Elyse Kaye has spent her career leading innovation and marketing teams launching dozens of brands and hundreds of product lines. Recent successes include 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. In addition, she is the Founder and CEO of Bloom Bras – a line of patented activewear for the well-endowed woman. Bloom Bras launched via a very successful Kickstarter and social media campaign.
Elyse holds several dozen patents. She was contributing author in The Product Manager’s Handbook and gives talks around the globe regarding building a brand, bringing innovation to life and female mentorship. In her free time, she is a certified fitness teacher and enthusiast.
How did you get to where you are today?
I could not find a sports bra that worked. It was a frustration. When I ran my first half marathon, I did what so many women like me do and wore two sports bras. I had no skin left from the chafing. So I started to research the numbers. 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 50% 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.
The body changes on average 10% a month naturally. For a DDD, this is a full cup change. I brought together the minds from NASA, the shipping industry and a celebrity corsetry makers 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 launched in September on Kickstarter raising our goal in just 82 hours selling out of the first order. We had 240,000 unique viewers to FB page in 3 weeks without spending a dollar. Patents were awarded for the lifting strap and cinching cup. Manufacturing is secured with first orders placed with factory. All of this was self-funded (along with crowdfunding). This was not without challenge! I am on my third factory and spent years developing the perfect prototype.
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.
Bloom pays homage to my grandmother, a casualty of breast cancer. Bloom Bras will offer the option for contributors to donate bras to breast cancer surIn addition, we are donating Bloom Bras to breast cancer survivors as we set our sights on creating a product to fill that growing market.
What was your toughest obstacle and how did you overcome it?
Manufacturing so far has been my biggest challenge. When I set out, I interviewed factories all over the world including 20 in the US. Through an amazing introduction, I got connected with my dream factory in Cambodia. We worked diligently to perfect the materials, seams, patterns. I placed orders in November, paid in December, got my first delay in January and three days before the product was slated to arrive in March, I got a call from the factory owner explaining that the materials had never even been ordered and there was n intention of doing this or any of my orders. The options become scream/shout/dissolve or find another factory. I started from square one and set out only running into a myriad of challenges. Few factories work with start-ups. The pricing and minimums were changing. And I felt like I was running against a clock.
Currently, I have a factory that is working on our production that seems to be a great long-term solution. The silver lining is that they are a better long-term fit. It set me back though six months which is not huge in the scheme of things but can be a lifetime for a founder.
My support system of friends, family, mentors and wine has kept me positive. I feel stronger than ever that this industry is ripe for disruption and that Bloom Bras is going to be the company to revolutionize.
What’s the key to staying focused & motivated?
There is no mastering this! It is so easy to get distracted but a good project manager and visionary knows that you have to break things down into manageable tasks and milestones. Even when dates change, the vision does not. Holistic growth for my business is imperative. I cannot release gen 2, 3, 4 before validating with the first group of women.
Do not let the vampires of negativity suck your blood. There will always be someone telling you why you CAN’T or SHOULDN’T or calling you words like BRAVE. Ignore them. Find people who have paved this path and let them remind you that you have got this.
What is the best piece of advice you have ever received?
Sleep when you die.
What advice do you have for someone who is looking to start a new venture?
You have to really want it. I mean really, really want it. No one can prep you for the wild adventure of ups and downs. When you decide this is the thing that you are willing to forgo sleep, vacations, sushi, your 401K for, then do not look, leap. The more you think about the path ahead, the scarier it looks. Surround yourself with amazing supporters. You will need them. And rid yourself of those who can bring you down. Get yourself financially secure. Whatever you may think this will cost you, triple it. Find mentors. Have fun with it. This is your livelihood.
How do we get more women leaders?
We need to support each other. I have been so impressed with the amazing women who are changing the world but we need more to show the younger generations. I mentor a handful of college females and learn more from hem about being fearless. The future is looking female.