At only three years old, Rachel Blumenthal’s kid-clothing-box-delivery start-up, Rockets of Awesome, is thoughtful, precocious, and stylish as can be — with infinite cherries on top! She shares the Hamptons family life behind the idea…and her plans to grow as quickly as kids do in the summer.
What was the concept for Rockets of Awesome? Where did you come up with this great idea?
My kids are 3 and 7. I realized as a new mom that they outgrew their clothes so frequently. It’s not like you and I, wanting a new pair of jeans or jacket each season; it’s like the entire contents of the dresser need replacing. I was always the parent who would go into the store in June needing bathing suits, and they had winter jackets. I just saw that there was this massive opportunity to be able to do this work for mom. There are all these life hacks that make us look like supermoms from the outside and help get it all done: FreshDirect, or Lola, or Postmates. The idea is to put the right products in customers’ homes before they realize they need them, before the shirts are crop tops and before the pants are three inches too short. And we’ve leveraged data science to really get to know our customers — both the parents and the kids — and deliver something that’s spot-on.
How do you keep both groups of customers happy at the same time?
As parents, we want our kids to look somewhat put together because it’s a representation of who we are. But kids want to feel like they’re in control. We wanted everyone to feel like they were winning. The way it works is that you sign on to the site, you tell us everything your kids like and don’t like, and what you like and don’t like. With that information, we put together a box of clothes at the beginning of the season that has eight items inside, and you only pay for what you keep. We send a box four times a year. The beauty of the model is that we send parents a preview [e-mail] before we put it in the mail, so you can swap things out. When the box arrives, the kids are so freaking excited — they just rip it open and start having fashion shows. If you keep everything, you get about a 30-percent savings; it’s $150 for eight items. We also have an e-commerce site, so once you’re a member, you can shop à la carte, too.
What categories are you in?
We do a full activewear assortment, so kids performance wear — everything from tutus to athleisure to swim. We do light outerwear. Really, our customers fall in love with the soft fabrics, the unique styles, and the extra details that are inspired by kids, like flip sequins or double-reinforced knees.
Tell us about your branding and the visual identity of Rockets of Awesome.
I always say that our mission is to simplify and celebrate real life with kids. We want to deliver solutions to parents. But we also want to give them the permission to enjoy real life with kids… those moments when they’re pouring sprinkles onto ice cream and the cap falls off and the entire jar pours out. You can either scream at them or pick up the spoon, and we’re like, “Pick up the spoon!” Everything for us is shinier, and more glittery, and oversize, and over-the-top awesome. We take it to the nth degree. The silver Mylar balloon is our spirit animal.
What’s some of the best feedback you’ve gotten from your own kids?
When I brought a box home, my son opened it and basically said, “Oh, my God, this is the softest thing I’ve ever touched.” That was such a win. My daughter opts for anything that twirls. I came home the other day and she was wearing this bananas outfit. A dress with stripes on top, a tutu with cherries on it, and rainbow leggings underneath. She looked crazy, but I was actually like, “That’s kind of cool.” The reason it works is because all the elements had a polished aesthetic. We make sure that color palettes every season can work with outfits from previous seasons, so you can’t make a bad outfit. I looked at it and I was like, “You look crazy, but it’s also cute.” That was representative of a great taste level of what created the product, in partnership with a real kid who has a real vision for what she wants to look like.
Your company has grown really quickly. Tell us a little bit about the size of your team and your operation and how you make all this happen.
We’re a team of 50. We have customers in every single state and are growing naturally aligned with the populations of those states. More than anything, we’re focused on how to continue to build a business that is sustainable economically while delivering an over-the-top amazing experience to our customers. The data science really does drive everything that we do. It’s the perfect combo of art and science. That reliability of the fit, comfort, style, and price point is really important. So we leverage so much feedback from our customers to drive what we do every single day.
Give us the 411 on your life in the Hamptons.
We have been in East Hampton for eight years. We just bought a new house there this summer. We would never move out of the city. It’s such incredible culture to expose your kids to. But at the same time, I’ve never appreciated the Hamptons more than having kids and seeing them run on the lawn and play tennis and be at the beach and just be outside. We just got paddleboards. The kids are usually swimming in the pool by 8 a.m. And I keep buying more blow-up things.… My husband [Neil Blumenthal, co-founder and co-CEO of Warby Parker] and I like to work out on the weekends, so he has a regular basketball game and a tennis match. On Saturdays, I do an old lady walk on the beach with my girlfriends, and we’re like, “You’re sweating, right?” We try to convince one another we’re not grandmas, but we so are. On Sundays, I do SLT in East Hampton, and then I usually stop at Red Horse Market and pick up food. We have a circle of friends who are out there, all kind of in the same vicinity, so we very much have an open-door policy. At night, the adults go out and the kids go to sleep.
Do you spend most of the summer out there or is it mostly weekends?
We’re back and forth. We’ve kind of figured out the drill. We leave Friday night around 7:30 p.m. We don’t hit traffic, the kids fall asleep in the car, and we can get out there in two hours. My kids don’t know that the iPad works in the car. They’ll say, “But it works in so-and-so’s car,” and I’m like, “Not ours. We don’t have Wi-Fi.” The car is sleep time, and my husband and I get to hang out and catch up. Then on Sundays, we leave around 8 at night, so we get two full days. I never liked leaving in the afternoon — all day you’re stressing and thinking about when you’re going to leave. There’s something really peaceful about driving.
Where do you guys like to eat and shop?
Last summer, we loved going to EMP Summer House at 5 p.m., when you can actually get in with the kids, and have dinner out in the back. My kids always beg to go to Bostwick’s or Serafina. We’ll go to [Nick & Toni’s] once in a while. Oh, and Bay Burger — that Joe & Liza’s ice cream! I will choose Bay Burger over anything else. Last weekend, I took my daughter to Sag Harbor because we wanted to see the Goop store. [Rockets of Awesome] did really well there last summer. We were just in their store in Dallas, and now we’re in the store in Sag Harbor. It’s fun to see your stuff at retail. We went to LoveShackFancy last weekend. It’s so beautiful. [Founder Rebecca Hessel Cohen] creates this world. She has done such an incredible job. You feel like you’re in her photographs. It’s very ethereal and so girly.
Are you thinking about moving into retail?
We are. As we think about creating retail experiences, we can’t wait to bring this brand to life because it’s so celebratory. I’ve always envisioned retail for us being Charlie and the Chocolate Factory meets the American Girl store, but in a chicer, cooler way.
In New York City?
Maybe. When we start, I’ll want to be there every single day to learn and see how the customers are engaging with us. We’re looking at some other cities across the country, too, where we tend to have strong population density. About 80 percent of our moms are mobile, so we always design and build for mobile first. But I love the idea of being able to create this really cool kids’ club. Maybe we do ice cream sundaes on Tuesdays, where it’s an endless cherries-on-top kind of thing. So you can pick up a couple of things or see how something fits while the kids are distracted. I think we’ll either test something this year or in early 2019. We’re really excited.
When I go to the playground with my children, I see a thousand kids wearing your awesome shirts. What is it like for you to take your kids to the park and have that same experience?
I totally fangirl out on the kids, and I try to not be really creepy. I’ll usually go up to the parent and be like, “Oh, my company makes those clothes. How did you hear about us?” To see your product out in the wild and to see how kids style it is really exciting because for us, at the end of the day, it’s just about those kids. I just want them to be confident because I think confidence leads to happiness. We had this amazing testimonial from a 10-year-old girl from Dallas. She wrote in about how she was bullied and she started wearing Rockets of Awesome and now her clothes aren’t dumb. The girl who was the lead bully then got Rockets of Awesome, too, and now they’re friends. It’s so simple — give them something that makes them proud. That doesn’t mean that it has to be fancy or it has to be sparkly. What makes them feel good in their skin and lets them just be a kid? That’s the core spirit of what we’re doing here.
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