In 2010, I reviewed my great AJ Rumina shirt here, and I told you about the alterations that made it even better here. Owning a shirt from AJ Rumina satisfied my curiosity about the company’s product and made me happy to include them on my Clothing for Us page, but I still wanted to know more about its founders–the website’s about page has always raised more questions than it answered. I reached out to Rebecca Yates, the company’s president, and asked if I could interview her for Hourglassy. Her answers to my questions make me want to support AJ Rumina even more. I hope you feel the same.
Darlene: I understand you started the company because of your own clothing needs. Can you share a story about searching for clothing before you started AJ Rumina? Also, your “about us” page mentions partners–how did you meet? How do you complement each other?
Rebecca: One of my worst clothing nightmares was shopping for formal dresses. My mother and I would spend days searching through stores to find a dress that would cover my bust, wasn’t too low, and didn’t end up looking like a muu-muu! Eventually we would give up and my mom would just make me a dress, with a modified pattern. I was the only one in the school wearing a homemade prom dress and, despite how beautiful it was, I was mortified. My partners are: (1) my best friend from the age of 9 and (2) my mother. My friend, Michelle, has always followed the fashion industry and does the bulk of our designing. My mother can sew anything and does our pattern making and fulfillment. I run the business, network, do customer service and all of the miscellaneous things that come up in business. Between the three of us, we had everything we needed to make this happen.
Darlene: What needs and preferences influenced some of the design features in your clothing?
Rebecca: I was working in a professional office one day when my boss came in. He stood over my chair, looking down at me, and then said, “Do you think that shirt is entirely appropriate?” I was flabbergasted. I was wearing the EXACT same shirt as the other young lady in the office. He then proceeded to tell me I shouldn’t dress like that here. I laughed. It seemed that no matter what I wore, my buttons were either gaping, my shirt was too low, or it would pull up and show my stomach. It’s very difficult to keep everyone focused when I’m having a clothing malfunction in my meetings!
Darlene: What was the biggest challenge of starting your business? What is the biggest challenge as you continue it?
Rebecca: Our biggest challenge to start was our complete lack of knowledge about this industry. In any business you start out with ideas of how it will go and it NEVER goes that way. We thought we could just start sewing, but we really struggled to find ways to get the fabric, create the patterns (we were given quotes of over $100,000 to create patterns. For three single moms, that was IMPOSSIBLE!), and get the word out. We honestly thought we would do most of our sales from local shows and home parties. They haven’t been succesful at all, and all of our sales are online now. The biggest challenge we face now is finding the time to make it happen! Michelle has remarried and now has five kids. I have just had a baby and now run two other businesses, and my mom watches my kids. Making sure that everyone gets what they need, when they need, can be hard!
Darlene: What was/is the biggest surprise for you?
Rebecca: The biggest surprise was the support we received from the bloggers. I had no idea how powerful this could be, and honestly I’m not sure we would still be in business without them spreading the word!
Darlene: Where does the name “AJRumina” come from?
Rebecca: AJ is a play on maternal last names from Michelle and me. Rumina is actually the Italian goddess of breast feeding and nourishment. She was the one who put the two babies to suckle on the wolf.
Darlene: What else would you like Hourglassy readers to know about you?
Rebecca: We strive to bring the best product possible at a reasonable price. We are very particular about what fabric we use so that the pieces our customers purchase from us last. The concept was to bring in pieces that were staples for the closet and that customers would be able to wear for a long time. Our long term vision is to grow so that we can begin to add lines that cover other clothing issues such as A cup sizes, long arms, short arms, etc.
If you have any more questions for Rebecca and her team after reading this interview, please ask them in the comments!