Teresa Delfín has been an active woman from Day One. Whether it's skiing, hiking, surfing, biking or backpacking around the globe, she's prepared to take on any challenge. Her latest? Starting up a technical outdoor apparel company for -- pregnant women.
"I completely took for granted that great gear existed for every condition I needed to be in. I got pregnant, and I was still climbing, kayaking, riding my bike and mountain biking. It started getting really cold, and I couldn't find long underwear [for maternity], which just really shocked me," Delfín says. "So I started designing. I'd been around technical gear for so long that it was sort of a no-brainer. I knew what I wanted."
And thus Mountain Mama was born. Delfín and her husband, William Dolphin (Delfín is Spanish for Dolphin), sold their home in Tennessee and made their way to the West Coast to develop their line of maternity apparel. The Ontario, Calif.-based company launched in July 2009, and the fall 2010 collection debuted last month. Delfín spent the first six months designing, making patterns, ordering fabric and creating prototypes. She also conducted the first photo shoot and created the line's first catalog. Since its debut, the line has made $17,000 in seven weeks, and Delfín optimistically projects revenue for the fiscal year at around $200,000.
Mountain Mama previewed the first collection at the Outdoor Retailer trade show in January. Then she repeated the creative process for the spring 2011 collection, including an August preview at the Outdoor Retailer show. Delfín is excited about the spring collection, which includes maternity swimwear.
The company has generated interest from investors, but Delfín says right now Mountain Mama is strictly a family-owned business.
Outdoor fitness during pregnancy is a lifestyle Delfín is eager to promote. She'll have an opportunity Oct. 26, when she speaks at the Women's Conference 2010, hosted by California First Lady Maria Shriver and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in Long Beach, Calif. She has a rich background in the outdoors: She's worked the sales floor at mountaineering stores, run a climbing program during her undergrad studies, owned her own climbing company, worked for the Discovery Channel and traveled the world for seven years doing field work on adventure tourism. She's trekked the Inca Trail -- twice -- and won the Panamanian National Bouldering Competition. While studying cultural anthropology for her Ph.D., which she received from Stanford in 2007, Delfín focused on the culture of pregnancy and births around the world. One thing she noticed during her studies was the overprotective attitude the United States in particular takes toward pregnant women.
"There's been a lot of asking women, 'Do you feel OK? How do you feel?' and treating pregnancy like it's an illness," she says. But Delfín says most midwives and OBs will tell you it's OK to continue what you're used to doing through your pregnancy, as long as there are no hazardous objects flying toward your belly. And being the outdoorsy woman she is, Delfín was not about to give up her active lifestyle. While pregnant, she was more comfortable riding her bike than walking, so she biked to work every day up to her due date -- in 20-degree weather and snowdrifts. "I got a lot of really strange looks," she says. "And I felt great."
According to Delfín, "[With Mountain Mama], we're offering a really great product no one else is offering to a demographic that depends on great, tough, beautiful gear, but we're also serving as ambassadors for a lifestyle."
During her pregnancy, Delfín knew exactly how she wanted her maternity apparel designed. Clothing tags tickled her because her skin is especially sensitive when she's pregnant, so she wanted soft, nonscratchy fabrics. She also wanted the seams on everything to be sewn flat so they don't scratch.
All of Mountain Mama's fabrics are made in the United States, a claim Delfín is proud to make, considering there are few fabric mills left domestically. There's Polartec -- "the yummiest," Delfín says -- a high-knit fleece used in the company's long underwear, jackets and vests. In fact, the company's Fairview Maternity Fleece Wrap Jacket won the 2010 Polartec APEX Award for design excellence and innovation -- a high honor in the outdoor apparel industry. Another fabric is EstiraTEC, one Mountain Mama specifically commissioned. It has four-way memory stretch that expands 100 percent without distortion and snaps right back to its original size. Delfín used her technical and pregnancy experiences here, too, to decide the fabric's composition: 95 percent nylon and 5 percent spandex. Nylon (as opposed to polyester) holds up to more wear and tear, wicks away moisture and is more hypoallergenic. Mountain Mama may be the first company of its kind, but Delfín is persistent in honing small details that make her company stand out further.
In addition to producing clothes made in the United States, Mountain Mama is also taking serious steps toward going green. The company is in the process of getting certification from B Corp., a national program that challenges employers to meet comprehensive and transparent environmental and social standards. "It's not enough to say we recycle and don't use sweatshops," Delfín says. B Corp. auditors visit the factories a company uses to assess the environmental and social aspects. Auditors certify a company as a B Corporation only if standards are met. Delfín has been working on meeting those standards since Mountain Mama's inception. The company also boasts that all its technical tops have less than a 20-mile footprint from design to mill to manufacture. "As a family, we eat organic and get our food at the farmer's market, and we're all about trying to keep everything as local and seasonal as possible," she says. "It only made sense to try to do the same with the company."
One of Mountain Mama's biggest business challenges has been getting recognition in the outdoor apparel industry. "We're playing in a boy's club," Delfín says. "Until really recently, there was no technical apparel for women, let alone pregnant women." Many women wear or modify their husband's clothing to continue their outdoor activities through pregnancy -- one more reason Delfín is determined to make Mountain Mama a success. "Often, the mind-set is that if we don't have a solution in the market, the thing doesn't exist in the world; it's not a concept that's out there," she says. "So because there's been no gear, people figure there's no activity to outfit for."