This is the last installment in an interview series with the 2021 Target Forward Founders cohort. Participating companies are sharing details about their innovative companies in their own words. All interviews have been conducted by the Target Forward Founders Program Management team.
Meet House Dogge.
Sustainable lifestyle brand for dogs and their people.
About the founder.
In 2017, House Dogge Owner and Designer, Angela Medlin, saw an opportunity to evolve her passion project into an artisanal dog product brand. The initial idea of creating fun toys for her Olde English BullDOGGE, Wubbi, quickly evolved into a bigger vision- to design elevated quality, sustainable dog toys and accessories for everyone. The lifelong creative began unpacking the inspiration she had been collecting from years of world travel and vintage shopping. Hand crafted materials, alternative textiles, clever packaging, and other items she considered beautiful, meaningful, and purposeful were placed on the wall in her studio. It became apparent Medlin was drawn to the simplicity of design and function. This would become the direction of House Dogge. The brand has been featured in Oprah’s O magazine, Sunset, Better Homes & Gardens, Design Milk, and others. Consumers can purchase product on HouseDogge.com, dog boutiques, select home interior stores, and design specialty shops. Creating products that support dogs and their people is priority for the House Dogge Brand. The small batch collections continue to evolve prioritizing comfort, sustainability, and modern simplicity. INNOVATION & EXPERIENCE: Medlin has three decades of innovative apparel design and leadership experience with global brands that include Nike, Adidas, The North Face, Eddie Bauer, and Levi Strauss & Co. She is creative mentor, serves as a design leader on multiple advisory boards, and is the Founder of the FAAS DESIGN COLLAB (www.faasdesigncollab.com) which provides creative and professional development to under represented creatives desiring to enter the product creation industry.
Angela: House Dogge is challenging the perception, aesthetic, and quality of eco friendly pet products by introducing sustainability through the lens of modern design, innovative materials, and beautiful function. Our product designs consider the shared experience of who we have dubbed “the 6 legged consumer”- dogs and their people, to address lifestyle necessities that offer comfort, well being, and ease of use in 3 key areas: IN-HOME, OUTDOOR, and TRAVEL.
Angela: The Target Forward Founders program would allow me the opportunity to establish a support system of advisors and mentors; build critical skills and strategies; and build investor confidence.
Bold and colorful nursery goods.
Kelsey and Rose: We see retail as a critical piece of the puzzle for us to continue to grow and scale. When we first started MiliMili – neither of us had eCommerce or manufacturing backgrounds so we networked our butts off, learned as much as we could from anyone willing to help, and iterated a ton. Two years in we’ve learned we really could use a retail mentor! People adore our products as much as we do, but it’s still an uphill battle getting the word out. And often, it takes feeling the softness of the fabric to really seal the deal – hence why we’d love to start with one great retail partnership that serves as a marketing and brand awareness channel, as well as an in person sales channel. We know this program will be an amazing opportunity to learn and network some more – to figure out where our finances need to be, how to handle packaging, how to scale and produce internationally, how you get in front of the right buyers, what infrastructure needs to be in place to make this happen.
Meet STINA & MAE.
An organic baby essentials and gifting company focusing on capturing the awe moments.
Mishell Ekunsirinde a former fashion journalist turned mom used in her passion for design and need for function to create a brand. While living her purpose to effect change in the world around her. The mom of two connected her pivoted the brand to represent the her lifestyle and switched to all organic textiles.
My inspiration for STINA & MAE is two fold. We call my son our co-creative director it was because of him making me a mom that I found what my passion and purpose was. I am able to connect my passion and purpose. I am passionate about creating and motherhood. My purpose is in life is to effect change. Our products are made from 100% organic cotton and made ethically. From our very start we manufactured in the United States with partners who pay fair living wages. It is important to us to support the community around us. Ethically sources, ethically made. The three pillars we built our brand on are Well Designed High Quality Products,
Mishell: I am excited to be a part of the program because I feel like this is an opportunity to learn what I don’t know and to gain insight into retail wholesale. You don’t know what you don’t know and I am ready to learn and grow as a business owner. I am looking to create a circle of people who have been there and done that to share expertise on who to avoid or overcome hiccups. In a world of compliance, EDI, and UPCs things can get complicated quick. I’d love to have a group of trusted people to help navigate the field.
Meet Tre’s Lunchbox.
Lifestyle brand offering sustainable and eco-friendly kids tableware.
About the founder.
Hi! I’m Desiree Mingo, a working mom happily sharing my knowledge on work-life balance and providing healthy living for our children. I am the creator/founder of Tre’s Lunchbox, a kids lifestyle brand serving informative and nutritious tips & and recipes on our environmentally-safe kids tableware.
Desiree: My now 3 year old son, Vernon Thomas III (AKA Tre) is the inspiration behind my brand. Initially, I created a social media page for Tre so distant family could watch him grow. I shared what Tre ate at each meal and a little bit of his daily routine. This soon turned into much more than I ever imagined! From the overwhelming response, interest, and inquiries, I decided to delve deeper and offer more. Healthy nutritious meals for growing black boys and girls wasn’t big in my community. I needed to step out and change the narrative and so I did. I believe representation is important in every area, so why not in kids tableware, I took that thought and inspiration from my sons curly afro and begin working on a plate that looked more like him, but was still eco-friendly and kid-friendly.
Desiree: I want to soak up all the knowledge you can throw my way! I want to learn how to grow effectively, make sound financial decisions for my business, market my products, and source responsibly. I need to know how to take my business from online-only to having products in major retail outlets without stretching beyond my small company’s resources.
Meet Be Rooted.
Take time to see yourself.
About the founder.
Jasmin Foster founded Be Rooted to create a space for women of color to see themselves in a place they hadn’t been. Weaving culture into every design and message, Be Rooted inspires customers to explore their inner muse and celebrate self. We want our customers to know, you are seen and you belong here.
TT: What makes you unique compared to your competitors in the marketplace?
Jasmin: Be Rooted is an inclusively designed stationery and lifestyle brand that is catered to uplifting and celebrating women of color. We are disrupting the industry by talking to audience that has often been left unspoken to in a way that feels truly authentic. We give our customers a sense of pride to carry around a piece of connectivity in their every day life.
Jasmin: I believe the biggest value of the Forward Founder program to my business is the ability for me to be able to bounce my business strategy off of industry experts, peers, and entrepreneurs that I look up to. As a solo founder, it is so easy to become insular. The Forward Founders program will allow me to grow my network and refine my strategy in a way that will take us to the next level.
To learn more about each brand or to shop their products, click on their logos below!