Local Moms Stitch Superhero Capes for Children and Adults
LIVONIA, MI--(Marketwire - January 18, 2011) - "Why didn't I think of that?" is the first thing any savvy business person or entrepreneur likely says after visiting the website of PowerCapes.com and learning that this four-year old company, which started as a Michigan cottage industry, now ships thousands of handmade superhero capes worldwide.
Whether luck or good fortune, one local mom thought about it first. Four years ago, Holly Bartman, a former special education teacher and stay-at-home mother of two, made her son and all of his party guests superhero capes for his fourth birthday.
"He didn't want a specially branded cape -- just an ordinary superhero cape," said Bartman. "It was another mom who was so impressed with the capes and suggested I try selling them."
That's exactly what Bartman did -- beginning with eBay and then through Etsy, an e-commerce site for handmade or vintage items, art and supplies.
Sales grew quickly and Bartman's home sewing machine and work area were no longer sufficient. In 2008, she acquired commercial machines, more space and her first employee.
"Nicole Betley was the mom of one of my son's classmates in kindergarten, and now they're best of friends," said Bartman.
A small studio at the old Winery building in Farmington, Mich., suited their needs perfectly. Then another tenant and small business owner, Justin Draplin, became curious about what Bartman was making. He offered to help her create a website and became a wholesaler of Bartman's capes. Sales increased; Bartman and Drumlin's partnership grew; more moms were hired as part-time employees; and once again PowerCapes.com outgrew its space and moved to a building in Livonia.
Draplin, a 1999 graduate of Michigan State University with a degree in business and marketing, has helped Bartman, who has a master's degree in education from Marygrove College, take the creative cottage industry to the next level.
During 2010, a newer version of the original website was launched with production and sales soaring for the holidays. Up to 600 capes were direct shipped to online customers each week, not including capes sold through wholesalers.
PowerCapes.com allows customers to purchase plain capes for children and adults, in different colors and sizes as well as customize capes with insignias and initials. The company also makes and sells superhero t-shirts, masks, wristbands and other accessories.
In just two years, the company has grown from one to seven moms who work part-time.
"This job gives me and other moms the flexibility we need to spend time with our children," added Bartman, who admits that she spent extra long work hours during the holidays to ensure that all of the orders were delivered on time. "I can come to work in my yoga pants, bring the dog to work, set my own rules."
For Bartman, the biggest challenge has been transitioning from the classroom to the business world, and that's where Draplin has helped her to set up a business structure, create affiliate and corporate programs, as well as utilize social media and sponsorship opportunities.
Bartman and Draplin are also reaching out to schools, hospitals and non-profits to help them with their fundraising activities. "Our custom capes are a natural fit for businesses and organizations that want to recognize the many kinds super heroes out there," said Draplin.
For the past year, PowerCapes.com has been the supplier of "Heart Hero" capes that are donated to children born with congenital heart defects (CHD). The company connected with a group of moms in Nebraska who started the Heart Hero Foundation, www.heartherocapes.com, to ensure that children who are battling this illness receive "super hero strength" to help overcome their fear of going to the doctor and facing extensive medical procedures.
Bartman and Draplin plan to travel to Nebraska in February to meet the Heart Hero moms and families at a local fundraiser and to help them send more capes to children worldwide.
Thinking about the future, Bartman sees exciting new custom products to be made while Draplin sees the need for more space and more websites to be launched.
Headquartered in Livonia, Mich., PowerCapes.com makes and distributes superhero capes and accessories worldwide. All capes are made one at a time from thick, premium satin material with emblems and initials hand stitched on capes, shirts and blaster cuffs to ensure they never fall off during play or after being washed. Capes fasten with a small Velcro closure for easy on/off wear. All products have been tested, certified and meet the standards for the United States Government's Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA). For more information, call 313-454-1492 or visit www.powercapes.com.