Labor Of Love

Long gone are the days when expectant mothers grew frustrated with the lack of flattering clothes. With today’s maternity fashions, pregnant women can dress as glamorously or casually as they choose. Signaling this new wave in maternity fashion is Paula Mattisonsierra, the founder and designer of Maximum Mama Maternity, a chic, affordable, contemporary line of clothing for savvy moms-to-be.

Mattisonsierra developed her sense of fashion watching her mother design custom clothing in her shop in Jamaica. Today, she designs and sells her own maternity collection of form-fitting silhouettes and trendy mix-and-match pieces to women looking for nine months of style.

Since the company’s launch in the fall of 2001, the increasing demand for its apparel has helped expand the three-employee, San Francisco-based company. The clothing line is sold in 45 stores nationwide and internationally, including Mommy Matters and AKA Mom.

In 2003, Maximum Mama grossed $280,000 in revenues. However, the company faced a few obstacles the following year, and revenues plummeted to $102,000. The difficulties in 2004 started when one of Mattisonsierra’s sales representatives leaked information regarding the styles, colors, and fabrics of her upcoming suit line to another maternity company. Maximum Mama also failed to recoup $40,000 dollars from a couple of maternity boutiques and a regional department store that went bankrupt.

In addition, the company was involved in a credit card scam where a bogus wholesaler purchased more than $12,000 worth of clothing in a three-month period. Mattisonsierra was alerted to this scam when her credit card company notified her about purchases that had been made with two stolen credit cards. She admits to believing that the scam artists were legitimate but quickly realized that “as an entrepreneur, you have to be careful who you do business with.”

To get back on track, she decided to sell her inventory of clothing that had been around for more than six months. In an additional effort to recoup some of her losses, Mattisonsierra enhanced her product line, adding more casual garments, such as jeans, to her collection. She also expanded her international client base to include the United Kingdom, Canada, and Israel. These adjustments boosted the company’s 2005 revenues to $375,000.

Mattisonsierra opened a 1,200-square-foot storefront in the west portal area of San Francisco in October 2005. She anticipates that revenues for 2006 will double to a projected $650,000. She also plans to open a second store in the fourth quarter of 2006. Sales from the second location are expected to account for 25% of 2006 projected revenues.

The Jamaican-born designer came to New York City at the age of 16 and later graduated from Baruch College in New York with a degree in international marketing. Although Mattisonsierra, 40, has no children, she was inspired to start Maximum Mama after her two sisters and three sisters-in-law gave birth to her 13 nieces and nephews.

When Mattisonsierra was laid-off from her job as the assistant to the CEO at General Electric, she decided to redirect her career and enroll in the Fashion Institute for Design and Merchandising. She