Irene Robles and Laura Grams met back in 2001, when both were recent college grads working as clerks at the courthouse in Bryan. Jobs and families separated them for a while, but they eventually reunited in Houston, where their business idea was born one day over coffee in Laura’s living room. By this time both had children, and just before the idea came to them Grams had to change her daughter’s diaper. She pulled out what she now calls “a contraption thing” that held baby wipes.
Do you like that?” Robles asked.
“It’s good enough,” said Grams, “but I wish I could access the wipes more easily.”
“And I looked at her,” recalls Grams two years later, “and she looked at me and we were like, do you want to do it?”
“It” was simply an attractive clutch that held baby wipes and diapers, and they did want to do it—or, actually, they wanted Robles's husband to do it, since he knew how to sew.
“We bought him fabric,” says Grams, “sat down with him at the sewing machine and were like ‘oh, sew this.’ He was so patient. ‘You’re doing it wrong,’ we kept saying, ‘you’re doing it wrong.” But he finally gave us this little sample thing and it worked. It was cute. It was perfect.”
They filed a provisional patent. The pair now had the challenge of transforming a single hand-sewn clutch into an actual business, which meant finding a manufacturer. “I was like alright, we need to go find a manufacturer so let’s just go google a manufactuerer,” says Grams. “Well, um, that’s not really how it works.”
They tore through all their handbags, looking for clues to how they were made. They went to Nordstrom and, under the suspicious eyes of salespeople, searched bags for labels. Eventually, after months of mostly dead-ends, they ended up in the outskirts of Dallas, before a warehouse that looked completely abandoned, on a tip from someone who cut fabric. They wondered whether they had the right address. “I was like, this is either going to be it,” says Grams, “or I am going to die. I looked at Irene and said ‘I’m not sure what’s going to happen but I love you and love my kids and love my husband and I hope we make it!’”
In the warehouse they finally found a manufacturer, and months later the women were at the Dallas Market, searching out buyers for what had finally become a business: Me Cute LLC. Their first was a boutique in Oklahoma. And as they expanded their product line, they kept asking questions and solving problems. Why were burp cloths so boring and scratchy? Why wasn't there a way to keep dirty bibs from soiling your purse? They introduced a line of soft, printed cloths (Burp Me Cute) and bibs that fold into a single pocket (Feed Me Cute), keeping the food remnants contained.
Along the way, Robles and Grams found some unexpected repeat buyers: pharmacies that cater to seniors, who were looking for a way to carry wipes and incontinence pads. The two have been thrilled with the reception to their products and are still brainstorming new products.
"Why are diaper bags so ugly?" asks Grams. Expect a line of those soon.