What: Lightweight hosiery for women
Who: Amy Kistler Lambert and Anna Roop White of Autrepeau
When: Started in 2003
Startup Costs: $50,000
As undergraduate business students in North Carolina, Amy Kistler Lambert and Anna Roop White were preparing for 12- to 15-hour corporate workdays. Yet there was one thing they hadn't planned on: wearing itchy sweaters and stiff suits on a daily basis. So the two friends and former roommates combined their dreams of finding comfortable officewear and decreasing dry cleaning costs with their business backgrounds to form Autrepeau--French for "other skin." The company makes lightweight short- and long-sleeved tops, camisoles, turtlenecks and pant liners that can be worn unobtrusively under dress clothes.
After spending several years in investment banking, Kistler Lambert and Roop White, 35 and 36, respectively, started talking to patternmakers in early 2003. During the design process, the pair would wear the samples to ensure that the product would achieve their goal of providing comfort. "We wanted to develop a product that had a brand presence and actually solved a problem for women," says Kistler Lambert. The company now helps women comfortably dress to impress, and its products can be found in approximately 180 high-end boutiques across the nation.
Selling online has been helpful for Autrepeau, which earned 2007 sales of about $500,000. Its products, featured in three colors--black, buff and white--are priced from $36 to $44 and come tucked in its signature pink packaging. The friends of 20 years attribute their success to dedicated customers and word-of-mouth marketing. "We have customers who own 15 to 20 of our tops, which is more than I have," jokes Roop White. Now, with the constant demand for new products, Kistler Lambert and Roop White are planning to launch fresh styles in the next couple of years.