Startup Diary: Six Steps From Rainy Day Idea to Prototype

RAINRAPS: How it began….

They say all you need is an idea. The idea might come in the middle of the night, while sitting in carpool lane or shopping at the grocery store, but that’s all it takes, one idea. 

For us, the “idea” came last spring in Richmond, VA when the rain seemed endless. It was May 17, and my partner Stacy tells the story, how a dreary wet day became the inspiration for her “idea”. Stacy would be the first to say, it is not that she minded the wet weather, it is more that she minded the lack of stylish yet practical clothing that accompanied it.

To give you a brief background on Stacy… all you need to know is that she is a New Yorker transplanted to Richmond, VA. Her East Coast lifestyle was completely transformed.

The must-have New York umbrella seemed such a hindrance in Richmond: in and out of the car, opening and closing it constantly. Was there a trick that those living in suburbia knew about?

A trick, to close your umbrella fast enough, while positioning yourself in the drivers seat, and then ever-so-elegantly swinging the umbrella over you without drenching yourself, the dashboard and of course the passenger seat? Stacy would say, she never figured out the trick. She also never understood how in April, in the humid, muggy climate of Richmond, would a raincoat be practical. Heavy and cumbersome, jacket off while in the car, on while out of the car; what was the appeal? 

So the story begins with a rain soaked Stacy. Wet and cold sitting in a meeting, wondering and contemplating, why there was no stylish accessory, that was waterproof, lightweight and fit like a pashmina or a cape?  Comfortable, practical and fashionable rain attire: could this be her idea?

Step One: Does The Product Already Exist?

Without hesitation, Stacy finished her afternoon meeting and headed home, for step one, to search online for what would later be called a RAINRAP

A couple of hours on the computer, searching key words like, rain gear, woman’s water proof accessories, water proof cape, reversible, etc., and Stacy found that no garment was offered in the retail market similar to the one she envisioned. 

Step Two: Find a Co-Founder

Step two, was to call me, close friend and maybe a potential partner. I was an easy sell and was onboard and excited immediately. I have to admit that I had for years been trying to coax Stacy into a business partnership with different ideas. Until now Stacy had not uncovered an idea that she was passionate about. Stacy had expressed to me that she would know when the business opportunity was right, when she was passionate for the idea. I saw immediately this was it. This was what Stacy had been waiting for and I agreed that it was a great idea.

We would meet the next day to discuss a business plan and brainstorm.  How great that we could actually now call our daily coffees and/or lunches business meetings?  

Step Three: First Official Meeting

Stacy and I met the next day to brainstorm and brainstorm we did.  We could see endless possibilities for this item, but we knew we would need to take one step at a time and we came up with a to do list:

  1. Name the company/item
  2. Establish an operating agreement
  3. Develop a marketing plan
  4. Research the waterproof fabric
  5. Talk with an attorney

If we divide and conquer we should be able to utilize friends and family who have expertise in these areas.  We knew that it would be important to “pick the brains” of our friends and family and so we would begin as simple as that. I would call my friend Michael, a trademark/copyright attorney in Boston. Stacy would research fabrics and speak with her husband about the operating agreement. We would work together on a draft of a marketing plan. Our first official meeting adjourned and our work began.  

Step Four: a Company Name

Stacy left after our Friday meeting for a family event in New York. While there it was Stacy’s mother Mickie, who came up with the name RAINRAPS. Stacy’s mother had been working in the retail mart in Atlanta for years and when Stacy confided in her about the idea, her mother immediately said, “It needs to be called a RAINRAP.

When Stacy returned from the weekend and shared the name with me and asked my thoughts, my response was BRILLIANT. It was the perfect name.  

Step Five: Trademark, Logo & Creation of LLC 

With the name in hand, I spoke with Michael, regarding our options for trade marking or copywriting. Michael explained that to receive a patent on a garment would be difficult and expensive. He in turn came up with the plan to run a trademark search on the name RAINRAPS. If no one else had trademarked the name, he wouldl file for a trademark, but advised tthat we should have a logo to accompany the name. Again, this was a good opportunity for us to reach out to friends or family who had expertise in graphic design and could help with the logo process. Asking around, we were able to find the perfect person who in a matter of a week came back to us with our logo. The RAINRAP name was cleared through Michael for us to proceed with registering it for a trademark.  

Our operating agreement and paperwork to establish us as an LLC were in the works as well. 

Stacy and I laughed many times, that we had a name, a logo, a trademark pending, an LLC and an idea, but we had no actual garment yet! 

We realized we needed to focus on this one, but very important issue!

Step Six: Materials

Finding the fabric was turning out not to be as easy as all the other steps thus far. Stacy had ordered waterproof fabric from a fabric house in the States. When it arrived we knew it was not what we were looking for, but we began to make a prototype of the RAINRAP with this sample fabric. 

We sat on Stacy’s floor of her living room, with chalk, outlining the shape and size of the RAINRAP. It was at that point that we realized that double-sided/reversible would be a great idea for the RAINRAP and would make it even more unique. We proceeded with our cut-out to a local tailor and explained what we were trying to accomplish.

Had Stacy and I been able to sew, this step would have been slightly easier. Unfortunately, neither one of us can sew, so we were at the mercy of a tailor.  

After several weeks of back and forth, we received a prototype of the RAINRAP from the tailor.   It was exactly what we had envisioned, but that one problem was still hanging around, the FABRIC. We could not find the right fabric.  At this point, we decided it would be beneficial to meet with a family or friend who was or had been in the manufacturing business. Enter Morty, the father of a friend of ours. Morty had manufactured men’s dress shirts for years and was an excellent resource for us. We brought Morty our prototype. At first glimpse he was unsure of the RAINRAP, but as we discussed our vision he saw beyond the bulky stiff fabric that the prototype was made from and began to see the endless possibilities for the RAINRAP. Morty’s first suggestion was to talk with a friend of his in China and see if they could help locate the fabric we were looking for.    

In the meantime, Stacy and I continued our search for the right fabric here in the States. We had set-up a follow-up meeting with Morty about a week or so later. We were determined to come back to him with a more realistic example of a fabric and as the saying goes, sometimes things are right underneath your feet. So the fabric was. Stacy had gone to her coat closet one afternoon, determined to revisit her raincoats and see if perhaps, she had overlooked a raincoat and its fabric. As she slowly reached for a coat that had fallen to the back, she picked it up and realized that although not exact it was definitely closer then anything we had yet to come across.

When we had our follow-up meeting with Morty, we handed over the sample fabric that we had found. Morty agreed, that if Ken in China could help locate a similar fabric, the RAINRAP would be a great product. 

Morty took the sample and sent it off to Ken within a month we had the prototype of the RAINRAP that we had been waiting for. 

Rachel Teyssier is Co-Founder & Vice President ofRAINRAPS. The RAINRAP is a fashionable alternative to traditional rain wear.

Rachel graduated from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst with a major in Journalism. Having worked for several years in the magazine industry in Manhattan, Rachel moved to the non-profit sector, first in Philadelphia and then in Chicago, where she was the Associate Director of Meeting Planning for the National Office of the Alzheimer’s Association.

In her most recent previous position Rachel oversaw the start up of a web-based software company in central Virginia.

 

Startup Diaries is a new section of our website where founders can post their startup stories in blog form, describing their entrepreneurial journey; the challenges and highlights, eureka moments, lessons learned and laughs had along the way. The idea is to build a collection of first person anecdotes from women building businesses, as a resource for other female founders. Our favourite Startup Diary blogs will be posted on our home page. If you would like to write a Startup Diary, email our Editor beth@thenextwomen.com for details.

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