Manhattan mom Rosie Pope started her own clothing line, Rosie Pope Maternity, in 2008. This winter, Pope's new reality TV show, "Pregnant in Heels," will debut on Bravo. We sat down with the mompreneur to discuss her inspiration, how she juggles work and family life, and what's next for her brand.
|Quick Facts: Pope lives in Manhattan with her husband of five years, Daron, and their son J.R., 2. Pope is expecting her second child in February.
Rosie Pope spent the better part of a decade pursuing a winding and eclectic career path: Alvin Ailey dancer, model for Italian Vogue, neuroscience student at Columbia; Pope even worked for a private detective. Yet it wasn't until she became pregnant and noticed a void in the maternity marketplace that she says everything started to make sense. In 2008, Pope launched Rosie Pope Maternity, a full collection of sophisticated maternity wear. In just two years, Pope expanded the brand with MomPrep, an extensive schedule of classes, support groups, workshops, and seminars for the mom-to-be, and this winter Pope's new reality TV show, Pregnant in Heels, will debut on Bravo.
What was your inspiration for the brand?
My husband and I wanted to have a big family and somehow he put two and two together that I should be a maternity designer. I thought he was crazy and I totally dismissed it. When I was pregnant, I started thinking maybe he was right, so I got a job at A Pea in the Pod part-time. I thought: If this is a good idea, I need to investigate it. I was just stunned that in this day and age in New York City - being pregnant is such an exciting, amazing time! - that there didn't seem to be a brand that supported that. I couldn't believe that every single person I met really was excited they were pregnant but really wasn't excited about what they would have to go through in terms of maternity clothes. So I decided my husband was onto something, and that's how we launched the business. And weirdly, out of all the bizarre things I've done in the past 10 years, it just makes sense now.
I really didn't ever want to stay just a fashion brand. I wanted to be more of a lifestyle brand for pregnant women and new moms. When I was pregnant with my son I realized that, beyond clothes, there was a huge lack of available education. Again, it astounded me that the places available to take these classes were in the back of a hospital or in a basement somewhere. I didn't think it was deserving of this amazing experience. So that's how MomPrep came about.
What were the steps involved in getting it off the ground?
I handed out flyers to let people know we existed, went to every single event under the sun, and did trunk shows around the country. There's nothing that we didn't do to get the word out. We actually opened the store the day I had my son and right when Lehman Brothers (where my husband worked) went bankrupt. He moved to Barclay's, but he had helped me financially with the company and that all changed. We had to be more resourceful, and I think it made me grow as a
businesswoman a lot quicker than if I could just rely on my husband.
Did you feel confident that the brand would be a success among the large retailers?
The big misconception about our clothes is that we're more expensive than A Pea in the Pod. We actually fall in the same price bracket. Yes, they're a dominant force, but after working there, I wanted to go further to make people happy. And that's where we come in.
What do you wish you would have known before you started?
I'm glad I didn't know anything because I would have been too scared to start it! Naiveté and a lot of passion go a long way.
What were some roadblocks or challenges along the way?
When it's a small business like ours, it's very difficult to find people with the same level of passion and attention to detail that I have. We're still a small company and when we find that person, we'll do anything to keep them - I think it's the most important thing in making a business succeed.
What's one piece of advice you have for a mom who wants to launch a business in the fashion industry?
I think it takes a lot of belief in yourself and your product. Everybody is going to tell you it's one of the hardest industries and it's not going to be possible, but it takes a constant set of small leaps of faith to keep going.
How do you manage a work/life balance?
If it's not scheduled, it's not going to happen. Also, I check the Blackberry at the door [at home], which is the hardest thing to do. There are certain hours when people know they can't contact me because the Blackberry is not going to be on.
We're working on a new website that will be a big place for maternity clothes and other brands. And MomPrep classes will be available through webinars. There is also going to be a much bigger forum for people to talk and be able to collect information about being pregnant and being a new mom.
For more information about Rosie Pope and Rosie Pope Maternity, visit www.rosiepopematernity.com.