A Company Is Born: Working Mothers, Sustainability, and Subscription

Conception!

Jenny Leung remembers the precise moment she came up with the idea for BellaNove. She was driving her car to a UCLA business school class after a full days’ work and listening to NPR on the radio. The story was about how much clothing Americans contribute to landfills: 15 million tons every year, which averages out to 75 pounds of clothing per person. “That’s so much waste!” she thought. Her mind went immediately to her recently pregnant career-women girlfriends, women who had spent their lives building up their personal image and reputation, partially through tasteful and beautiful wardrobes. Now they needed a new wardrobe they’d only wear for a few months. What would they do with the clothes after the babies were born?

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“That was my aha moment,” Jenny says. Her idea: quality maternity clothing rental subscription for working women who want to look great at work while they are pregnant, without wasting money, contributing to landfills, or lowering their fashion standards.

All Aboard

Jenny recruited her MBA classmates to her venture. “It takes a village to raise a child,” she says, “ and also to build my company, which was fitting since my child was my company. I didn’t limit anyone from joining my team. They were doing this because they wanted to help women, wanted to help solve this problem, not for a shiny object.”

BellaNove even received support from the co-founder of Tinder, Dinesh Moorjani, who is now their advisor after Jenny worked with him for 6 months as part of her MBA Master’s thesis.

Jenny was not a complete novice at starting something from the ground up, either, nor at hard work.

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“After finishing undergrad with an economics degree, I went straight into corporate America,” Jenny reports. “I’ve been working ever since high school to help put myself through college. I was fortunate to have been at Fortune 500 companies including Hilton, Disney, and Boeing.”

She left the relative security of a job to co-found a women’s contemporary clothing line that included classic pieces with a bohemian twist. “Lace or embroidery was used to highlight femininity, patterns were added to emphasize boldness and strength,” she says.  

“That was a lot of fun,” she says of that first entrepreneurial venture. “It was eye-opening—my first experience outside of the corporate environment. It was a lot of hard work, but that’s what got us into Nordstrom and Anthropology.”

Market Research

Jenny and her team did their homework before the BellaNove launch. They polled 200+ mothers in their target market and found out how much they’d spent on maternity clothes—between $700 and $1,200. 

They use recycled and biodegradable boxes to ship their orders and plan to donate clothing taken out of circulation to organizations that serve women in need. “BellaNove was built to empower women at all stages of their lives.”

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On October 1, 2017, they went live with the platform. Jenny was glued to her computer those first few minutes, watching the subscriptions roll in. “When we got our first order, I was ecstatic!” Jenny remembers.

 Subscribers can join at one of three tiers—“Starter Closet,” “Enhanced Closet,” and “Ultimate Closet.” The Starter Closet tier is $129 a month.

Now, just a month and a half in, BellaNove is growing fast. Customers so far include women in law, medicine, real estate, marketing, consulting, and finance—and husbands, too. They’re also partnering with companies to offer their services as a benefit. “Motherhood is universal. It really knows no profession. We welcome and want to provide this sustainable option to all women” Jenny says. Customers have sent photos of themselves wearing the clothing and exclaiming how beautiful they feel again.

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Her Big Vision

Jenny sees BellaNove as being much bigger than just fashion or convenience. “If you wear something that looks good on you, you feel good—you feel confident. We wanted that experience for pregnant women. She’s already going through morning sickness, so many changes to her body, and balancing her career with doctor’s appointments and building a nursery. We want her to continue kicking ass—while starting a family. Who says you can’t have it all?”

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What’s next for the company?  “My dream is to redefine what motherhood means,” Jenny says. “I want to serve women who want to be awesome at work and also want to have a family. I think there are a lot of things we can help with along the way. There are so many things you have to deal with as a working mother. All those pain points women have to go through—I want to be that go-to place to help you solve them. That’s my long-term vision. We’re not just renting clothing. We’re thinking about how can we help women move confidently into motherhood.”

***Editor’s note: BellaNove is generously offering Women2.0 $25 off your first two months! Use code WOMEN2 at checkout. We can help redefine women in technology and motherhood together!


About the Author

Emily Hopkins is Women 2.0's editor.