The children’s footwear market is proving to be a greenfield hotbed of innovation, and now one Philadelphia-based startup has raised seed-stage funding to help parents shoe their kids’ rapidly growing feet.
On Wednesday, Jenzy announced a $1.25 million seed-stage raise to build on its vision of using tech—namely, a mobile app for Android and iOS—to capture a picture of kids’ feet and digitally connect parents to the shoes that its algorithm says will best match their little ones’ measurements. To date, more than 35 footwear brands—from Converse and Keds to Saucony and See Kai Run—participate on the app platform. Jenzy says it selects shoe labels whose products are durable, breathable, stylish, approved by podiatrists, easily put on and taken off and ethically sourced. The startup also looks for brands run by women.
Jenzy says its app has seen 50 percent month-on-month growth since version 2.0 launched in May, and more than 25,000 app-sizing sessions have garnered a return rate of 14 percent, less than half the industry’s 30 percent average.
“We are grateful to work with an incredible team of investors to support our ambitious growth vision for Jenzy in an untapped $11 billion kids’ shoe market,” Jenzy co-founder Carolyn Horner said of the seed round led by Morgan Stanley’s Multicultural Innovation Lab (MCIL) and supported by angel investors across the country. “In addition to providing capital for our business, Morgan Stanley’s MCIL has been a key component in our success as a community, fostering growth for early stage technology startups led by female and multicultural founders.”
In addition to ramping up marketing and elevating the customer experience, the startup plans to leverage the windfall to hire more merchandisers, software developers and sizing and fit experts.
“Carolyn and Eve have proven themselves to be disruptors in the e-commerce space with an innovative approach to build and scale their brand, which is showcased through the impressive funding round they proudly announce,” Carla Harris, vice chairman, managing director and senior client advisor at Morgan Stanley, added.
Globally, the market for kid’s shoes represented $34.8 billion in value last year, according to Grand View Research, which sees the sector expanding by a combined annual growth rate of 8.2 percent through 2025. In a sign of the market’s importance, Nike launched a children’s sneaker subscription over the summer that lets parents receive a new pair on a regular basis and send back outgrown ones for donation or to be recycled for parts.
The Morgan Stanley MCIL has other apparel-related startups incubating in its 2019 cohort. Mighty Well creates apparel and accessories designed to protect and enhance the appearance of medical devices like diabetic pumps and feeding tubes, while Looklive’s website offers shoppable celebrity fashion and helps influencers monetize their personal brands with like-minded retailers.