Krystal Stubbendeck quit her job a month ago to devote herself full time to borrowforyourbump.com, the online store she founded that rents maternity clothes by the month.
“It was time to make the break,” said Stubbendeck, a former full-time financial analyst.
The move will allow her to build her business and focus on a to-do list that includes expanding the formal wear and work wear lines, marketing to expectant mothers attending Omaha-area yoga and prenatal classes and, oh, trimming the hedge outside the window of her home office.
“That will make it easier for me to see the FedEx man before he has to ring the doorbell,” said Stubbendeck. Despite daily FedEx pickups she isn't shy about flagging down a FedEx van to ensure a customer receives an order on time.
Shoppers will find more than 100 maternity tops, bottoms, dresses and jeans in sizes extra small to extra large at Borrowforyourbump.com, including brands such as NOM, Maternal America, Lilac, Paige Denim and Seraphine — a favorite of Kate Middleton, the Duchess of Cambridge.
“You may not be Kate Middleton, but you can dress like her when you're pregnant!” said Stubbendeck, whose inventory, neatly stacked on racks or on hangers inside her home office, includes Seraphine-brand shirts, dresses and coats.
With the help of her brother Stacy Smith, the firm's silent partner, Stubbendeck launched the company 18 months ago, working evenings and weekends. The idea of renting maternity wear was conceived after hearing pregnant friends complain about clothing options for mothers-to-be. While admiring the maternity clothes of high-end designers, they either couldn't afford the price tag or didn't want to pay for an item they likely would wear only a short time, she said.
A work-appropriate outfit priced at nearly $280 to purchase — jacket, blouse, skirt — rents for about $80 a month, Stubbendeck said. And during the winter, an expectant mom can toss the dowdy, oversize wool coat and rent a sleek, gray Seraphine cape for $33 a month.
“Moms-to-be want to feel good and look professional without spending a bundle,” said Stubbendeck.
Customers peruse the website, make their picks and rent by the month. Free shipping is offered on orders of $75 or more and all rentals include free return shipping. To make the process easy, Stubbendeck includes the return packaging and preprinted shipping labels.
Once the month is up, customers can rent the item for another month, return it or buy it. Rental fees are typically credited toward the item's purchase. And customers worried about damage or spills can buy optional insurance on a rental item for $5 a month, said Stubbendeck, who sought startup advice from the Small Business Administration and Score, which provides free business mentoring.
If a garment is returned, it's inspected, dry-cleaned and restocked, she said.
Stubbendeck, whose business card gives her title as “borrowista,” has built a national customer base through a network of friends, family and advertising, along with two recent catalogs that feature “real, pregnant models” and backdrops of Omaha and tiny Ulysses, Neb.
“Right now, I'm breaking even,” said Stubbendeck, who hopes going full time and full bore will bump her into profitability as her business heads toward the two-year mark.
Sarah Millward of Washington, D.C., found Borrowforyourbump.com in an email newsletter for expectant moms and ordered a one-strap, “form-fitting” dress, she said. “I danced the night away in this dress and my heels all while being 8-months preggo!”
Kristin McGee, a New Yorker, took a cue from a friend, Emilie Smith, who happens to be Stubbendeck's sister. For day-to-day activities, McGee wore yoga clothes during her pregnancy, but needed maternity clothes for dress-up, she said.
She ended up renting four dresses: a blue-and-white halter dress for a New York baby shower; one floral maxi-dress for a baby shower in Idaho; a short, Bohemian-style dress for going out on the town with her husband; and a black dress for a wedding in the Hamptons on Long Island.
“I write a blog, kristinmcgee.com, and I didn't want to be seen wearing the same dress in every photo,” McGee said. “For under $30, I could get a cute dress for an event. I was able to rent four cute maternity dresses for what I would have paid for just one.”
Omaha has bricks-and-mortar maternity-wear shops, but checks with A Pea in the Pod, Motherhood Maternity, Old Navy and Gap, which carry maternity apparel, indicated they don't rent clothes.
Stubbendeck's main competition is other e-commerce stores, such as Rentmaternitywear.com and Minefornine.com, that offer maternity apparel rentals. Stubbendeck hopes to win clients with customer service — “I'd like to be able to start sending two sizes of any item, so a customer can get the best fit” — and trendy, fashionable clothing.
Marlina Davidson of Omaha learned of the online store through her husband, the co-founder of the Silicon Prairie News. “He keeps up with new websites and saw Borrow- foryourbump.com and said that looks really cool,” said Davidson, 27.
Eight months pregnant, Davidson wanted something “cute” to wear to a recent Omaha Fashion Week event.
“I knew I wouldn't wear it again, so Borrowforyourbump.com was perfect,” said Davidson, who rented a Seraphine-brand cocktail dress.
She never got the chance to show it off.
“I had the baby early. Needless to say I didn't end up wearing the dress. The nice thing is I only borrowed it, so I don't feel guilty about it.”