The Garage recently met with Charlotte Oxnam, McCormick ’23, founder of Cue the Curves, to learn more about her startup, goals, and challenges during her participation in Jumpstart, The Garage’s summer pre-accelerator program. Cue the Curves is an online platform for plus-size women to find and discuss clothing brands.
Hi! How is Jumpstart going?
It’s going well so far! It’s been crazy to see how much more effective I am when I’m working full time on Cue the Curves. Things that took a month during the school year now only take me a day – no exams, homework, etc. I’ve been able to focus all my energy on my startup and it’s been refreshing and exciting.
What’s been the most valuable session in Jumpstart so far?
I think the branding session with David Sieren, the co-head of One Design, was the most valuable so far to help to re-center. I get caught up in what we’re creating and forget to think about the real emotional problem we’re solving.
I’ve been a solo founder for so long, and now I have a team, so communicating well with them, especially because Cue the Curves is such a personal project for me, is important. Being able to really communicate what the plus size shopping experience is like is crucial for those who haven’t actually gone through it personally. It’s a very emotional and sensitive topic. It’s an experience some have their whole lives and it can have serious mental health effects, and while what we’re doing with Cue the Curves may seem superficial, because it’s based around shopping, it’s actually so much deeper and more emotional than that.
Can you share more about your own experience, and what led you to found Cue the Curves?
I grew up plus size for most of my life, for many reasons – some medical – and through middle school and high school, I struggled with mental health and self confidence and fitting in. That experience really manifested itself in clothing and what we all wear to express ourselves when we get dressed every day. I didn’t feel like I had control over that experience because I had no options for shopping. I thought there had to be a way to make the shopping experience less painful and at the same time, uplift women.
So I started putting together a website with every plus size clothing store I could find. But I started to get feedback that people hadn’t heard of the stores and that they didn’t have a community within that shopping experience. A lot of younger plus size women don’t have that community or the chance to talk about shopping or what they’ve bought because the friends around the table aren’t plus size – they don’t get it. My goal is to expose women and girls to the brands that are relevant to them and give them a place to talk about the brands – a place to be heard and understood, where they don’t need to constantly explain themselves, or worse, experience online hate on social media.
So what does Cue the Curves look like in its current iteration?
Right now, we’re a web app. Users can sign up, which we’ve required from the beginning to help create an environment that feels safe. Users can search by brand or style and on each brand page, there’s photos, size range information, any important details and an open forum to post photos, reviews, and ask questions. We also have a blog where I, and others, share their own experiences and tips and tricks. Last, there’s a general community forum for anything from personal stories to open ended questions that lead to discussion in a safe space.
What’s the biggest challenge you’re facing as you build Cue the Curves?
A big challenge is that people tell you what they want, but…it’s not always actually what they want. It’s a game of reading between the lines and figuring out how to fix problems in ways that don’t feel conventional but are still effective. Another challenge is just learning how we differentiate ourselves in the body positivity space, and highlighting what makes us special and unique.
There are so many influencers trying to create body positivity communities right now, so being intentional and not getting discouraged when others are entering this space and finally starting to recognize the issue as well and coming in with their own solutions. Instead, I’m inspired by competitors. There’s a balance, and you can get discouraged quickly. For example, there’s a plus size fashion columnist that lots of people follow, and he has tons of connections and I was stressed when he was dropping his new website and comparing it to my work. So it’s a balance between trusting in yourself and the work you’re doing but also sussing out the competition.
What do you do when you feel discouraged?
I look at Instagram DMs! I have messages confirming that we’re doing really important work and helping a lot of people. I dive into new things – try to find ways to innovate in this space. I’ll say ‘hey, let’s try something new for a week and see what happens.’ I ground myself in what makes us special and I remind myself: 67% of women over the age of 14 are plus size and only 17% of clothing sales are plus size. This is a huge group of women, and it would be hard to get every single one as a user on my platform. I remind myself there’s room for all of us.
What are you most excited about when it comes to Cue the Curves?
I’m excited to take Cue the Curves in a group of directions. Coming into Jumpstart, it was a socially minded startup, but the program has made me think of it as a true company that can be monetized. We’re looking into some different angles, like a consulting arm to work directly with brands. That way, we’re not just reacting to the problem but trying to get to the source, and stop people from being marginalized in the first place. I’m excited thinking about all the different stages of the shopping process we can interact with to make it a more positive experience. I’m also excited to build a strong community. Up until now, I’ve been focusing on building the tools but now to actually be working with a community is so exciting – I’m a big extrovert, so interacting with users and helping and encouraging them is super exciting!
Who do you look up to?
I look up to my dad, who really taught me everything I know about entrepreneurship. He started his own company when I was 13, but he was really purposeful about including me and my brother. The idea of seeing an issue and coming up with a solution – that’s what put me on my entrepreneurial path. In the body positivity space, I’ve really loved Lizzo’s approach. There are a lot of people who take body positivity in a very dramatic, meta, direction that’s so over-thought, and Lizzo is just so refreshing and light. There’s a passion and an aggression in her self-love that I look up to.
This article is part of an ongoing series highlighting the startup teams admitted to Jumpstart, The Garage’s pre-accelerator Program. For more information about Jumpstart, click here.