, and they sent me capris and sleeveless tops.