Tech Startup of the Week: Citizen Made Lets Manufacturers Customize Products for Less

Rachel Brooks helps independent retailers optimize their online presence for “tailor-made” services

Former menswear designer Rachel Brooks founded Citizen Made, an e-commerce platform to assist retailers who sell customizable products (Image: Source)

With a background in product design, development and production, Brooks’ client work had at one point reached Target, Bloomingdale’s and Reebok, among others.  Before starting Citizen Made, she was actively designing and managing  a menswear label. In the store, customers had the option to design custom versions of the products based on the inventory the store carried.

“Because many of the products were made to order, we were able to produce custom versions without a major increase in production costs,” says Brooks, who started the company in Chicago, but moved to New York once she realized how frequent her business trips there had become.

“Customers loved this capability, and we wanted to find a way to extend that experience to our online business.”

Brooks took the idea to Bryn McCoy, her co-founder and CTO, who she met through mutual colleagues–and so Citizen Made was, well… made. After putting in a lot of elbow grease, Brooks and McCoy raised about $65,000 from a string of competitions that included the Women 2.o Pitch NY 2012 Startup Competition, which scored them an opportunity to partner with L’Oreal USA’s Women in Digital Awards; and $15,000 from the Chicago Interactive Marketing Association. Now, after building a fully scalable, revenue-generating platform, Citizen Made is currently in the process of closing their first formal round of financing in New York.

Congratulations to Brooks and Citizen Made, which is our Tech Startup of the Week. Below,  Brooks provides three tips co-founders should implement in order to work together effectively:

  • A co-founder has the ability to bring balance to your skills, personality, and work style. Pick somebody who shares your values, but also somebody who can complement you as a leader.
  • You don’t find a co-founder, you earn one. This means something different for every founding team but, in looking at successful founding teams that are still in tact, the time, effort and commitment of each person early on is what grounds the relationship.
  • Allow others to thrive in their expertise. In new, small teams, there is rarely a huge overlap in skills and experience. That means that each person is uniquely better at some projects over others. Let team members lead where they can, and step up where you can. Nobody should run the whole show.
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