December 09, 2019
Pajamas are not something one usually thinks about when heading to the beach, and yet CWE Success Story Christina Guarini did just that. Motivated by the desire to be active and comfortable at the beach or pool, Christina is filling a gap in swimwear options every woman will appreciate: a functional, flattering beach to boardwalk look, the "beach pajama".
An Astute Observer:
After earning a Masters in Psychology in 1996, and with over two decades of practice under her belt, Christina is an astute observer of human behavior. A few year ago, while on vacation with her family, Christina observed that not only were other women hanging back from activities at the pool and beach, but she was as well. As she watched her boys and the men jump in the pool to participate in cardboard boat races, she recognized something all women know, if only subconsciously, "our bathing suits aren't built to move around. There has got to be a better way."
Christina went home and, working from pieces of women's and men's bathing suits from a retail chain, she pieced together her first prototype of the beach pajama. Thinking "women are waiting for something like this" Christina sent it off to the creative director and president of a New York retail chain. "I never heard back." However, in a later catalog, she had a bit of a scare. There were women in board shorts on the cover, holding up a surfboard. "My heart was in my stomach." On closer inspection, the retail chain had not adopted Christina's prototype. Still, it sparked something in Christina to see women in the summer catalog in something similar to her beach pajama. She asked herself "why can't I do this? What would it look like if it came from me?"
Connecting with CWE:
Armed with motivation to see her idea become a reality and a friend's comment that "Massachusetts really supports people wanting to start their own business," Christina researched where to start on the internet. After combing through articles, she came across the Center for Women & Enterprise. With the Central Massachusetts office of CWE just a short ten-minute drive away, Christina made an appointment and met with Michelle Miller in April, 2017. That meeting got the ball rolling. From the initial consult, Christina attended each of the "Steps to Start" workshop, the "Legal Considerations" workshop and the Marketing workshop in quick succession. "I thoroughly enjoyed the classes. I took a class with a lawyer on how to set up a corporation. I didn't know the terminology yet; I was really starting from scratch." Not only did Christina enjoy the classes, she appreciated her meetings with Michelle: "Michelle was amazing. She gives everyone else credit, but she is an incredible mentor."
Christina found learning about the clothing industry and production process both interesting and challenging. "I love fashion, but I didn't know what I didn't know. That is where CWE is helpful; there isn't a question you can't ask."
Production of the Beach Pajama:
Christina decided to name her company "Nantucket Stripes" for Nantucket, the idyllic island off the coast of Massachusetts, where Christina had spent many a summer.
With a prototype, business plan and CWE-bolstered confidence in hand, Christina adopted the product name in part for the flowy beach "pyjama" created by Coco Chanel after WWI, although Christina's beach pajama is shorter, quick-drying and lined. To secure a manufacturer, Christina attended trade shows in New York to become familiar with manufacturing options and how the process from prototype to reproducible final products would work. Finally, Christina locked in on one manufacturer in Los Angeles, California. The manufacturer helped her pull every last detail together: fabric, printing, buttons, ribbons and fit. Nantucket Stripes currently features an array of products including three different long-sleeve tops, four styles of beach pajamas, a swim top that works with the beach pajamas and two different types of beach slides.
On October 30, 2019, Nantucket Stripes finally launched Christina's product at a CWE Shop, Socialize & Celebrate fundraiser. "The energy in the room was awesome. I was surrounded by talented, interesting, and brilliant women who wanted to make the world a better place through innovation and positive change."[i] Among Nantucket Stripes first customers were two CWE staff.
When asked about her plans for the future, Christina noted a few goals. First, she would like to move the manufacturing process back to Massachusetts both to support the local economy and lower production costs. Second, she would like to expand her line to include a bathing skirt, a men's version of the beach pajama and a children's version of the beach pajama.
Recognizing that all women have a love-hate relationship with bathing suits and that women sometimes turn down activities and events that involve bathing suits, Christina wants her product to work for women and so always takes feedback to perfect the swimwear for her clientele. One woman noted that horizontal stripes might not work for some women, so Christina designed diagonal striped beach pajamas. A beach skirt would provide different coverage and entering the men's market could allow her to resolve the liner/no liner conundrum many men face when choosing their own swimsuits.
Advice to others like you who want to start their own business?
"A place like CWE is invaluable. The women are there for all the right reasons and their only motivation is to help other women succeed. They draw in talented self-starters who understand that the process can be messy at times and that each business varies depending on the industry," notes Christina. Taking classes is helpful too, when you are "in a room with women starting different companies that are in different stages, you learn from listening to their questions.
Other people's success stories are equal parts inspirational and motivational. "People say anything is possible and you want to believe it, but when you get involved in something like CWE, you realize, like Michelle said, the only thing standing in your way is you. . . . CWE gives you that courage and encouragement to do something out of your comfort zone."
Finally, Christina observes that "It will always be more important to me to make a difference in the world. This company isn't about owning a business or making money. It is about affording women the freedom to relax, have fun, and be themselves. I want women to feel comfortable, stylish, and feminine. When women look forward to the warm weather and slipping into their beach pajamas equally as much as sweater season, I will have done my job."
9 Berkshire Road
Shrewsbury, MA 01545
Special thanks to CWE volunteer writer, Amy Henderson
[i] Guarini, Christina. "The Launch." NantucketStripes (blog), November 9, 2019, www.nantucketstripes.com/f/the-launch