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No Monkey Business

No Monkey Business
Ursula Miller

Kendra McKeever’s entrepreneurial vision began with a cousin’s desperate need.

The cousin’s daughter was plagued with eczema, a terribly itchy skin condition that results in scarring from the scratching. “When you have a child who scratches himself to the point of bleeding, you have to go to extreme measures to restrain the scratching,” McKeever says. “It’s awful.”

So McKeever and her mother began thinking of how they could help. Only a few manufacturers worldwide sell special clothing to prevent children with extreme cases of eczema, psoriasis, epidermolysis bullosa and chicken pox from incessant scratching. No one in the United States did. Scratch-resistant outfits had to be purchased from a European manufacturer. They were expensive, didn’t hold up well and, worse, emitted a “stinky smell” over time.

So McKeever put her 2005 MBA degree to work and began developing a business plan for the idea that would become Sock Monkeys Clothing, a name inspired by the vintage stuffed toy.

McKeever conducted detailed market research, asking dermatologists and pediatricians nationwide whether there was enough need to support such a business in the United States.

The family has marketed the clothing to children ages 3 months to 3 years but is in the process of expanding to include sizes for children up to 5 years and is considering whether to market to burn victims whose skin itches as it heals. Sock Monkey outfits are made of lightweight, organic cotton sewn together with external stitching to prevent children from using internal seams to scratch themselves. Long-sleeve outfits are sewn shut to create “hand socks” that also prevent scratching. Most outfits are made to order at the family’s Cincinnati plant. The clothing is only available for sale online.

McKeever still considers the business a startup. She says her family hopes to keep it a family business but may consider venture capital to expand in the future.

“We decided we would bootstrap it and take Sock Monkeys as far as we could,” McKeever says. “We’ve gotten some really touching feedback from our customers. The emails we get help us realize that we’re really doing a service. So, we keep plugging away at it.”

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