Barbara Kavovit knows there’s life after bankruptcy.
This story first appeared in the December 31, 2009 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
Her Barbara K Enterprises, which marketed tools, work clothes and repair kits with a look and feel for women and a philosophy that home improvement work isn’t just for men, went bust in April 2008. However, she’s back in business with a licensing company called Barbara’s Way, with a similar mission and new backers, including David J. Myerson, former president of Penthouse International Inc.
Barbara’s Way develops, designs and packages products and leaves the manufacturing to others. The name will be on Isotoner gloves and mitts designed for household chores like cleaning, gardening and gripping hammers and nails. But there’s nothing mundane. They’re colorful and imbued with fit and stretch.
Kavovit said the gloves will be sold at homedepot.com, Amazon.com and Macy’s by around Mother’s Day. There are six types, three colors in each, including a “grip it” glove to open things easily; cleaning mitts and gloves for dusting and removing smudges; a long gardening glove, and a medium-length version. There is also a “trigger finger” glove with cushioned palm and finger exposed so the wearer can hold a nail straight or use a BlackBerry. The gloves have pockets for rings and built-in terry cloth perspiration wipes.
Other licensing deals are with Stanley Tool Co. for female-friendly tools, plumbing kits to repair toilets or stopped-up drains made by Masco Corp. and programmable thermostats from Hunter Fan Co.
Kavovit once had her own construction management company and years ago handed out business cards to women in shopping center parking lots, offering to act as an “interpreter” between them and their contractors. She considers herself ‘a pioneer” in demystifying the home improvement sector. “It’s always been a mystery to women,” Kavovit said. “All these engineers and manufacturers made it impossible for women to understand. A woman doesn’t shop for a hammer, but she shops to make her home comfortable and stylish, so if you make a hammer or a work glove fashionable, a woman would be more apt to buy it.”
The repair kits she’s marketing to women for fixing problems in the kitchen and bathroom take some inspiration from the beauty business. Said Kavovit: “When women buy lipstick, they will also buy a lip liner and lip gloss. Women want solutions, things packaged together as a unit. So I am not just selling a plunger. I am selling a kit with stylish packaging and a simple set of instructions.”