McClatchy High School graduates Amanda Kludt and Caitlin Zapf saw a gap in the market for girls’ shoes. Now their company, Bumbums & Baubles, is filling it at 75 U.S. stores.
Kludt came up with the idea for a new shoe when her 7-year-old daughter, whose nickname is Bumbum, was about 3. The mother-daughter tussle over clothing choices started with shoes. Kludt wanted something classic, tasteful, simple, but her daughter was mad for shoes with lights, sparkles and the crazy, fun stuff.
The Curtis Park mom wished she could find a shoe that could give them both what they wanted, and that’s when she thought of clip-on baubles that could be sold separately to spice up a classic shoe. She contacted her old high school buddy, Zapf, who was living in San Diego, and Zapf suggested they team up.
“We were in development, my partner and I, for four to five years, while we worked at other jobs. We were trying to perfect the attachment mechanism,” Kludt said. Their goal was “to create a shoe that was stylish on its own but would have this interchangeable accessory that could customize the shoes.”
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The two women introduced their shoes to the market in the fourth quarter of last year, after friends and family bought into their vision with $400,000 in capital. Their sandals, Mary Jane shoes and boots retail for $40-$69, and they have been picked up by regional players such as Takken’s and Brooks Shoes for Kids. Locally, they’re sold at stores such as Koukla Kids, 3809 J St., and Puddles, 2580 Fair Oaks Blvd.
Sales so far this year are already in the low six figures. Kludt and Zapf are now in discussions with some premium, big-box retailers, and they are preparing to raise a fresh round of capital to fund that kind of expansion. Scott Herckis, formerly vice president of finance for Tory Burch and Elie Tahari, was so enamored of the Bumbums & Baubles concept that he agreed to take the company on as a client, Kludt said. Herckis is essentially a CFO-for-hire, managing finances for a select group of businesses.
Rules tough to swallow
The University of California’s Shermain Hardesty is finding that its workshops on how to become a cottage food operator are filling to capacity, but not everyone likes what they learn.
The California Homemade Food Act, or Assembly Bill 1616, went into effect last year, giving individuals the ability to prepare and package certain foods in home kitchens, referred to as “cottage food operations.” The approved foods – jams, jellies, baked goods, candies, mixed nuts and the like – are considered at lower risk for contamination and other problems.
Hardesty’s team at UC Cooperative Extension has offered a handful of classes this month, and more are being rolled out this summer. Past workshops had space for about 35 people, but the ones coming up in the Sacramento area are designed for a class of 50. Every seat is already taken.
Inevitably, a good number of picklers and preservers leave unhappy with what they learn, said Hardesty, leader of the University of California Small Farm Program and a UC Davis Extension economist.
“When we start talking about jams and jellies, we tell them they have to use the formulations that are actually specified by the code of federal regulations,” she said. “It turns out that they have fairly high sugar-to-fruit ratios, and attendees get very disappointed that they have to follow those formulations. That’s just the way the California Department of Public Health decided it.”
The formulations maximize food safety, Hardesty said, but attendees often are looking to use less sugar to make healthier products.
As for picklers, their products have a higher food-safety risk, so they are required to take advanced classes before they can start making their products for sale. The UC Extension will begin offering advanced pickling classes in November, said Hardesty, who’s expecting capacity crowds for those as well. To learn more, visit http://cecentralsierra.ucanr.edu and look for the “cottage food operations workshop series.”
La Bou will be back at the California Center on Folsom Boulevard at Watt Avenue in Sacramento, but its days at Country Club Plaza are over.
“The lease was up at Country Club ... and that mall is just dying,” said Sandie Fredericks, the marketing director for La Bou. “It wasn’t working for us anymore.”
Bee reader Pam Peacock emailed to tell me that she was away on vacation when the restaurant closed a month ago and got a shock upon her return. “I was ... expecting to run into my favorite quick place for a latte and a sandwich and BOOM! Locked up and empty!”
As for California Center, the franchisee there decided to move on, Fredericks said, and La Bou parent World of Good Tastes reclaimed it and found a new operator. She said it could reopen as early as mid-June.
World of Good Tastes, founded and still owned by Trong Nguyen, operates seven La Bou restaurants. About 20 other locations are run by franchisees. The company also sells its pastries to other cafes in the region.