What inspired you to start your business? Where did you start and where are you now?
I was inspired to launch Bodyology because it emerged out of my own personal need. While running my consulting firm Nexus Research Group, I was diagnosed with Grave’s Disease, an auto-immune disease that targets the thyroid gland. Grave’s Disease caused many symptoms—one of which was excessive sweats. This made me self-conscious at work because I would sweat so badly that sometimes it would bleed through my clothes. When I was unable to find basic base layers (undershirts, tanks, etc.) to wear under my clothes that would help me better manage the sweats, I figured I couldn’t be the only person suffering from this problem and began work on Bodyology.
What do you see for your future?
Our immediate future is to gain entry into large-scale retailers. We’ve had some early success which is encouraging. We were 1 of only 10 companies selected to participated in The Workshop at Macy’s, an exclusive vendor development program which helps minority- and women-owned businesses get in and stay in large-scale retailers. Now we’re working our plan to obtain our first department store test in 2016.
My business is currently self-funded. A successful consulting firm provided the capital to start and grow Bodyology. We are, however, at the point where we are thinking about obtaining external funding, whether a loan or equity investment, because we’ve had strong interest in our product line. However, potential retail and corporate partners are looking for a certain scale, and we’re in a bind. That sort of rapid growth requires deep investment.
What do you see as challenges for you and your business? What are some opportunities?
Our greatest challenge is that our products constitute a brand new product category. They apply activewear technology to common layers. So in some respects, we’re bringing together two different product spaces. We’re saying that right now, women are no longer just active in the gym or on the trail—they’re active all day long. So why not have that technology working for you in the boardroom, too? We’re selling comfort. We’re selling function and confidence. Our responsibility is to get the pitch right. But shifting consumer behavior is no light lift.
The opportunity is that if we’re able to get it right, we could really revolutionize the way women dress. There are so many women whose wardrobes are dictated by their body chemistry. With Bodyology, you can get dressed in confidence, knowing that your high-performance layers are working just as hard as you are.
I’d say the biggest success for us was being selected for The Workshop at Macy’s. Nearly 1000 companies applied which means we had a 1% chance of being selected. It means a lot when a major brand shows interest in you and is committed to help you grow your business. It’s very affirming.
One big mistake we made early on was manufacturing product based on plans, not on real metrics and demand. Now we’ve slight imbalance in our inventory where we are heavy on certain styles/sizes and low on the more popular styles/sizes. That was a big lesson learned. Now we’re trying to create smart ways to level out our inventory so that we don’t sell out before our 2016 collection launches in the Spring.
What do you love about being an entrepreneur?
I love the independence and flexibility. I love the creative side and feeling like you are making a contribution. I also love the challenge of it, as well as the opportunity that comes with acting on your dreams and taking your life and future into your own hands.
What about your business matters most deeply to you? How does it engage your values?
I’m a 37-year-old, career-minded woman and I don’t see a lot of lifestyle brands which speak to women like me…women who are aspirational and goal-oriented…women who want to make a difference in the world. I see Bodyology as my opportunity to respond to that woman, to be there for her because this generation of women will be like none this world has ever seen. She needs a uniform. She needs some armor to take on the world. And that’s the gap we’re seeking to fill.
I’m a hard worker. I’m literally the hardest working person I know. It’s also been my kryptonite because hard work without self-care can be dangerous. I learned that the hard way in my battle with Grave’s Disease, which I’m convinced was brought on by stress. But I’m learning how to work smarter.
Who is the entrepreneur you admire most right now? Why does s/he inspire you?
I admire so many entrepreneurs, but my current crush is Elon Musk because of his iron will and commitment to solving big problems. For that reason, I will be an eternal fan of Bill Gates who has turned philanthropy on its head and really summarizes what it is all about for me. I also love Arianna Huffington because she has used her smarts and her connections to build a media empire during a time when traditional media was facing a major crisis.
What’s the best and the worst thing about being an entrepreneur, as a woman?
Being an entrepreneur is very lonely. No one goes to bed thinking about your baby but you, so you have to be a constant champion for your business. And that can be exhausting. As a woman, particularly as a minority woman, I’ve found that I just don’t have access to the connections that others with different backgrounds may have. I was the first in my extended family to earn a PhD. My immediate network is not well suited for a Kickstarter campaign or family/friend financing. So, I’m having to build my network and essentially create the network that will support and enable my company’s success.
The best thing about being a woman entrepreneur is that I get to be a woman entrepreneur! I get to live in a time and in a place where that path is open to me. That’s amazing, and I feel it to be an enormous privilege.
When I was in graduate school, I had a professor who did a study on women in state legislatures to find out if they advocated for more women-centered policies. She essentially found there to be little difference between women and men in advocating for these policies, not because women didn’t care more, but because women were forced to behave like their male counterparts to survive and be successful. It’s only when there was a tipping point of women legislators that this changed. I’m not sure how female entrepreneurs are different from male entrepreneurs, but what I will say is business and the high-growth space in particular has a male-dominated culture where women are not really allowed to be their authentic selves. Women have tremendous gifts that are very unique and valuable. But sometimes those gifts are not fully on display because we’re forced to play the game according to rules we had no role in shaping.
What the best advice you ever got, and from whom?
I’m not sure, but at this stage in my life, I’m trying hard to live in the present. I’m reading a book called A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle and in it, he reminds us that we don’t have power over the past or the future. The only thing we’ve power to affect is the present moment. So, I’m trying really hard to be my best self by capitalizing on the present moment.