Vital Stats: Barbie White, 48, president and co-designer of Japanese Weekend Inc.
Company: San Francisco maternity clothing retailer and wholesaler
Projected 2003 Sales: $10 million
What's in a Name? White, a former dance company owner, named Japanese Weekend after a production she had choreographed. "Because I was a gymnast and dancer, I understand how the body moves. So it's easy for me to understand the [changes in a pregnant woman's body]." Creating the Ok Support Waistband, which fits below the belly and supports the back, White offers mothers-to-be a chance to breathe easy from the usual discomfort of a tight waistband cutting across the stomach.
"My generation was getting pregnant, but maternity stores were still buying clothing as if we were our mothers."
The Minimalist: "I come from the theory that less is more. We interpret what the trends are but manipulate them into something sophisticated." White describes her clothing and clientele as "confident, free and hip."
Maternal Instincts: When times were tough in the late '90s, White's accountants told her to dump mail and Internet orders, their biggest money losers. She refused. "If we had stopped at that point, the momentum we would have lost would have been devastating." Mail order is now one of the company's biggest moneymakers.
Growing Up: Not wanting to depend on wholesaling, Japanese Weekend opened six retail locations, but the clothes can be found in independent boutiques. Says White, "The key to feeling sexy is [feeling] comfortable. These clothes enhance the ability to feel comfortable."