We talk to the women behind three on the rise startups who are primed to be the next big thing
A Manhattan park serves at the birthplace of the 125 Collection, a Harlem-based company selling all-natural soy candles with witty sayings and inspirational quotes, created by friends Joy Fennell and Valerie Wray. Having known each other for some time, the two friends began their company with just conversation and shared interests that quickly grew into an idea, a product and eventually, a venture.
“We kind of look at our candles as almost like a modern take on a greeting card, whether it’s something that you keep for yourself or that you give to somebody,” explained Wray. “So I would want people to think that it’s cool, it’s hip and it’s really something that they can connect to.”
With their candles placed in three separate categories called, “Spirit”, “Sweet” and “Edgy,” the ladies are looking to offer something for the personalities that best fit these groups. With “Spirit” you may find yourself practicing yoga and burning their candle that says, “Good Vibes Only.” If you’re “Sweet” you may be getting ready for work, dabbing on your brightest lipstick and burning your candle with the mantra “Eat Glitter for Breakfast.” For those who find themselves identifying with “Edgy” you may find yourself purchasing and gifting a candle that tells you to “Trust Your Dopeness.”
“Honestly, the sky’s the limit,” said Fennell, who with Wray agree that they are more than just a candle company, as they grow the beginning of what they hope to be a lifestyle brand.
Approaching what will only be their second holiday season as a company, it is clear that this young venture is well on its way to living up to its founders’s goals. With a start in an artist’s market every Saturday and Sunday in Brooklyn, the 125 Collection has since been featured on NBC and in magazines like Cosmopolitan, Ebony, Essence and Self and is likely to only increase visibility from there, proving their “Sweet” side saying of “Don’t Quit Your DayDream.”
Not yet out of high school, sisters Sydney and Toni Loew find themselves founders of their own company, Poketti Plushies, a line of plush animal characters with “pocket powers” they hope will “empower and inspire kids around the world.” With what started as just a project idea for Sydney’s seventh grade entrepreneurial class at the Girls’ Middle School in Palo Alto, Calif. back in 2013, culminated in the two sisters creating an actual product line that took them from classroom assignment to owning and running a family business.
“The main idea was to combine animals with function,” explained Sydney Loew. “In the seventh grade class we were designing for our target market of a middle schooler, a middle school girl, so we wanted to make a stuffed animal but in order to make it more compelling to buy, we added the pocket. And the pocket mainly – I use my phone as an alarm in the morning and so I put the phone inside the pocket so I always know where it is when I wake up so that’s where the plushie with a pocket idea came about.”
At just 13 years old, Sydney, in the midst of her class assignment, quickly began to feel like this idea of hers could be more than just a grade. Naming it Poketti, inspired by Japanese Manga design and playing on the Japanese word “poketto”, which means pocket, they decided to pluralize it in the fashion of Italian language, replacing the “o” with an “i” and with a loose, mixed-language translation, their “poketti” means “many pockets.” As everything started to come together, Sydney immediately knew she wanted to bring her sister, who was just 11 at the time, in on this project.
“She’s [Toni] also really into entrepreneurship and we always do everything together,” said Loew. “Right when I came up with the idea and did the class I told her everything about it and then she totally fell in love with the idea so I’m kind of the design person, I design the animals and Toni is the personality of the company. She comes up with their names and their personalities — and so basically it’s a team effort. She also is good at math, so she does the finances because I don’t like math very much.”
Starting with $20,000 raised after a month-long Kickstarter campaign, Poketti is now no longer just a plush animal with a convenient pocket for holding accessories, but for what the girls describe as a place to “hold your dreams” as they embark on a new mission to take their product and turn it into a brand, one that seeks to inspire confidence, kindness and curiosity as each Poketti features different “pocket powers” from honesty and strength and to innovation and generosity and so on. Inside the pocket you will find stickers; there are also activity books and pages available, and later this summer they hope to launch a handbook for young entrepreneurs.
Sydney also has hopes for a future animated web series of their characters, one that will parallel their already existing avatars on their website.
“I just envision an entire room filled with Poketti stuff,” she added.
Hello Kitty watch out.
Any mom will tell you: there simply is not enough time in the day to get it “all” done. And still, we try; we Pinterest and we give it our best. Mompreneurs Katie Rice and Yasine Armstrong know all too well this common struggle of mama-hood and created Baby Page, a first of its kind modern baby book service, with the hopes of giving moms a little more time for the rest of their to-do lists.
“The idea was born when I realized I had no time for a traditional, scrap-book style baby book for my second child,” explained Rice. “And I looked for a solution online and, of course, I am aware of Shutterfly and other options out there for making a photo book, but I was looking for a way to describe and document what my kids were like at every stage of childhood, to go along with the photos, and I was surprised that I couldn’t find anything that did accomplish that for me.”
With over a decade of venture capital and startup experience under her belt, Rice immediately felt a connection between her current need and her background and started asking other moms if they too were looking for something to help capture their children’s precious moments. She quickly found that she was not the only one looking for a better and faster way.
“I began to think that there was an opportunity to build a product and a company and I told myself that if I could recruit the right team, and develop a business model, that we should start a company. And so we did,” said Rice.
Moving quickly, Rice first reached out to Armstrong, whom she knew and trusted. From there, the pair of them combined their network and within nine months, they went from an idea to an up and running website that allows parents the ability to, in real time, create baby books that capture all the different milestones children go through. With help via prompting and questions, Rice and Armstrong promise a rather foolproof way of baby book creation. Dependent on membership levels, users have access to a variety of designs and collage features, not to mention the convenience of having it stored on a digital dashboard.
With more and more of us relying on our phones to record our most cherished moments, we find that many of us never actually have physical copies of these memories anymore. But photo albums are not yet a thing of the past. We still covet them, but their makings seem to all live in the cloud now. Rice and Armstrong may have just tapped into the future of not just baby books, but all family mementos as they promise to focus on coming up with more features and products to help moms and parents take their most precious moments back into their hands.