Building a new business is difficult under the best of circumstances. For Fatma Collins and Julie Rogers — two former Jet.com execs who launched their direct-to-consumer kids’ brand Ten Little on Feb. 20, 2020 — they’ve faced monumental hurdles during their first year in business, from production and shipping delays to personal challenges.
“Within two weeks of launching, the world came to a complete and utter halt because of the pandemic,” recalled Collins. “As a mom, like most, I lost childcare for my 3-year-old and quickly became a full-time caretaker with a full-time job. So did my co-founder, who was also pregnant with her second daughter at the time. We had barely gotten our startup off the ground and faced so much uncertainty from every single aspect of the business.”
Collins said that to navigate those choppy waters, she leaned into the chaos. “I would love to say that I completely rejiggered my routine to wake up extremely early for meditation and then tackle the day in a balanced way — the reality is far less glamorous,” she said. “I ended up shaking off the mom guilt that society inherently places on mothers. In creating this flexibility at home and at work, I was able to successfully grow Ten Little while also tending to my family.”
And the brand has grown quickly. After launching with one style — the Everyday Original unisex sneaker — Ten Little’s offering has expanded to include vegan leather high-tops, socks, sticker packs (which can be used to decorate the shoes) and a children’s book. And this month, baby booties were added to the mix.
All the footwear is 100% vegan and was designed under the guidance of physicians. The shoes feature a shaped toebox and a flexible outsole with rounded edges. Retail prices range from $39 for the Everyday Original to $44 for the high-top. (Sticker packs sell for $5 each.)
Collins said the business was born from her frustration as a mom trying to correctly fit her daughter with shoes. “I found it difficult to figure out what size to buy, when to size up and usually I was too late,” she said. “It was a guessing game of ordering multiple pairs and returning the rest.”
Using their expertise in e-commerce and consumer products — and armed with $2.6 million in VC funding — Collins and Rogers launched their business to help solve those shopping problems. They created an at-home fitting kit and developed a predictive tech platform that informs parents when it’s time to upgrade to the next shoe size. Additionally, their customer service team is primarily staffed by moms who are able to offer experienced advice.
The founders said that, while the pandemic brought unexpected challenges, it gave the brand a chance to connect with and serve parents who had to rely on e-commerce when they weren’t able to visit their family shoe stores.
“Our business really thrived last year, which illustrated to us just how large of a need there was for high-quality shoes and products for kids, and a smarter, easier way to shop for parents,” said Collins.
Headed into their second year, the founders have more growth in store, with plans to expand beyond shoes and socks into new categories.