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As a mother of two, Rachel Blumenthal says one of the biggest surprises from parenthood was learning how often she had to buy clothing for her kids.
"No one ever told us we'd be shopping so frequently!" says Blumenthal, the wife of Warby Parker co-founder Neil Blumenthal and the former jewelry designer of Rachel Leigh. "The theme in my house is my son telling me his pants are three inches too short. Kids outgrow their clothing every two to three months so you’re constantly shopping for an entire dresser of clothing. It’s like a second job."
This is the main drive behind Blumenthal’s new venture, Rockets of Awesome, which launches today. A subscription box of kids apparel, Rockets of Awesome features clothing made in-house by a team of designers, and the boxes are delivered four times a year, ahead of each season. Shipping is free, and so is the service; parents pay for items they keep and can send the rest back, hassle-free.
The draw here is the service’s ability to curate a personalized shopping experience based off of a quiz parents can take on the company’s site, and based off of shopping data. This is what Blumenthal refers to as "dynamic retail;" the items being sent, and Rockets of Awesome’s clothing as a whole, will evolve based on what the parents keep and what they return, eventually becoming a "personalized e-commerce experience for parents."
Blumenthal is familiar with the kids’ space, and not just from a mom’s perspective. Two years ago she founded Cricket’s Circle, a site that offered a master shopping list for babies and then narrowed each product down to the best three choices. Blumenthal calls the Cricket’s Circle community "highly engaged" but says she eventually felt there was a stronger need to "build a resource that parents could turn to throughout their child's early and mid years, versus just new parenthood." Cricket’s Circle will be shuttering, with readers now being directed to Rocket’s of Awesome’s editorial component, a blog where you can find chats with folks like fitness mogul Tracy Anderson and Blue Mercury’s Marla Malcolm Beck.
Aside from creating an easy and personalized shopping experience in the kids apparel market, Blumenthal’s new venture seeks to enhance two key components in the space: style and price point.
"Parents are really asked to sacrifice style when it comes to kids clothing, and anything that is cute is usually way out of people’s price points. Sure, you can find beautiful sweater, but why would you want to spend $80 on it when it won’t even fit in a few months?" says Blumenthal.
The cost of the clothing, which will be for boys and girls from 18 months to 12 years, ranges from $12 to $36, and the site will offer an ecommerce option, so parents can order more of the product in a different size or color. The clothing will be a mix of styles, like trendly, preppy, and classic pieces, and is being spearheaded by Rockets of Awesome’s SVP of Design and Merchandising Zia Taylor, who’s previously worked at places like Gap Kids and Oshkosh B'gosh.
While the model of subscription boxes has pretty much been through every option available — and then some — Blumenthal notes that parents are a category that actually need such a convenience: "All parents are busy parents, whether you’re working or staying at home, and no one has the time to drag their kids to the store and sift through rocks of clothing." Investors like LAUNCH, General Catalyst Partners and Forerunner Ventures certainly seem to agree with Blumenthal about this potential, as they’ve collectively invested $7 million in seed funding into Rockets of Awesome.
The children’s wear market in the US is highly lucrative, estimating to have reached $156.8 billion in 2015. But the never-ending amount of options has some parents feeling like baby brands merely prey on them for profit. And as Blumenthal points out, there’s plenty of room in the space for a children’s brand that parents actually trust and feel an allegiance to, seeing as popular kid’s brands like Gap, Target, and the Children’s Place are amorphous entities that pump out tons of product without ever truly evolving.
Of course, there’s concern over exactly how a startup can compete against such huge brands, which have tons of stores and lures shoppers in with constant sales. Blumenthal, however, is intrepid about her company’s personalization factor and believes it’s Rockets of Awesome’s secret sauce.
"Each time you walk through one of those [mall brand] stores, it’s like Groundhog Day," she says. "They don’t know you as a customer, no matter how many times you come back, and they never do anything to simplify the process. Rockets of Awesome will do all the work for you."
Update: November 17th, 2017, 1:45 p.m.
This article has been updated to reflect that while Rockets of Awesome launched as a free service, the company now charges $20 per box.