Big idea: Just Like Molly
How it happened: Leave it to a former Mormon to come up with a blog that makes modest clothing a hot topic. A fashion-business buff by trade (he'd been working as the director of product development at biz-support website WeConnectFashion), Zubal discovered an overlooked trend when he was visiting his hometown of Salt Lake City in 2009: modesty. The women he saw in Utah were wearing T-shirts under halter tops, and he wondered how far this type of restrained stylishness extended. He sent out a Facebook questionnaire to his female friends in SLC, who then forwarded it to others—and soon he'd canvassed hundreds of women in Utah, Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Washington, Indiana and New York who all felt a similar way. Clearly, he thought, there's something missing from the fashion market. So in April 2010, he launched the blog Just Like Molly (justlikemolly.com), which highlights humble yet chic styles and outfits, sometimes even asking readers to vote on how modest a skirt really is. As Zubal explains it, "Modesty goes far beyond just dressing for religious purposes, it expands to professionalism, body consciousness and a love of the classic silhouette." The site is proving to be popular, attracting 4,000 visitors a month and making some money by linking to existing retail sites and advertisements. But the real goal is to start an online retail store based on this idea—and for now, the blog is serving as a market-research tool, one that's definitely connecting.
His advice: Go into business with smart individuals who share your vision and bring useful skills to the table. Zubal says his partners are instrumental to the success of the blog: Curtis McClain contributes 12 years of creative and art-direction expertise; fashion coordinator Michelle Minite (who works in the buying office at Macy's) brings brand and retail-research knowledge.
The best thing about the Smart Design site is that it lives up to the firm's name. It's also easy to navigate and witty, starting with the initial options: "Smart Is," "Smart Does," "Smart Now," and "Get Smart." Known for its OXO Good Grips tools, the firm has also designed small kitchen appliances for Cuisinart, a scanner for HP, even food for Kellogg's. Listen to the Kellogg's cock crow and hear the scanner scan. The sound effects are smart and brief--no pretension, just good product and quick communication.
The Smart Design user interface keeps a good transition throughout the screen, even while using different modes. The user's attention doesn't float across the screen, which keeps the user focused on the center of the screen. The Smart Design website is a dynamic representation of the new Smart Design brand program, "design meets life."
A well-produced home page for a well-produced homeboy, this Flash-driven site goes down easy, thanks in part to its spiffy goldenrod-on-turquoise color scheme and soothing ''bloop'' sounds. ''Are you Will 2K compliant?'' demands the opening banner, and boy, you'd better be, because the ''Will 2K'' single and video (via Windows Media Player) are all you're going to get. What's more, the stark menu — Home, Listen, Watch, Contest, Buy — reads like marching orders. It's like someone ordering you to get jiggy with it.