Steve Case’s fund invests $20 million in N.C. textile company
Steve Case’s Revolution Growth Fund will invest $20 million in a Lexington, N.C. apparel company that Case says could revolutionize the $50 billion apparel industry.
Case, co-founder of AOL, said in a briefing call with the media Thursday that Lolly Wolly Doodle is exactly the kind of start up his fund likes to support.
Started by first-time entrepreneur Brandi Temple in 2008, the company has grown quickly. Its Facebook following has grown from 150 to 580,000, with customers visiting its page to view clothing designs for women and children, tweak and personalize them, and place orders, which are manufactured on site in Lexington.
The company employs 170 people at its Lexington facilities iand plans to add 100 new positions over the next year –i n Lexington and New York City — as a result of Revolution’s investment.
Temple, a mother of four, said her company started at the kitchen table when she couldn’t find clothing she liked for her children at affordable prices. “When I couldn’t find things for my girls that were cute and affordable, I made a few things and had some left over. So I started an e-bay store and a Facebook page, put a few things up and within seconds, the demand was overwhelming and we sold everything we had,” she said.
Then Temple moved the company to Facebook, which today generates 60 percent of its sales.
Case says Temple’s model means “every girl and every Mom can have their personal seamstress in terms of design. It turns the model for manufacturing upside down and creates jobs in America,” he added, likening Temple’s approach to the just-in-time model pioneered by Dell years ago for the PC computer industry.
To create what is basically handmade clothing at an affordable price — many outfits sell for $10 to $40—“is remarkable and that’s what attracted us to it. That and the fact that the company is located in North Carolina, and Brandi is using social platforms to launch her products quickly.”
The result, Case said, is a more efficient business model that doesn’t involve New York designers and off -shore clothing manufacturers.
“It forces down inventory costs, transportation costs and guessing at what designs people will like,” he said.
Asked about the company’s annual sales revenue, Case said he and Temple weren’t releasing that figure. However, he noted that Revolution only invests in start up with annual revenues of less than $10 million.
“Lolly Wolly Doodle is a perfect example of our core belief at Revolution that great entrepreneurs and innovative companies can be found all across the country, not just in Silicon Valley,” said Case. “Lolly Wolly Doodle proves affordable manufacturing can thrive in America – and Brandi is a true ‘Made in America’ entrepreneurial success story.”
Temple said the company plans to move into a larger facility by August, so it can expand factory and warehouse operations.
The investment also will allow her to recruit additional executive talent, broaden product offerings, and expand the company’s market presence both on and offline.
Temple said she will continue listening to Facebook customers. “I take what they tell us every day, and the next day they see creations based on what they told us.”
Revolution Growth was joined in the financing round by existing investors FirstMark Capital and High Line Venture Partners, as well as new investor Novel TMT Ventures.
Located in Washington, D.C., Revolution is led by Case, Ted Leonsis, and Donn Davis. Davis led the investment and will join the board of Lolly Wolly Doodle.