Monica+Andy, a new children’s clothing line and online store launching in early November, has the benefit of receiving input from a famous name in the e-commerce space: the “Andy” in “Monica+Andy” is Andy Dunn, CEO of men’s fashion brand, Bonobos. Now his sister, Monica Royer, is getting into the business too, but with a completely different take. She’s not designing clothes for men or women, but instead for babies and toddlers.
Initially, the line will be aimed at parents with children ages 0 to 3, before expanding to additional age ranges.
Royer, Dunn’s older sister, became a mom herself back in November 2010, and was inspired to create what has now become Monica+Andy following her own difficulties in finding clothes for her daughter online. Her child, though not a preemie, was still very small and couldn’t fit into all the cute clothes Royer had on hand in those early days.
“I was desperate to buy her new things,” she says. “And after seeing the Bonobos model and how well that worked in men’s apparel, we thought that is something that could potentially work well for moms, because moms are a very reachable demographic and are very focused on the Internet and social media,” Royer explains.
Dunn is not involved in the business in any official capacity, but he has invested and helped provide his sister with advice and introductions, she notes, acknowledging the advantage she has in having Dunn for a mentor. The name Monica+Andy, meanwhile, was a suggestion from their mother.
Royer’s background is not in e-commerce, startups or apparel. Prior to having her daughter, she spent 10 years working in the corporate world at places like Pfizer and Novartis. But she says she always had a personal passion and interest in design. And after having her daughter, she decided to take on the challenge of turning those personal passions into a business. Ahead of the site’s launch, Royer spent a year designing the dozens of products offered on the site, but she has now hired a full-time design assistant to help her out going forward.
After the design work was completed, and the focus became building the site and getting a business off the ground, together Dunn and Royer interviewed Monica+Andy co-founder Brian Bloom, a recent graduate of University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business. After he came on in June, Bloom’s title was to be Director of Operations, but given his role in this early stage, he’s now considered a co-founder instead.
As for the clothes themselves, Royer describes them as “modern, luxurious and fun.” She designed them using soft fabrics and had them all approved through the company’s five-person “panel of moms” advisory board. Though aiming for a luxury feel, Royer says that she also wanted to keep prices affordable, with basic items ranging from $25 to $60 – price points appealing to those who may currently shop for baby clothes from Gap. Also like Gap, Monica+Andy offers free shipping on orders over $50.
In addition to being an online brand and e-commerce shop, Royer plans to also help other moms running their own children’s fashion businesses through the site. Either at launch or shortly after, Monica+Andy will open up a marketplace section that features non-apparel items from other moms who may not have the means to launch an online brand themselves.
“I feel very fortunate that I’ve been able to have this great e-commerce platform and a family that was involved. I was able to do this because I had some advantages,” Royer says. “Now we want to help other moms launch their own businesses, too.” The company has already selected the first two moms they’ll feature on the site, and revenue sharing is being handled on a mom-by-mom basis, for the time being.
Ultimately, Monica+Andy wants to embody that “for moms, by moms” spirit. The company is very mom-friendly, in fact, with toddlers running around the office, at meetings, and lots of part-time help from moms who work on the side. After the launch, the plan is to staff up the customer service department using part-time moms.
Royer and Bloom tell us that Monica+Andy has also just closed on an initial $300,000 out of a larger $1 million seed round, from various angels investors. As I mentioned above, brother Andy is one of them, though he did not lead the round.
The site will launch to the public on November 3, and the company will be promoting the event through a playful kids’ fashion show held at the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum in Chicago.
In the meantime, parents can visit the Monica+Andy landing page and input their email address to stay informed.