For her entire adult life, Sindy Sagastume struggled to find clothes that fit her properly. Now she’s finally doing something about it by pursuing her goal of offering apparel for petite women, 5 foot 3 inches and shorter—what she calls “a very underserved market.”
She’s launching a clothing line called Bantam Garb. Though she reports some 30 to 40 million American women are in that group, Sagastume, 33, says petite women are still considered a “niche” segment. And there are riches in niches.
“Bottom line: I am building the petite women’s version of what Lane Bryant has built for plus-size women,” Sagastume said. “The inspiration to do something now came from seeing brands and companies in the start-up space launch and succeed at getting products to consumers in non-traditional ways, especially in niche markets like plus size.”
Originally from Guatemala, Sagastume moved to Texas before studying at New York University and settling in Spanish Harlem. Later this month she is launching a Kickstarter with her first product, petite pants. Right now, Sagastume is surveying petite women to understand their needs. She sees the market underserved due to three main reasons: First, retailers order merchandise from brands, they rarely develop it alongside brands. So if brands are not providing petite merchandise, the retailers can only do so much to acquire it. They can either ask the brand to provide it or develop it as a private label, but they cannot force a brand to make something in petite sizing.
Second, Sagastume says brands (and retailers) want to serve the greatest number of people, so for apparel, that means making garments that will fit at least 75 percent of the population. Petite women, though at least 30 million as a total market, are still a small percentage when compared to the entire women’s market of 120 million.
Third, the apparel industry has been writing off petite women as an easy fix market and neglecting to actually tailor product for them.
That’s where Bantam Garb comes in.
“The idea that it is easier to remove fabric rather than add it can only go so far,” Sagastume explained. “It’s not just about cutting off lengths, when making apparel for petite women, it is about keeping all measurements proportionate — smaller shoulders, pockets where they need to be.”
Sagastume said her team at Bantam Garb plans to physically manage inventory, however, they also plan to use data to optimize purchases. By going direct-to-consumer, they plan to survey customers and obtain their feedback before going to production.
“This is a major area ripe for innovation — social and technology tools can help the apparel industry be more efficient — we have the technology to track measurements like height, waist and inseam to extrapolate a better size assortment for consumers, we just need to use them,” she said.
Even as recent news in the apparel industry has skewed negative as retailers struggle to compete with online retailers, Sagastume still felt confident to take the leap of faith because she saw an industry is in need of innovation to succeed. She’s drawn on internal and external sources of strength.
“I knew that I had ideas capable of creating change, this was the perfect time,” Sagastume said. “The other source is outer support — from my significant other to my closest friend, to a very important professional group of women known as the Li.st who keep my outlook positive. When embarking on something that will have its ups and downs, it is very important to have a solid network of support.”
To begin, Bantam Garb will focus on pants, which Sagastume said is the toughest product category for petite women to find off the rack in a great fit. They plan to focus the first year on guaranteeing they can offer the best-fitting pants for women in different fabrics and styles.
Over the next four years, Sagastume plans to introduce new product categories, dresses next (specifically flowing maxi dresses and special occasion formal dresses which she says are also incredibly difficult to find), followed by skirts and tops, then outerwear and activewear, and finally accessories.
“This will ensure we have a robust platform for a petite woman to purchase complete outfits and wardrobes,” Sagastume said. “I see the lack of a leader in the space as our biggest opportunity for success. In plus size, Lane Bryant is a clear leader. In intimates, Victoria’s Secret is a clear leader. In petites, there is no single entity — whether brand or retailer, that captures a significant share of the market. This is the biggest opportunity we have and part of the urgency in executing it now.”
The two roadblocks right now for Sagastume are time and money, as she currently has a full-time job to pay the bills, which then eats into her time and energy.
“Working anywhere between 8-12 hours on someone else’s business and then focusing on mine really takes a toll, shorting one task at the expense of the other,” Sagastume said.
“When not having a full-time job, there are less funds to support the expenses that go with manufacturing a physical product,” she said. “I need fabrics, samples, photography, videography and inventory. So having limited funds makes it more difficult to bring forth the best possible product.”
Sagastume manages by not trying to accomplish everything at once, focusing instead on acquiring one thing at a time, clearly budgeting the funds and time she needs to hit her milestones.
Sagastume advises other female entrepreneurs to minimize insecurities and comparisons as she believes they will only delay your execution. She also suggests reviewing your plan to ensure there is a market and you have a product that serves that market better than existing options.
“If you believe you have that, execute on it,” she said. “Many male entrepreneurs go to market with less than that, so if you can meet those key points, execute!”
Cross-posted from Opportunity Lives
Carrie Sheffield is the founder of Bold. She is passionate about storytelling to empower and connect others. A founding POLITICO reporter, Carrie contributed on political economy at Forbes and wrote editorials for The Washington Times. After earning a master’s in public policy from Harvard University, she managed credit risk at Goldman Sachs and researched for Edward Conard, Bain Capital founding partner and American Enterprise Institute scholar. She earned a B.A. in communications at Brigham Young University and completed a Fulbright fellowship in Berlin.