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Women Entrepreneurs

The Woman Behind the Maternity Wardrobe of the Royals

Working with a team of 120 people, the brand has so far opened 11 stores
The Woman Behind the Maternity Wardrobe of the Royals
Image credit: Entrepreneur India
Deputy Editor, Entrepreneur India Magazine
7 min read
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

You're reading Entrepreneur India, an international franchise of Entrepreneur Media.

What’s common between Kate Winslet, Christina Aguilera, Jessica Alba, Gwen Stefani, and Anne Hathaway? Well, apart from being A-list celebrities they all wore Seraphine clothes during their pregnancy. Cécile Reinaud, Founder & Designer, Seraphine started the brand thinking about solving a problem most of her friends faced in pregnancy days – not finding fashionable clothes to wear. Little did she know that she will soon find a customer in the future Queen of England? The entrepreneur shares how having a steady growth for the brand for the last 17 years and bringing private equity investors on board 18-months back is helping her scale new heights.
45-year-old Cecile toyed with the idea of designing clothes for her colleagues and friends who didn’t have any style options at the time of pregnancy. Prior to starting the brand 17 years ago, Cecile was working as the Account Director in JWT. Soon she picked up the gap, which no other apparel brand was serving, targeting mums to be.

Cecile was always into designing clothes more as a hobby. In her words, “I was fascinated by the beauty of pregnant women, the change the body goes through and at the same time my friends wanted me to do something for them as they had nothing to wear during pregnancy.” Her next step was to go to America which was much more developed than any other market. She found a brand there and was sure that if the market is developing there, it is bound to come to Europe. That’s when she opened the first store in Notting Hill before the internet era. Given her background in PR and advertising, she worked hands-on in promoting the brand.
With success coming in she looked at taking the brand international. The British brand found in 2002 gained much attention when the Duchess of Cambridge, Kate Middleton wore it during all her three pregnancies. That’s when Cecile decided to be more proactive rather than just letting things come on their own and thought of internationalizing the brand. Her first foray of expansion was to France followed by Germany.
Six years ago the brand expanded to America. By then the internet era began and today 60 per cent of revenues come from online sales serving over 30 countries. Post that she expanded to far away countries via franchising. She now runs franchise stores in Hong Kong and Dubai and now in India. The international maternity fashion brand last month opened its first store in Delhi, India. Internationally, the brand has also been worn by celebrities like Anne Hathaway and Kate Winslet.

Starting at the age of 28, Cecile consulted a friend who had developed a fashion business. Using her private network she raised money through business angels. Post that she never raised money but 18 months ago, Cecile decided to sell a majority stake of 67 per cent of the company to a private equity major. Talking about how PE has helped in the growth story of Seraphine, Cecile says, “Now we are focusing more on internationalization of the brand.” With the exit she didn’t just achieve her financial goals but also brought on board a strong partner who will guide at a strategic level. Being the sole founder running the brand all by herself from the start she now had difficulties in scaling it further which she thinks will be taken care of now with external investors on board. This year the brand generated a turnover of £22m. PE gave What’s common between Kate Winslet, Christina Aguilera, Jessica Alba, Gwen Stefani, and Anne Hathaway? Well, apart from being A-list celebrities they all wore Seraphine clothes during their pregnancy. Cécile Reinaud, Founder & Designer, Seraphine started the brand thinking about solving a problem most of her friends faced in pregnancy days – not finding fashionable clothes to wear. Little did she know that she will soon find a customer in the future Queen of England? The entrepreneur shares how having a steady growth for the brand for the last 17 years and bringing private equity investors on board 18-months back is helping her scale new heights.

45-year-old Cecile toyed with the idea of designing clothes for her colleagues and friends who didn’t have any style options at the time of pregnancy. Prior to starting the brand 17 years ago Cecile was working as the Account Director in JWT. Soon she picked up the gap, which no other apparel brand was serving, targeting mums to be. Cecile was always into designing clothes more as a hobby. In her words, “I was fascinated by the beauty of pregnant women, the change the body goes through and at the same time my friends wanted me to do something for them as they had nothing to wear during pregnancy.” Her next step was to go to America which was much more developed than any other market. She found a brand there and was sure that if the market is developing there, it is bound to come to Europe. That’s when she opened the first store in Notting Hill before the internet era. Given her background in PR and advertising, she worked hands-on in promoting the brand.

With success coming in she looked at taking the brand international. The British brand found in 2002 gained much attention when the Duchess of Cambridge, Kate Middleton wore it during all her three pregnancies. That’s when Cecile decided to be more proactive rather than just letting things come on their own and thought of internationalizing the brand. Her first foray of expansion was to France followed by Germany.

Six years ago the brand expanded to America. By then the internet era began and today 60 per cent of revenues come from online sales serving over 30 countries. Post that she expanded to far away countries via franchising. She now runs franchise stores in Hong Kong and Dubai and now in India. The international maternity fashion brand last month opened its first store in Delhi, India. Internationally, the brand has also been worn by celebrities like Anne Hathaway and Kate Winslet.

Starting at the age of 28, Cecile consulted a friend who had developed a fashion business. Using her private network she raised money through business angels. Post that she never raised money but 18 months ago, Cecile decided to sell a majority stake of 67 per cent of the company to a private equity major. Talking about how PE has helped in the growth story of Seraphine, Cecile says, “Now we are focusing more on internationalization of the brand.” With the exit she didn’t just achieve her financial goals but also brought on board a strong partner who will guide at a strategic level. Being the sole founder running the brand all by herself from the start she now had difficulties in scaling it further which she thinks will be taken care of now with external investors on board. This year the brand generated a turnover of £22m. PE gave the brand the ability push the growth faster helping Cecile take more risk creating an acceleration in business. Working with a team of 120 people, the brand has so far opened 11 stores. On its own, it currently has two stores in Paris, three in UK and two in New York while the rest are franchised. Offline is still not a very big part of the business as online is the driving force. According to Cecile, 70 per cent of the material is exported outside the UK.

Talking about when she figured out that the online market is something the brand should cater to, she says, “We started receiving calls from countries like Japan, which was unexpected.” She recently won the Queen’s award for enterprise, which is the best prize received by a company in the UK. Hiring was something Cecile always found challenging as a founder. Sharing how her working style changed while working with investors, she says, “I have now hired more senior people. I represent my vision to investors and they agree to it by helping in refining it. They helped me in considering a franchise in India too. And we invested in newer markets like Germany.” Going forward, in the third quarter of the years the brand will open one more store in Mumbai, India.

(This article was first published in the June issue of Entrepreneur Magazine. To subscribe, click here)

 

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