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The Startup Sit Down: Sharon Schneider, Founder of Moxie Jean, On Living Out Your Values And Lunch With The First Lady

Now, I’m not a busy, working mom (yet), but I can image the daily quest for convenience. And, I know that when my child-rearing time comes, I would hope those conveniences aren’t of the guilty sort. Thanks to Chicago-based Moxie Jean, busy moms can at least feel good about clothes shopping for their rapidly growing rug rats. We caught up with founder Sharon Schneider to talk about what Moxie means to her, scratching her business plan, and making a fortune from being socially conscious.

 

 

Hey Sharon, thanks for taking the time to give us the Moxi Jean lowdown. Our KillerStartups fans are looking forward to being inspired!

 

Let’s get started…

 

Tell us a little about where you what inspired Moxie Jean

I like to say that I’m the mother of three little consumption engines—my sweet little monkeys who are 8, 6, and 2— so as all parents do, I discovered that babies go through 7 sizes of clothes in the first two years. So every 2-3 months, that’s a complete wardrobe change.

 

 

This is where the hand-me-down market came from, and you try your best to share with your sisters and your friends, etc., but truthfully it’s pretty inefficient because what somebody may be willing to give you, probably doesn’t line up with what you really need and want.

 

I thought there’s got to be a better way for busy moms like me to buy and sell gently used, high quality brand name kid’s clothes so they can shop at midnight when the baby is up for a feeding, and then be able to spend Saturday morning with their kids.

 

There’s this trend with pop-up consignment shops where moms are going in droves to buy and sell their kid’s clothes and get a good deal, but it takes hours and it’s a painful process for very little return. So, the whole concept behind Moxie Jean is to take the great deals of consignment sales and make it super easy for moms who are too busy to go through all of that hassle.

 

 

Where did the name come from?

We actually started as Good Karma Clothing for Kids, with a slightly different business model. But the feedback was that there were many women that had negative connotations for good karma–sort of hippy child of the earth kind of stuff.

 

So, we wanted to come up with something that had a broader appeal. I love the vibe of the word “moxie”— I think it takes moxie to be a mom. So, we wanted to try and turn Moxie into a name, and putting Jean on the end gives it a nice rhythm and sounds like a woman’s name.

 

What was your biggest startup surprise?

I would say, we are currently participating in Excelerate Labs in Chicago, so as part of this process we spent June meeting with investors, and mentors asking questions and they were pushing us to think about our business. And, during that time we were also trying to figure out if it was a product market fit.

 

 

We were getting a ton of positive feedback from moms and people in general for our other subscription model with Good Karma. It was described as “Netflix for baby clothes”— basically, we owned the clothes, we sent out your order, and you would send it back to us and we would then send you the next size.

 

The problem was we were getting all this love, but not enough subscribers. And so we had this really miserable couple of weeks when we knew it wasn’t working, but didn’t know what to do about it.

 

We had a meeting with a mentor we knew and trusted, and I gave myself permission to admit to him that I knew it wasn’t working. From there we started listening to the second half of the feedback, which was “Oh, I love what you’re doing…but I would subscribe because my baby spits up on everything” or “I wouldn’t subscribe because it would stress me out to keep track of what was yours and what was mine”.

 

So the realization that the subscription model wasn’t working led to a wonderful breakthrough. From the moment we had that conversation, it was about three weeks later that we completely re-launched our new company. It’s mind-boggling, but really exciting.

 

 

What is the Moxie Jean business model now?

Our basic model is sort of like bricks and mortar consignment—customers buy the clothes from you at a certain price, and they sell it at a higher price. Our target market is busy, working moms who value convenience, but don’t have the time and energy for all the work involved.

 

So we match pieces into outfits to make bundles, and the concept there is find a couple outfits you like and check out, so it doesn’t take hours to sort through and put together outfits.

 

Where do you find inspiration or how do you motivate yourself/your team?

My team is easy to motivate because they’re my family! My sister has a background in lean manufacturing and operations and forecasting, and I convinced her to be our COO. And, my mom is a CPA and MBA, so she is our CFO. All of us are highly aligned in wanting this business to be worth it for all of us and our kids and family.

 

Motivation and inspiration for me comes from my career before Moxie Jean. I spent 12 years as a philanthropic advisor. I always thought that I wanted to make my fortune from an endeavor that is socially conscious, rather than making money however you want and then give some to charity. That doesn’t work for me.

 

 

For me, it’s about how you make your money is just as important as how you give it away.

 

I just wrote a post for Forbes Women on how your charitable budget is maybe 5%, of your spending, versus the rest of your household budget, and how ideally we can align the other 95% with or values as well. I want to create an awareness and a set of tools to live out their values within their entire household budget.

 

I read you try to be a green mom. Do you have any interesting tips on going green?

I used to have a blog all about this called the Philanthropic Family. The mindset and heightened awareness of how am I living out my values, and how I’m going to spend my money today leads me to make different choices.

 

 

For example, I HATE using plastic baggies for my kid’s lunch, but I lacked an alternative. But, when I see a plum district deal for ReUsies snap cloth bags, I’m on it. Or, instead of paper towels, my husband bought me wash clothes that I just use for the kid’s mouth after dinner so I’m not wasting so many paper towels.

 

As busy moms, our primary motivation is convenience. Moxie Jean is convenience you can feel good about.

 

Fun questions! What would you be doing if you had one year off and $500,000 to spend?

 

I would travel with my family. It’s such a privilege to travel and be able to experience other cultures. I would love for them to have that experience.

 

App or site you can’t live without?

I would say my favorite new app is one that is here with me at Excelerate, is 365 Prints. You upload a photo on the site, and it’s printed and mailed anywhere for free.

 

My other favorite, which is another Excelerate classmate, is Spot Hero, where you can reserve and pay for your parking ahead of time.  It’s an amazing rate too– I can park all day downtown for $12, it’s regularly $30. They’re awesome.

 

If you could have lunch with one person, who would it be and what would you talk about?

It would probably be Michelle Obama. She is kick-ass at being a professional and a mom; she’s just a class-act. Maybe if I say it enough in interviews I’ll really get to have lunch with her.

 

Any parting words of wisdom?

There is never a right time; you just have to start. If you believe in it, go and make it happen. Other things will come up if you wait. You have to just pull the trigger and do it.

 

Thanks so much Sharon! You know, my mom handed Obama my resume back in 2008, and I got a call (from his people) a day later. So, I’m practically family with the Obamas. I’ll give Michelle a buzz, tell her the awesome job you’re doing with Moxie Jean, and maybe set something up for you. Wait no, that probably won’t happen. But, I will come back to Moxie Jean when I have little ones of my own and shop around. That I can promise.

 

Photo credits

MoxieJean.com

Author : Holly Hutton

Born in the Big Easy and raised in the Sunshine State, Holly has spent the last five years brunching in the Big Apple and bantering with Big Ben. As a wandering writer, techy-in-training, and avid alliterator, Holly has written everything from educational policy and political news briefs to web content and travel blogs. She is thrilled to be a part of the KS team and working with a community of smart, savvy, entrepreneurs on all things startup!

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