I get asked the question a lot: WHY did you start Behave?
And the answer is a simple one: I started Behave because I saw my needs reflected in more than 50 million women all over the US. I saw there was a huge whitespace that needed filling in the lingerie market, and I felt that I had the perfect idea to fill it with my Wire-free Lounge Bras and Stayz technology! My WHY has never faltered or changed. Behave exists to help large-busted women get comfortable in their bodies and their bras.
But a more interesting business question is HOW I started Behave.
Because despite my professional background in branding and marketing on some of the biggest brands at Procter & Gamble and other consumer companies, I actually had no direct background in the lingerie industry before starting my company, and believe me, this has been an obstacle used against me a number of times when I was getting the company off the ground.
When I first started hunting around to find lingerie designers and people who had worked in the industry to help me develop Behave, I was met with a lot of skepticism. How could I, someone with zero ability in sewing, designing or manufacturing bras, start a company that would have to do all of those things, and then compete against the entrenched giants in the space? There were people that thought that I was crazy, misguided and naive- even a mix of all three.
They say that ignorance is bliss and I think that’s part of the reason I was able to push forward with Behave despite the early naysayers. I didn’t know how hard, how time-consuming, how expensive, and how perilous the journey would be, so I didn’t take a moment to even consider those roadblocks. I just started Behave with the naive, but unassailable belief that I’d be able to figure everything out as I went. I knew what I was doing was solving a big need and was going to help so many women.
That turned out to be true, thank goodness. What I didn’t fully appreciate at the time though was that my naivety was also the insulation that I needed to innovate in the space without constraint. It has also been said that need is the lifeblood of innovation. And boy did I have a need. Well, two big needs to be more precise. I developed our now patent-pending Stayz technology because of my personal needs, that it turns out, are shared by millions of women already.
I had gained some weight, and my once-manageable F cups grew into GG cups, overwhelming my ability to deal with them comfortably. There is a moment for every woman with large breasts where the manageable becomes unwieldy when it comes to her bust. I was now there and not one bit happy about it.
Sleeping comfortably became a struggle, and if there’s one thing I need to function on a daily basis, it’s sleep. I was rolling around at night with unsecured breasts and they were just getting in the way. It felt at times that they had a mind of their own, ending up in weird spots and always needing adjustment. I’m a side-sleeper, and getting part of a breast stuck underneath you does not make for comfortable or restful sleep. It’s literally a huge pain.
So, I started sleeping in Frankensteined bras - cloth wire-free bras that I’d have to buy in XXL and sew the backs together (I’m a 32 or 34 band, and XXL only applies to my breasts, not my cups). While that was a way to keep “the girls” contained, it resulted in other issues, like breast smash and breast sweat.
Years before these bust-induced night terrors, I had been having dinner with one of my besties who is also large-chested. We talked about bras and all of the things that were wrong with them that night over dinner. Being my brash self, I drew on a napkin what I was convinced was the perfect design for a bra that would contain each one of my breasts comfortably. I essentially drew two fabric seatbelts coming out of each cup, that I thought would keep breasts secured, no matter what position you’d be in. It was a drawing on a napkin and I shrugged it off as a far-off fantasy.
A few years later though, as I was laying in bed after a particularly sweaty adjustment to the Frankensteined bra, I remembered the conversation and got up to sketch it out again. The next morning, I called my mom who has the crafting skills of a 1950’s housewife, and asked her if she could sew these pieces of fabric in my bra for me. She agreed, and the first Behave Lounge Bra was born.
Not having a background in lingerie turned out to be not a curse but a blessing for me.
I had no background, experience or perspective to tell me that what I was doing wouldn’t work or had been tried unsuccessfully before. There was no ceiling on what I could do, only huge potential whitespace ahead.
Ultimately, HOW I started Behave was by being a consumer first. And it’s something that I cannot stress enough to anyone who wants to start a company or who wants to invent the next, new, game-changing thing. Start with the need. You don’t need to have the experience or business profile. What you need is a deep consumer understanding of a problem and a unique way of solving it.
You don’t want to be weighed down when you’re starting a company by precedent or other people’s failures. What you want is to be laser-focused on what a solution looks like, and to stay true to that. Because if you can solve a consumer pain point, and do it in a way that no one else has done before, the business will follow.
I’m not suggesting that professional experience doesn’t matter. It absolutely does. It’s why I hunted for months for lingerie experts, why I stalked a former bra business owner looking for introductions, and why I ultimately found an amazing COO with 40 years of experience in the industry to help me bring this to life.
But while my COO brings a wealth of knowledge, contacts and know-how to Behave, I bring the purest form of consumer understanding and advocacy for women like me. I bring consumer perspective and I’d argue it’s the single most important aspect to starting a successful consumer business, outside of the product itself. The Behave consumer is my due north. Every single thing I do and Behave does should in some way benefit “her”. If it doesn’t benefit our consumer, we don’t do it. Period. End of Story.
Deep consumer understanding of a problem and an innovative solution is HOW I started Behave, and will likely be the main reason I will be successful in serving millions of women with the products we make.
Every day I do Virtual Fittings with our consumers. I don’t run our Free Virtual Fittings as a profit center or a way to sell more bras, I run them because they support our mission as a brand and they too solve a need. They’re my way of providing a valuable service to other women just like me and helping them to get comfortable with their bodies and their bras.
The bottom line is this: to start a company you don’t need professional experience in the industry. What do you need? You need passion for solving a problem, tenacity and confidence to see it through the naysayers, and bravery to jump into the deep end of the pool in your quest to make consumers’ lives better.
Be an advocate and problem-solver for your consumer first. That’s the most important experience you can bring to the market.