Small business month spotlight

Momzelle wants to help mothers feel more comfortable breastfeeding in public with its stylish – and functional – apparel line

Small businesses across Canada are finding success by finding a niche they can own, like Montreal-based Momzelle, which won the Pure Play of the Year award at the Canada Post E-commerce Innovation Awards.

Nine years after helping start the company with his sister, Christine, Vincent Poirier is now the president of the seven-employee design house. The secret to the company’s success? He says it’s all about hiring the right people and promoting word-of-mouth advertising.

Watch Momzelle’s finalist video for the Pure Play of the Year category (small business) at the 2016 E-commerce Innovation Awards.

Poirier talked with Canada Post about design, best-sellers and what’s next for Mumzelle.

Q: How did someone who studied actuarial sciences become president of a company that sells breastfeeding tops and nursing bras?

A: Ten years ago, I would never have thought that I’d be running a breastfeeding apparel company! But when my sister had her first baby she made a nursing top for herself, and her friends and midwives thought it was a great product because there was nothing else like it on the market. So she got the idea of making this into a business and she asked me to launch it with her.

Q: Was clothing design something that ran in your family?

A: Our mom makes a lot of quilts, that’s her passion, and she made a lot of our clothes when we were kids. So my sister learned to make small quilts and scarves and other things. She didn’t study fashion and design wasn’t her job, but she could make things for herself.

Of course, when we started to make real prototypes and take them to real factories it was a different story. We both tried following the patterns and cutting the fabric, but we would end up having a shirt with two sleeves that were not the same length.

When we wanted to create a product and bring it to market, we knew we had to find people to help us to get it right.

Q: Why were there so few clothing options for nursing women before Momzelle?

A: There wasn’t enough of a market for clothing like this 30 years ago, but breastfeeding rates have increased a lot in the last generation and so has the demand for clothing like ours. Most women want to breastfeed now, but they still often feel uncomfortable about nursing in public or about showing their breasts or their belly.

Q: What role does world of mouth advertising play in your business?

A: Moms share a lot of their experiences with other moms. Often, at the time in their life when they’re having babies, their friends are having babies too, so they share information about products that they find useful and what works and what doesn’t work. That has helped us a lot.

Q: What are your best-selling items?

A: Our most popular item this fall is the Sophie, which is a turtleneck, in heather red. The Gabby, which is a nursing hoodie, is also popular at this time of year. We always offer our basics and best-sellers, but our goal is for the collection to consist of at least 20 per cent new styles every season.

Q: What are your goals for Momzelle over the next year?

A: Our main focus will be promoting our nursing bras and getting more exposure in the United States. We have a great product, and now we just have to get it to the moms so they can try it and love it and refer their friends. Already about 30 per cent of our sales come from products we export there, but we really want to grow that market and also expand in Europe and Australia as well.