Valerie and Sabina, the girls behind BLANQI. Their story something that took hard work, determination and the right direction. From the beginning big retailers were their target and they were out to make a big impact. This is how it started…
As the elevator climbed to the eighth floor of the towering office building in Seattle, Valerie Darragh and Sabine Melarti gave themselves a quiet pep talk:
We’ve got this. This is what we’ve worked hard for. We’re here, so let’s do it.
Then the doors parted, revealing a labyrinth of cubicles and a steady flow of fashionable women who clicked by in perfect pumps, never making eye contact with Darragh or Melarti. The two women tried not to look lost, standing up straight and attempting to project confidence and cool. Melarti stroked her belly bump and exhaled. We’ve got this.
These were the offices of Nordstrom, the century-old, $14-billion retailing giant with 353 stores in 40 states and Canada and an even wider reach online. Selling a product with Nordstrom was the Holy Grail for an entrepreneur — it could catapult a brand into the stratosphere. Darragh and Melarti knew this. That’s why they’d cold-emailed the chief executive officer about their product and pretended they had already planned a trip to Seattle, and maybe a chat would be a good idea? That’s why Melarti was wearing a fake baby bump, along with the product they’d invented and wanted Nordstrom to love: a perfectly supportive tank top for pregnant women, unlike anything else on the market.
The CEO, perhaps in admiration of their sheer gumption, sent their message to a buyer, and the buyer set up a meeting.
So here they were, two young moms from Atlanta who’d met on a playdate and whose backgrounds in fashion and, of all things, Spanish, hadn’t done much to prepare them for what lay ahead. But they believed in their product, and in each other. They’d done the research. They’d worn other maternity tanks and hated them. They’d spent $150,000 — pretty much everything they had — to manufacture 8,600 units of a tank top they could love. They even had hang tags and UPC symbols for the product. And they’d made a mock-up of what their tanks would look like on Nordstrom’s website.
“We had the mindset of ‘go big or go home,’” Melarti says. “We wanted to change the world.”
So they were ready when the buyer emerged from her cubicle and invited them to sit.
I had a baby eight months ago, she told them, and I love your product.
“We left that meeting and immediately started getting onboarding emails from Nordstrom, welcoming us as a vendor and teaching us how to run this business,” Darragh says.
This was 2010, and the beginning of a long and prosperous relationship between Nordstrom and the supportwear company Darragh and Melarti called BLANQI. With the retailer’s help, BLANQI has disrupted the maternity, post-partum, and nursing spaces with undergarments that lift, hold, and smooth heavy bellies and bustlines instead of squeezing women into skinny shapes. The four-person, 10-year-old business posted about $2 billion in sales in 2016 and is on track to do $4.5 million in 2017, mostly online.
Now, in addition to the tanks, which feature a stretch-and-recovery fabric and come in a traditional shape or scoop under the bust, BLANQI sells leggings that give abdominal lift and support with graduated degrees of compression to redistribute weight while smoothing lumps with a seamless design. There’s also the Maternity Built-in Support BellyBand, maternity support hosiery, and a very high-waisted legging to give nursing moms more coverage if they lift their shirts to feed their babies.
None of this would have been possible if Nordstrom hadn’t taken a gamble on Darragh and Melarti. The retailer’s stamp of approval opened other doors, helping BLANQI to get is products on other shelves and sold on sites like Amazon.com.
“Nordstrom took a chance on two girls that nobody knew — no history, no data — with a product that was totally new,” Darragh says. “They don’t say yes to everybody. When they said yes to us, they changed everything.”
Now BLANQI is working a nursing collection due to launch early August along with a big campaign with like minded brands- BLANQI x World Breastfeeding Week. Black Friday is also right around the corner and something BLANQI hits hard with a big sale, no one wants to miss!