…never make a decision at night. Sleep on it, because most times, you’ll have a different outlook by morning. Countless times I’ve taken this advice and have woken up with a totally different solution than I had the night before.
I had the pleasure to interview Kathy Gendel. Kathy is the Founder and CEO of The Gendel Girls, the family behind QVC’s largest intimate apparel brand, Breezies. Kathy is an entrepreneur, business woman, innovator, patent holder, on-air spokesperson, wife and mother all rolled into one. Her family-run business has sold millions of bras and panties worldwide over the last 24 years.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! What is your “backstory”?
My pleasure! My journey into the intimates space started when I left a comfy corporate job back in 1994 to pursue my true passion of starting a line of lingerie, and it paid off. After a lot of perseverance and a lucky encounter on Madison Avenue, the fledgling company found a home at QVC. Things really took off when I first appeared on air in the middle of the night (2am) and sold $138K in Breezies panties in just a few minutes. From there, I took the reins as the face of the company on camera and the brains of the company behind the camera. From one style of panties and only one hour of air time to more than 50 SKUs available at any time, the Breezies brand is now the most successful and longest-selling intimate apparel brand on the QVC network.
Based outside Philadelphia and, operating from our family farm, The Gendel Girls are first and foremost a female-run family business. As the company expanded, I brought on my daughters — Kalina Gendel, Laurissa Gendel and Catherine Gendel — to help with operations, marketing and sales. Together, we are one of only a handful of on-air family personalities in the entire home-shopping genre.
Why did you found your company?
I founded the company with the intention of providing women the opportunity to experience emotional comfort in intimate apparel silhouettes, by incorporating a patented, high-performance fabric for moisture management. We went one step further by addressing two feminine issues of odor and stain control on the fabric. And, oh, by the way, we also offer the conventional comfort of fit and lift in all the right places.
I never dreamed, at the time, I would have the great fortune of having three amazing daughters joining the business. Entrepreneurs rarely prepare for their companies succeeding beyond to the second generation. Never say never, we are cultivating that third generation “in training’ right now.
What is it about the work you’re doing that’s disruptive?
My team is always focused on how we can continue to push the intimates category forward with new innovation and out of the box thinking. One way we’ve done this is through product patents. For example, I’m the patent holder for a specific pocket built into the bras to secure a breast enhancer or prosthetic enhancer for women who have undergone mastectomies, which was inspired by my grandmother who had breast cancer. This pocket has been a game-changer for women in need of it — setting a new standard for women’s comfort and confidence.
I also share the exclusive use of two other patents held by my husband, Craig, for proprietary performance fabric specifically designed to manage and wick away moisture, which has become a top selling feature of many of our bras. My team and I are constantly exploring new opportunities for the company’s intellectual property, investigating innovative applications for our proprietary fabric and pursuing new strategies to grow the company and quite possibly disrupt other industries beyond the retail space.
We all need a little help along the journey — who have been some of your mentors?
My father was definitely my biggest mentor. His subliminal messaging was unsurpassed. He would just have to hand me an article and I would know there was something very significant to learn. He delivered the greatest advice by way of his own life experiences, and even though he was from a different generation, everything he said was so relatable.
How are you going to shake things up next?
We are working diligently to expand our customer base and continue to make Breezies a go-to intimates brand. My team and I are committed to company growth and diversification, constantly launching new products and designs to meet changing market needs and stay ahead of trends, while always considering what matter most to our consumers.
Just this year, Breezies introduced five multi-million-dollar bra silhouettes and continues to beat its own sales records with each launch. Our goal is to continue that kind of momentum.
We also have a lot of exciting new partnerships in the works and a goal of taking the brand beyond retail and QVC into new sectors and industries. I believe the Gendel Girls have staying power for years to come.
Can you share 3 of the best words of advice you’ve gotten along your journey? Please give a story or example for each.
The most important piece of advice I ever got: remain flexible. No two days will ever be alike. I truly love learning something new every day — I have always told my family to tell me something I don’t already know. It does lead to exceptional creativity in both one’s personal and business life. Be relentless in your desire to succeed but be flexible as to how you can get there.
Equally important, never make a decision at night. Sleep on it, because most times, you’ll have a different outlook by morning. Countless times I’ve taken this advice and have woken up with a totally different solution than I had the night before.
Lastly, find out what you do really well and continue to hone it. I’ve learned not to try to do too much, but to do what I do better than anyone else. While you want to be able to expand your business, try not to stray too far from what you do best. I believe what sets many entrepreneurs apart is the fact that we are creative. But true success comes from harnessing and finding applications for that creativity. So, if you have a unique idea, by all means, do your research and go for it!
How can our readers follow you on social media?
We’re constantly keeping our customers and community up to date on new products, on-air appearances and family news/shenanigans. Follow along on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/gendelgirls + Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/GendelGirls/
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!