It’s being called Netflix for baby clothes. Its co-founder could soon be called College Entrepreneur of the Year.
Bebaroo.com is an online rental service for high-end, special occasion baby clothes. And Allen Kim, a student in the University of Michigan Department of Industrial Operations and Engineering, is one of five finalists in the running to become Entrepreneur magazine’s 2010 College Entrepreneur of the Year.
The winner will be the finalist who receives the most votes on the magazine’s website: www.entrepreneur.com/e2010. Voting closes Sept.10.
Just as the nickname implies, Kim’s company would work much like the DVD rental site Netflix.com. But instead of movies, parents would put together a “queue” of baby and toddler outfits from designer brands such as Burberry and Ralph Lauren. The outfits, which are mailed to the customer and sent back in a pre-paid box, are guaranteed to be “cleaner than new” and are retired after just three or four wearings. And just like Netflix, consumers can choose their price level based on how many Bebaroo outfits they want to rent per month.
“I started Bebaroo because one of my relatives recently had a baby,” said co-founder Kim. “As she was learning how to be a mom for the first time, she quickly realized her baby only wore an outfit once or twice before growing out of it. I saw this and thought, there’s got to be a smarter, more inexpensive way for parents to clothe their kids. And that’s when I realized the solution was right under my nose: Netflix.”
The company currently has about 20 pilot customers and expects to have several thousand within the next year. The initial plan is to focus on special occasion apparel, which is the biggest pain point for consumers. Within five years, Kim says he hopes to expand the business model to include baby toys, maternity clothes and older children’s clothing. Working with Kim to develop Bebaroo are co-founder Luis Calderon, an MBA candidate in the Ross School of Business, and Augie Hill, a graduate student in Computer Science and Engineering.
“As my wife’s belly has grown, it has been interesting to learn about the peculiarities of buying products for an infant,” Calderon said. “New parents are very tough customers who do their due diligence before buying, so Bebaroo must be flawless in its execution. We know we live and die by our reputation among parents.
Kim and Calderon credit UM for supporting their entrepreneurial dreams.
“Michigan has been a great place for us to start Bebaroo,” Kim saif. “We have a great entrepreneurial community here with organizations such as MPowered Entrepreneurship, one of the largest and most active student organizations on campus; the Center for Entrepreneurship within the College of Engineering; and the Ross Business School’s Zell Lurie Institute for Entrepreneurial Studies. Plus, we were able to be located at TechArb, UM’s first business incubator, which allowed us opportunities to network with mentors from Google and the wider business community. So far, it’s been a great resource to start up a business with the help of the university.”
For more information on MPowered, visit http://mpowered.umich.edu.