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products, says Keith Anderson, senior vice president for strategy and insight at Profitero, a Boston e-commerce research firm. “The bigger chains are very commoditized and often serving the lowest-common denominator,” he says. “They can’t always attract brands that want to do exclusive arrangements [like you would do] in being part of a boutique.”
Partnerships that provide exclusivity between a retailer and a designer can help prevent shoppers from sourcing the garment in other places in hopes of finding a lower price. “That goes a long way toward minimizing competition at least at the brand level,” Anderson says.
And, for a fashionista with good taste and design skills but no manufacturing contacts, MakersValley could be a new way to launch a clothing line, he adds. “You could picture Instagram influencers using a service like this,” Anderson says.
Chimal founded MakersValley in 2016 with Alessio Iadicicco as CEO, whom she met while working in Milan. Iadicicco’s parents own a boutique and had connections among the apparel industry there. They toyed with the idea of connecting Italian factories with makers, and decided to move to New York to explore it further. A third friend, Babajide Okusanya, joined as co-founder and CTO.
MakersValley set up a Shopify account and Chimal says she cold-called boutique owners with custom-made suits in a suitcase. “I would get feedback from them saying, ‘I really need someone that can make my own brand of shirts, shoes, jeans,’” she says. “We had that network of factories that Alessio knew where he grew up.”
The founders were accepted into the Parallel 18 accelerator in Puerto Rico in 2017 and then received an Arch Grant of $50,000 to locate their business in St. Louis for a year. MakersValley is now part of the Monarq Incubator, a New York program focused on supporting women entrepreneurs, and Chimal says the startup has been accepted into the Apple Developers Academy in Naples next spring to work on a mobile app.
Additional factories are contacting MakersValley about joining the platform—Chimal says that Okusanya is currently in Naples recruiting them. “We’re at capacity as a team of seven,” Chimal says. “So we’re looking to raise money to hire more staff.”