Kelli Clough ’05 MBA has built a business by finding holes in the market and filling them.
A mother of three boys and an entrepreneur, Clough decided to start a business in 2006 that would allow her to stay at home and keep up her business skills. So she began My Lullabug, an online apparel store for babies and children. She started with 10 shirt designs and built a base of wholesale customers.
But what really helped propel her business was her innate ability to find a viable market that didn’t already have her product. Clough says she was aiming for baby clothing stores but that in today’s economic climate, they would fold somewhat regularly. So she needed a market for her golf shirts. She realized that golf pro-shops were not victims of the downturn and that they rarely sold children’s shirts. She made her pitch and got in them with her shirts, which are one of her most popular items.
Another one of her successes is her playmat. Having twins boys that are each five and a 7-year-old, she says she has been able to locate the need for things that her family could never find. She could never find a durable playmat, so she researched materials and developed an entire line. Now, they’re the source of her staying up late at night leading into Christmas to fill orders.
But she never complains about the long hours, which she is now trying to manage as a full-time job with her youngest sons in kindergarten. In addition to managing the business side, she also creates all the designs on the clothes. “I want to keep enjoying,” says Clough. “I think it’s such a privilege to have a job you enjoy. I love the creative process of it.”
Clough is one of several entrepreneurs from NC State who are trying to make it in today’s sour economy (we have profiled two others who have designed scarves and skirts, respectively). Part of Clough’s success is that she didn’t have to play catch-up with technology, which she credits to her time at the university. She utilizes social media, with a presence on Facebook and Twitter.
“The emphasis for the MBA at NC State was on technology,” she says, adding she concentrated in e-commerce and product development. “I took a class where all the material was on Google. And they have such an impact on how your business works. They have a whole formula on how your page appears.”
She now has 40 different shirt designs and has introduced a line of stickers that go on shirts but can be replaced when a child’s age changes. She also has dipped into sports-based apparel, which caused a family conflict. Recently, she asked her son, who cheers for NC State, to model a UNC shirt for the website. She had to bribe him with a piece of candy to get him to do it.