A local success story
Creating a children’s clothing business was never on Kate Almond’s agenda. That changed one summer day when she took her two daughters to the pool for swimming lessons and spotted five girls wearing identical pairs of thin, flimsy underwear.
“At that moment, I thought, “Oh my gosh, there’s got to be a market for a better quality pair of underwear that appeals to kids,”” says Almond. “I thought people would be willing to invest in a higher quality underwear because I knew that I would.”
Sparked by that moment of frustration, Almond created Underdoodles, a line of children’s underwear tailored to meet most mothers’ requirements of a perfect pair: organic, durable, eco-friendly, comfortable, and well-designed.
“Along my journey, I learned exactly what I wanted to do, what I didn’t want to do, what I liked, what I didn’t like,” says Almond. “My poor kids tried on about a hundred pairs of underwear before I got it right.”
Once Almond polished the precise formula for the Underdoodles line, her success began to snowball. Reviews of the underwear began popping up on dozens of parenting blogs, which played a key role in promoting the line to other mothers. Almond had barely just received her first shipment when Underdoodles was selected to be featured on the Today Show.
Almond didn’t anticipate the amount of media attention Underdoodles would receive, but finds the publicity is helping the line break into retail stores. While Underdoodles is already carried in children’s stores in Canada, Montana, and Florida, the company is making their debut at Little Monsters in Milwaukee this month. Almond says she is beyond thrilled to be featured at “the best children’s store” in the city.
The boys’ and girls’ underwear feature simple, yet whimsical designs printed with eco-friendly ink. The themes for the underwear shy away from the common cartoon characters and include dinosaurs, musical instruments, insects, and outer space. Because the underwear are made from such a thick, long-lasting organic cotton, Almond designed each pair of underwear to fit two sizes. Perhaps the line’s most unique feature is the packaging that encloses the themed sets: a zippered bag with separate compartments for clean and dirty pairs.
The business relationship between Almond and Zacher started years earlier when Almond was a customer of Zacher’s at another children’s store in Milwaukee. Zacher said she immediately loved Almond’s idea and later expressed an interest in carrying the line once she opened Little Monsters last summer.
“I’m excited to promote Katie’s line for her own benefit,” says Zacher. “I’m probably not your typical business owner because I think more about promoting [local lines] than about making a buck.”
Almond has also found support and inspiration from her family. Not only were her daughters the initial inspiration, they also help pick out the designs and color schemes, and are her biggest customers, allowing Almond to witness firsthand Underdoodles’ quality. Her husband and business partner, Frank Almond, has lent his support from the beginning and assists in developing strategies and making decisions.
Almond, who has a master’s degree in library science, used her research skills to handpick talented team members from all over the world, ranging from a pattern maker to her manufacturer, to assist in developing every facet of her company.
“I think [the researching aspect] makes the difference because I obviously couldn’t sew the underwear myself,” says Almond. “It’s amazing what you can do if you find the right talents.”
Almond ran into an unexpected obstacle in the infancy of the company when her trademarked name faced opposition from a large, well-known company, who had used a similar name in the past. Her finished line, already emblazoned with the Underdoodles trademark, was in the process of being shipped from the manufacturer, so Almond decided to weather the year-long legal battle that ensued.
“There’s a point when it’s hard to know when to give up and when to keep going,” says Almond. “I felt like it was worth it to fight it.”
“I’ve always believed in [Underdoodles], but I’m really elated at how well it’s gone,” says Almond. “To create a high-end product in this economy was maybe a little risky as far as the timing of it, but I think people will always be interested in buying something different and investing in a higher quality item.”