[photo: USMCR Cpl Gulaid Ismail and wife Davina Ismail (DribbleBabies), Joe Walsh (Eagles), & WVFV Board Members – Hon. Cathy Cook, Paul Jacey, Kathleen Burns, Frank Gaglio, Dan Burns]
NEW BRITAIN, CT - In today's economic climate it can be hard to start a business especially when it seems that the odds are against you. Gulaid's unit out of Plainville, CT had a lot of losses during his deployment to Fallujah, Iraq and civilian life seemed so foreign after what he witnessed during his deployment.
But back in 2013, Gulaid Ismail a USMCR Combat Veteran, and wife Davina Ismail started DribbleBabies, a small children's clothing company out of their home. After six months of being in business, Gulaid attended the University of Connecticut Entrepreneur Bootcamp for Veterans (EBV). Since the EBV program they were a part of the Central Connecticut State University ITBD Incubator (CCSU-ITBD) program, which provided them with office space, mentorship and additional tools to grow and expand their business. In 2016, Gulaid and Davina bought a 4-unit commercial property located at 53 Columbus Boulevard, New Britain which houses their flagship store right in the Downtown New Britain District.
In addition to carrying national brands, they carry exclusive clothing styles with unique prints that are made locally in Connecticut. This area of their business has grown significantly this year and so has their reach across Connecticut. They have attended over 40 vendor events this year, compared to five in past years, and have been well received around Connecticut.
With this success, Davina and Gulaid had the idea of taking their business mobile. After taking the time to put together a business plan for this new venture they applied to the “Work Vessels for Veterans (WVFV)” program. Cathy Cook, Executive Director of WVFV said that “Work Vessels was impressed by the depth of thought in their business plan, and their unique idea.” “WVFV worked together and determined that a refurbished stepvan would be the critical “vessel” [that Gulaid and Davina] needed to launch their mobile boutique. We set out to raise the funds needed.”
Within a few months of their application being accepted, WVFV worked with musician Joe Walsh, founder of The Eagles and the VETS AID program. He announced that WVFV would be one of 10 veterans’ charities to benefit from funds raised at the first VETS AID Concert in September 2017. WVFV received thousands from the VETS AID concert which included blues player Gary Carter Jr., and country superstars Keith Urban and Zac Brown Band. A portion of these funds were used to purchase the workhorse stepvan for DribbleBabies mobile boutique.
The Ismail’s, along with the Board of Directors of WVFV, were able to meet with Joe Walsh at the VETS ROCK event at Mohegan Sun on November 3, 2017 and have a candid conversation about the work he is doing for veterans. Before attending the VETS ROCK concert, WVFV was also able to display DribbleBabies’ Mobile Boutique and turn it over to the Ismail's to continue with renovations.
Although DribbleBabies Mobile Boutique will not be officially launching until next year, they plan on having a toy drive and a fundraising event for a non-profit during the holidays.
To learn more about DribbleBabies go to: dribblebabies.com
Store Address: 53 Columbus Boulevard, New Britain, CT 06051
Photo credits: Tom Bombria Photography