Wednesday Sep 19, 2012 by Susan Johnston - Contributor, VentureFizz
Last week, FashionPlaytes announced $5 million in Series B funding from return backers Fairhaven Capital, New Atlantic Ventures, and angel groups, plus new investors Leo Capital Holdings and Spindrift Equities. The Beverly, Mass.-based eCommerce company, which lets tween girls design and customize clothing, has raised about $12 million in total, starting with a first round in 2009.
CEO Sarah McIlroy says the first round of funding focused on developing the backend production and supply chain management, while the new round will go towards marketing and expanding the team (which currently includes about 20 full-timers). “Our future growth is dependent on building our brand awareness, building deeper engagement functionality and expanding our product line,” she adds.
FashionPlaytes had originally marketed the site to moms but shifted to marketing directly to tween girls this year. Because the site’s target demographic is protected under COPPA (Children Online Privacy Protection), some conventional online marketing strategies like email are off the table for girls. Instead, FashionPlaytes has done some TV advertising and focused on creating a fun user experience.
Engagement and community elements allow girls to create avatars, add outfits to collections, enter designer challenges, and more. The site has over a half million designers, who’ve created more than five million unique designs. McIlroy attributes this growth to the site’s new engagement elements and marketing transition to girls.
“It’s a tough audience to market to because they have many demands,” says McIlroy, who has previously worked as a marketing and business development executive for Atari, Hasbro, and Midway Amusement Games. “They aren’t your typical shopper who goes on Amazon. This younger generation is looking to personalize products, they’re looking to really share and have an influence in building out those products.”
McIlroy herself has two daughters and a son. “My poor son, I think, gets left out of everything,” she jokes. “He keeps asking me when we’re going to do a boy line. He’s designed about five jean jackets. Now he’s eight and looking for real boy clothes. Maybe we’ll get there someday.”
For now, though, FashionPlaytes is focusing on tween girls. McIlroy says, “We've seen incredible growth and it’s really exciting to think of the next 12 months. We’re on the forefront of eCommerce innovation.”