After revealing April’s Qualification Grant Finalists last week, we’re excited to announce our qualification grant winner. Congrats Christina Marshall-Valdez, founder of Elu, LLC!
Read on to learn all about Christina and her business.
WN: Tell us a little about your business and how you got started.
CMV: The idea for Elu came from my own personal struggle to find clothing in my size and that appealed to my tastes as an upwardly mobile, young professional woman in New York City. After an embarrassing fashion moment where I encountered five (5!) other plus size women wearing the same low quality white dress at a high profile event, I promised myself that I would someday create a new solution for us curvy dolls that would make us feel special and audaciously beautiful. My journey to fulfill this promise has been intentional and metered as I wanted to be confident in my ability to build a successful business. So, I obtained my MBA, became a buyer at Target Corporation and then a brand manager of an iconic brand. Six years I’ve learned enough to get the job done.
Elu (pronounced eh-loo) is a brand created with beautiful, authentic plus-size women in mind. At Elu, we are inspired by her curves and seek to create an offering that addresses her biggest pain point in apparel – finding quality, fashionable clothing that fits. But we didn’t stop there… We heard her say in focus groups that she felt left out and like a recipient of left-over, hand-me-down options. The fashion industry found a way to truly disenfranchise and disempower this wow-inspiring woman, but we’ve come to return what is rightfully hers – her control. Our Elu made to measure apparel gives her the power to customize her look in a way that highlights what she loves most about her body. Elu also liberates women from prescriptive fashions that were casually graded up to her sizes as an afterthought. To all the plus-size beauties out there, you were not an afterthought for us. You were first and foremost in our thoughts, thus we crafted this brand and each pattern and garment we produce with your curves in mind.
WN: What will the process be like to obtain a custom dress? Will women have to visit a tailor to get the proper measurements taken?
CMV: The process to obtain a custom dress begins with a visit to our platform at www.yourelu.com.. Our customers will start their journey by taking the Elu Style Quiz, which will give us insights about their body type, style inclinations and fit preferences. At the end of the quiz, we create her style profile and recommend base garment that she can customize to further flatter her curves. From there, our customer can begin customizing her selected look. Beginning with measurements, we give her bite size video to guide her through the process of gathering her unique dimensions. We advise our customers to have another persons measure them or if at all possible, we ask them to visit to their favorite tailor to ensure best results. After dimensions are captured, our customer selects her preferred neckline, sleeve style and length and hem length. Three weeks later, our customers receive their custom apparel arrives and we hope she proceeds to strike a million and one poses in her full length mirror.
WN: Have you determined a price point for your clothes yet?
CMV: Our initial offering is focused on dresses, but we will soon introduce additional apparel options. Our dresses are made of quality, finer fabrics that have the versatility to go from desk time to date time. Our looks are stylish but have a classic, enduring aesthetic that make them easy to style, increases their lifetime in your wardrobe and decrease their cost per wear.
In addition to providing quality clothing, we seek to become our customer’s fashion accomplice. For example, we know that some of our customers are on a journey to lose weight, thus they fear that their custom apparel may become unusable. For that reason, we offer our customers a FREE alteration if they lose a certain amount of inches. We are doing all we can to celebrate the women we serve and be by their side for the long haul.
Our dresses start at ~$249, but we believe that our customers will receive unparalleled value in the apparel they purchase from us.
WN: Where and who will be making the clothing?
CMV: We are currently based in Chicago, IL and our apparel is made here in Chicago by a team of women makers. We are also exploring a responsibly sourced off-shore solution as well.
WN: Any advice for other women entrepreneurs?
CMV:Take the leap, but on your own terms.
Not everyone needs to go to business school or seek industry experience like I did in order to start a business and build an empire (I’m foreshadowing ;). There are countless examples of successful entrepreneurs who just jumped without a parachute and they landed in the winner’s circle. Be authentic and true to yourself. Make this experience what you need it to be in order to live the life you envisioned for yourself and your family. Best of luck ladies!
Thanks for reading! Remember that we award a grant every month – if interested, please apply today.
And if you’d like to vote for Christina to win the $1,000 Amber Grant, you can vote for her here.