KANSAS CITY, Missouri — Entrepreneurs in the apparel industry have many challenges to overcome, but the maker of the Jomper said Kansas City is the place to do it.
Brittany Weltner had the idea of creating a functional jumpsuit for women, and she is trying to make it happen in her home of Kansas City.
Weltner said her product focuses on simplicity because a modern woman needs a piece of clothing that can transition from the workplace to a physical activity.
She got the idea when she was practicing yoga and her shirt hit her face. Not wanting to expose her body, she started wearing a jumpsuit to workout.
She quickly realized this was a problem for the everyday woman.
That's what KC Source Link, an organization that helps aspiring startups and established small businesses start or grow, calls a gap in the marketplace.
Weltner started making designs and went through about 30 prototypes before settling on three designs: the Powersuit, Yogaralls, and the Peppy.
Right now, she is in the process of raising money to bring her product to market.
Jenny Miller, the network builder for KC Source Link, said there are four phases for entrepreneurs.
Stage 1: Inception/idea
"It's an early concept, feasibility of that business concept. Who is target market, what does it cost to get your business up and running? How are you going to go through this process?" said Miller.
Stage 2: Proof of concept/Prototype/Market Intro (or Start Up stage)
"Going through the legalities, making sure you've got registration and licensing," Miller explained are some key steps entrepreneurs take.
For Weltner, getting her product to market has been the most difficult challenge.
Stage 3: Rollout
"Starting businesses may be making pivots, growing their customer base, growing revenue and clients - they are getting established in their own right," said Miller.
Stage 4: Growth/Expansion
"Those businesses that are set up and well-established are looking for the next step. How are they going to grow? Bringing on management teams and perhaps exporting products or services," said Miller.
Miller said there are more than 250 resources for entrepreneurs in Kansas City, and it's their job to connect them to the help.
Weltner wants to produce her jumpsuits at the only "cut and sew" shop in Kansas City, The Garment Factory in the West Bottoms. She is raising money to produce 300 pieces.
Currently, Weltner needs another $6,300 to make that dream a reality.
For apparel entrepreneurs, finding resources is a challenge. That includes finding people to make patterns, sew product samples, and where to source fabric.
"It's not something that can typically be taught; you have to have a skilled hand for it," explained Kerry Duffin, who owns The Garment Factory.
Weltner said another challenge is doing everything herself — from marketing to promoting, which can be challenging at times.
She has gotten help from mentors and has worked with The Kauffman Foundation. It ranked Kansas City as 15th nationally for startup activity.
In 2017, KC Source Link said $540 million was invested into metro startups.
Weltner hopes with those stats the Jomper will become a household name.
"I felt the need to give back to the community. It needs young leaders. It needs a reason for kids to go to college and come back and help build a city," Weltner said.