September 18, 2012

FashionPlaytes’ $5 Million Series B Funding to Focus on Marketing and Engagement

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

Susan Johnston is a journalist and contributor to VentureFizz.  You can follow Susan on Twitter (@UrbanMuseWriter) by clicking here.