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Primary Colors

Updated: Feb 5, 2020

Primary Colors

Galyn Bernard and Christina CarbonellCo-Founders

Galyn Bernard and Christina Carbonell are co-founders of Primary, an E-commerce site focused on low-keys basics for kids.

Employees

7

Founded

2015

LOCATION

New York, NY

Industry

Clothing

Social

Galyn Bernard and Christina Carbonell met when working at the ecommerce site Quidsi. While there, they not only became close friends, they also learned what it takes to create a successful business. Through the years, they started having conversations about a dream business that they themselves would run. Instead of selling other company’s products, they wanted to have control over the entire supply chain; they also wanted to make an impact.

So last year they started Primary, a company that makes kids’ clothing and sells it direct via Primary.com. Inspired by companies such as Crayola and Lego, the two founders wanted to make a kids brand that focused on self-expression, color, and soft, functional fabrics. They also have a deep interest in making it easier for parents to stock up on essentials for their kids, at a price point that’s more than reasonable.

Primary’s stance against logos and trends isn’t only about a more ethical approach to raising youth—focusing on perennial styles allows them to keep the price point low. However, Galyn and Christina definitely have an interest in making changes in the world. Their partnership with Baby2Baby highlights those kids who don’t have access to basic clothing. Besides the ethical thrust of the company, Primary is building on ecommerce’s ability to deliver quick solutions to busy consumers, all the while developing an emotional relationship with customers who love their product.

Below, we talk to Galyn and Christina about how working at Quidsi prepared them for Primary, what changes have been happening in the ecommerce industry, and how they run an end-to-end, direct-to-consumer business.

Funding Circle

Tell me the story of how Primary got started. Why kids clothing?

Galyn Bernard and Christina Carbonell

Galyn: Christina and I worked together for over four years at what was 1-800-Diapers when Christina started in 2007. I joined in 2010, once it was Quidsi. We worked together through lots of changes in the company, and became really good friends. We talked about things we’d like to do differently, or ideas we had for a business we might like to start someday. We landed on this idea for kids’ clothes. It was a stark contrast to all the things we were spending time on at Quidsi in terms of solutions for busy parents. For us as parents, each with two kids, it felt like that sort of orientation was missing in the kids’ market.

Funding Circle

How big is the market?

Galyn Bernard and Christina Carbonell

Galyn: The market is massive, about 30 billion dollars—and it’s really fragmented. There are tons of companies selling kids clothes, but no one was really thinking about this solution. For us it was about reinventing how kids’ clothing is sold today. It was about taking away some of the emphasis on trends and logos and thinking more about what our kids love, which is color and soft fabrics.

Funding Circle

How did the experience of working at Quidsi prepare you to start Primary?

Galyn Bernard and Christina Carbonell

Christina: Quidsi was kind of a rocket ship in terms of growth and we were really lucky to be a part of that experience. We learned a lot about how to scale a business to over a half-billion dollars in sales by the time that we left. That included a lot of unexpected lessons, such as investing heavily in unexpectedly amazing service, how to build the kinds of marketing partnerships that will help you to grow, and how to build a company culture that you can really be proud of. Probably the most important thing that we brought from that experience was knowing that you have to do whatever it takes to make sure that your customers don’t just like you, but love you. Inspiring customer passion was one of the most important lessons.

Funding Circle

How did you raise the startup capital to start Primary?

Galyn Bernard and Christina Carbonell

Galyn: We spent a few months after we left thinking through a business plan and proof of concept—everything it would take to get up and running. We raised a seed round in June 2014, which was co-led by Satya Patel at Homebrew and Michael Dearing at Harrison Metal. They’ve been incredible partners through today, we talk to them all the time and feel really lucky about the partners we had early on.

Funding Circle

You’re still in the early stages of starting Primary. What is your biggest challenge at the moment?

Galyn Bernard and Christina Carbonell

Galyn: I think for us the focus has been on what’s the most important. There are so many things that we can do and think about and try to solve for, but it’s really easy to spread yourself thin when you have an incredibly small team that’s trying to do a lot just to keep the lights on. We have 7 full-time employees right now which we feel awesome about, but it means we have to be focused on the most important things so that we’re consistently delivering an incredible experience.

Funding Circle

Where do each of you get your entrepreneurial spirits from? From your family or background maybe?

Galyn Bernard and Christina Carbonell

Christina: I think we would both agree that being an entrepreneur certainly requires equal parts vision and grit. Myself, I didn’t grow up with a family of entrepreneurs. I didn’t grow up with a lot of privilege and was the first in my family to get a college degree. I think things like that—working really hard for what I wanted—helped me to be really scrappy, roll up my sleeves, and be very resourceful and able to adapt to changing circumstances.

Galyn: For me, similarly, I didn’t grow up with official entrepreneurs. My dad was a physician and had a private practice for a long time. Actually, now thinking out loud, it’s funny because it was definitely his own business. His relationship with his patients was everything, and so I think that growing up and learning how hard it was to manage the business, but also the quality time it took to really get to know his patients and be able to make sure they were getting the best care, I think it has informed how I want our customer to feel. My mom stayed home but busted her butt to get things done for everyone in the family and in the neighborhood, and that’s something I’ve also definitely taken with me.

Funding Circle

How does Primary differ from the e-commerce sites that Quidsi runs?

Galyn Bernard and Christina Carbonell

Galyn: The fundamental difference is that at Quidsi we were an ecommerce retailer selling other people’s merchandise, and at Primary it’s our own brand and clothing. We have full control of the end-to-end experience in a way that we didn’t at Quidsi.

Funding Circle

Who designs the clothes? Where are they made?

Galyn Bernard and Christina Carbonell

Christina: We have a small team, but we’re lucky to have Patrick Robinson, who’s just such an incredible designer and person, who joined the team last year. He’s really passionate about what we’re doing and really shares our vision for simplicity and incredibly soft fabrics. He has help from the rest of the team in terms of the technical design and fit and things like that.

Galyn: We make our clothes in Peru, India, and China, and some stuff gets made in Los Angeles as well. We’re excited to maintain flexibility within the supply chain. For us, delivering high quality and attainable price points for people is really important to us. So, finding partners who can meet the quality and reasonable price is super important.

Funding Circle

How else do you keep the price point below $25 for each product?

Galyn Bernard and Christina Carbonell

Christina: There are a few ways we’re able to offer premium quality at significant value. One is by selling direct online at Primary.com only. Cutting out the middleman and not going through other folks helps to keep the prices lower. The other important way is that we’re focused on selling perennial styles rather than chasing trends. A business that does trends is expensive. Often those costs end up blending into the prices of basics in a way that we feel is too much. By avoiding that, we can charge the right prices for evergreen basics.

Funding Circle

Primary believes in colors rather than logos. Why?

Galyn Bernard and Christina Carbonell

Christina: We believe that kids don’t need logos to boost their self esteem, and that they don’t need logos on their clothes to express themselves. We think that what kids need are comfortable, well-made clothes that lets them be themselves and shine. So we offer our clothes in a beautiful array of colors which in many ways we think are analogous to Crayola and Lego, where there’s an inherent creativity that allows kids to use them in whatever way they want to.

Funding Circle

How do you test the products for quality?

Galyn Bernard and Christina Carbonell

Galyn: All of our clothing is tested and certified by a third party inspection lab that ensures safety and which obviously complies with all the CPSC requirements. We also go visit in person so that we can see for ourselves and get to know our factory partners in that way as well.

Funding Circle

What are your plans for scaling up?

Galyn Bernard and Christina Carbonell

Christina: We’re excited to keep telling the story of our mission. It’s important to us to make a difference in kids lives in the US and around the world, knowing that many kids lack basic, essential clothing. We feel that Primary is the kind of clothing that every kid deserves. So, we’re really working to expand those efforts. We currently work with Baby2Baby to bring clothing to kids around the world. Also, we certainly hope to develop an army of followers who will help us to spread the word.

Galyn: The other and maybe obvious component is continuing to build a team. Our team is small and really scrappy and incredible, but I think what’s very important is that we continue to build the team. The culture here is really nice, which I think is something that we took away from our experience at Quidsi—and that’s something we want to continue doing as well, making Primary a place where everyone feels awesome about showing up and working really hard.

Funding Circle

Who are your customers? What types of parents are they?

Galyn Bernard and Christina Carbonell

Christina: Our customers are modern parents who appreciate solutions and aspire to keep things simple, since parenting is complicated enough. But really whatever their personal styles and philosophies we feel that Primary really plays well with everything. It was a brand that was created for all kids and is for any parent who is interested in de-cluttering. Our customer base is broad by design.

Funding Circle

Do they skew toward a specific demographic though?

Galyn Bernard and Christina Carbonell

Christina: I think they skew towards a well-educated group that lives in an urban environment where the need for convenience is acute. But I think that Primary appeals to anyone who is looking for a simpler, easier way to buy kids’ clothing. The skew is not that strong however, since lots of different types of people are busy and looking for these kinds of solutions.    

Funding Circle

What’s your most effective method of marketing?

Galyn Bernard and Christina Carbonell

Galyn: To date, Facebook has been our most effective method. It’s been a platform where we can really share our mission and point of view. The social engagement and feedback around that is incredibly valuable. And from there, obviously, customers have the ability to share and start a dialogue in their own community.

Funding Circle

What has been the biggest change in e-commerce over the last 5 years?

Galyn Bernard and Christina Carbonell

Galyn: I think it’s been an evolution that sort of started with convenience—hopping online to avoid a trip to the store was a huge part of what made Diapers.com so magical. Busy parents at home in the middle of the night didn’t need to run out to get diapers. From there, building on the idea of convenience, it became about making products more affordable. Ecommerce was then able to pass the savings they made from not having brick and mortar stores onto the customers. I think those two pieces have been in the market for a bit now. Online brands are now working to build a better emotional relationship with their customers; so it’s about building brands that people love, and becoming more personalized since there’s now so much more data available. You can serve them now in a way that can more easily anticipate what they need and make the experience that much better for them.

Funding Circle

In your ideal world, what will Primary look like 5 years from now?

Galyn Bernard and Christina Carbonell

Galyn: For us it’s still what it was when we first set out. We want to build a brand that parents love, first and foremost. I think 5 years from now it’s about continuing to build on the passion that we’ve seen from customers—to see every mom’s group talking about Primary and how much their kids love it and how easy it makes shopping for them. That would be awesome. We’d also like to see more kids get clothing who really need them. Primary is really excited to level the playing field and get to a place where kids aren’t judged by what they are or aren’t wearing.

Quickfire:

Funding Circle

What’s one book every entrepreneur should read?

Galyn Bernard and Christina Carbonell

A Good Day by Kevin Henkes.

Funding Circle

What’s one brand that your admire?

Galyn Bernard and Christina Carbonell

Crayola.

Funding Circle

5 Favorite independent businesses in NYC?

Galyn Bernard and Christina Carbonell

A lot of them have to do with caffeine. Cafe M and Grace Street are our neighborhood coffee spots. We go to L&W Oyster Company often. STORY is a unique storytelling place we’ve admired forever. Pashko, which is a sort of adult lifestyle brand focused on simplicity, is really awe-inspiring for us.

Michael Jones

Michael Jones is a Senior Editor for Funding Circle, specializing in small business loans. He holds a degree in International Business and Economics from Boston University's Questrom School of Business. Prior to Funding Circle, Michael was the Head of Content for Bond Street, a venture-backed FinTech company specializing in small business loans. He has written extensively about small business loans, entrepreneurship, and marketing.

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