Petite Fashion Expert Christa MacLellan

Member of the Toronto Incubator

My business is … Petite Fashionista, a multimedia Web site that is dedicated to petite fashion and the celebration of petites of all shapes. It’s the everyday fashion destination for women 5’4″ and under.

My dream is … to develop Petite Fashionista into the #1 trusted brand in the petite market (up next: a weekly Internet video show, shopping events, a clothing line, and a book).

I launched because … I found something that I couldn’t wait to do every morning when I woke up!

One day you’ll see me … in Vogue magazine, in a five-page interview about how I put the glamour back into being petite.

Ladies Who Launch has helped me … network with amazing women, determine what it is I want, and just go for it!

Romy Taormina and Carla Falcone

Co-Founders, Psi Bands

Many women know that pregnancy will ultimately give them a little bundle of joy, but for Romy Taormina and Carla Falcone, it also gave them a booming business venture.

Their company, Psi Bands, was born out of both women’s morning sickness. While Romy was helping with Carla’s baby shower, the two rejoiced in their discovery of acupressure bands and how much they helped, but bonded over the fact that despite their efficacy, the bands weren’t so pretty to look at. Surely, they thought, someone could be doing a better job with this uber-useful accessory. With the help of third partner Pieter Schouten, who brought engineering and design to the table, Psi Bands was born.

What we learned from Romy: “Grow at a manageable pace. Don’t go for the gusto, because the gusto could put you out of business.”

Style Meets Function

Romy: “We wanted to make bands that were stylish and more functional. The products that were on the market weren’t even waterproof. These are acupressure bands that have been scientifically proven to relieve not only nausea from morning sickness, but also nausea from motion sickness, anesthesia, and chemotherapy. For a product to help relieve motion sickness, you need them to be waterproof. We wanted our bands to be not only waterproof and comfortable but we wanted to be able to adjust the amount of pressure that is being applied. And we wanted to customize the fit. That’s why we created a watch-style band.”

Filling in the Gaps

“Carla and I both have business backgrounds and had worked at PR and advertising agencies. We realized we needed additional expertise, and that’s why we brought in our third business partner, Pieter. He has the engineering and design component that we lacked. Pieter is a product designer by trade, this is what he does, so we started with the napkin sketches and talked about the inadequacies of competing products.”

What’s in a Name

“‘Psi Bands’ is a play on words. ‘Sigh’ as in ‘breathe a sigh of relief’ and ‘PSI’ as in ‘pounds per square inch,’ which is a unit of pressure.”

Prototype to Physical Product

“Pieter went to his computer and sketched it out, then we hired an engineer to create the design file. The design files are then shared with the manufacturer, who we found through personal relationships. A lot of our success has been based on who we know or asking for help. We went through several prototype revisions and fine-tuning, making sure that all the t’s were crossed and the i’s were dotted until we were pleased. That’s when we launched into production.”

Then, the Production Process …

“The production process is when the engineer comes into play, because he specs it out spatially, then the design file is sent to the manufacturer. Pieter works directly with the manufacturer testing different materials—what works well, what molds together well. We had to hire a fulfillment center, which we also found through word of mouth. Once the product was shipped from overseas it was sent to the fulfillment center, and then directly to our retailer. Our first account was Longs Drugs: 500 stores.”

Networking at the Mommy Group

“Carla had her first baby and was in a mommy’s group, and one of the moms sitting next to her happened to be the daughter-in-law of the president of Longs. The woman told her father-in-law about the product and he put the buyer in touch with Carla. From that point we set up an in-person meeting, met with two buyers, rolled into two different departments of their store, and that all was based on a prototype. We have an MSRP of $14.99-$19.99. We are rolling out into 5,000 Rite Aid stores this month. And we will be on QVC.”

Waiting on the FDA

“Getting FDA clearance was our biggest challenge. We are not a typical start-up company, in that we have a Class II medical device. We have to adhere to certain government regulations. We are an FDA-cleared product.”

Money, Money, Money

“Our initial investment was probably $150,000, which came from investments and home equity lines of credit. We split the cost evenly. We financed it for quite a while and then it got to a point where we got a bank line of credit. It’s our goal within the next six to nine months to start paying that money down, but right now it’s important to keep putting any money that we do earn back into the company.”

The Patent Truth

“You can patent a design, but you cannot patent an idea. Anybody can create an acupressure device, but our design is unique and that’s what’s patented.”

Sharing the Vision—Or Not

“Our biggest mistake was partnering with people who did not have the same long-term vision we share. For example, we are on our third Web site programmer, and we finally feel like we found the right one. The Web site is an evolving platform, and we need someone who will continue to grow with us.”

A Balancing Act

“It’s a juggling act. I primarily work when the kids are in school, when they go to bed, and on the weekends. I try to balance that with trying to make sure that my relationship with my husband is strong, so I need to know where to draw the line; if it’s not urgent it can wait until the next business day.”

Believe and You Will Achieve

“The personal gratification I feel is on many levels. I have extreme empathy for people who suffer from nausea after experiencing such very difficult pregnancies of my own. Being able to provide people with something they feel good about wearing, not only from a fashion standpoint, but also from a physical standpoint, is great. I was taught as a child that if you put your mind to something you can accomplish it. I enjoy that I am a role model for my children.”

This Featured Lady was profiled by Kristin Herold, a freelance writer and entertainment reporter in Los Angeles.