January 27, 2010, 12:00 AM

Blue Nile’s founder and key alumni unveil their new private-sale site

After six months of development, Blue Nile founder Mark Vadon and former senior vice president Darrell Cavens are formally taking the wraps off Zulily.com.

After six months of development, two of the founding executives of online jeweler Blue Nile Inc. are formally taking the wraps off their newest venture: Zulily.com, a new private-sale web site aimed at young moms.

Zulily.com launched today as a free members-only web site that will sell baby clothes, toddler’s apparel and similar products through limited-time sales, says CEO Darrell Cavens, who formerly was senior vice president of marketing and technology at Blue Nile, No. 56 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide (a PDF version of the company’s financial and operating profile can be ordered by clicking on its name).

The site features merchandise discounted by up to 70% and sold during a three-day event, says Cavens. The first event features products from Origany Inc., a manufacturer of organic cotton and baby alpaca apparel for babies and toddlers, and HandySitt.com, a manufacturer of portable high chairs for children ages six months through five years. Subsequent events will feature merchandise from Lex Modern, a supplier of personalized art, ornaments and handprint kits, and Baby Nav, a distributor and retailer of baby and toddler apparel. “We will feature a great deal of diversity with the brands,” says Cavens. “What we will offer won’t just be what’s found in a typical big-box store.”

Cavens, who founded the business along with Blue Nile founder and chairman Mark Vadon and with $4.6 million in seed money from Vadon and private equity firm Maveron LLC, isn’t saying much about Zulily.com’s marketing and merchandising plans. But the private-sale site debuts with several thousand members, and Zulily.com will be promoted heavily on social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook, Cavens says. He projects Zulily.com will do substantial business in its first year, although he declined to mention any specific numbers. “We see this opportunity growing into a very sizable business,” he says.

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