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Erica Schmitz’s web-based app customizes figure sketch templates to a designer’s own measurements

When Erica Schmitz started making her own clothes, she wanted to be able to draw and see her designs on a realistic model, but she couldn’t find any figure templates that looked like her.

Erica Schmitz is founder of MyBodyModel, an app that generates customized fashion croquis, or figure sketch templates, for both expert and novice makers and designers. She took the leap last fall, leaving her day job as a public health consultant to work on her new business full time. Photo by Bonnie Durham

“I tried tracing over a photo of my own body, and I thought, there’s got to be an app for that, but there wasn’t,” she says.

Seeing a void in the fashion and design industry, she filled it by creating MyBodyModel, an app that generates customized fashion croquis, or figure sketch templates, for both expert and novice makers and designers. Her mission is to “empower our customers to appreciate all bodies, including their own. Every body is different, and every body is a good body.”

The web-based MyBodyModel app (mybodymodel.com) allows customers to sketch out their ideas on a model template customized to their own measurements. Customers create a free account, enter their measurements and preview the body model before purchasing and downloading it. The credit-based system allows customers to purchase different packages ($20 for one credit, $30 for two, $60 for five). Someone making clothes for herself can spend one credit on one body model for herself. Others who make clothes for clients or friends—or who expect their own body measurements to change—can purchase multiple credits at a discounted rate. Options allow the customer to sketch her designs digitally or on paper.

Schmitz worked on the app for 18 months before launching a beta version of it last June. “Developing a workable beta product ended up taking a bit longer than expected,” she says. “At the time it was excruciating, but looking back, I’m proud of what we were able to create on such a limited budget, and despite delays, within a short period of time.”

A dress design using a customized figure sketch template from MyBodyModel. The app allows users to sketch out their ideas on a model template customized to their own measurements. Photo by Bonnie Durham

Portland’s Big Room Studios assisted with product development and testing. “Their team was genuinely invested in the success of this product. I don’t think we’d be where we are today without their commitment to go above and beyond in making MyBodyModel come true.”

Schmitz, 43, is also grateful for the support of her biggest champion, her family. She “finally took the leap” and left her day job as a public health consultant in September to work on her startup full time. “It’s felt so good to have my weekends mostly free again to be with my family.”

After getting a master’s degree in public policy and management at USM’s Muskie School in 2005 and working in non-profit management and consulting for 20 years, the transition to social entrepreneurship “felt like a natural next step,” she says.

Schmitz secured funding for MyBodyModel through a variety of sources: a technology innovation grant from Maine Technology Institute, a Kickstarter campaign that surpassed its $20,000 goal and revenue from beta sales. And last spring, Schmitz also became the first woman to win the $25,000 grand prize from the Maine Center for Entrepreneurs (MCE) Top Gun business pitch competition. Altogether, she raised more than $100,000, most of which has gone into product development.

Because every body is different—and every body is a good body—the MyBodyModel app fills a gap in the fashion industry by allowing designers to see their designs on models of all types. Photo by Bonnie Durham

“Going the crowdfunding route,” with 725 initial backers, held her accountable and that “was a big part of what helped me push through those challenging months of app development, when everything ended up being more complicated than expected and it sometimes felt like we might never get there,” she says. Kickstarter also provided her with a team of sewing and knitting bloggers and designers who stepped up to be alpha testers. “Having their honest feedback and encouragement throughout the process has been so important.”

Schmitz took advantage of Maine business resources, including SCORE, Maine Technology Institute, Coastal Enterprises’ Women’s Business Center, Preti-Flaherty’s LaunchPad program and MCE. “Being a new business owner in Maine has been a very positive experience because there are so many resources and supports available, and it’s relatively easy to network and build connections,” she says.

Photo by Bonnie Durham

MyBodyModel’s customers include the DIY fashion community, professional garment makers, indie designers and schools. Social media platforms help market the product. On the MyBodyModel Instagram page, customers upload a steady stream of sketches and examples of how they’ve used the app, and the site’s blog is filled with guest posts about the product and how it’s being used. “Our customers describe the experience of creating and using their body model templates as transformational and life-changing,” Schmitz says. “There’s no better advertising than that. We’ve dipped our toes in some paid marketing, but so far it’s not nearly as effective as organic testimonials posted by people who are genuinely passionate and excited about MyBodyModel.”

Schmitz has big plans, including continuing to invest in R&D so she can expand the MyBodyModel product line and customer base. She’s also looking to expand MyBodyModel’s education program and partner with schools across the U.S. and internationally to bring her idea of generating a customized body model to designers and makers around the world.

For more info about MyBodyModel, go to mybodymodel.com.

Mercedes Grandin is a freelance writer, editor, English teacher and tutor. She lives in Brunswick with her husband Erik and their chocolate Labrador Fozzie.