Interview with Lindsay Hagerman: Co-founder of RainCaper

Written by Sonia Pacheco Mejia, Emily Zou on Sunday, 07 May 2023. Posted in Interviews

RainCaper is a small business co-founded by Lindsay Hagerman and her mother in 2016 after operating their previous business, Flag Lady Gifts, in the suburbs of Philadelphia for over two decades. Specializing in gifts for the home, travel accessories, stationary, and of course, their iconic rain capes and umbrellas, RainCaper’s products are inspired by fine art from famous artists such as Van Gogh, Monet, and Delaunay Paris. While this mother-daughter duo primarily sells their products wholesale to independent retailers, museums, catalogs, and hospital gift shops, they also have a business-to-consumer presence on their website and Amazon.

We had the opportunity to interview Lindsay Hagerman, who works in networking, business operations and customer support for RainCaper.

Q1. What inspired you to start RainCaper, and how did you come up with the idea for your products?

The inspiration for RainCaper came from their previous experience as independent retailers selling various gifts. After closing Flag Lady Gifts in the Philadelphia suburbs in 2015, the duo saw an opportunity to create functional and beautiful products. They started with plaids and prints, but then created a piece for the Philadelphia Museum of Art which they bought. This accidental discovery led them to focus on creating their raincoat and umbrellas featuring fine art like Monet and Tiffany. As their product line expanded, customers kept coming back for the art, and it has become their specialty. Today, the fine art products are what shines in their product collection.

Q2. How has your mother's entrepreneur spirit influenced your own? Did you take any business-related classes during high school that helped you grow as an entrepreneur?

When Hagerman was in middle school, her mom started Flag Lady Gifts, and she began working for her as a stock girl. Hagerman recalls learning so much from watching her grow her business, from opening boxes and gift wrapping to eventually helping with the buying aspect of it. Hagerman also went to a private school with a simple curriculum and took Art History as an elective, which gave her a new appreciation for art and museums. While she didn't take any business classes in high school, her experience working for her mom helped her get a job in sales. Working with family can be challenging, but Hagerman and her mother have different roles in the company and share a respect for independent retailers.

Q3. Can you please outline a typical day working at RainCaper?

As a small business owner or employee, Hagerman wears many hats, including operations, HR, co-owning relationships, and networking. Her day involves handling various tasks like mail, email, and customer service support. When it comes to hiring, she spends time interviewing, conducting background checks, and onboarding new employees. “It's a lot of jumping around, and I don't get to dive deeply into things due to the busy schedule,” Hagerman states.

Q4. How do you maintain the balance between offering unique, artfully inspired products and making sure that they're practical and functional?

Hagerman states that as a small business owner, she believes in offering unique and artfully inspired products while ensuring that they're practical and functional. It's a delicate balance that they strive to maintain with every product they create. “One of the ways we do this is by adding a little something extra to everything we sell,” Hagerman explains. Whether it's a decorative border or a magnetic flap on a notebook box, they want their products to stand out and offer additional value to customers. By explaining the added value at trade shows, RainCaper shows customers how their products are unique and different from others. Their business also ensures everything they sell is well-made, top quality, and has good packaging.

Q5. How do you stay connected to your local community while also serving a wider customer base online?

Hagerman states that staying connected to the local community is on their roadmap to establishing a mentorship program. She participated in the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses program, which introduced her to Philadelphia business owners, some of whom they now do commerce with. However, a lot of RainCaper’s sales come from traditional gift store sales, which are often driven by trade shows and independent sales reps. Hagerman states that they communicate with them through email, phone calls, and during trade show season.

Q6. How did RainCaper start selling artful masks during COVID-19 pandemic?

RainCaper's decision to start selling artful masks was made after the pandemic hit in spring 2020. In April, the company recognized that they had a relationship with a factory that makes top-quality woven technical fabrics, and that they could create a functional and beautiful face mask. They also realized that their stores needed to try to stay open during the pandemic and that masks were in high demand. The masks kept the company afloat and were one of the best products available. RainCaper thought about it for some time, but not so long that they missed the opportunity to introduce it to their customers at the right time.

Q7. Can you discuss your commitment to sustainability and environmentally friendly business practices while still maintaining a reasonable, fair cost?

RainCaper tries to minimize waste and recycle whenever possible. In regards to business practices, they have an employee in China who is an important part of the team, and she helps them find great factories, most of which are women-owned and quite small. RainCaper uses a technical fabric that is only made in China, so they do have to balance the desire for sustainability with the need to offer a functional, rain-proof product. Hagerman states that while they strive to be environmentally friendly whenever possible, their main priority is providing customers with products that they love and will use for years to come.

Q8. What are some challenges or setbacks you faced as a small business owner?  

As a small business owner, one of the biggest challenges is the ballooning cost of software subscriptions. Software as a service (SaaS) means that businesses have to pay for each employee's subscription per month, which can be crushing. Even basic tools like email software, Slack, Zoom, and Pantone subscriptions can add up quickly. The cost keeps increasing, even if there's no added value. This is an operational overhead that takes away from the bottom line. Sales might go up or down, but this expense is constant. It's not something that employees necessarily see as a benefit, making it a difficult challenge for small business owners.

Q9. What plans does RainCaper have for future product development and growth?

They have several international distributors, with a growing strong presence in those areas. The company has a distributor in Canada, Israel, the Caribbean, and Mexico. RainCaper frequently introduces new products, and just received a container of brand new beach towels that they plan to pre-sell at the wholesale level in the next couple of months. In addition, they are also introducing sunglass cases and lens cloths as new products. 

As a primarily wholesale company, they target the 2-trade show cycle - the winter cycle (January-February) and the summer cycle (July-August) - to roll out new products. This quarter, they are introducing products featuring the work of Laurel Burch, an American artist who passed away 16 years ago. She is known for her vibrant and colorful designs featuring cats, florals, mares, and celestials. The company has licensed her work through her foundation and are currently shipping orders. By next week, the products will be available to retail customers through their website. 

Q10. How do you cultivate and maintain a strong support system and network as a woman business owner?

Hagerman mentions that she has established various ways to network and thinks that it is important to not be isolated within your own business. As a business owner, finding a peer group within one's personal sphere, be it a spouse or neighbor, is rare. Thus, she has established a network through the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Business Program, which includes locally-based entrepreneurs in Philadelphia and numerous other chapters across the country. Additionally, Hagerman is a member of a paid forum for e-commerce store owners, where several of them discuss topics such as paid roll questions, SaaS, ERP, and even whether Zoom is the better choice. This forum allows business owners from all backgrounds to share feedback, provide recommendations, and share preferences.

Q11. How have you helped your employees have a balanced work-life? 

Lindsay believes in treating their employees as valuable human beings, both through their words and actions. They emphasize this in their onboarding process and company handbook. In their view, maintaining a strict 40-hour workweek is unrealistic and can lead to dissatisfaction. Therefore, RainCaper offers their employees the flexibility they need to feel invested and cared for.

She shares that their appreciation is shown through gestures such as sending gifts and bonuses. While she acknowledges that they may not be able to provide massive benefits, Hagerman takes pride in the flexibility and benefits they do offer. However, since their staff is currently working remotely, the company had to adapt their approach. They recognize that some of the things they used to provide in-office, such as lunch, may not have the same impact in a remote environment. Nevertheless, RainCaper remains committed to building a strong culture that supports and values remote employees.

Q12. How important is it for you to be able to define yourself? 

Their business is driven by their core values, which Hagerman believes should permeate in everything RainCaper does. One of their core values is "choose us", which reflects their desire to have staff who want to work with them and customers who choose them not because they are their only option, but because they appreciate their excellent customer service, enjoy interacting with them at trade shows, and value their products.

This value also extends to their business partners. RainCaper believes in maintaining strong relationships with their partners by treating them with respect and answering their questions. By living through their core values and providing exceptional service, they want to create a business that is respected and admired by all those who interact with them.

Q13. Where do you see yourself in five years? 

“Looking ahead to the next five years, we anticipate that our company will continue to expand and roll out new products,” Lindsay exclaims. RainCaper plans to enter into multiple licensing agreements and explore different business arrangements. While they understand that not all of their product launches will be successful, the company continues to experiment and test new ideas every year. Their goal is to add multiple product categories, and their team is actively working towards creating a more diversified product line that includes stable products. 

Q14. What is the best career advice you have ever received?

Many entrepreneurs prefer to build their businesses around something they are familiar with, as it can make the process easier and more straightforward. As a business, RainCaper finds themselves in a similar position. Starting with what the company knows has allowed them to establish a strong foundation for their business and build upon that to create something truly unique. While it's important to be open to new opportunities and ideas, starting with what they know has been an advantageous approach for RainCaper.


*Thank you to Emily Zou for reaching out and coordinating the interview with RainCaper.*

About the Author

Sonia Pacheco Mejia

Sonia Pacheco Mejia

Sonia is a Business Education Writer at Girls For Business.

Emily Zou

Emily Zou

Emily is a Business Analytics Writer at Girls For Business.

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