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Saint Louis Post-Dispatch Article on Makaboo Founder Cindy Teasdale McGowan

October 12, 2010 17:39

We were so happy to see this wonderful piece in last Friday's Post-Dispatch. See the article here:

http://www.stltoday.com/business/article_04deeb36-0e42-5366-b1b1-ee023479beaf.html

Makaboo owner hopes to blanket baby market

 

buy this photo Stephanie S. Cordle September 29, 2010--Cindy Teasdale McGowan, founder and owner of Makaboo Personalized Gifts located in downtown St. Louis. Stephanie S. Cordle scordle@post-dispatch.com

Cindy Teasdale McGowan

Title: Owner and founder of Makaboo, a personalized baby goods company. It has a website, Makaboo.com, and a storefront space in downtown St. Louis at 609 N. 13th St.

Age: 34

Education: Bachelor’s degree in art history and English literature from Washington University

Career: Director of marketing for Second Street Media, director of project management for Momentum, project manager and senior editor for Snapfish, project manager for Fleishman-Hillard

Personal: Lives in the Central West End with her husband, Bill McGowan

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Cindy Teasdale McGowan didn't set out to be an entrepreneur.

"If you would have told me five years ago that I would own my own business or that I would be cutting the backing off of lovies, I would have laughed," she said. "I graduated from college wanting to be a writer."

But life has a strange way of taking us down different paths.

She got swept up into technology and Web development, and left St. Louis in 2004 to move to San Francisco. She took a job there with Snapfish, where she was a project manager and worked on applications for photo books and photo calendars.

An avid online shopper, especially for one-of-a-kind wedding gifts for her friends, she had an "aha" moment one night while trying to buy a personalized lovie, or baby blanket, for a friend. The only online choices seemed to be between impersonal mass retailers like Pottery Barn and mom-and-pop sites that were cute, but not as reputable or trustworthy, she said. She found one site she liked but was frustrated she could not see a picture of what the end product would look like.

So she kicked around the idea of starting a personalized baby goods website for a couple of years. In 2006, she moved back to St. Louis to marry Bill McGowan, a downtown developer. She hopped around between a couple of jobs, then decided to go for it.

In December 2009, she launched Makaboo.com, where customers can select colors and text to make personalized baby blankets, pillows, bibs and so on. The company also has a small storefront space in downtown St. Louis. McGowan employs a full-time embroiderer as well as another part-time worker, and contracts out the rest of the work.

While the business is based in St. Louis, it has developed a following among moms in New York after receiving buzz on some baby blogs there. She also has been trying to get more business by sending products to celebrity moms.

About 95 percent of your business comes through your website. So why did you decide to open a bricks-and-mortar store?

I totally didn't decide to have the retail store. My husband's company had this space available. It's only 400 square feet. They didn't know what else to do with it. And I was looking for a space for my office and production.

They were like, "Well, would you like to have this one for the time being?" I was like, "Sure!" And then I realized it was a storefront, and so we had to make it look cute. So we went to Ikea and bought a bunch of stuff really cheap and painted it. And put in a cute chandelier. And then people started yanking on the door. So I literally was like, "Oops! We created a retail store by accident."

Besides street traffic, how do people usually find out about your business?

We have been really lucky to get some positive press from blogs like strollertraffic.com, which is a New York-based mommy blog. They've been really wonderful. We were just in their newsletter. And we've also gotten some great press from People.com. We were on their baby blog in July. So it's been about 30 percent of press and marketing. About 30 percent comes from Google organic searches. Our biggest customer — who, I mean, she's been a really big customer, found us from Google. (That customer, who turned out to be a woman married into a royal family in Europe, bought $2,000 worth of goods in one day.) And then 30 percent is word of mouth — friends and friends of friends. And Facebook I would say falls into that category, too.

Has it been surprising to you that you have been receiving more orders from people in New York than from folks in Missouri?

Yes. And also, you don't really think of Manhattan as the bastion of "Mommydom." But I think in New York, moms are likely to be a bit more tech-savvy. And this is a huge generalization, but I would imagine living in a city like New York — I used to live in San Francisco — your time is a little more valuable and a little more limited because it's harder to get around. It's harder to get your everyday errands done.

So it may just be that they are paying attention to places like strollertraffic.com more so than your average Midwestern mom.

I don't really know, but it's been a good thing for us. … The orders from New York have higher average order values, and they seem to be growing in a more viral way.

So you have celebrity clients such as Bree Turner (an actress in the movie "The Ugly Truth") and Kevin Frazier (weekend anchor of "Entertainment Tonight"). How have they found you?

There is a company called Jewels and Pinstripes that is sanctioned in Hollywood to send baby and children's gift baskets to celebrities either when they have kids or the baby turns 1. So I pay them to be included in the baby gift bags.

We send personalized baby gear to anywhere between eight and 16 celebrity babies a month. …

The long-term goal is that Will Arnett and Amy Poehler will be at the beach someday with Abel and Archie in their little Makaboo matching sun hats and swim trunks. And a paparazzi will snag a photo, and it will appear in US Weekly or wherever, and we can say, "Oh, my gosh, look at the Arnett-Poehler kids wearing Makaboo!"

But it takes time. We've only been doing it since July.

So what is the story behind the name "Makaboo"?

Some kids call their blankets "boos." So that is where the name came from. It is one of my regrets because people often pronounce it wrong. "Branding 101" is name your company something that everyone will pronounce and won't intimidate anyone. But I got stuck to it. Sometimes you make emotional decisions.


Great Saint Louis Press and Reason We've Been Quiet

October 10, 2010 17:33

Well, this blog has been quiet because the day after my last post, I went for a bike ride and wound up breaking my hand in two places. I currently have 5 pins and 7 stitches in my right/dominant hand.

So, this is going to be short! I have a lot of clever things to say about it but need to install some good voice recognition software.

We have been so happy to get some wonderful press in the Saint Louis community in the last few weeks.

First, a great piece in Saint Louis Magazine's October issue:

 

Custom Made

A local company goes beyond the monogram.

Photograph courtesy of Cindy Teasdale McGowan

Cindy Teasdale McGowan was logging long hours at her Internet job in San Francisco while her then-boyfriend—Bill McGowan, co-owner of McGowan Brothers Development—was more than 2,000 miles away in St. Louis. A few months after he popped the question, she left her much-loved tech job and moved here.

New to the Midwest, she began looking for a job similar to her previous post in product management at digital-photography company Snapfish, but nothing came close. “What I loved most about my job was the ability for customers to build something online that would show up on a doorstep as a tangible product,” says McGowan. “In terms of this process, I noticed there was a big hole in the kids’ market.”

In her spare time, she developed Makaboo (makaboo.com), an online personalized children’s gift store. “We built our own program that allows clients to play around and create an item by having complete control over font, thread color, and a selection of 80 icons to choose from,” she explains. “The process takes less than 5 minutes.”

With prices running from less than $20 for bibs and hats up to $150, McGowan wants the line to be accessible to all. Since launching in December 2009, she’s shipped to 46 states, with more than 30 percent of her clientele being repeat customers. She’s also opened a storefront at 609 N. 13th, where you can schedule an appointment by calling 877-800-7952.

The steady paycheck’s gone—but McGowan wouldn’t have it any other way. Like Makaboo’s products, the company’s made just for her.


Makaboo's Coming to a Town Near You!

September 23, 2010 11:28

Milton the Monkey is headed for the open road!

We are so excited for our first-ever fall Trunk Show Tour, kicking off October 2nd in Chicago and making stops in Seattle, San Francisco and more.

Each event will be free and open to the public, in a fun, family-friendly venue with some yummy treats and refreshments. All orders placed at an event will receive a 20% discount. We will have samples of all of our gorgeous personalized gifts, including darling monogrammed pajamas from Bella Bliss, hand-knit personalized sweaters from MJK Knits and more. Best of all, we'll showcase some holiday items that aren't even live on the site yet!

We'll post events here and on our Facebook page, so stay posted and look out for your city!

We hope to see you this fall!


The Rabies Saga Continues

September 15, 2010 14:08

After 8 days of silence, I just received a voicemail from Animal Control.

I've quoted it verbatim.

"This is Dawn with City of Saint Louis Animal Control. You had a bat picked up at [our address], and I'm just calling to inform you that the bat came back negative for rabies. If you have any questions ... I mean, I'm sorry, it's a raccoon. The *raccoon* came back negative for rabies. If you have any questions, call us at [their phone number]."

Really? REALLY.

OK. First of all, I have no knowledge of anyone "picking up" anything. Secondly: doesn't picking up an animal require catching said animal first? With traps? Or bait? Or something that would be visible to the homeowner who reported the offending animal?

And let's just say it was a bat, for poops and giggles. How does Animal Control come to the conclusion that they happened to catch that *one special bat* that bit me?

Of course, the same goes for the raccoon. Where and when was this supposed bat/raccoon acquired? We've seen 4 raccoons in our yard - together. Like, at one time (in case you're reading this Dawn from Animal Control). The night after my attack a raccoon waltzed into a family BBQ at the very far end of our block - maybe a third of a mile away, stalked the family as they retreated to the house, and then clawed at the door and scared the bejesus out of their small children, who have vowed never to step foot in the yard again.

Did the bat/raccoon have a clump of tattered jeans dangling from his fangs?

Did he raise his wing/paw and say "It was me. She was listening to Paris Hilton. I couldn't take it anymore. You would have done the same."?

Did he give himself up to protect his family? Hurl himself in front of the Animal Control van, foam at the mouth and attack the front fender, then stare sadly out of the back window of the van as it disappeared down the alley, his bat/raccoon wife and children weeping inconsolably?

I have to buy a tape-recorder before calling them back. Or find a free app on iTunes.

More to come.

 


What To Expect - *THE* Resource for Parents-To-Be

September 15, 2010 09:57

A number of my close friends are preggers right now, and I've noticed that I have not been in the home of an expectant mother or couple and *not* seen the classic What To Expect When You're Expecting. It seems to be *the* go-to resource for parents-to-be. So I was super excited to be contacted by the author's associated web site, http://www.whattoexpect.com/ about offering some free copies of the latest edition to our Facebook fans and newsletter recipients!

The site has so much great information for every stage, from preconception to wrangling with toddlers. You can create customized pregnancy calendars and baby calendars, connect with other women in the same stage of the process that you are - they even have a free iPhone Pregnancy Tracker App! For busy women like me who are in front of a computer monitor 8-12 hours a day, it's a fantastic resource, and it makes the life-changing step seem a bit more manageable.

I'm excited to run some fun contests over the next couple of months for the books. Stay tuned!

 


Why West Virginia?

September 9, 2010 16:27

As of today we have shipped to 49 of the 50 states - thanks to Lindsay N's order from Utah! We're offering the first person shipping to our final state - West Virginia - free shipping with coupon code WVSHIP! There must be cute little ones in the Mountain State! (That's their nickname. I checked.)


Rethinking Raccoons

September 7, 2010 17:06

I am writing this entry to clear up the rumors and misinformation that have been disseminated throughout the Saint Louis and Facebook community.

Let me set the stage:

We live in an urban neighborhood within Saint Louis City – less than 2 blocks from a 24-7 coffee shop, a wine bar, a book store, and a bunch of restaurants and boutiques. Think Pacific Heights, Cambridge, Georgetown.  We have a nice-sized yard but can hear the buses and pedestrians of Euclid Boulevard less than 200 feet away.

We have seen possums in the backyard, and on one or two occasions have spied a family of raccoons climbing in and out of the largest tree on our property but they’ve never acknowledged our presence and have stayed clear of the house.

So, you can imagine my surprise when, last Friday evening around 7:00, while enjoying a glass of Gloria Ferrer Brut on our back patio with my husband Bill, a wild raccoon launched a surprise attack on my leg.

It was still light out. Bill was on his laptop looking up potential Labor Day getaways, and I was looking at Bill, and therefore away from the attacker. Our cat, who I wouldn’t call a guard cat under the best of circumstances, was lazing on the patio stones between our chairs, picking his toe-claws.

The raccoon must have completed perimeter surveillance and then approached from our collective blind side, as I was not aware of him until he had attached himself to my leg. If you’ve ever been attacked by a dog or cat, even playing, you can envision what it was like – two clawed paws on either side of my calf, mouth in wide-open, full-on “I plan to eat you for dinner” mode.

Now, I need to explain that I have always *loved* raccoons. My childhood stuffed animal, who currently resides in my bedside table, is Raunchy the Raccoon. (My siblings are nine and twelve years older than me and apparently took to saying “that thing is so raunchy”. The name stuck.)

While others call them fuzzy rats or dumpster divers, I’ve been defending raccoons for thirty years. The cute hamburgler mask! The pointy little nose with the cute whiskers! The ringed tail! I love them so much that I posted a Facebook entry when we started carrying Angel Dear’s Raccoon Lovie.

So, you can imagine my shock, and disappointment, to find a hamburgler face staring up at me with wild-eyed hatred and a mouthful of my Joe’s Jeans.

In my mind I was saying “Oh my God Bill this raccoon must be rabid get the cat and get inside and call 911 before I die of rabies!” but apparently what came out sounded more like “AhhheeeeeeeEEEEOOHHHHHHHHHEeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKk!!!!!!!!!”

Bill didn’t realize it was a raccoon at all until I had shaken it free – which took a surprising amount of force. The raccoon hustled about 6 feet away and then reared around for more – up on his hind legs, arms waving … it was straight out of a National Lampoon movie. Bill threw a chair cushion at him, which he mauled for a second or two before focusing his attention back to us.

I managed to grab the cat and get indoors – I remember having a mental debate about whether I should take the Bose sound system or the Waterford champagne flutes with me (they’re discontinued!) – like I would never see our backyard again. Bill chased the beast into a tree, but the raccoon still only went to the first comfortable landing, turned around, and hissed down at Bill in disdain.

Once we were both inside, I rolled my jeans up. The raccoon had pierced my shin with both fangs but the wound was not deep since I’d been wearing jeans. We both remarked about what a moron the insane, whacked-out rabid raccoon was to go for the one of us with pants on.

Then we called Animal Control and got a voicemail telling us they were closed for the holiday weekend and to call 911 in the case of an animal bite. So we called 911 and they asked us what we thought they were supposed to do. Bill gave them some very creative and I thought effective suggestions.

Finally we called our friend Rob Corley, an ER doc. Rob and his wife Amie had invited us to New Orleans for the weekend but we decided to stay home to save money, so I said immediately that the Louisiana voodoo gods were paying us back and that we would never NOT go to New Orleans again. He sent us to an ER nearby.

I won “most exotic” case of the evening at the ER. The nurses all got a kick out of us, and had fun trying to pawn the job of sticking me with foreign substances off onto less experienced colleagues. We could hear them on the phone at the nurses’ station: “You stick them where?!? How many times?!!?”  I eventually got 7 shots – 4 around the wound, 1 on my thigh above the wound, a tetanus shot in my arm and the vaccine shot in my arm. I could explain why I got all of these where, but the CDC does it much better:  http://www.cdc.gov/rabies/

I had to go back again yesterday, and will get two more vaccine shots this Friday and next.

So, that's the story.

To answer some of the many questions that have been posed:

  • So far, I have not displayed any signs of turning into a raccoon, a werewolf, or a vampire.
  • I do know the difference between a bat, a possum, a squirrel, a raccoon, and my own cat. To those of you who sounded incredulous until you discovered that my husband was also a witness: I hope you get mauled by a raccoon too, so that I can say I told you so.
  • You can only get rabies from a bite, so, unless I bite you, you should be fine in my company.
  • No, we have not torn down any trees lately, nor are we planning on putting a strip-mall in our backyard. This is not a Disney movie.
  • I do not know if the raccoon is “OK”, unless by “OK” you mean “normal”, in which case I can say with certainty that the raccoon is NOT OK.
  • We called Animal Control again today; they said maybe they’d stop by, if they were in the neighborhood, and take a look around.
  • Therefore, if you are in the Central West End, and it is daylight, and you see a raccoon: RUN!
  • We haven't decided whether we're going to continue carrying the Raccoon Lovie. We might see what our fans think.

 


Makaboo Featured on KSDK's Show Me Saint Louis

August 11, 2010 16:46

We were on Show Me Saint Louis today! A huge thank you to Dana Hendrickson for coming down and making us look good!

Watch the clip here:

http://www.ksdk.com/life/programming/local/showme/story.aspx?storyid=211443&catid=78


I've Been Lying. We've Shipped to 44 States.

July 23, 2010 20:50

For a couple of months I've been saying we've shipped to all 50 states but I was using the term more as an easy way to explain our reach to folks new to Makaboo.

So tonight (you'd think I'd have something better to do at 8:52 on a Friday night) I actually counted, and it's only 44.

So if you know someone in:

Delaware, Maine, Mississippi, Montana, Utah or West Virginia


Send them a Makaboo, wouldja?!?


We Made People.com. I Feel I Can Retire Now.

July 16, 2010 14:46

This morning I got a slew of emails and texts/Facebook from friends who apparently read People.com more religiously than I do. Makaboo was the top story under the Moms & Babies masthead - the word Makaboo was actually on people.com's homepage!

I know, I'm supposed to act totally cool as a cucumber about this.

So, I will be cool. Whatever. It's no big deal. I did not take screen caps of it or anything. That would be so lame.

 

 

Makaboo on People.com

 

Kissy Kissy Personalized Bib featured on People.com

See it for yourself here:

http://celebritybabies.people.com/2010/07/16/make-gift-giving-extra-special-with-makaboo/



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