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Business Observer Monday, May 28, 2018 3 months ago

Area businesswoman — one fan is a Kardashian — delivers on new baby-centric business

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If Ericka Perry has her way, every pregnant woman will expect a Stork Bag when they’re expecting.
by: Beth Luberecki Contributor

Ericka Perry’s friend was having a rough pregnancy. So the mom of three put together a care package for her, filled with stretch-mark creams and other goodies.

"She called me crying, saying it was the best thing ever,” says Perry. “I told my husband that I cannot believe that no one has come out with a care package for pregnant women.”

So that’s just what Perry did, calling her company the Stork Bag. The name plays off the iconic image of a stork delivering its infant package and also shows that it differs from the typical subscription box. (Items are sent in a reusable tote bag.)

“I would like for the Stork Bag to be in a class of its own when people think about pregnancy gifts.” Ericka Perry, Stork Bag

Perry, 32, started the company in 2014, while she was living in Chicago. A onetime nonprofit case manager supervisor and drug court case manager with a master’s degree in nonprofit management, Perry moved it to Tampa in February following her family’s relocation to the city. When she started out, she gave herself a goal of selling 100 bags within the first year. It only took three months. “Then I really started to get serious,” she says.

Bags are centered around each trimester of pregnancy. At first, Perry purchased the products for the bags herself, scouring clearance racks at stores like Babies “R” Us to stretch her dollar. With a proven concept, she reached out to the product companies that had turned her down at first and forged relationships with vendors to establish consistency in product offerings and pricing.

Instagram helped her grow her brand, both her own posts and mentions by others. When the girlfriend of R&B singer Tank shared photos of the Stork Bag she received, it drove a lot of traffic to Perry’s website, which was actually a bit problematic because the company was still in its early days. More recently, celebs like Joanna Gaines and Khloé Kardashian have been fans of the bags.

“Khloé raved about her third-trimester Stork Bag [on social media],” says Perry. “It’s really exciting when influencers and celebrities post about the Stork Bag. It definitely pushes more customers our way.”

The company has sold bags to customers in every U.S. state and 13 countries. Perry expects the company to break even in 2018 — its third full year — and she continues to take steps to drive down the cost of making the bags. For example, when she realized customers were just throwing away the boxes the bags get delivered in without really looking at them, she scaled back on the bells and whistles to save about $1.20 a box. Office space is also a lot cheaper in Tampa than Chicago.

Competitors have begun to pop up. So to further differentiate her service, Perry began creating Stork Bag–branded products. She has nine branded products, including pregnancy journals and body butters. Some, like the journals, are easy to produce. The butters and other skin-care products are costlier to make, but she says it’s worth it to help her company stand out. “I would like for the Stork Bag to be in a class of its own when people think about pregnancy gifts,” Perry says.

Perry is cautious about scaling the business too quickly. She’s been burned on this in the past when she had trouble filling large orders for a Houston hospital and retailer Destination Maternity. She’s also working on inventory control, learning from a past mistake of ordering too much perishable product that had to be thrown away because it expired before being sold.

“Now when people ask me about numbers I try to be as conservative as possible,” says Perry. “Before we overshot a little bit, but doing that can be extremely detrimental to a startup.”

She’s in talks with a large third-party online vendor, and if that progresses she’ll need to add to her staff of nine (some are based in Tampa and some work remotely from Chicago). She also wants to build an online community for pregnant women around the brand and is starting to “inch her way” into brick-and-mortar locations.

“I want people, whenever they think about pregnancy, to say, ‘I want a Stork Bag,’” says Perry. “And in the next couple of years I think that’s where we’re going to be.”

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