Ellen Diamant, Skip Hop, Woman Entrepreneur
The Internet world in NYC is not that old. We were out at Coachella in early April and ended up hanging out for a short time with Michael and Ellen Diamant. I knew Michael and did some business with him in the 90's with one of his first companies, T3 Media but really have not seen him since then. I knew that he and his wife, Ellen had started Skiphop in 2003, another success, but it was the first time I got to meet Ellen.
And this post, it's all about Ellen. Ellen grew up in Long Island moving up to Binghamton to go to college where she majored in art to get a degree in fine art learning to become a graphic designer. After graduation, she moved to the Upper West Side and has yet to leave. She decided to take some classes at SVA then landed a job at Studio H2O Design. She worked with magazines such as Vogue and Mirabella doing their promotions.
Ellen left that job after two years and found herself at Connors (now Primedia) as a promotional art director working with Modern Bride and Interior Design. It was here where she met Marvin Shaken who owns Wine Spectator and Cigar Aficionado. She decided to go to work for Marvin. That opened her eyes to an entire different world of how to work. He was a total entrepreneur and every day in the office was different and creative all working towards the growth of the business. There would be tastings in the office from chefs, people coming in with their new wines. Ellen created specialized art promotional advertising programs that made her think about starting her own business.
At this point Ellen was married to Michael so living with an entrepreneur who was growing his own company certainly made her think about starting her own. So, Diamant Design was created. She was not only working with clients but Ellen was helping Michael grow his next company too. The company was called iClips.
In 2000 Ellen gave birth to their son Spencer and decided to take a short hiatus. Two years later she knew she wanted to do something but she didn't want to return to what she had been doing before. She couldn't find a diaper bag that was hip and functional so she created her own. Both her and Michael brainstormed what they should call the bag and decided upon Skip Hop Duo Diaper Bag. The domain Skiphop was available so they bought it. Ellen designed a logo and thought this could be a good hobby but Michael knew there was something else there.
In 2002, for any of you who remember, the hipster angle of the children's business was just taking off. All of a sudden children's businesses were cropping up. An endless stream of new products began to emerge. If you had a kid in 2002 and then another in 2004 there would be new and updated products in 2004 that you wished were around in 2002. Bugaboo and Dwell were some of the companies that began during that time which like Ellen were designers who were young parents.
iClips wasn't happening. Too early as UTube is basically the next generation of iClips and Michael and Ellen decided to see where this business could go. They learned about manufacturing and began making their products in El Salvador. They put in their own money took out a booth at the children's trade show, sold their bag to a few retailers and Skip Hop was on its way.
Ellen knew how important it was to brand Skip Hop. They had to separate themselves from the Mom and Pop cottage industry that existed before by making them look like a sophisticated design company specializing in children's accessories starting with the bag. Spending time listening to what the market wants and creating products that are well designed and fill a need.
Skip Hop has grown over the past 9 years into a full lifestyle brand. Skip Hop's products are sold in over 30 countries and over 5000 doors from Amazon to Fred Segal to Zappos to Nordstrum. The products are cool and reasonably priced so they appeal to everyone from celebrities to moderate and higher end customers. In essence, their products appeal to the masses because they are hip.
The business is constant evolving. Ellen leads a team of six designers who are involved in design and branding. There are 33 people in the US and one in China. Three warehouses between California, New Jersey and China. They work with twelve different manufacturers in China. These days making products for children is not an easy business. Since the issues with toxic chemicals finding their way into products made in China, the standards are incredibly strict, as they should be. That is why they have one dedicated person dealing only with safety regulations only.
The next evolution will probably be more e-commerce on their site. It is absolutely a family business as their son Spencer considers himself an entrepreneur too. Regardless of the strength of their business and ability to be married to your business partner, there is no doubt that having their son grow in a world where you run your own business and can't imagine anyting else is no doubt the biggest twinkle in her eye.