Russ: This is the BusinessMakers Show heard on the radio and seen online at TheBusinessMakers.com. It's guest time on the show and this is a very unusual guest. This is Esther Freedman, who has been here many times actually doing interviews but today, she's my guest because she is the founder and CEO of CuteHeads. Esther, welcome to The BusinessMakers Show.
Esther: Thank you.
Russ: Don't be nervous.
Esther: I guess I am - I am unusual.
Russ: You are.
Esther: In so many ways.
Russ: You are.
Esther: But yeah, I'm excited.
Russ: Tell us about CuteHeads.
Esther: CuteHeads is a line of children's clothing and accessories and blankets and all sort of centered around this one concept of making it easy for kids to get dressed in the morning in things that they can specifically ask their parents for, like, "Mommy, I wanna wear the lion shirt." "Mommy, I wanna wear the dog shirt." And that's just - there'll be a lot of different pieces that mix and match and all kind of correlate with the dog and then with the lion and with the sheep and then eventually we'll have a whole CuteHeads family, hopefully, with lots of animals and they'll all have their own little personality and back story, much like every kid.
Russ: My goodness. This is - sounds exciting and yet challenging. What sort of stimulated the idea to do this?
Esther: I have to be honest with you; I call my dog my cute head.
Esther: That was just one of the, you know, when you have pets -
Esther: - you create all kinds of strange names for them.
Russ: Sure, sure.
Esther: We have many, many more than that, but my husband and I kinda thought, "Well that's a cute idea for a company. I wonder what that company would do," and we actually never really knew what it would be but it evolved into a children's clothing line. It was many different things. It was a natural fit for something like that to be a children's line.
Russ: Well I totally agree.
Esther: So -
Russ: But what a unique idea trigger. So what sort of stimulated the idea that I wanna go into the children's clothing business?
Esther: Kids never stop growing and they have to wear clothes. You know and what won't you buy for your child? People just, they love their kids. They love their family members. They're constantly buying gifts for kids, you know, unlike adults. So I wear my same clothes for 20 years.
Esther: I mean I could be wearing my same sweatpants for a long time.
Esther: So I thought, "Well, maybe kids will be a big seller, you know, it's never gonna go out of style to buy a children's gift."
Russ: Yeah, it's a very active market, that's for sure.
Russ: Okay now I've been trying to get you on the show for seems like six months -
Esther: I know.
Russ: - to talk about this and you've always been saying, "It's not time, yet," but what is the status of the business right now?
Esther: We are in production. We're producing about 3,000 pieces to start, which is a pretty good size. We have, all together, about 30 items, you know, in all the different colors. Manufacturing it all in the United States and it's all being made right now in LA and then as soon as I have it, the store will open. So we're really close.
Russ: My goodness. Okay, now you say a store. Are we talking about a retail front?
Esther: Online store.
Russ: Okay and you kinda -
Esther: No, I know better than to open a brick and mortar store -
Esther: - right now.
Russ: Well and your family kinda has some online e-commerce expertise -
Esther: That's -
Russ: - extraordinaire.
Esther: - that's true and I worked with my father, who is - founded Blinds.com.
Esther: Still runs it.
Esther: And, you know, learned from the best.
Esther: I think I had my own little personal MBA, whether I wanted it or not, at some points.
Russ: Right and it was kind of an interactive MBA, right?
Russ: Because you know all about SEO and SEM and PR in that space.
Esther: And I also know when I need to hire somebody.
Esther: That's something I definitely learned there, is just knowing when you are up for the task of doing something important and when it's a good idea to hire an expert.
Russ: Okay. So the company today - are there any employees other than yourself?
Esther: I call Winnie, my Chief Cuteness Officer.
Esther: My CCO.
Esther: She's definitely my only employee right now, who just provides a lot of distraction because I'm working out of my house.
Esther: I have a home office set up and -
Russ: And who is she?
Esther: She's my dog.
Russ: There you go.
Russ: The same dog that you call cute head.
Esther: Yeah, my cute head.
Russ: Wow, you're playing out this theme all the way, aren't you?
Esther: Of course. I mean, you know what? I can't even believe how distracted I can get at home and it's nice to have my little -
Esther: - my little buddy by my side.
Russ: Sure, absolutely. Okay, so I know I've been trying to get you on to talk about it for quite some time and we couldn't do it until you started getting close but I also know, during that period of time, man you were doing research and going on trips and always out on the West Coast. Describe that process a bit for us.
Esther: You have to find the people to make your clothing.
Esther: You have to find the people to make your patterns. You have to find all these people and unfortunately in our city, in Houston, that's one industry that doesn't really exist here. On some level it does but not at the level that I'm looking for, so -
Russ: Did you think it did before you really started the process?
Esther: I did not think it was gonna be as challenging as it was to find something that I could -
Esther: - find people that could make it in Houston.
Esther: Unfortunately, there isn't that, you know, Chloe Dao, who is obviously amazing, she makes everything herself -
Esther: - in her own studio.
Esther: But what I'm doing is a little different because I'm making a lot of them and they have to be made at a factory.
Esther: There are no factories here.
Esther: So, and I know a lot of people in Houston are working to, you know, bring the fashion industry and the textile industry kind of elevated a little bit.
Esther: But that's - it's still really early to have that.
Esther: But yeah, it was definitely a lot of traveling. Some fruitless trips but if nothing else, I learned a lot and it taught me you have to be tough. I think I've learned a lot about being tough -
Esther: - throughout this process.
Esther: And not to just ask with a smile but to demand what you need and, you know, not in a mean way or anything.
Esther: But just sort of to make it clear your intentions and your deadlines and those sorts of things.
Esther: You now 'cause it's my business.
Esther: I - there's nobody else that's going to do it, if not me.
Russ: Sure and I remember you talking, too. I mean was the actual selection of the fabric or fabrics, was that even a difficult process?
Esther: It was a difficult process, mostly because there are so many different types and just 'cause it's cotton -
Esther: - doesn't mean it's the right kind of cotton.
Esther: Has to - there's jersey, and there's this, then there's 95 percent cotton with stretch fabric mixed in.
Esther: So there's just a lot of different possibilities and it all has to be comfortable, especially because it's for kids.
Esther: Has to be safe, just really cute -
Esther: - and that's a lot.
Esther: You wouldn't know it, but there's not very many people who sell that.
Esther: And you gotta find them. They're all in the fashion district in LA and that's a scary place, too.
Russ: I know.
Esther: Trust me.
Russ: I've seen -
Esther: You're about three blocks from Skid Row.
Russ: I sorta am familiar with where it is and I know it's like that. Okay, so I know you visited with Chloe Dao. Did you visit with any other guests that have been on The BusinessMakers Show?
Esther: Yes, the guy who started Tommy John -
Russ: Oh yeah, the underwear guy, yeah, yeah.
Esther: - underwear, yeah. Talked to him.
Esther: Very helpful.
Esther: And, you know, 'cause he's in the same sort of space that I'm in and I remember interviewing him -
Esther: - and I remember talking to him about how he got his first product done.
Esther: And same kinda thing, you know -
Esther: - you just gotta search around for that right person.
Esther: I talked to Rishi Narayan, who -
Russ: Oh yeah.
Esther: - started Underground Press, it's one of the largest custom T-shirt companies -
Russ: Right, right.
Esther: - they do all like the college sweatpants and sweatshirts and T-shirts like for sororities and fraternities -
Esther: - that kind of stuff, so -
Russ: Cool, very cool.
Esther: - same industry.
Russ: Cool. So but what about design? Isn't that enormously critical?
Esther: Yes and I - when you have no design background, you know, I knew what I wanted it to look like, I designed it. I sketched it out and I pulled from a lot of different resources to create it but at the same time, I can't sew.
Esther: And I can't do the technical design required.
Esther: So I had to hire a technical designer.
Russ: Right, and so now but this is an online business that, as you've already mentioned, you're making thousands of pieces of clothing already that you have to inventory by head and inventory.
Russ: And price and sell and -
Esther: Correct. We have all of that still to do. My inventory will be in my home office.
Russ: Okay, great.
Esther: In my - luckily we have an extra bedroom, where I've set up, you know, kind of CuteHeads Headquarters and that's, you know, that's how it starts. It's gotta start somewhere.
Russ: Absolutely, now with children's clothing, it seems like the size issue - there might not be that many sizes and it might not be that critical how well they fit. Do you get multiple sizes of everything? I assume you do.
Esther: It's pretty standard.
Esther: What sizes exist, you know? There's for toddlers, there's 2T, 3T, 4T and then it goes on up from there but -
Esther: - you know babies, 0 to 3 months, 3 to 6, 6 to 9, 9 to 12. It goes up in increments kind of of three for babies 'cause they grow so fast.
Esther: But yeah, we're gonna have all those sizes.
Russ: Okay, so once again, we're pretty close to launch?
Esther: Yeah, we're, I mean no more than a month away. Hopefully sooner than that, but -
Russ: And CuteHeads.com -
Esther: Correct, CuteHeads.com.
Russ: Okay, well we wish you all the luck in the world.
Esther: Thank you.
Russ: We're gonna be pulling for you. We'll let the audience know when you're actually out there and live and thank you for sharing the story with us.
Esther: Absolutely and thanks for having me. I hope I'm back here in a few years, you know, talking about the success.
Russ: All right, good deal.
Russ: That's Esther Freedman, interviewer here at The BusinessMakers Show, now founder and CEO of CuteHeads. This is the BusinessMakers Show heard on the radio and seen online at TheBusinessMakers.com.