#79. HATCH is a maternity brand that serves women before, during and after pregnancy. We talk with founder Ariane Goldman about creating apparel that celebrates fashion and comfort equally and how HATCH is forging a community for women in its retail spaces. The Loose Threads Podcast features in-depth discussions with leaders across the rapidly changing consumer economy.

Check out the full transcript below.

Richie: [00:00:07] Welcome to the 79th episode of the Loose Threads Podcast, a show about the rapidly changing consumer economy. This episode is brought to you by Loose Threads Membership, which gives you actionable analysis, insights and events that drive growth, and Loose Threads Espresso, your energizing and high-pressure filter for consumer news—in context. We also have a newsletter that features the latest open letters to CEOs, podcasts with industry leaders and news from Loose Threads. Check it all out at LooseThreads.com.

Richie: [00:00:35] Joining me today is Ariane Goldman, the founder of HATCH, a brand serving women before, during and after their pregnancy. Ariane founded the company after seeking out elevated maternity apparel and coming up empty.

Ariane: [00:00:45] The perception of the female body was completely different at the beginning of fashion around maternity and it’s just changing now. Only in the last couple years, with social media and what you see happening out there, are we allowed to celebrate these curves and these shapes.

Richie: [00:01:00] HATCH has since debuted a range of free flowing styles, a new beauty line and, most recently, a growing footprint of physical stores. Here is my talk with Ariane Goldman.

Richie: [00:01:12] Why don’t we start. Just talk a bit about your background and then we can work our way up to HATCH existing.

Ariane: [00:01:16] Born and raised in New York City. I wanted to escape the craziness so I went to University of Michigan in Ann Arbor for college.

Richie: [00:01:22] Okay. I Went to high school in Traverse City.

Ariane: [00:01:24] Oh no way!

Richie: [00:01:25] Yeah.

Ariane: [00:01:25] I love Michigan. What I loved about Michigan was, for the first time, gas stations and strip malls. Coming from tall, concrete buildings, I just fell in love with the fact that there was a flatter world out there. I wanted to mix the fun of the sports and the environment there with some good education so I went to the business school. I got an internship [at] American Express and, after graduation, I came back to New York and started the beginning of my career, climbing up a corporate ladder at AmEx, having about four to five different jobs over the years and finding myself managing more and more people and not really using my creative juices and just realizing that it wasn’t necessarily my calling. I fell in love with a guy who was creative. He was often embarrassed to tell people at the dinner table what I did for a living.

Richie: [00:02:07] Because it was so commercial?

Ariane: [00:02:09] Yeah and it was just not interesting.

Richie: [00:02:11] Normally it’s the opposite.

Ariane: [00:02:12] Yeah, absolutely. Exactly. I’ve always been creative. My parents are entrepreneurs so I decided to go to Parsons at night to see and stimulate some juices and see what was really going on in there. And then we got engaged and I realized, when I was shopping for my bridesmaids dresses, that there was no one actually providing something where your girlfriends could feel beautiful and look great at your wedding without detesting you and spending a lot of money and resenting you. And so that light bulb went off of saying, “Well, I’m going to do this for my girls.” And I took a vintage Norma Kamali dress and brought it to a pattern maker on 39th Street. I went to Spandex Warehouse on 38th Street and found fabric that matched my color palette and made these dresses. It was basically off of a Norma Kamali infinity dress. It was one dress that wrapped over 15 ways. So women of all shapes and sizes could wear it differently because they had different boobs, they had different asses and they just wanted to feel different ’cause they had different styles. The reaction when they walked down the aisle was so insane that I knew I was onto something and so, when I got back to New York—we got married in Jamaica—I quit American Express. One of my first customers was a publicist. She got me on the Martha Stewart Show and I was able to pitch the concept to America and the phone never stopped once that aired. The rest is history.

Ariane: [00:03:24] It was an amazing entrée into entrepreneurship. I had this great product. The cash was coming in. It was a beautiful business model. I started working out of my apartment in the West Village, which I lived in with my husband but we then moved out, and I called it an atelier even though it was really just a studio bedroom. You make anything sexy when you’re desperate and broke.

Ariane: [00:03:42] My husband travels often. He’s a cinematographer. So, rather than waiting for him to come back to feel satisfied, I decided to pack a bag with dresses and go to any English speaking country that has the bridesmaid fashion and trend and be the first mover there because you can’t patent fashion. So I opened these “ateliers” in Sydney, Australia, Toronto, Notting Hill, London and LA. And it was just the most amazing couple of years just taking this one dress, one-size-fits-all, wraps-over-15-ways product and bringing it out to girls and it was a huge sensation.

Ariane: [00:04:12] And then I got pregnant and I was walking down the street and I realized that there was nowhere to go and spend my money to make me feel beautiful. And there I was again, going through a life moment, and there was no brand speaking to me and giving me a solution for this funny time. I didn’t want to spend money on something that was disposable or made me feel ugly because your body is already changing so I wanted to be listened to and celebrate it because it’s really cool that you’re having a kid. But there was nothing. So I don’t know if it was the smartest thing or the dumbest thing but I decided to go at it again, try and solve this void in the market but differently. At the time, direct-to-consumer businesses were the only way you [could] start a new company if you’re smart. And so I took some of the money from twobirds, my first brand, and loaned it to my second brand which I didn’t have a name for at the time. I was pregnant and wondering if I actually had the balls to do this and everyday I would just do one thing to keep that snowball going. I put a rack in my living room of pieces that I thought would work and I would just keep that in my mind. And then in the middle of the night one night, I just broke out in a sweat with a baby in my belly and I got the name and it was HATCH. Very cool moment.

Richie: [00:05:19] So talk about, at that time, what’s the state of maternity [and] so forth? Just talk through some examples of that because, luckily, we’re on a podcast and no one can see anything.

Ariane: [00:05:29] Yeah, absolutely. I mean you don’t know what you don’t know, right? So you see a lot of couches when you start to look for couches. Unless you’re looking for something, you’re not really aware what’s out there. So I wasn’t familiar with anything going on in maternity. Only Liz Lange, who had a big name at Target, or the fact that there was Pea in the Pod which is basically like a Toys R Us but for maternity stuff. Both brands or both presences were not appealing to someone like me who—I like to look good in the morning. I want to feel better about myself. It’s such a special time, emotionally, when you realize that you’re carrying a child in your belly that I wanted to invest in myself and this moment and feel great. And so, outside of ready-to-wear companies, just typical companies where I was buying a size 8 dress in an Acne dress of Maria Cornejo dress, there was nothing doing what I was looking for. It was really quite empty and that’s really when I couldn’t turn away the opportunity to solve this. Not a sexy market. Press wouldn’t cover maternity. But it was empty. So that, to me, is the sexiest thing that could be.

Richie: [00:06:27] I think the flashiest businesses are always the worst and the most boring ones are always the best.

Ariane: [00:06:31] I mean I went into bridesmaids and maternity. I’m not exactly an egomaniac.

Richie: [00:06:35] Absolutely. Okay, so you’d done this before a little bit so this wasn’t—you weren’t starting from nothing. You made the loan. You set this rack up. Where do you start product-wise? What’s the brand going to be? Talk through the formulations across 2011.

Ariane: [00:06:49] I was wearing vintage muumuus and some of my mom’s stuff and getting stopped on the street for how cute I looked and how I was belting a dress and things like that and I just realized that it’s about how you carry yourself. And so I just started putting these silhouettes on this rack of paper bag pants and A-line dresses, things that didn’t scream maternity. Because, if you think about the history of maternity dressing, when you think about images in your mind of these women, they all looked like these dolls or they were made to look like these tents and really make them look like children in a way and not beautiful, not sexy, not really celebrating the bump. It was really about taking current pieces or vintage pieces and styling them and making them modern and feel connected to today’s world. So I started putting them on the rack and I wanted to start tight. I didn’t have enough money to launch big. You want to launch tight with a good concept.

Ariane: [00:07:39] So I had 12 pieces in the beginning. And I remember bringing in Christene Barberich, who’s one of the founders of Refinery29. We had a mutual friend and I just wanted to get a little bit of a temperature check to see if I was crazy or onto something. I remember her coming into my apartment. I was heavily pregnant and I had this rack and I said, “What do you think?” And she said, “I think you’re going to be very, very rich.” It was a great moment.

Richie: [00:08:01] So how long did it take you to get to 12 on a rack?

Ariane: [00:08:03] Well, that was just a collection of pieces from my closet or things that I had been scouring the market for. So that was all vintage pieces.

Richie: [00:08:10] So nothing created yet.

Ariane: [00:08:11] Nothing created yet. For me, the product was really the idea. I, then, can make anything. Everything, to me, in this world is about asking questions. So if you have a factory on 39th Street—Sherry was [the] first woman that I ever met. She still produces for me. I could take her anything, she would make me a pattern and make it. For me, to get this brand off the ground or just the concept off the ground, it was simultaneously working on the logo of the brand, the website, the pieces. How did I want the imagery to look? All those pieces were equally important to me as the product because I was filling a need and a hole. So I felt that no matter what I put in that hole would be well received because there were no other options.

Richie: [00:08:48] Right. So at the end of 2011, what’s done?

Ariane: [00:08:51] Yeah. So Charlie, my first daughter, was born and I had gone and picked out some fabric locally at some fabric shops here. I couldn’t, obviously, afford lots of yards and I didn’t know how much volume I would be pushing. So I had my silhouettes edited down to 12 and I started picking out fabric and working with the factory to get those protos. I had seen in a magazine someone I had met on set with my husband, a fabulous girl named Rachel with her son, who was always a wonderful art director. And I called her up and I said, “Rachel, I have this idea. Will you come over?” And there I was, breastfeeding, and I said, “I really want to develop this brand. This is my idea but I need a logo and I need the visual.” And so she came on board and helped me and she’s still with me today, helping me clarify what this vision is.

Richie: [00:09:37] We enter 2012. The product starts to come, you’re picking fabrics. Were there things you wanted to do differently from a fabric perspective or was there nothing technical that needed to be accomplished as much as blending into aesthetics and so forth?

Ariane: [00:09:49] Your first round at it, I couldn’t really have the choice of—

Richie: [00:09:52] You’re not going to knit your own fabric.

Ariane: [00:09:54] I didn’t know what I didn’t know. It was more about getting product and seeing if the concept would work. So it probably wasn’t my best foot forward but, at the time, it was. It was everything that I could do. I came out with a collection. I came out with the website. I remember launching this website and it was so fucking beautiful. It was amazing. And nobody came to it. I’d get a couple of hits. I would get a couple of transactions but you can’t sell $400 dollars in a day and actually think that you’re onto something. And then, that March, I went with a couple of friends and my husband to India and I remember saying to him, in this spiritual, quiet place, “I really think I made a mistake.”

Richie: [00:10:32] Why?

Ariane: [00:10:32] Because I had invested so much emotionally, financially. I had a new baby and I’d thought I made a mistake that I built this beautiful thing and that they weren’t coming. So maybe I was wrong. Maybe my hunch was wrong.

Richie: [00:10:43] Was the idea that you were going to put this out there and they were going to show up?

Ariane: [00:10:46] Well, yeah because no one else was out there. But I didn’t know that you had to connect so many other dots. If you build it, they will come. That’s how I was operating but I was foolish and I was young and excited, optimistic. And then, two days later, while I was in India, I got a email from the style writer of The New York Times and she wanted to do a piece on HATCH. Look at how funny things are in life. It wasn’t like the Martha Stewart Show was with twobirds but, when that article came out, it was the foundation and the beginning of some traction. It’s been six years and it’s all up from there.

Richie: [00:11:22] I’m always curious to talk about the role of press because there’s this idea that it’s this all-powerful thing and that it has the ability to make or break a business. You generally have no control over it. Some people would think they can and/or with clever advertising you can. But we always found that it was so exciting and so unpredictable that it became really frustrating because you had no control over it. But it also can do something such as put something on the map.

Ariane: [00:11:46] Yeah.

Richie: [00:11:46] Were you looking for that press, knowing it would do something because you had the previous experience, or it kind of just happened and you saw over time what it could do?

Ariane: [00:11:54] Well, of course you hope for it because the awareness is just huge and everything. But in today’s world, you pay for it also. You pay a publicist to get you this press and, to your point, especially six years later, press has a totally different presence to building a brand today than it did when I launched. So that New York Times Style piece was amazing just from a credibility standpoint and giving me something and I didn’t pay for that and it was amazing. It didn’t necessarily convert to a lot of transactions.

Richie: [00:12:22] Right.

Ariane: [00:12:22] But it was just that credibility that was key. But some press, like when DailyCandy was out and certain things that are a sweet spot of the audience that you’re talking to, some of these bloggers, they are incredibly helpful to actually getting new eyes to your site, which is something you need. It’s a huge universe out there and it’s amazing to me, even today, how many chic women are pregnant walking down the street and I would go up to them and ask them if they’ve heard of HATCH and they’ve never heard of it. So press I do believe in. I do believe it’s incredibly important. It’s just the type of press that has been changing and it’s consistently changing. So trying to keep up with that and figure out what’s best for your own brand or HATCH is an ongoing shift, but it’s really important.

Richie: [00:13:00] Okay. So this is spring 2012.

Ariane: [00:13:03] Yeah.

Richie: [00:13:04] You got this press. You’re on the map.

Ariane: [00:13:05] Yeah.

Richie: [00:13:06] Sales are kind of happening, but the brand, the credibility is getting built. Where do you go from there?

Ariane: [00:13:11] Fortunately I had twobirds still. So I had enough traction behind me to get a bigger space and hire my first hire to really be my wingman on HATCH. I was packing every bag, going to the factory, getting these things, the UPS labels. It was just the best experience ever. It was a hustle and when those orders would come in, it was just the greatest moment of satisfaction. Piece by piece, it started to grow and the money that was coming in allowed me to continuously hire more people. But I was the designer at the time. I was the production person doing all the cut tickets. I was doing all the fabric buying. I wore every single hat as one does when you can’t afford a team yet. So I didn’t raise money behind this. I was just brick-by-brick building this brand.

Ariane: [00:13:56] The nice thing though, because there weren’t many options out there, once the press started to hit, when celebrities started getting pregnant, because there weren’t many options other than this disposable stuff out there, HATCH was the go to. So a lot of my growth is contributed to the fact that I was there when people needed me and then there were pictures of those people and that was organic and free.

Richie: [00:14:17] What was selling early on in terms of the winners?

Ariane: [00:14:20] I think basics. Just better basics. Chic striped t-shirts. People say that stripes make you look heavy. Pregnant girls love stripes. So I started to just really focus on stripes a lot. And it was the fabric quality. What I really wanted to make sure because, unlike twobirds, you’re not seeing the product before you buy it so you have a computer screen to do the education for you. I wanted people to be excited and surprised and delighted when they opened up that package and not want to return it. So I wanted to be better than what they saw on the screen. And so fabric selection and what you want on your body. I’m very close. I’m constantly wearing the hat of what I want my consumer to experience. I never ever stop thinking about what I want to receive as the HATCH recipient. So the fabric selection, the design, everything started off very personal about me and what I thought that people would want. Since then, it’s evolved and now I’m speaking to various different types of women, which is nice, but, at the time, it was about fabric selection and everything like that.

Richie: [00:15:14] Talk about the design process because I’m sure very few people ever designed—they have fit models and they’re normally quite skinny or boxy or any of those things. You had had experience designing untraditionally, somewhat, given the twobirds. But talk a bit about that process of what it’s like to design for that woman and how it differs or is maybe the same for other designs.

Ariane: [00:15:33] So the proposition behind the brand is really that you can wear these pieces before, during and after pregnancy and I really stand by that. So nothing really has snaps or buckle’s or anything that limits you to this growing belly. It’s all supposed to be either a paper bag or A-line or just beautiful drape that allows you to have a belly or a steak. It doesn’t really matter. It’s just forgiving. In approaching these different silhouettes, it’s easier for me to not worry about specific dimensions because my sizing scheme is basically a one, two and three or a small, medium, large. It’s not a structured fit which allowed me to play with drape and the process for me was really pulling silhouettes that I was inspired by or images and working with a pattern maker at the factory and trying to achieve what my image was.

Richie: [00:16:20] The draping is so interesting is because there’s a purity to it. It sounds also cheaper to do than to do all of this grading and marking. Not that you knew. I mean maybe you did know.

Ariane: [00:16:29] No, but you’re right. Billowy and beautiful and effortlessly chic are these buzzwords that I surround myself with because it’s true. And comfort; I actually believe that comfort equals beauty. If you’re growing and you need something that’s going to be with you when you’re 20 pounds heavier, what is that garment gonna look like? It has to be able to expand but you still want it to have integrity and to look beautiful. So draping and shape is quite important. I grew up going to the south of France over the summer with my family and just the style there, the draping, this chic way of dressing, these caftans were always something that were always in my closet. So I was very comfortable designing around these silhouettes that I thought would work on a growing body.

Richie: [00:17:10] It’s almost interesting to think that—was maternity the first fast fashion product but stayed there and didn’t go anywhere? And that, by actually somewhat reimagining the design process, you can get around all those pitfalls or whatever that led it to be shitty in the first place.

Ariane: [00:17:26] Absolutely. If you’re not designing it to be shitty.

Richie: [00:17:29] Right. But also changing stuff like the sizing scheme, and so forth. I wonder if you could argue that there was almost inherent disposability in the way that maternity was traditionally designed and created because of the sizing and the growing and so forth versus, if change that, it puts it in a whole different category.

Ariane: [00:17:43] Absolutely. And the fact that you were pregnant for nine months. Why would you want to hold on to anything after that baby is born? Your body is big and you want to get it back. Celebrating this growing silhouette. The perception of the female body was completely different at the beginning of the fashion around maternity and it’s just changing now. Only in the last couple of years, with social media and what you see happening out there, are we allowed to celebrate these curves and these shapes. Thankfully, I took a risk with going into this industry prior to anybody giving a shit about that. I’m really grateful that I had the balls to do that because when they were ready, I was there.

Richie: [00:18:19] Okay. So where are you at the end of 2012-ish?

Ariane: [00:18:22] Wooh. Let me think back. I think I was doing well. Listen, if you have a couple hundred thousand dollars in revenue. I was pretty psyched. I was living off twobirds. Don’t get me wrong. I was still having a thriving, beautiful business.

Richie: [00:18:31] And was that just running on its own? Did you have other people doing that?

Ariane: [00:18:34] twobirds is a incredible business model. For every girl you market to, she usually buys five or six dresses for her bridal party. You have 12 weeks to deliver so you get paid up front, [there’s] no inventory and there’s no returns. So you never really see these customers again. It’s really foolproof and it’s a-one-size-fits-all dress. So there’s no design team. There’s no reinventing the styles or the seasons. It’s just one dress. HATCH was a completely different business model.

Richie: [00:18:57] You had the good one.

Ariane: [00:18:59] I had the good one and I was just inspired and hungry for more. But a totally different business model. It started, then, with two collections a year—fall and spring. And now we’re doing smaller drops, taking cues from what’s happening with people’s attention span and needing to get them newness and newness. We are dropping every six weeks some new stuff.

Richie: [00:19:20] You enter 2013, 2014. You have this base now that’s growing. Where do you go from there?

Ariane: [00:19:25] I start to hire my team underneath me, but it’s always by desperation. So I’m doing everything by myself until I realize I really need that person to take this off because I need to be focusing here. Before you know it, you have three employees or four employees and that lasted me a couple of years. I will say, I’m sure as many entrepreneurs say, that people is the hardest piece of this whole thing. I had a really great concept. I had a void in the market. I have really good eye. I have all those pieces, but the team is really everything. So I hired a team and started to work here and there with some bloggers and started to get HATCH, through their audiences, out to the public and then just started to really drive, drive, drive. Still without money. So this whole thing has been self-funded.

Richie: [00:20:06] Yeah.

Ariane: [00:20:06] So I didn’t really have a lot of money. I don’t like to waste money. If something doesn’t work, we pivot quickly. I believe in slower growth so that if you fall, you don’t fall too hard. And then, all of a sudden, you had the Warby Parkers and all of these other brands booming out and growing so quickly and there were many times where I just was looking around being like, “Am I doing this the right way? Why do I care about making more money than I’m spending? Nobody else seems to care about profitability.” But I stuck to my guns and it’s been good.

Richie: [00:20:34] Up and to this point, you’re not paying for any marketing. There’s press and word-of-mouth, right?

Ariane: [00:20:38] Yeah.

Richie: [00:20:38] You start to go, “Okay, there’s some bloggers out there.”

Ariane: [00:20:41] Yeah, and I start to pay them a little bit.

Richie: [00:20:43] Right. Talk about what that was like at that time because it’s a vastly different influencer landscape today than it was, right?

Ariane: [00:20:49] Yeah. I also used my wholesale strategy to get out there from an awareness standpoint. So, while I was a direct-to-consumer business without any place to physically touch and feel the product, I did feel that it was important for me to get out onto partners or other kind of entities that I shop separately at, such as ShopBop and a Net-a-Porter. So I felt that if HATCH was there and people searched “maternity” and we were the only player that came up, it would be a wonderful awareness. It was a really working strategy and it still is. They’re wonderful partners. But we now compete against them and they have more money than HATCH in terms of their bidding strategy. With Amazon owning ShopBop now, there’s no way we ever win and ShopBop come up first. So, often, I’m spending money now on defense which is tough. So, eventually, I’d like to regain all direct-to-consumer back, but I really do believe that they are different customers and that there are a lot of people going onto both ShopBop and Net-a-Porter looking for maturity that wouldn’t have found me otherwise.

Ariane: [00:21:44] So, at the time, when I was looking at bloggers, their awareness and what was happening and listening to other friends and colleagues and people in the market and I would ask women, “What are you reading? Where are you going for your information?” And, once you start to hear something a couple of times, you start to think, “Well, okay, if a lot of these people are going there, what if I put HATCH in there?” Marketing budget is imperative, even though I didn’t have a lot of money, so I started to carve out some dollars. Some were losses but I do remember one of the bigger investments was a huge, huge hit. When you find a sweet spot, there’s nothing like a greater feeling than when you see that story go up, that link go live and all of a sudden—boom. Google Analytics is just churning and these people are just on your site. It’s just crazy.

Richie: [00:22:27] So talk about the brand and what you wanted it to be and what it should look like and feel like. And how did you come to that? And, of course, we have to now verbally describe it.

Ariane: [00:22:34] I love the idea of juxtaposing something that typically has a negative connotation but making it look better. So the idea that pregnant women were always kind of taboo to be part of the fashion world when you were pregnant or you never really see these good looking ladies in stylish clothing but with a belly, I thought that that was so cool. What if we just make girls look hot and pregnant? Why can’t you feel sexy when you’re carrying a baby? It is so sexy. And that was always the underbelly of HATCH, was let’s make this look chic and awesome and let’s flip this perception on its head and say that it’s okay to really invest in yourself during this time but that you don’t have to dispose of the pieces after you have the baby, that you can actually keep them because they’re awesome and they work. So that drive of putting maternity into a more stylish view. I’m very, very proud of our art direction and how we present ourselves.

Richie: [00:23:27] Okay. We’re in 2015 now. I think we’re in 2015.

Ariane: [00:23:29] Are we in 2015? Yeah, between us, a lot of these years were just the hustle and building this thing. It’s been growing beautifully year over year. I think, in 2015, I probably had eight employees. I was just stepping away from design. I had hired a designer. Working very closely there but just a lot of the tactical stuff I just couldn’t be on top of anymore. And we were just getting a lot more press because, again, we were the only player in town. It’s easy to be the cool kid on the block when there’s nobody else on the block and that’s really what happened to us. And just more and more traffic and we were profitable. So not working on a lot of money and being very keen and tough, we were able to continuously grow.

Ariane: [00:24:12] So, in 2015, I believe we started to think about other categories. Collaborations were also a big opportunity for me to get the brand out. I did my first swim collaboration with a very hot swimwear line. We were able to figure out a deal where we would cross-promote which is always very helpful for a niche business. And then, soon after, we went into denim which was pretty fantastic. I wanted to lean on experts in other categories like swim and denim. I didn’t have the team or the expertise to know how to produce that stuff well. So I wanted to lean on people who were really credible and trusted in those areas to support the HATCH product line there. We launched with Current/Elliott denim in 2015 and it was a huge success and we sold out very quickly. It’s just been a propeller that’s keeps getting faster and faster.

Richie: [00:24:59] Companies like Supreme have done these collaborations for a really long time and then Away and others have really picked up the speed of just doing them week after week. Did you think it would become a big part of the business? Did you think it would be this little marketing thing here or there? What were the expectations you set around how that would work?

Ariane: [00:25:13] Again, I can’t say this enough. You don’t know what you don’t know. So the collaborations, for me, were always purely for marketing. And, of course, if I didn’t have to produce the product and somebody else could—my god, how amazing. As long as we can meet our margins. And what’s funny is that the collaborations have been amazing, but now that we’re actually big enough, I want to own my own things. I want HATCH to be the expert. I want HATCH to be the home base of where women are going for these things and, if I can figure out the technical piece of these different categories, then I want to go at it alone. Sometimes it just gets hairier down the line. For example, with the jeans, if there’s a massive demand there and your partner doesn’t want to necessarily continue the collaboration—well, what do I do? I need to give my girls jeans. And so figuring that out. I guess I’m a control freak at the end of the day so I just don’t want to rely on anybody else for the success. I have a very hard time not having supply for the demand.

Richie: [00:25:59] Absolutely. So, given you’re self-funded, especially at this point, what are the expectations you’re setting for the business? Because no one’s breathing down your neck telling you what to do.

Ariane: [00:26:10] No one’s breathing down my neck telling me what to do. But I’m very aware of what’s happening around me with these brands and how much money they’re building and why isn’t HATCH growing like them? Really unaware of what this money does for you and why aren’t they concerned with profitability? And am I slow? Am I doing this the wrong way? I do remember several times starting to fundraise by myself, not knowing what the hell I was doing, just taking meetings trying to explain to men what I was doing, not knowing how much I wanted, what I was going to do with the money. I had ideas but it was really loose and it was terrifying. I was lonely and I was spending a lot of time just talking about the concept and trying to get anybody to listen. I have a business mentor, this woman Serena who has a company called Serena & Lily, and she had been ahead of me in the game and I called her and I was pregnant with my second child and I said, “Serena, I can’t do this. I can’t do everything. I can’t fundraise and have another baby. What am I doing wrong?” She said, “Just pause. Just pause for a second and don’t raise money. Keep doing what you’re doing and just breathe.” And so I did. I stopped going for the money and I kept doing what I was doing. The numbers were growing, not incredibly fast but I’d say 30% year over year which I’m super psyched about.

Ariane: [00:27:21] And then, just from a financial standpoint, I realized during that time that I needed someone in-house to be the spreadsheet person, the person [who] was running my employees, the person [whom] people can go to because it wasn’t my strength. I’m very good at acknowledging what I’m not good at and I wanted to bring someone on who could take care of a lot of the shit that I just am not good at and a lot of that was just the financial and operations piece. At the time, I thought that I wanted an adult. What I considered an adult was like a 55-year-old, 60-year-old man who’s done this before because we were a bunch of women. All my employees are female. There was a girl who was a client of mine [whom] I respected in the entrepreneurial space. She was running a exercise fitness studio. We had coffee one day and she was pregnant. She said, “I love what you’re doing.” I said, “Lindsay, I need your help. I need to find someone.” And she said, “Alright, let me have the baby and I’ll think about it.” And she came back to me after she had the baby and she said, “I think I got your person.” She said, “I want it to be me.” And so she is now running the business. She’s my Director of Operations and Finance and she has freed me up to really drive this thing. Since she’s been on board, she helped me raise our first round.

Ariane: [00:28:29] In 2016, we started taking conversations. At the time, I wanted to go into beauty. So this was, instead of collaborating with a beauty brand, I wanted to own beauty and figure out the formulation and make sure that we were having the clean, natural conversation that is, obviously, not only relevant and current right now, but necessary when you’re talking about maternity beauty. And so we needed money to finance that because development can be almost a half a million dollars and two years of a process. It’s crazy. I knew that we needed to open our first HATCH retail store.

Richie: [00:29:00] Why?

Ariane: [00:29:00] Over the years, I was taking the brand every year to a couple different cities and trunk shows and meet with customers one on one and listen to them and use them as focus groups and really think about and hear what they wanted next. And it was just unbelievable how many people would come out in Atlanta and Charlotte and just want to touch and feel this product. They would spend so much more than they would spend online because they knew their size. We could work with them. And, while website is amazing and obviously such a vehicle to get us to where we are today, it’s two dimensional. HATCH, the scratch-and-sniff opportunity behind what’s going on in my mind with this brand, I needed to be able to bring to market. So, in no rush, we were able to find a location that felt right. Q3 of 2017, we opened our first retail location.

Richie: [00:29:46] What was the first inkling, “Okay, there’s something here in beauty, we have to own it”? And then I’m curious to talk about that development process too.

Ariane: [00:29:53] I’m always inspired by women wanting something and there not being a home base to find it. Just like the clothing that I had been providing for all these years, beauty was another piece of this conversation. That your best friend is recommending her belly oil and your doctor is saying use this nipple cream and everybody’s throwing all this different information at you and you’re going online and there’s no one, trusted, centralized source and one line that’s covering the bases. So I’ve always prided HATCH on thinking ahead of you, thinking ahead of the woman and what she needs. For example, when you go to the hospital, there’s a checklist, when you’re going into the hospital to have a baby. It’s a robe, it’s socks, it’s underwear, it’s a scrunchie for your hair. So one of the first products that I came out was was called the “HATCH to Hospital Box.” All these products in one box so that you don’t have to go scouring when you’re nine months pregnant to make sure that you’re good for the hospital. So just like that. Providing that solution and allowing our customers and our community to know that we’ve got their back. I wanted to create this beauty line of all the things that, really, women need. You love your baby, but they bite the shit out of your nipples so you need to put something soothing on them. You don’t want stretch marks because it’s your body. So what can we do there? And I really just started to drill down to the five or six fundamental things that we’re looking to solve and prevent and start to develop beauty there.

Ariane: [00:31:07] That was a whole new education process for me. I got introduced to some beauty developers. I didn’t know costing. I didn’t know how to look at this. I didn’t realize so much of this process that I know now. We went down the pike with one beauty development team, a husband and wife, and I’ll never forget sensing that something was funny, but not knowing what it was. And then I had some third party kind of look at our formulations before we had gone to press, so to speak, on everything and she said, “Everything looks really great, but your leg rub that stops your ankles from swelling—it also induces labor.” I said, “Okay. That’s my cue.” And I fired those guys.

Richie: [00:31:45] Oy.

Ariane: [00:31:45] Yeah. Well, I’m not a formulator. How would I ever? You have to trust people. How would I know? I don’t know what chemicals—I don’t know any of this stuff.

Richie: [00:31:53] Yeah.

Ariane: [00:31:54] So that was super interesting. But trust your instinct because something was funny. Not that they were putting something that would be damaging, but there was just something that I didn’t trust them 100% so that was funny. I then got set up with another developer who is currently with me and we worked together to make a really, really strong product line that launched this past January of ’18.

Richie: [00:32:12] And how did that go?

Ariane: [00:32:13] It’s been fantastic. It’s so cool to have this platform and now be able to have another conversation. Again, I’m a little new to the industry and the beauty category is something, right now, that’s very hot and the ingredients—I’m getting beaten up a little bit just because you have to really understand the whole process to be able to talk and answer questions. I got a lot of help building this thing. I knew what we wanted to solve for and I knew what we stood for and I know that everything has to be clean but it’s a very controversial, debatable moment right now in beauty of clean, organic, non-toxic. I’m also running this growing big business and 26 employees so I’m not necessarily the expert [who] can answer everything right off the bat. So it’s been a little bit of a ramp up for me, but I get it now and I understand it. Fortunately, our products stand for everything that I stand for. So it’s just a matter of being able to talk to it and explain ourselves.

Ariane: [00:33:02] Social media has been amazing and it’s gotten us to where we are, but it’s also a forum for people to really attack. In the middle of the night, when you wake up in the morning and these women have been doing their thing in the middle of a night on social media, sometimes the feedback can be a lot. A lot.

Richie: [00:33:16] What did you expect it to be? Did you expect it to be this little accessories thing? Did you expect it to be a significant driver of the business?

Ariane: [00:33:24] It’s just beginning. I look at this as like a little brand within a brand. I do wear both a creative hat and a business hat. When you look at some of these companies that are valued at $50 million and they’re doing scrubs for your face based on coffee grounds—I mean one of the products that we just launched with was a belly mask. So parlaying off the trend of the Korean face mask, the sheet mask, I decided to come out with one for your belly that nourishes and hydrates your belly. Nobody’s done that before. So I think this thing is really cool and could have a life of its own. I think what I’m trying to figure out right now is how to drive the resources on my team to support the beauty thing as its own entity because we don’t really have the staff to just drive beauty. So it’s how do you build something so beautiful and so powerful with so much potential? But, also, I only have so much real estate to talk to it because I have so many other things to talk to.

Richie: [00:34:13] How do you then balance? Because you added category two basically, beyond the apparel stuff. Does that tell you you have to edit more or further? Does it tell you you have to expand more further? What does that look like given you have the relationship with the customer but you also probably can’t overload them?

Ariane: [00:34:29] Right, and what’s fascinating—and I’m going to sound quite new so forgive me, but I am very new. We did finally go out last year and raise our first seed round.

Richie: [00:34:38] Was it for the beauty stuff?

Ariane: [00:34:38] It was the beauty development, the retail development, but also to properly market. So I’ve come quite far without really spending money on digital advertising. I have been figuring that because no one else is doing this and you need something that you’ll find me. But what did I know? That if you pay for it you know you get into people’s feeds. You can grow that much quicker. It’s starting to snap now. I’m starting to see how, if you put money into one side of this engine, it’s coming out of the other. So part of those dollars that I raised has been going into our digital marketing strategy. I have to say that I’m very humbled right now by seeing what’s happening because this whole brand has been built on need and soul and creativity and obsessing over what the VIP program is going to be called and obsessing over what color tissue paper people are going to unwrap their goodies in. But you put money into digital advertising and your business changes overnight. And I’m just trying to personally embrace placing these big bets while making sure that, if one day somehow the system implodes or something, that HATCH is still a very strong brand that has the potential of being profitable and doing great without all of this marketing and advertising because that’s the first five years of the brand.

Richie: [00:35:52] Right.

Ariane: [00:35:52] But it is kind of like crack. It’s very hard to grow so much by putting money into this machine. It’s pretty wild. So, just going back to the beauty conversation, now we’re targeting people with just beauty and we’re targeting people with just collection. And so I’m able to widen my real estate because you can segment the conversations you’re having whereas my website, I do have to choose what’s on the homepage and where are you directing people via email. But with this marketing and advertising, you’re able to specifically, directly go to people who might be more interested in beauty than others.

Richie: [00:36:26] I want to talk about the retail stuff now.

Ariane: [00:36:28] Yeah, I’m so happy with it. It’s just been amazing.

Richie: [00:36:30] When did you realize, “We have to go do this?” How did the process go of actually figuring out what it would be? And then what was the response?

Ariane: [00:36:37] So, as I mentioned earlier, we were doing trunk shows across the country. At a certain point, when we grew the team and we passed 15 employees, we moved out of our office into a bigger, more beautiful office with skylights. At that time, I wanted to do a little bit of a Bonobos model, a little bit of a Rent the Runway kind of thing and just riff off of what I was seeing working for other brands. And we started to have shopping hours by appointment, only appointments, in my showroom, which was a beautiful place to come [to]. So what was happening there were these women were coming up and they were spending three times what they were spending online with us. It just, again, confirmed the fact that I needed to bring this brand to life.

Ariane: [00:37:12] So I started looking in New York. The first location needed to be very close to the brand DNA. And so, after looking and looking, we found a place on Bleecker Street—but east Bleecker, not west Bleecker. So quite emerging. We opened next to a designer that I respect named Ulla Johnson who also has a like-minded customer. It’s kind of an off-street, but HATCH is a destination so you don’t have to pay rent on Wooster, for example. It just made sense that this would feel like our home.

Richie: [00:37:38] Is it going to just be a store? How do you figure out how do you actually get people in?

Ariane: [00:37:41] Yeah, so it’s been quite interesting. The store is two stories and I built some things that would make it attractive. So we have a cravings bar. So we have a freezer with ice cream, a refrigerator with pickles and we have a whole candy bar so that people can come in and it’s just a fun press point. It’s beautiful and it obviously does what we do, which is talking to our girl. So I wanted it to be experiential and what we also made sure we were doing was partnering with people who are also speaking to pregnant girls in New York. So we’ve partnered with doula organizations, all these mommy and me classes. We do prenatal yoga downstairs. The idea is not to necessarily have these women come in and buy a cashmere sweater but come in and just experience our store. Whether or not they buy anything really doesn’t make a difference to me. It’s just when they walk out, they’ll have a really positive taste in their mouth of what HATCH is. I really believe that halo and that word-of-mouth is priceless. So if you could both sell your product on the first floor, but bring in people and teach them and educate them about questions.

Ariane: [00:38:40] When you get pregnant, you’re thrown into a whole new world that speaks a whole new language and you’re supposed to just pick it up. It’s really lonely at times. Providing this place where people can ask each other and meet people who are pregnant at the same time as each other, the community piece of the brand started to really shape up. And once that clicked, it’s so clear to me that I can roll out these stores in every city so long as there’s space to bring in the community. Because that’s what’s going to separate HATCH from any other players that come out in this category. What we’re doing to connect people is amazing and then making them look great is even better.

Richie: [00:39:17] And I would guess that those things that you’re providing are also really expensive otherwise, right? That are now free and accessible.

Ariane: [00:39:23] It’s not even expensive. It’s really just not centralized. There’s nowhere to go for it really. These doula organizations are equally as excited because they have somewhere to speak to people. They don’t necessarily have a space that can entertain 25 people. They’re also getting off the ground. They’re three women who help people give birth to babies. They don’t have a forum. We just find that, actually, our physical space is allowing people. We’re giving them something and they’re giving our customers something and it’s just a win-win all around.

Richie: [00:39:51] So how big do you think this company can get? And then how big do you want it to get?

Ariane: [00:39:57] The fact that people don’t know about HATCH and we’re doing so great, to me, means that we’re just at the beginning. I think that there’s a huge runway here. In ten years, I’d like us to have stores in major cities. I’d like us to have an international presence. There [are] women like me pregnant across the world. So every day that I’m not speaking to them is a day lost to me and it just drives me mad, but I just can’t do it efficiently and I don’t want to do it until I’m ready to do it. So I feel like we are just a blip on the bigger system of what we’re going to be.

Ariane: [00:40:25] What I want is to continue to enjoy the journey. I have a family. My kids are in private school. I want to cash out eventually, somehow, so that I can feel rewarded for all of this. But the money has nothing really to do with this. The fact that I went against the current, went into an unsexy category with an idea and a solution and I’m a player—not egotistically, but actually that when I call a company to potentially collaborate, they call me back. That’s the coolest feeling.

Richie: [00:40:51] Yep.

Ariane: [00:40:52] They take my call. I want HATCH to be the household name for maternity in the next five to ten years.

Richie: [00:41:01] What’s the longevity of this? Do you find it’s part of your customers’ wardrobes forever? I think when we talked before I had asked about how much you have to go beyond this moment in their life to remain resonant.

Ariane: [00:41:11] I’m really excited about that piece of it. I’ve learned from people wiser than me not to try and be too many things to too many people. And so, right now, I’m solving maternity and I’m trying to be that solution-based brand for this white space. The beauty about the clothes that I’m creating are, actually, that they really do work on any body type and I really stand by that. But the perception of maternity dressing is thicker and tougher to break than I originally anticipated. Once I really feel like we’ve got a solid ground in maternity, I want to be able to talk to this woman that trusts me and continue on her journey with her and provide her clothing that really works and makes her feel amazing, whether she’s pregnant or not. The clothes already do that but I’m kind of a marketer at heart so I know that I’m going to have to spin this off a little bit to something like “HATCH Philosophy” or “HATCH DNA” or whatever it might be and take the same product or ketchup bottle and put a different wrapper on it and allow her to feel like she’s buying into this wardrobe that she already loves, but that it’s okay and it’s allowed and it’s not necessarily maternity.

Ariane: [00:42:13] I’m a huge fan of Eileen Fisher. I know many women who shop her brand but are embarrassed to walk out with the bag.

Richie: [00:42:19] Why?

Ariane: [00:42:20] It feels like it has like this older, matronly—I’m not sure, but I happen to love her stuff. But there’s some perception that it’s not a modern, young woman’s fix. I want it to be acceptable to come out when you’re feeling like these bigger drapey silhouettes. I want it to be cool to rock a HATCH bag and that, at any stage in your life, HATCH is going to work for you and you don’t have to be embarrassed by it.

Ariane: [00:42:42] It’s really interesting, in our sample sales, you see the 22-year-old accessories designer coming because she loves the brand. She doesn’t give a shit that she’s not pregnant. She just loves the brand. You’ll see the 32-year-old who’s pregnant and she really needs the stuff and then you’ll see her 55-year-old mother because this stuff really works. And that just screams to me that I’ve got this product that just works on all these different demographics and age ranges and people. The runway for the product, which is the hardest part, is just a matter of figuring out the conversation I’m having with this base that I’m gaining credibility in now.

Richie: [00:43:13] It’s interesting though because the idea of being “Don’t be everything to everyone”—you’re in your lane. But then how do you then get more of the 55-year-old women who—it’s a very interesting tension it seems.

Ariane: [00:43:25] It is. I just can’t be in a rush to get her because there’s so many more people in my lane right now [whom] I have to reach. Let me nail that and then I will figure out how to get to her. They say that, I guess, 50-plus women are the number one demographic [who] game, [who] are gamers. So the first place I would advertise would be on Candy Crush.

Richie: [00:43:43] That’s so interesting.

Ariane: [00:43:43] I know.

Richie: [00:43:44] What’s the most misunderstood thing about the company, externally?

Ariane: [00:43:48] It seems to me that HATCH is considered to be kind of like a shmata business because I didn’t raise all this money. We’re not considered this direct-to-consumer big player next to some of these entrants like the Cuyanas or the Warby Parkers—all these entrants. HATCH hasn’t really been positioned there because we didn’t raise so much money and value [ourselves] so big. We’ve been doing it brick by brick. What I’m excited to do, and we’re investing this year, is really in our information, our CRM tools to really start to be smart with our data. We didn’t let data drive the first six years of this company and I believe that that’s going to be the future of the next five.

Richie: [00:44:26] Two more. One, what keeps you up at night business-wise?

Ariane: [00:44:29] Everything. The rents that I’m paying on all of these locations. The people piece is always challenging for me. There’s always some issue. I’m a maternity company. How do I have a great maternity policy? But I have no pitch hitters. If somebody leaves me for three months, what am I going to do? There’s nobody that knows what she does. It’s literally an impossible conundrum for a CEO who, in any capacity—I am a good person, but I just can’t lose someone for that long. So how do I be everything?

Ariane: [00:44:56] And then the inspiration piece keeps me up at night, but in the good way. I cannot wait to get to my to do list. What am I doing next? What can I come out with next? What do women need? What do they want? How do I get it to them? I’m still incredibly inspired.

Richie: [00:45:08] And then, as you look one, two, three years ahead, what’s on the horizon and what are you most excited about?

Ariane: [00:45:14] We have a roster of beauty products coming out. I’m really excited for the beauty to have its own identity within the marketplace. We’re talking to big beauty distributors right now that have shown interest which is really exciting. So I think the awareness piece there is going to be much louder which is going to be fun. And then I’d really, while direct-to-consumer revenue will always, hopefully, comprise 80% of our revenue, I would like to have these retail experiences in various cities because the combination of community and great product to me is such a sweet, sweet moment and they’re quite profitable so it just seems like a no brainer.

Richie: [00:45:48] Awesome. Thanks so much for talking.

Ariane: [00:45:50] Thank you.

Richie: [00:45:54] Thanks for listening to the Loose Threads Podcast. You can read full transcripts of the podcast and join the newsletter at LooseThreads.com. Feel free to also leave a review on iTunes. We always appreciate it. And thanks to George Drake Jr. for editing this episode. We have a great roster of upcoming guests including Jackie De Jesu of Shhhowercap, Melissa Mash up Dagne Dover and Miki Berardelli of Kitbox. Thanks for listening and talk to you soon.