STARTUPS: SD Founders Among Fast Pitch Finalists
By Karen Pearlman
Hosts Dr. Silvia Mah, Elaine Swann and Raven O’Neal and a virtual audience at Women’s Venture Summit 2021. Now in its ninth year, the event will return to an in-person format on Sept. 16-17, 2022. Photo courtesy Women’s Venture Summit Presented by Stella
New York transplant Vicky Pasche was working in management for a local San Diego County area casino in 2010 when she realized she was unhappy with the kind of clothes available in department stores.
CEO and co-founder
Wanting to dress professionally, fashionably and comfortably, Pasche, a plus-size woman who had recently come out as gay to her family and friends, said she was having trouble finding clothes that fit her work needs, and fit her personality.
Women’s clothing, most of it form-fitting, was not the look she was going for. Men’s clothing, which she said she felt more connected with, didn’t flatter her body shape.
Pasche said around that time, she had a friend who took her to Old Navy to shop, and it was there in the men’s department that Pasche had her ‘a-ha’ moment.
“When I tried on the jeans, it was everything to me,” Pasche said. “It literally was life changing. I didn’t realize down the line that women’s jeans never actually fit me but it didn’t matter. Knowing that this is who I was, my confidence level went through the roof, and at that point, everything changed for me. I was able to start dressing my part and being who I was.”
Pasche also said she had grown weary of the sideways looks she would get in the men’s and women’s sections of clothing stores when shopping for work suits and other clothes. She knew she wasn’t alone.
It took a couple of years, but by 2014, Pasche and her wife, Charisse, whom she had met in 2012, started making plans to create a clothing line that would be inclusive for all sizes, be gender neutral and androgynous – and be stylish.
In 2015, Dapper Boi was born, bootstrapped by family and friends of the Pasches.
Dapper Boi’s online presence − heavy on jeans and button-up tops but also big on shorts, blazers, jackets, jogging pants, hats, socks and more – filled a niche. Its jeans are stretchy with functional, deep pockets and more room in the hips.
Successful from the start through Shopify, seven years later, the company has grown to $1.23 million in revenue – 23 percent above its 2020 sales totals – with hopes to continue to grow and expand its line.
So far, the company has had more than 30,000 customers – with a 51 percent repeat purchase rate – allowing Dapper Boi to grown exponentially year-over-year since 2015.
This week, Dapper Boi will compete for a chance to win seed money and more in a special “fast-pitch” event at the annual Women’s Venture Summit, which focuses on helping female founders gain access to capital.
In its ninth year, the Sept. 16-17 summit at the Town & Country Resort in Mission Valley, brings together female founders and investors. Raven O’Neal, CEO of event organizer Stella, said the summit is another way the nonprofit is moving toward its goal of wealth creation and equal opportunity for women.
Encouraging Female Founders
“The overall goal of the summit is to get more women to invest in women-led startups,” O’Neal said. “Women are historically underfunded and that’s even more drastic when the demographic includes women of color, BIPOC and LGBTQ. Year over year, the idea is to activate women to invest in start-ups. We want women to activate their capital.”
Stella, founded in 2012, is a San Diego-based nonprofit that has helped more than 500 women launch and scale their businesses through courses, advisement, funding opportunities and access-to-capital events.
“Our mission is to help women get more access to funding opportunities and the Women’s Fast Pitch competition and Women’s Venture Summit are our biggest efforts to do so and have helped us connect women with more than $70 million in funding to date,” O’Neal said.
O’Neal said investing in women-led businesses is a smart decision.
“Women tend to perform better, use capital more efficiently,” O’Neal said. “The actual return on your investment is better.”
Dapper Boi and another San Diego-based company, Clickvoyant, are among startups from across the country that will vie for seed money and in-kind services in a fast pitch contest on day two of the event.
The Women’s Fast Pitch competition made its way across five U.S. regions over the summer. This week at the Town & Country, one founder will win $10,000 in seed money, approximately $30,000 worth of in-kind business services and exposure to a new investor network.
The other Women’s Fast Pitch finalists are:
- Mia Umanos of San Diego, whose Clickvoyant is AI-powered analytics software that automates presentations from raw marketing data;
- Dana Donofree of Pennsylvania, whose AnaOna is a collection of “boob inclusive” lingerie and intimates for all different breast sizes and surgery outcomes;
- Aurelia Edwards of Florida, whose Nailstry is an app that provides users with a virtual measurement tool for sizing nails, showcasing nail designers from across the globe, providing users with many non-toxic and reusable press-on nail options;
- Jessica Bussert of Indiana, whose Wave Therapeutics is a healthtech startup that creates products to help prevent pressure injuries and whose initial products include an active therapeutic wheelchair cushion;
- Vlasta Schutzenhofer of Washington, whose Roura is a femtech startup that makes an item called “Relief Brief” − underwear with patent-pending heat and massage technology designed to soothe and comfort people who are suffering from cramps
Pasche said if Dapper Boi should come out as the winner, it would give the company funds to create, expand, scale and sell more items; have faster turnaround shipping times after orders are placed and eliminating most delays; attain better pricing; and would give the company an opportunity to add key product design, production and marketing players to its team, allowing it to grow in ways it hasn’t been able to yet.
She said Dapper Boi is good with continuing to sell their products online, but that perhaps someday there will be a dedicated non-binary section in department stores, an area for more androgynous fashions.
“Maybe we’ll be the first to do it the right way,” she said. “The whole point of Dapper Boi is to feel like you fit in, metaphorically, and literally.”
CO-FOUNDER AND CEO: Vicky Pasche
CO-FOUNDER: Charisse Pasche
HEADQUARTERS: San Diego
BUSINESS: Genderless clothing
SALES: 2021 sales $1.2 million
SOCIAL IMPACT: Gender-neutral, size inclusive clothing company caters to underrepresented communities, including LGBTQ+.
NOTABLE: Company’s motto is “Clothes that fit you inside and out.”