When her 5-year-old son was a newborn, Pallavi Golla couldn't take him on long strolls in her Pittsburgh neighborhood. The time in the sun led to heat rash that cut their walks short.
Golla looked for clothing specifically designed to keep him cool and was surprised with what she found. "There were all these adult activewear companies really pushing the limits on what can be done with fabric," says Golla. "But for children, there wasn't much new out there."
Today, Golla is the founder of Lark Adventurewear, an activewear brand for children that makes products like T-shirts, dresses, onesies, and pajamas in a variety of styles. The company's clothes are breathable and made from natural bamboo fibers.
Since its founding in 2017, Lark has gained a passionate following online, largely by advertising on Instagram and Facebook. Golla says many customers whose children had previously dealt with skin issues such as eczema have reported that the conditions have cleared up. This year, she expects the six-employee company to triple last year's sales and finish with annual revenue in seven figures.
Golla, who had recently stepped aside from her role at a wine subscription startup, wanted to find a product derived from natural materials. She spoke with dozens of textile companies before she found one in Los Angeles that worked with bamboo. Golla and the mill worked together to create a fabric, now called Softek, that is breathable and provides protection from the sun rated at UPF 50. She used her savings and a $17,000 Kickstarter campaign to manufacture and launch Lark's first line of onesies.
The founder hasn't looked back. Lark's sales have climbed steadily ever since, and the startup is approaching annual profitability. Golla says she often notices customers ordering a single product in their first order, then six or seven a few weeks later. "That's what I want," she says. "I want people to give us a try. I know once they do, they'll feel the difference."
Lark has earned many of its customers through advertisements on social-media platforms, parenting podcasts, and local radio. The startup has also leaned heavily on testimonials from parents. Soon, the company will launch a campaign focusing on the fact that Lark's products are tested by third parties for more than 100 chemicals to ensure they're safe for sensitive skin.
Earlier this year, Golla launched a womenswear line that she hopes will appeal to many of the same parents who have bought the company's products for their children. Next up for the company is a kids' clothing line that uses the color schemes of popular sports teams, which Golla hopes will appeal to dads. But while the designs are fun, functionality remains the company's focus.
"People hear 'baby clothes' and say, 'That's cute,' but in reality, it's a tough space with a lot of competitors," says Golla. "I didn't do this because I wanted to make cute baby clothes. I did it because we had a technical advantage that I felt parents really needed."