“It has been a real family project,” Napa native Ashley Stabile said of her company, LaborLooks.
Stabile, a labor and delivery nurse, started her business three years ago at her parents’ home. She sat with her sister, nurse and midwife Brittani Hamilton, and their father, ob-gyn Dr. Michael Wagner, and designed the first prototype for a stylish maternity and delivery hospital gown. Today, those gowns are sold in the U.S., Canada and New Zealand.
LaborLooks’ maternity and delivery hospital gowns are made of 100 percent cotton and offer full side snaps and a side tie, allowing full emergency access while leaving the back of the patient well-covered, unlike regular hospital gowns. Much more fashionable than standard-issue hospital gowns, they come in cheerful colors that can be matched for the baby’s gender if desired.
Stabile, a labor and delivery nurse at Queen of the Valley Medical Center and at Kaiser Permanente, got the idea after working with expectant mothers who wanted to feel more comfortable.
“The idea for LaborLooks came in the first month I was working at Queen of the Valley,” she said. “I had several patients who wanted to wear their own clothes, but it wasn’t practical and they had to change.”
Stabile explained that in order for a gown to be suitable for hospital use, it has to have full snaps and tie in the back. She did some online research with her husband, Ron Stabile, to find out if any such hospital gowns were available and found only one company making them.
“Their gowns were very expensive, around $100, and it was mostly marketed to celebrities,” Stabile recalled. “I was happy to see the idea was out there, but wanted to make it more affordable so that more women can use it.”
After Stabile designed the first prototype with her sister and father, their mother made the first gown. The sisters and co-owners then contracted a manufacturer to make 200 gowns. Those gowns were sold through the company’s website and it took the sisters about a year to sell them. With no advertising budget, most of the marketing was done through social media.
Today, sales have improved significantly and the gowns are sold not only on the company’s website, but also in stores throughout the U.S., Canada and New Zealand. Social media remains a key marketing strategy, Stabile said.
After her friend suffered from a stroke, Stabile sent her a gown immediately to cheer her up. That inspired Stabile to expand the line of gowns that the company offers.
“We’re excited to expand our line to include other hospital patients,” she said.
Meanwhile, Stabile said she enjoys running LaborLooks. Her office desk is decorated with framed photos of happy mothers, holding their newborns proudly while wearing LaborLooks gowns. “One of my favorite things is receiving photos and emails from customers, sharing how much they enjoyed having our gowns for their labor and delivery.
“During our three years in business, we had the joy of seeing several repeat customers either ordering a new gown for a second delivery, or sending photos from more than one delivery wearing the same gown.”
There haven’t been any problems using the gowns in hospitals, customers report.
LaborLooks is a family business, with local orientation. The gowns are handmade in the Bay Area. The company’s professional photos are taken by a local photographer, Melinda Koen.
All the “models” on the website, catalogue and company’s website are local friends who had their babies while using the gowns. The gown styles themselves are named after family members and friends.
“We do all the packaging and shipping from our home,” Stabile said. “My brother-in-law designed our entire website and my husband does the orders fulfillment.”
LaborLooks, she said, “has been a project that brought our family together.”