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Startup owner reflects on navigating entrepreneurship

Valparaiso-native Krystal Stubbendeck had a great job in finance at a large company in Omaha, but she wanted to try something new. So in November 2011, she launched her online business Borrow For Your Bump — a rental maternity clothing shop. Here, Stubbendeck shares her personal story about starting a business, taking risks and navigating the unexpected twists and turns of entrepreneurship.

I have always had a plan in life. Graduate college, get a good job in finance, get married and buy a house. I was following all the rules and checking all the boxes for a typical 20-something living in the Midwest. I was very fortunate to get a finance job out of college and be accepted into a financial development program a year later. After two years and several rotations within the company, I had an itch to do something new. Little did I know that this would lead me down the path of entrepreneurship.

To back up a little bit, I remember three events that led to the birth of Borrow For Your Bump. I was reading an entrepreneurship magazine about a Michigan college student who started a company that rented baby clothes. Around that same time, I was reading a fashion magazine that featured an article about weekend getaway styles. One of the picks was a maternity dress — and I guess you could say that’s when I had my ‘ah-ha’ moment: Rental maternity clothes.

Many of my friends were pregnant and I come from a very big family, so I have been around many expecting mamas. They always had the same complaint: There are no cute maternity clothes, and even if they are cute, they are usually expensive and it seems silly to buy something you will only wear for a few months. Soon I was off in pursuit of a rental maternity clothing shop.

I will admit, planning was the most time-consuming and draining process, especially while I was still working full-time. My husband will attest to that because every weeknight, weekend and lunch hour was consumed with financial projections, media plans and industry research.

I needed an investor to get the business up and running. I wish I could say that at the age of 25 I had enough money to fund my idea. That’s really the best way to go — but I didn’t and I needed outside funding. So I pitched the idea to my oldest brother. Like me, he has always been interested in starting a new venture and I had helped him write up a few other business plans for prospective ideas, but this was a little different. I remember his response when I said “maternity clothes.” The blank look on his face was the answer I had dreaded. After a few weeks, I sent him my plans, and a few more persuasive calls later, he was in.

The most attractive part of our business was that we had only two competitors and this was a relatively new industry. But there was a big problem: We still needed more money. I scheduled a meeting with a business banker near my hometown. After what I thought was a very successful pitch meeting, I received my first official blow: My request for funding was rejected.  The first rejection is the hardest. But one thing I have learned (and am still learning) is to not take anything personally.

After the initial bank rejection, we reached out to Wells Fargo and proceeded with its small business loan application. The process was not easy and took six months to complete, but combined with the funding from my brother, we were able to start the website business and build a small amount of inventory to offer by the time of our projected launch date in November 2011.

After two years of balancing a stressful finance job and a startup, I was exhausted, burnt out and finding that my full-time job and business were both suffering. So, in July 2013 I quit my job and gave 100 percent of my energy to my startup.

Since then, our sales have grown each month and we do a lot of business with customers in New York, California and Texas. We have been able to partner with some great events and we’ve been featured in popular blogs that focus on expecting moms. We even do fashion segments and commercials for the online radio show Preggie Pals. We just launched the Bump Start Club to add a more personal and style-specific element, which so far has seen a great response from new and repeat customers.

Unlike the fairy tales, Borrow For Your Bump was not an overnight success. Right before our second birthday, we had our first break-even month — an exciting milestone, but it had taken a little longer than my initial financial predictions. Every win brings more challenges, so we are constantly evolving, like with the Bump Start Club. New moms fill out a style profile and we ship them 10 items based off their responses. This new service allows us to deal with some inventory issues while also providing women stylish options for their wardrobe. The feedback has been amazing so far. One woman told us: “I got home late last night but made a point to open the Bump Start Club shipment. You have done an amazing job!!! I laid everything out with the different combos. You put style back into my life and I am excited again about my closet.”

When we receive feedback like this, I will admit it’s like hitting the jackpot and makes me realize that all my hard work has paid off. It feels great to offer expecting moms affordable options, especially when they have a special occasion to attend like a wedding or holiday party. Why buy a dress for $200 when you can rent it for a fraction of the cost?

The expecting months are such an exciting time for moms-to-be. As an expecting mom myself, it can be difficult to feel good about what you are wearing as your body is changing. But here at Borrow For Your Bump, we can help by offering trendy, quality maternity clothes that fit your lifestyle.