I had the pleasure of interviewing Elyse Kaye, the founder of Bloom Bras.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! What is your “backstory”?
One in three women experience breast pain when working out, leading to many opting out. The average breast size has risen from a 34B to a 34DD in the past 20 years. The major brands — Nike, Lululemon, Athleta, Victoria Secret — only carry up to a D or DD leaving 70% of the active US female population unsupported. The sports bra simply does not cater to the well-endowed woman. That means a lot of ladies left in the dust of this $1.5 Billion category.
I brought together the minds from NASA, the shipping industry and a celebrity corset maker to address this as an engineering challenge. The Bloom Bra features patented lifting straps and cinching cups allowing the bra to customize to your body and exercise type. It has been designed without underwire, both for comfort and to address the health concerns. Working like a shelf to lift the breasts rather than squashing them, the Bloom Bra distributes weight throughout the back and sides rather than putting pressure over the shoulders and across the ribs, allowing for natural movement of the breast and uninterrupted circulation of the body’s essential systems. State-of-the-art compression materials and cooling, moisture-wicking power mesh combined with a reinforced front zipper to “lift, not squish”.
The reaction has been staggering. We have sold out several times with 300,000 unique viewers to our FB page last month without spending a dollar. I helped to build a sustainable factory which is now in full production. In addition, we are donating Bloom Bras to breast cancer survivors as we set our sights on creating a product to fill that growing market. I will always offer the option for contributors to donate bras to breast cancer survivors and we will match. My background consist of 20 years developing brands heading marketing and product development for companies such as Central Garden and Pet, Black & Decker, HoMedics, Nine West, P & G and House of Marley.
Why did you found your company?
Out of frustration with the lack of options on the market. When I started talking about the product, I could not believe how many women came out of the woodwork. I kept saying it’s not a design flaw, but an engineering challenge. It is my goal to create products for women of all shapes and sizes to feel good while moving.
What is it about the work you’re doing that’s disruptive?
Sports bras are not designed for women’s bodies of today. And it is not just sports bras! Our products are harmful and often poorly made. Not much has changed since the sports bra was invented.
Underwire — for instance — is found in most sports bras. In multiple studies, underwire has been shown to suppress the lymphatic system below the armpits, blocking the body’s ability to drain away toxins. This back up of toxins has been connected with increased risk of diseases such as breast cancer.
Doctors are also concerned with the effect of radiation or EMF coming from electronic devices conducted by metal underwire to the body’s reflex points. “Underwire in a bra comes into contact with two neurolymphatic reflex points on the body. Over-stimulation of these points not only risks cancerous mutation of breast tissue, but additional problems in the liver, gallbladder, and stomach,” says Dr. John D. Andre in the article Could There Be a Link Between Underwire Bras and Breast Cancer.
In addition, I wanted a product that would adjust with my constantly changing body. As we age and enter into different phases of life, our needs and how we hold evolve. If you put 10 women who are all a 38DDD next to each other, they will look very different.
We all need a little help along the journey — who have been some of your mentors?
I have been blessed to have amazing mentors who have supported me along the way. My family have been by biggest cheerleaders. I am a member of several female networking groups that have provided mentorship and resources.
How are you going to shake things up next?
We are just getting started!!! The new product development pipeline includes channel and product expansion. Using the patented functionality, the next three major categories include pre- and post-maternity (4 million new moms annually), breast cancer survivors who have gone through non-elective reconstructive surgery (1 in 8 women) and the ever-growing active senior population (<20 million women). Using our patented adjustable lifting system, we will design beautiful, comfortable safe solutions in sports bras, sleep shirts, and tops.
Can you share 3 of the best words of advice you’ve gotten along your journey?
- Stay the course — it is so easy to get distracted by shiny and new. There are constantly going to be things that come up that will be time suckers. One example for me is that at least once a day, I get a request for us to swimsuits. It is on my 3 year plan but not today. I lost a full day a few weeks back when I got distracted researching the market, pulling together a SKU list, etc. for a project that I am not ready for. Every minute counts and should be focused. This includes that time you take for yourself.
- Surround yourself with people way smarter than you who have done this before. While it is great to take advice from a friend who has a comfortable corporate job or an investor who has written a ton of checks, the best advice and resources come from those who have been there, done that and are willing to share their war stories.
- This is a tough one but do not go into this thinking you just want to be your own boss. This idea should be the thing that is keeping you awake at night. If you are putting it off because the timing is not right, etc., it may not be the path for you. The timing will never be right. Your bank account will never be full enough. They say plan on everything costing triple what you expect. I would say that is an understatement. This includes finances, resources and social life. I get up at 5 most mornings so that I can start my day off right with my me time. If you can answer yes to that, then get ready for the adventure of a lifetime.
What’s a book/podcast/talk that’s had a deep impact on your thinking?
I love How I Built This on NPR! Sara Blakely’s story on how she founded Spanx was on repeat when I was writing my business plan. Her story was inspiring and very similar to my business mindset. It is a good reminder to hear that businesses are not built overnight, failure is ok and encouraged, perseverance is the biggest attribute to success and that you have options when it comes to things like fundraising.
Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might see this. 🙂
Sara Blakely and Oprah are my two top dream meetings. They both built their brands from the ground up. Both are innovators in their respective fields. Both support female entrepreneurs and both support body positivity. In addition, both seem like a whole lot of fun.
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Originally published at medium.com