Elyse Kaye of Bloom Bras: “We make the best leaders because it is in our nature”

We make the best leaders because it is in our nature. Many women run their households, pay the bills, make sure there is food on the table, the kids get to school and then excel at their jobs. We have the purchasing power. Why are men leading companies that create our bras, tampons, shampoos? Statistics […]

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We make the best leaders because it is in our nature. Many women run their households, pay the bills, make sure there is food on the table, the kids get to school and then excel at their jobs. We have the purchasing power. Why are men leading companies that create our bras, tampons, shampoos? Statistics show that women make better growth decisions. And, we need more of us at the table if things are going to change.

As a part of our series about “Why We Need More Women Founders”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Elyse Kaye.

Elyse Kaye is the Founder and CEO of Bloom Bras — the most body-inclusive line of patented activewear designed to lift vs squish for curvy women ranging in size from 28C — 56L. Elyse has spent her career leading innovation and marketing teams launching dozens of brands and hundreds of product lines including the turnaround of the Four Paws® Brand for Central Garden & Pet, the launch from ground up of the House of Marley Brand from HoMedics and the expansion of licensed brands for Black & Decker through her product development consultancy, AHA Product Solutions. Elyse holds several dozen patents and was a contributing author in The Product Manager’s Handbook, giving talks around the globe regarding building a brand, bringing innovation to life and female mentorship.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?

Ihad spent most of my 20 year career building brands for others through understanding what consumers wanted, retailers would put on a shelf and manufacturers could produce. One of the biggest reasons I went into business for myself was because it felt like there were huge gaps in the marketplace. For Aha Product Solutions, my philosophy is that you need to find the nuggets in innovation between what a consumer wants, a retailer will promote and a manufacturer can produce in the traditional CPG space. By bringing together key folks like the designers, engineers and experts, it cuts down on time, budget and frustration. I work with companies of all sizes to take a product from idea through the actual go-to-market. And, I founded Bloom Bras out of frustration after not being able to find a sports bra that worked for me. It is an engineering problem not a design one, I wrote the business plan after running a half marathon with two sports bras and had no skin left from the rubbing and chafing. I worked with NASA, shipping and packaging experts and Oprah’s corset designer to create the most adjustable, breathable, comfortable and wire-free bra for curvy women.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

My first job was working for the Lava Lamp company. My boss — the VP of sales and marketing — had been let go a few months after I started so being the bright-eyed 22 year old, I pulled together a massive business plan that included licensing the brand and bringing in licensors. I met with the folks from New Line Cinema about the third Austin Powers movie. I brought the opportunity back to the company and asked who managed our R and D. No one knew! I ended up finding an incredible PhD who was deep in our factory testing the formulas. Here was this incredible resource that was not being utilized. She and I went into the lab to create concepts. While we could not get Austin to float in a Lava Lamp, we were able to get the male/female symbols which were iconic in the movie to move in a random motion. They did not move forward but our team changed it to glitter, utilized bright colors and launched into new channels for the younger market. By year 2, it was outselling the original lamp. I was hooked on new product development and innovation.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

I launched a Kickstarter with having no idea what that was. We filmed with my friends in the kitchen and edited it with students. We had over 240K come through the Facebook page within the first three weeks. I remember sitting on my couch rocking back and forth with anxiety because I had no clue what to do from there even though I had spent my whole career building brands. We did not capture emails, data or even market to these wonderful people who were actually interested in buying a bra.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?

You Are A Badass by Jen Sincero. I loved her messaging, voice, advice and practical wisdom. It is 27 chapters of self-love in a non-fluffy way. When things seem down, it is my favorite pick-me-up. I give this book to all of my mentees.

Do you have a favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life or your work?

We all have the exact same amount of minutes every day. How you use them is up to you. As a founder managing two companies and my household, this is imperative. I schedule everything including my workouts and me time. For so many years, I took every request for a phone call, speaking engagement and would work 20 hours every day. My mental and physical health suffered as did my productivity. During the past 4 years, I also was very inspired to get involved with political change. One of my other mottos has been “sleep when you die” but that changed when I realized that it was in fact important to sleep if I wanted to survive and thrive.

How have you used your success to make the world a better place?

I mentor several students each semester. Working with young women and men as they embark on the next steps in their careers is such a huge learning experience for both of us. I support female and BIPOC founders with my wallet and with social media. It is the thing that frustrates me the most because it is so easy and often times costs nothing. Amazon does not need more of your money. I sit on a few nonprofit boards helping to expand the reach so that no one has to go through cancer alone. Each day, I take 20 minutes to write letters to affect change in government. It sounds like a lot but it really is all less than 60 minutes or one episode of what is on Netflix.

Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the primary focus of our interview. According to this EY report, only about 20 percent of funded companies have women founders. This reflects great historical progress, but it also shows that more work still has to be done to empower women to create companies. In your opinion and experience what is currently holding back women from founding companies?

Actually on 2% of funding goes to female founded companies. Having gone through the process multiple times, it is because there are not enough people fighting for it. A Harvard study shows that both men and women favor men when it comes to writing that check. In the same pitch, women are hit exponentially harder with questions surrounding emotions and planning. I have heard so many times that “we would love to invest in more females but they are not there” and yet I sit day in and out with women who tried to get finding for amazing, scalable companies and failed or worse, had a negative experience in the pitch. I can tell you from my personal experience that I was asked in a pitch “what happens if you accidentally get pregnant” in front of a room of male investors. No man would ever run into that. And by the way, I have built several multi-million dollar companies. Investors need to start thinking more about changing their churn and burn model. BIPOC and female-led companies see higher growth rates. That means profit but only when given the opportunities.

Can you share with our readers what you are doing to help empower women to become founders?

I share my stories…a lot. The best way to support your female founders to be is to encourage them. Buy their products, test their programs, introduce them to mentors or even better, invest in their companies. In 2020, I co-founded a company with a women I met in a female founders Facebook group. Between the two of us, we hired female-led manufacturing plants, PR folks, and graphic designers. These are founders as well. As I mentioned earlier, giving love on social media is also such a great way to boost brands.

This might be intuitive to you but I think it will be helpful to spell this out. Can you share a few reasons why more women should become founders?

We make the best leaders because it is in our nature. Many women run their households, pay the bills, make sure there is food on the table, the kids get to school and then excel at their jobs. We have the purchasing power. Why are men leading companies that create our bras, tampons, shampoos? Statistics show that women make better growth decisions. And, we need more of us at the table if things are going to change.

Ok super. Here is the main question of our interview. Can you please share 5 things that can be done or should be done to help empower more women to become founders? If you can, please share an example or story for each.

  1. Invest in female-led businesses. I started angel investing (really small amounts) last year into companies that are female run. I know that 5–10K dollars can make the difference in keeping the door open and the lights on. Plus women can make that money go pretty far.
  2. Support female founders in your network. Buy their goods if they are selling something physical. I know every one of my friends who bought a Bloom Bra in those first few years. If they are service-based, write a recommendation. Again, this takes 5 minutes but think about how many times you read and make decisions based on that person’s opinion.
  3. Push for board seats — there has been a huge movement in many states to get more women on public boards. It is a mandate for companies of a certain size. This elevates our decision-making status. These are highly-coveted but there are several small and mid-size companies that also have boards. As a C-suite level person, you should demand diversity and try to get on boards yourself. There are great tools to find boards that are available.
  4. Use your voice. Social media is such a huge tool. We need to keep talking about these issues. There was an uptick in the past few years in more VCs popping up that specifically fund female companies. I love this and it is because we were all kicking and screaming. Changing the process will also be beneficial so that it is not intimidating to those who are first time founders. Plus, using our channels to promote kick-ass women who are changing categories is a great way to build our communities.
  5. Encourage mentorship. I was lucky to have a few great mentors early in my career but I was always the youngest and the only female at the table in very male dominated industries. My parents instilled in my that I could be whatever I wanted to be and luckily I believed them but that does not happen for all. If you have had success, use that to teach and encourage.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the greatest number of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.

I am very focused on helping females start businesses right now. We traditionally have been left out with less than 2% of funding going to women. Women over 40 and women of color are even less likely. Research has shown that men and women lead differently but we also have a tougher time asking for help. Look who was most effected in 2020. But also, look at how many fresh female faces are now in politics, sports and in the world of VC.

We are very blessed that some very prominent names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.

Oprah!! I want her to tell the story about how hard it is to find a sports bra that works and to share the journey of Bloom Bras. Plus, I am so inspired by her work.

How can our readers further follow your work online?



Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.

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