The question wasn’t if Rosie Arias would one day become an entrepreneur, but when. By age 7, she was already doing single-needle hemming and crocheting. So it wasn’t surprising that she would ultimately create a business known for its impeccable needlework and distinctive embroidery. What may have delighted and surprised some people was the category she selected for her venture – baby blankets.
No longer in its infancy or learning to walk, Whimsical Charm – headquartered in San Pedro – is running confidently thanks to a growing customer base with an appreciation for distinctive, super-soft baby blankets and cozy robes featuring unique personalities just like the babies who love them.
“Looking back, I’m so grateful for how much my parents contributed to where I am today,” says Rosie, a single mom with a 15-year-old daughter. “Yes, my mom taught me to sew, but she taught me so many other things about life. And my father was always an entrepreneur, so there was no question in my mind that one day I would grow up to become my own boss.”
Rosie’s love of fashion started while watching her mom hand bead her sister’s wedding dress. “I was clearly passionate about anything fashion-related, so after graduating I immediately immersed myself in the industry learning everything I possibly could,” she said. “After attending the Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising in Los Angeles, I worked for several companies large and small, including Guess?, Inc. Along the way, I gained invaluable industry experience in everything from contemporary to bridal, lifestyle to children’s wear, textiles to threads. I loved it!”
It was while Rosie was working in bridal fashions that she actually came up with the name, Whimsical Charm. “I was thinking about starting my own dress company for babies, and while I decided against it, I went ahead and acquired the DBA thinking it might come in handy at some point.”
Smiling, Rosie admits that the idea of starting a baby blanket company was really a happy accident. “One day I was shopping for a high quality, cute baby blanket as a baby shower gift for a very good friend. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find anything I liked anywhere, so I decided to make one for her myself.”
Rosie’s gift was the hit of the baby shower, which got her thinking seriously about baby blankets as a possible business. While she continued making blankets as gifts for her friends; she was constantly refining her technique, quietly doing R&D on everything from soft high-pile fibers and threads, to child button safety and embroideries, to current market conditions. After 12 years of working for others in the fashion industry, she knew the time was right to unwrap her catchy DBA and launch Whimsical Charm in 2013.
And Whimsical Charm has been an ongoing success story ever since. Not only does it have solid web and social media presence, but people can also purchase her products at a number of retail specialty stores from California to New York, including Providence Little Company of Mary Medical Center Gift Shop in San Pedro to Peanuts Children Clothing in Brooklyn. And the news keeps getting better: Rosie recently announced that her popular baby robe collection would soon be available in selected buybuy BABY locations, a popular Bed, Bath & Beyond Company.
“I believe you can never learn enough”
But like a baby’s first milestones, such as learning how to walk, Rosie says the business experienced a few growing pains early on. “We reached a point when additional working capital was needed in order to grow,” she said. “The problem was that I had always self-funded my business, and my lack of credit history made lenders extremely reluctant to loan me any money. They either demanded steep collateral, a couple of co-signers, or both. Since I had already sold my house, I was fresh out of collateral, so getting a loan was looking impossible. Even worse, it was clear that I was dealing with people who really didn’t understand entrepreneurs.”
Fortunately, Rosie heard about VEDC, which works in partnership with the Watts Entrepreneur Business Accelerator (WEBA) to assist fledgling, female-owned businesses in the community. “It was almost too good to be true,” she remembers. “From day one, everybody at VEDC and WEBA was extremely nice and supportive, and the loan application process was structured and stress-free. When they had a question, somebody actually picked up the phone to speak with me!
“Best of all, VEDC and WEBA understood where I was coming from as an entrepreneur. They took the time to understand my business and vision, and take note of my experience in the fashion industry. They also offered free expert advice and counseling in various business areas, which I happily took advantage of. I believe you can never learn enough,” she added.
“I’m so grateful to the VEDC for their belief in me, and I was even able to hire another employee from the community, which was a real blessing,” she added. “My advice to other single moms, or any female entrepreneurs for that matter, is simply this: Don’t let fear stop you. As soon as you put your heart and soul into what you really want to do, doors will open up. Above all, follow your heart, and make sure you’re picking and choosing any partners carefully, which is why I would recommend VEDC in a heartbeat to women business owners.”
To check out Whimsical Charm’s “Luxe Gifts for Your Posh Tot,” and even pick up a baby tip or two on their blog, go to whimsical-charm.com. And if you’re interested in learning more about how VEDC could help you reach your entrepreneurial goals, call 855-477-5138.