ShopTalk

Fruitless search for fashionable rainwear yields family business

Two little boys needed new rain boots.

Charlotte mom Eugenia Vartenisian, 37, searched local stores and shops but couldn’t find the playful patterns she wanted.

“They’re adventurous, rain or shine,” she said of her sons, Alex, 4, and Ben, 2. “They always want to be jumping around so rain boots were always on my list. I just couldn’t find what I wanted.”

Her criteria: boots that are stylish and chic, yet comfortable. Her unsuccessful search prompted her husband, Brent Vartenisian – a full-time medical equipment salesman who calls himself an “entrepreneur at heart” – to jump-start a family business.

Enter RanyZany, a line of children’s rain boots and umbrellas with fun designs: puzzle pieces, airplanes, butterflies, hearts and camouflage. Launched in January as an online retailer, the business already generates sales totaling $6,500 to $9,000 a month, according to the Vartenisians.

They said they figured they found their niche when they sold 650 pairs of boots within a month after debuting. Boots sell for about $30. The first pair went to a boy in Washington, D.C.

They hope to build on their early success by focusing on their target audience – moms.

Working international contacts: The couple first looked for U.S. manufacturers to produce their line. But Brent Vartenisian, 38, said companies they talked to were too expensive, and were hesitant to work with a startup instead of a mass producer.

“A lot of manufacturing plants want you to do huge numbers,” he said.

A friend with international contacts linked RanyZany with a China plant that agreed to make the boots for at least $25,000. The business pays a 37.5 percent tax for importing products into the U.S.

The Vartenisians email the manufacturer with details and photos on product colors, sizes and designs. The plant sends back molds and samples for approval.

They fine-tuned this system after RanyZany’s first line of umbrellas came out too big. “You’ve got to make sure your samples and your products are exactly what you want,” Brent Vartenisian said.

Starting off online: An online-only model makes it easier to ship and sell products because it’s all automated, according to the couple.

Online also brings in a broad customer base. Their products are featured on their website, as well as online retailers Zulily and Amazon.com.

Next steps are getting their gear into local and national boutiques and large retail chains, the couple said.

Getting feedback from friends: Friends and family help the couple decide what patterns to put on their rainwear. Later this fall, they’ll unveil a line of boots with dinosaurs, robots, owls and ladybugs – looks parents want on their children’s feet, the Vartenisians said.

They’re going for hats and coats next to make their rainwear line complete.

“Don’t chase the dollars, but chase the customers,” Brent Vartenisian said. “To do that, you have to make them happy.”

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