Startup Story: Running, Not Bouncing
When was it OK to recognize that being well endowed was the ingredient for great business?
For this mother and daughter duo it was when we decided we wanted to work together but not for somebody else. Loads of ideas were ditched because we weren’t familiar with the product or it wasn’t inspiring enough. But what we did share was a long-held frustration with bras; always uncomfortable, the fit not quite right and never a good shape but we didn’t know why. A kernel of an idea exploded after we mystery shopped the whole of Melbourne. Beige, shapeless and ugly and ‘it’s the only one that will fit you dear’ was the confirmation we needed. Six years later we look back and realize how naive we were, we didn’t really know much about lingerie or bra fitting, neither of us had ever worked in retail and never owned a business, or worked together for that matter. Our naivety was a blessing in disguise because had we known the challenges in the first 2 years in business we may not have considered such a risk. But, six years later we have two thriving stores, one in Prahran and in Melbourne CBD and our specialization is D cup and Up. But our real point of difference is the exemplary Brava service which has led to a referral rate in excess of 70%, telling us that what we are doing is what our target market wants.
Our customers let us know when they are happy, after years of wearing the wrong size and type of bra it’s not unusual for them to say, “you have changed my life” and “I can see my waist now” then they let their friends and relatives know where they can also be fitted properly and have an actual choice of lingerie and swimwear in D cup and Up.
Retail must be the most diverse industry to work in, no two customers are the same and every day is different. One Tuesday we giggled at a couple of the more unusual encounters.
“I want to purchase red satin lingerie and a white thong”, the cross dresser said, can we arrange an after- hours appointment”. Things changed when he said he is also an exhibitionist and he would pay me $100 to allow him to exhibit! He was gracious when I told him it was outside of my experience and I wouldn’t want either of us to be embarrassed. Maxine said she could do with $100 for a new dress – sorry Max I didn’t get his number.
“That’s a nanna bra, I want something sexy. Why don’t you have pretty summer colours with French lace?” She was about 14DD, a little bent but pretty good for 82 years old. We found a cute lacy bra she really liked and she said she would be wearing it when she plays cards. She’s learning to play the piano, sings and goes to the gym. But she wasn’t too busy to share a joke about a rooster and a cat who both wanted the corn that was across the river. I can’t do her story-telling justice but it ended up with ‘Wherever there is a wet pussy there’s a happy cock’
So from working in the community services field to working with half-naked women everyday has been quite a leap but extremely rewarding as sometimes it actually feels like a community service.
We know that helping women to look good, be supported and feel comfortable is incredibly rewarding but it isn’t enough when they are running around The Tan. The notion of Brava Sport came to me when I ran my first half marathon. I had just been expertly fitted for running shoes with a treadmill, camera and podiatrist. On my run, I couldn’t help but notice how many women were unsupported; it made me cringe because I knew the irreversible damage they were doing to their breasts. A sports bra is a highly advanced piece of technical equipment, not unlike running shoes. They both have three elements to achieve: fit, comfort and support. While running the idea formed in my mind of developing a system to give women more confidence when they run, or do any activity for that matter, and the thought was so exciting and interesting I believe it got me through that run. Our bra knowledge was already extensive, however we spent the next two years researching and developing Brava Sport to ensure we knew more about sports bra fittings than any lingerie boutique, sports store or department store in the country. We believe using a treadmill and video analysis for sports bra fittings in a retail environment is a world first.
Brava Sport opened its doors in July, 2012. So far the feedback has been incredible because there has never been so many brands and styles of sports bras to try on. The appreciation of being able to mimick the movement on a treadmill in the change room area has been extremely encouraging and the gyms, personal trainers and physios are keen to refer their clients. So many women need to be correctly fitted and there’s so little time that I’m giving marathons a miss this year but with the occasional boot camp, a very demanding gym instructor and a treadmill at work I’m able to test drive what I sell on a daily basis and keep in shape.
We filled the gap for fuller busted women, have given active women better options, we are not quite sure what’s next, I wonder what the bra fitting options are for cross-dressers? Hmmm food for thought!
This Startup Business Founders story has been submitted by Maxine Windram, CEO Brava Sport.