LIFE AT DHG

Episode 52: Celebrating Women in Business

In celebration of Women’s History Month, we are highlighting the stories of many women who are leaders in our communities and in business. This celebration would not be complete without honoring some of our outstanding, trailblazer clients. Stacy Struminger, President and Founder of RAINRAPS joins us to talk about how she started her business from a creative idea with her best friend – both women entrepreneurs.

 Episode 53 Transcript:

AGH: Hello, everyone. Welcome back to another episode of our DHG podcast series. I’m Alice Grey Harrison, your host. I love this venue, because we get to hear about the things that matter the most to us - flexibility, careers and people.

We’re currently celebrating women’s history month. This celebration would not be complete without honoring some of our outstanding and trailblazer clients. Joining me today is Stacy Struminger of RAINRAPS. She and her business partner, Rachel Teyssier are great examples of women entrepreneurs, women who have great ideas and bring them to life. They truly have an inspiring story of vision and leadership.

Without further ado, welcome Stacy.

SS: Thank you so much, Alice. I’m happy to be here.

AGH: Super. Let’s start with the basics. Founder of RAINRAPS, tell us what a RainRap is and how it was born.

SS: Okay. Well, At RAINRAPS we like to call it a pashmina for the elements. I’m the kind of person that was always prepared for the cold weather, but I was never prepared for the rain, and it happened all the time.

Basically, I moved from New York City, where I used an umbrella all the time to Richmond, Virginia where I was in and out of a car and the umbrella – I just couldn’t figure it out. I tend to not wear anything at all, and I was getting wet all the time. I just wanted something to wrap over me running in and out; hence, the RainRap was born.

AGH: That is such a great story. I will tell you, I can’t tell you how many times I keep an umbrella in the side pocket of my door. I can’t tell you how many times I just leave it there when it’s raining, because it’s so much trouble to get out of the car with it because I also am carrying a bagful of work stuff, usually a bagful of food, because I take apples and oranges and popcorn with me everywhere.

I’ve got my purse. I probably got some bag that belongs to my daughter, or some workout clothes. There I am trying to get out of the car with all these bags and I’m like, “Oh, I can’t even deal with an umbrella.” Then getting in the car, you’re exactly right. You get in the car and there is water everywhere. I never know where to put the umbrella. If I take it and put it across the seat then it gets all on my seat, or all on me as I move it.

SS: Right. Or if you put it in the backseat then you’re getting wet going from back to the front seat. It’s the greatest thing; you brought up another point is the greatest thing about the RainRap is also it can allow you to be hands-free, so you can truly protect your handbag and all your briefcase and all the bags that you’re carrying, and in fact have a hand to hold if you needed to hold a child or something. It really does protect you – protect not only you, but everything that you’re holding, which is important.

AGH: Absolutely. What was the most challenging part of taking that first step when you had the idea of a RainRap?

SS: Yeah. I would say, it all just happened so fast that I – I would never really say there weren’t any challenge, but I guess the biggest challenge if I have to come up with a challenge would be that I chose to work with my – I chose to partner with my best friend, and you know that that’s a major no, no according to everybody else.

You always hear stories about people’s relationships falling apart. You just don’t mess business with friendship. We are happy to say six and a half years later; we have yet to ever have an issue. To me, I always had the opposite, like I’ve always heard that and I understood that, and I have heard stories where that’s happened.

I felt like, “Who can I trust more? Who do I know better? Who knows me better?” We’ve just been very lucky that we definitely have – I don’t know if you want to say the Yin Yang relationship, but we’ve never created roles. They naturally fell into place and I have never ever had to worry about what I’m sure a lot of people have to worry about with mainly trust. Trust is I guess the main thing. When I look back, I feel like that was probably the biggest risk that we took is really putting our friendship at risk, which like I said, knock on word, everything’s been wonderful so far.

AGH: Well, you raised up a great point regarding trust, I think. Any business getting off the ground, having those people around you who you can trust. I know when we talked earlier, you may talk about this in another answer, but you talked about all these people just fell into place. You picked a fabric that was similar to your husband’s golf pullover. Talk a little bit about how all those little pieces just came together through your network.

SS: Well, basically we had as much, I laugh about it, because we – once we came up with, “Wow.” We realized that there was not a RainRap out there and that we needed to make one. We felt like, “Oh, my gosh. We have to keep this very hush, hush. It’s like our little secret until it got up and running.” We at the same time did talk to and reached out to everyone we knew that had anything to do with a business basically, from our friend being a trademark attorney, to our friend that works in production and advertising. We had a friend that was starting a PR business.

The biggest trust besides taking the trust and risk with Rachel, is that a good friend of our father had just retired from manufacturing men’s shirt for 30 years. He was someone that we chose to go talk to and said, “How do we get started?” He introduced us to his broker overseas that he had a relationship with for 30 years.

We took the trust from our friend, who we knew had a successful business and wouldn’t steer us wrong with this gentleman that to this day, he is our main guy overseas. We have the trust in him. We have never traveled. We just completely trust the fact that this gentleman served our friend’s father for so many – for 30 years, that we took that trust in him. It’s unbelievable what we’ve been able to do just with this trust.

Basically, like you were saying how it all started is that we said we knew we wanted. I wanted my favorite pashmina within a certain fabric that my husband had on a golf jacket. Basically, our friend’s father said, “Well, I have the guy. He’s a vendor too and you just tell him you want this made in this stuff for.”

We sent it to him. All of a sudden, we got a sample back of exactly what we wanted. We tweaked it. The product has evolved since we started years ago, but it’s truly amazing how simple the process was once we had the connection and the person and the trust.

AGH: That’s amazing. I think one of the lessons learned there. This is something that women – I don’t know why that women in the business world do tend to struggle a bit with and that’s networking. Mainly because I think a lot of it happens on the golf course, or somewhere that women aren’t going to go.

Networking is something at DHG that we have really been very deliberate in making opportunities for networking for our women and teaching women how to network. I think it’s interesting that you really used your network to help get this off the ground.

Another barrier, or I guess not another barrier, but women as they start a business, anybody who starts a business for that matter often encounter some barriers. Are there any barriers you feel like that maybe you encountered as a female entrepreneur, that maybe a male wouldn’t have encountered?

SS: I do not think so. In fact, I feel like the opposite. I feel like we had so many things to take advantage of as a woman-owned business. We had opportunities. We were members of the WBENC, which is the Women's Business Enterprise National Council, where they approach businesses that want to do business with minority companies, and women unfortunately are still considered a minority in that world.

We were able to do something that completely started our business off to a great start.  We had applied to SPANX the Leg-Up Program. Sara Blakely the founder of SPANX felt like Oprah gave her a leg up and she is very, very involved in helping women businesses and wanting to give them their leg up.

We had applied to that program in our first year of business, and we were fortunate enough to receive it. What she did was – it was because we were women. We want to have this opportunity, and she opened so many doors for us. Generously, she puts you in her catalog and we just – I mean, it was so important in the start of our business. Again, that would never have been available if weren’t the women – women in business.

AGH: That’s a great example of women helping other women to get a leg up. What might you have male or female, for someone who might be getting started, or have an idea that they would like to turn into a business?

SS: Well, I would say if you have passion and you believe in your product and you feel like it really serves a need, then you just need to keep going forward. Nothing should stop you, and no one should stop you. I knew, because I guess I was fortunate to create. I wasn’t really looking to start a business. I really wanted a RainRap.

Like I said in the beginning, I was always prepared, but I was not prepared for the rain. I have curly hair that I like to blow out. It was really messing up with it. I needed a RainRap. I needed something to protect me. I feel like when you are so passionate and you believe in something so strongly, it’s very easy to get that message across to other people.

The other thing is that don’t be afraid that you have no knowledge in starting a business. I mean, we had no knowledge. We, like I said in the beginning, we reached out to the people in the field that we knew overlapped with what we had to accomplish. The internet is amazing. You can get all of your information from the internet.

I’ll just share about this one story that I shared with you Alice, was when we spoke with Sara Blakely as part of the leg up recipient, we got a conversation with Sara Blakely. One of the things that she said was when she first started her business, it was with the footless pantyhose. She said when it came time to make her label and her packaging, she didn’t know what to do and she figured there was probably certain requirements that needed to go onto the label, but she didn’t have the education to understand, to know what they were.

All she did was she went and drove to the nearest department store and she bought one of each brand of pantyhose, and she sat there with the highlighter highlighting what everybody had on it. She figured, “Okay, they all say where they were made. They all say the contents. They all say this is, what I must need to have.” That was it.

I think the difference between men and women are I feel like I know – a man would’ve gone and researched it and taken a  class or hired somebody with a repeat, where I feel like women are somewhat savvier, and it’s just really – it’s not rocket science. I feel like, again the internet is amazing.

AGH: Yeah. I do think that women are very resourceful. I know I have to be resourceful in a lot of different things to make things happen. I definitely get that. You’re exactly right. My husband would not be nearly as resourceful as me.

My final question, RAINRAPS are awesome and they do really meet the needs of women. I’m just going to give you a little plug here, so I’m on their site and we had the opportunity to speak before this podcast. One of the coolest things I saw were they have a new line that’s coming out that are made for – they reflect college colors, so the PMS color of the university, but they’re made with the back of the RainRap being a little bit longer. Because if you sit on a wet stadium seat, you want something to sit on. I just thought that was so genius. I mean, obvious, but totally genius. Can you share with our listeners –

SS: Right, right.

AGH: Where do they get these main –

SS: I’m sorry, Alice.

AGH: No, no. I’m so excited. Where do people go to get RAINRAPS?

SS: Well, the RAINRAPS of course, are like you said they’re available in our website which is just RAINRAPS.com. We offer free shipping within the United States, but what we would love you to also do is if you scroll down to the bottom of our website, you can find a list by state of our retailers and our wonderful partners. Hopefully, you will find a store near you. If not, like I said, you can always order from the website.

AGH: That is super. Well, this has been so much fun. I have loved learning about RAINRAPS, and I feel inspired. I need to come up with a brilliant idea, so that I can follow in your footsteps. I just think this is the coolest thing and a great way to celebrate women during women’s history month. Thank you very much for joining us.

SS: Well, thank you for having me. It was fun.

AGH: It was fun. I can’t wait to share with all of my friends about this RAINRAPS. It’s super exciting.

Thank you all for listening to Life at DHG, our premier podcast series. If you like what you just heard, we hope you’ll tell your friends and colleagues. Be sure to check out our DHG blog for more great stories about our life beyond numbers.

Join us next time for another edition of Life at DHG.

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