Many people who want to be creative entrepreneurs wonder if they can run a business while working full time. Kelly Wilcox is an example of someone who does, and here is her story. Kelly was pregnant with her second child and frustrated with her options for maternity wear. “I was looking for a one-piece that would replace uncomfortable, unflattering and expensive maternity clothing that would grow with you through each trimester, wash after wash,” she said.
So Kelly designed a maternity-friendly one-piece featuring super-soft fabric, low armholes and harem-style pants, which she affectionately named the Momper. Pregnant people aren’t the only ones wearing the romper. Kelly told us that many of her customers are not even pregnant or parents. “They just loved my design for its versatility and comfort,” the creative entrepreneur said. Continue reading more about Kelly and how she turned idea into a business.
Artisan Joy: How did you get started as a clothing designer?
Kelly Wilcox: I did a lot of research and found a romper similar to the Momper we now make but made many modifications, especially the fabric quality. I was lucky to have a friend working in product development and had connections with a factory that could take my design idea, sample and place our first production order.
AJ: When did you realize that you could turn your idea into a business?
KW: I was accepted into a three-day artisan market in Las Vegas, where our business is based. I brought my first batch of inventory (300 pieces) and sold almost half of it in those three days. I was surprised by the large number of customers who were not pregnant or even moms—they just loved my design for its versatility and comfort. Soon after, we added sizes for kids, matching for mommy and daughter or son.
AJ: Where do you find inspiration?
KW: My inspiration was born from my own need and frustration with the lack of fashionable maternity wear in the mass market. I also considered myself a minimalistic mom and did not like the idea of adding to the growing amount of apparel waste with transitional maternity clothing. So there had to be something better—and the Momper was born.
AJ: What’s something our audience would be surprised to learn about you?
KW: I also work full-time in marketing for a large e-commerce company. I created Momper Romper when I was on maternity leave, pregnant with my daughter.
AJ: As creatives, we can continuously create and refine our art. How do you handle perfectionism?
KW: Through the years, I have constantly made improvements to our fit and construction, always striving to be the best Momper in the market. We still vend at artisan markets, allowing us to talk with customers face-to-face who help guide our modifications. An important characteristic of our Momper is that it is sized by height rather than normal dress size. Because the silhouette is waistline free, the length or height is the most important measurement. With the help of customers, we have added sizes for petite and curvy. By next year, we hope to have XLT for men as well.
AJ: What advice would you give to someone interested in putting their work out into the world but feels vulnerable about it?
KW: It can feel very uncomfortable at first, but just put yourself out there. You’ll never know if you don’t try! If you fail, learn from your mistakes, adjust and try again. I’ve had tons of bad ideas and even a couple of failed businesses—but all in all, great learning experiences!
AJ: What’s something that surprised you about running a creative business?
KW: I am always surprised by the overwhelming support and collaboration from other small business owners. By taking every opportunity to bounce ideas and share struggles with other creatives, I have learned so many great tips and discovered valuable resources to grow the business.
AJ: Has someone ever criticized your work? How did you handle it?
KW: Oh, I’ve heard it all—and I mean, I’ve heard it all! “Why is the crotch down to the knees?” “It looks like diaper pants!” “At least you can wear Depends, and no one would know!” Whenever I hear or see criticism like this, it makes me smile. To me, it means I’ve got something good on my hands. I’m memorable. I’m doing something different than everyone else. I stand out in a sea of other rompers. I am disrupting the ordinary. Not everyone will like my Momper, but the ones who get it love it!
AJ: What’s a cause you are passionate about and why?
KW: I really love the organization Baby2Baby. They provide children living in poverty with diapers, clothing and other basic necessities.
AJ: And, of course, we have to ask—what brings you joy?
KW: Spending time with my family traveling the world in our travel trailer. Husband, Sam. Son, Samuel age 9. Daughter, Emy, age 5. Chihuahua doggies, Carlos and Santana.
Editor’s Note: This interview was edited slightly for length and clarity.