Allison Faunce’s career path changed during her senior year at Moore.
An Art Education major, Faunce ’06 had planned to become a teacher. But an encounter with her then-three-year-old son sparked her entrepreneurial spirit.
“One afternoon my son was running around with one of my dishtowels,” she said. “I realized he was being a superhero. I realized I needed to make him a cape and get my dish towel back.”
With her already-established sewing and design skills, Faunce took a stab at making some capes by hand out of her Philadelphia home. At the advice of Moore’s Locks Career Center, she opened an Etsy shop to see if the capes would sell. Everything she listed sold within a week. Despite being offered two teaching positions, Faunce felt the pull to start her own business.
“Over the next couple of weeks I got a wholesale account to sell at a store and started getting media inquiries,” Faunce said. “I was working about four different part-time jobs at the time while finishing my degree and taking care of my son. It was really difficult to keep leaving him. The idea was I could probably do something from home. As Etsy became more time consuming with orders I quickly started cutting off the part-time work.”
A few months before graduating from Moore, Little Hero Capes was born. The company’s mission is “to empower imagination and create real world heroes” through Superhero capes for kids. The merchandise also includes Little Hero t-shirts, traditional hero masks and “power cuffs” for the wrist.
In October, 2008, Faunce launched her official website and incorporated working with a charity. At Little Hero Capes, 10 percent of each order goes to the Discovery Arts Program, which brings music, art, dance and drama to children with cancer, serious blood disorders and life threatening illness while they are in the hospital receiving treatment.
“Art education is close to my heart,” Faunce said. “Bringing art to children in a hospital seemed like a good way to support them. The capes I design make children feel strong and brave. Every child needs a cape.”
In 2010, Faunce and her family moved to Massachusetts for her husband’s job. At the time, Faunce was still making the capes alone out of her living room. More stores were beginning to pick up her line and business was growing at a rapid pace.
“I was pregnant with my second son at that point and was pulling all nighters nine months pregnant, pushing away friends and family,” she said. “At that point I realized I couldn’t duplicate myself, I had to find a way to bring on help.”
She found that help in Fall River, Mass, a town with numerous abandoned mill buildings. There, she discovered Fall River Apparel, a cutting and sewing facility.
“I told the owner I had been making these capes out of my living room and could he help me mass produce them,” Faunce said. “There was a big learning curve, but because of slow business and the owner’s optimism in me, he latched on to teaching me about how homemade to mill-made was going to work. Being a visual learner, it was great to see people actually making the capes. Coming from an artist’s background, you don’t want to give up any part of your creation to someone else’s hand, but I realized if I wanted to grow the business and get capes to kids that needed it, I’d have to let go of the process.”
Today, working with a team, Faunce sees the potential to grow the business more intentionally. She no longer has to turn away orders or spend less time with her family.
“I’ve taken on more of the manager role of the business, working on marketing and gaining more wholesale accounts and they are taking over the creation of the capes,” she said. “What Moore taught me was to have the confidence and the vision to create whatever I thought of.”
Last year, Little Hero Capes made $100,000 in sales. Faunce just re-launched the company website, highlighting specific children and their stories. Visitors can nominate any child who they think needs a cape or donate to a specific child. Faunce plans to expand the charity side of the organization, encouraging “grown-ups” to be “real life heroes” for a child.
Faunce said her most rewarding experience at Moore was her involvement in the Student Leadership Program, both as a Resident Assistant and Resident Director. Being part of that program gave her the skill set she needed to venture out on her own as an entrepreneur.
“I used to feel intimidated when I networked with male business owners, but I could brush those nerves aside by falling back on seeing so many strong women in leadership positions at Moore and just take myself seriously,” she said. “I’m not the cookie-cutter small business owner. I have confidence that I’m paving the way here.”
Learn more about Little Hero Capes here