CINDY DOWLING, 40, of Erdenheim, is a co-founder (with her mother, Karen Ione) of Ione (pronounced I-own) Originals. The 1-year-old company makes and sells biblike garments called Braidins, which easily drape over clothes to protect them. I spoke with Dowling.
Q: How did you come up with the idea for the biz?
A: We wanted an original product. I had my last child in August and wondered why there wasn't any product that I could wear when I went out with the baby or wouldn't feel embarrassed to go out for dinner and put it on so my shirt wasn't ruined. I designed a prototype and told my mother what I wanted, and then she sewed it and tweaked it until we got what we wanted.
Q: Did you bootstrap it or did you put money into it?
A: We put in a few thousand [dollars] each and said, "Let's see where this goes." The thing that has cost us the most has been attorney fees for a patent, registering our trademark, things like that.
Q: What's the backstory behind the name Braidin?
A: Braidin means "bib" in Gaelic. I don't like to think of it as a bib, but more as a sophisticated and elegant clothing protector.
Q: How does the biz model work?
A: The product is manufactured in Philadelphia, packaged in Fort Washington and binded in Allentown. We started selling them in September and now they're available at five stores in the area and from our website.
Q: Who are your customers?
A: A lot of new moms. But also people who have had brain injuries and their families use them, or people who have had strokes and multiple sclerosis. It's great for special-needs kids.
Q: What's the difference between a bib and a Braidin?
A: The typical bib has lining in it, so it's not breathable and it makes people hot, whereas the Braidin is almost like a blanket so it's breathable. It's easy to put on: no buttons, no snap, no Velcro. It's actually used for more things than a bib. A new mom can use it to protect her clothes from a baby's drool or when she's nursing. Adults and teens can wear it when brushing teeth or applying makeup.
Q: How much do Braidins cost?
A: The adult Braidin is $34.99 and a child size is $22. If you buy online, the customer pays for shipping.
Q: How many have you sold?
A: I'd probably say 250, most of them in stores or through me directly by word of mouth.
Q: What's been the biggest challenge growing the biz?
A: Educating people about what Braidins are. Nobody really knows about them, because we didn't launch until September.