November 24th, 2010 • Comments: 0 • by Wendy • About this Blog & MeCustomer ServiceInside SnugabellPumping

PumpEase - Not Just Another Pretty Face

PumpEase features a 3-row hook & eye closure

The other day, while in the shower (I do all my best thinking in the shower and the car), I was pondering our slogan (which we love):  "...because women like pretty things EVEN when they're pumping!™" and then I had this horrible thought, "Oh my gosh... I hope people don't think PumpEase is "just another pretty face"!"

You see, we're always talking about how we're the ONLY fashionable hands-free pumping bra (and now of course we're also offering the ONLY organic hands-free pumping bra), but I wondered... do the moms out there realize that when we designed PumpEase, the functionality was right up there in importance with the aesthetic?

After all, if you try on that fabulous Dior dress and it fits like hell, then what's the point? I for one, do not believe in being a "fashion victim". I wear fabulous shoes, but they fit well and are comfortable. Some of them are even pieces of art. (Yes, these shoes do exist!) But I digress...

As you may or may not know, I have over 15 years experience in the apparel and sewn products industries (aka the fashion industry) including designing and manufacturing a women's sportswear line, providing CAD pattern management services (pattern making, grading, marking, technical specificiations) to other manufacturers, custom design and teaching fashion courses at the post secondary level.

This reminded me of something that I used to tell my starry-eyed fashion design students in drafting and construction (sewing) class. Often the "design-oriented" students had no use for drafting and construction class (they thought it was boooooring) and so I found myself saying, "A pattern is like the foundation of a building. If you don't draft a solid foundation, your design will crumble."  In other words, anyone can sketch a glorious dress, amazing suit or other fabulous garment, but if it is impossible to create either via flat pattern drafting or draping, or if it is too expensive to produce for the mass market, then you have nothing. Nothing. Well, you have a sketch...

These students figured they could just hire a pattern maker to execute their designs. Well yes and no. In order for a patternmaker to successfully bring a design to life, the designer needs to have a firm understanding of the fundamentals (and limitations) of pattern making, garment construction and mass production. And honestly, although there are a lot of pattern makers out there, a good pattern maker is hard to find. I can't tell you how many times we've received patterns for grading (that were drafted by someone else) that were just... ummm... BAD. Cringe-worthy even! And believe it or not, many of them came from brand name companies! The lightbulb surely went on the next time we were in a "better" store and we tried something on that just felt weird - the sleeve cap was glued to our upper arm or the pants had "hungry bum" - it all made sense now. It was concrete evidence of bad design and it can happen in any market.

So when it came time to create our hands-free pumping bra, there were a few things that were non-negotiable...

1.  It had to be pretty :: you're already aware of this one. Does it matter you ask? Considering the $9.6 billion US lingerie industry in which over 80% of purchases are made by women, I would say it does! The postpartum period is certainly not the sexiest time of a woman's life, so why not spice it up a bit with something fun?

PumpEase works with all sizes of breast pump flanges

2.  It had to accommodate ALL makes and models of breast pump flanges on the market :: we have yet to find a breast pump that doesn't work with PumpEase. We even tried the larger-than-average Simplisse flanges at the ABC Show in Las Vegas last month and yes, they fit too! Our "no-stitch" horn openings are at the heart of our design. It's simple really. Even if you use a stretch fabric, if you finish the fabric with thread, even stretchy thread, the fabric won't stretch as much anymore. Have you ever inadvertently pulled on a garment and heard the "snap, snap, snap" of threads breaking? Go ahead, hook your hands inside the openings and stretch them. Stretch them hard. They are built to last and will always return to their original shape.

3.  The closure had to be adjustable :: let's face the facts: nursing moms have fuller and less-full days. Aside from our fabulous fabric that is super stretchy and has incredible memory (i.e. it doesn't "bag out" after use like cotton/spandex can), PumpEase has a 3-row hook & eye closure for another 1-1/4" of adjustment.

4.  The closure had to be user-friendly :: it's a no-brainer that we chose hook & eye. I don't know about you, but I can do up my bra in the dark and behind my back, sometimes even with a martini or two under my belt ;-) So when a new mom is hormonal, sleep-deprived and gets up in the middle of the night to pump, she will be able to don and doff a PumpEase with ease.

5.  It had to be of EXCEPTIONAL QUALITY :: our fabric is one of the best technical fabrics out there. Quite frankly, it is expensive and although we could buy cheaper we don't, because YOU are worth it. It is also super-soft, wicks moisture away and is easy to care for and yes, YOU deserve it. PumpEase is Made in Canada and we are so very proud of that. Our manufacturer, that we have worked with since Day 1, is top-notch, however even after the goods come out of the factory, our Quality Control team goes over each and every PumpEase one more time before packaging them. Our return rate for BOTH sizing and warranty issues is less than 1%.PumpEase - quality detail

6.  It had to fit the majority of our market :: via our four sizes - S/M/L/XL - PumpEase fits moms from 32AA to 48H (a size range into which over 90% of women fall into). We developed our sizing using ASTM standards for body measurements, with a strong focus on the bust point measurement, which varies as much from woman to woman as the bust measurement itself. PumpEase fits moms with bust points that measure from about 4 to 11" (that's the measurement from nipple to nipple). Just to put this into context, the very first horizontal line that a pattern maker drafts is based on the bust measurement. In fact the bust point calculation itself is based on the bust measurement, and therefore this is pretty much the foundation of the whole draft. If you make an error at this point, the whole draft will be wrong. So bust point is very important in apparel in general, and even doubly so when you are inserting breast pump flanges into your pumping bra and the openings need to line-up with your nipples.

And then of course, we musn't forget that Dr Sears says that the bold colours and prints of PumpEase are better for your baby. It just goes to show that you should never judge a book by its cover...

Have you ever been skeptical of a product because it looked "too good" for the price?  You thought it wouldn't work/wouldn't fit/would be uncomfortable? Please do tell us about it below...

{Photo credit: Ameda}

March 16th, 2010 • Comments: 0 • by Wendy • Customer ServiceInside SnugabellMedia & Marketing

PumpEase Wins PTPA Award "Because Parents Know Best"


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Parent Tested, Parent Approved Seal of Approval!We are excited and honoured to announce that earlier this month the PumpEase hands-free pumping bra was named a winner of the Parent Tested, Parent Approved (PTPA) Seal of Approval!

After our last attempt at being recognized for our product, you may think we were a glutton for punishment, wouldn't you?  Well, I dusted off my pants, dried my tears and did some extensive research on the other programs out there before I got back on my horse.  And I am pleased to share with you that, after doing said research and narrowing my choices down, I found myself chatting with the people at PTPA Media (before I submitted my product), and my faith in these "awards programs" was somewhat reinstated.  At least enough to give it another go.

During my "pre-submission" chat with PTPA Media, they were completely up-front about ALL the fees involved to be evaluated by their product testers as well as the licensing of the Seal of Approval if you indeed are named a winner.  Everything we discussed was also clearly outlined on their website on an easy-to-find page.

Let's be blunt here.  These awardsPumpEase converts any pump to hands-free! programs are a business, plain and simple.  They are out to make a profit just like the rest of us.  Having said that, there are businesses out there that provide a good product/service/customer care and then there are others that.. well.. don't.  Guess which one I am going to choose to deal with?

However, I'll admit that I was nonetheless expecting the worst (still licking my wounds I suppose), but was pleasantly surprised with the level of customer service that I received from PTPA Media.  Every email, every phonecall, every voicemail and every letter that I was promised, I received.  There were no surprises, no delays and no misunderstandings.  Everything that I paid for, that was CLEARLY explained to me, I received.  This makes Wendy a happy girl!  (I love happy endings!) :-)

As you may already know, I am a huge proponent of extraordinary customer service.  Not just good, not just excellent, extraordinary.  And if you've ever had the occasion to deal with me on a customer service issue, then you already know that I won't stop until you are happy.  Really happy.  I want to make you say, "Wow!".  Aside from the obvious reasons that customer service is so important to us, I believe that this, along with web 2.0 practices (I'll quote Peter Shankman here) transparency, brevity, top-of-mind and relevancy, FLATTENS THE PLAYING FIELD for smaller companies like ours to compete with the "big guys".  This is the beauty of doing business in today's world.  And I love it!

But let's get back to the award!  We received some great feedback (both positive and not so much), all of which is super useful for us going forward with new product development and current product improvements.  I will now share some of the accolades with you... *blushing*

"This product more than met my expectations. At first, when wearing the hands free pumping support, I was very stiff and slow in my movements as I was unsure how supportive the product would be in holding my breast pump. In a short period of time, I realized that the breast pump was secure and I was able to move normally without worrying about my breast pump falling off.  I inserted batteries in my breast pump so as to not be restricted by the cord length and then attempted various activities. I was able to clean my house, prepare meals, surf the internet, type emails, read books, knit, and interact and play with my 2-1/2 year old and 6 month old, all while pumping. In addition, I pumped with the PumpEase hands-free pumping support while nursing on the other side. With all these activities undertaken while wearing the support, the breast pump was held securely. At no time did it feel like the breast pump felt loose or in danger of falling off. The hands free pumping support held the breast pump on my breast with evenly distributed pressure in such a way that was more consistent and secure than holding the breast pump by hand, resulting in an increased amount of milk being expressed."

"The quality met my requirements. The product appeared very well made and was very easy to care for. It cleaned up very well and dried quickly. I wore the product for lengthy periods on its own and with the breast pump in order to see if it would begin to sag or stretch out. After lengthy and day to day use, the support maintained it's shape, and comfort without stretching out or becoming loose."

"The hands free pumping support is very comfortable to wear. It is supportive enough to hold the breast pump in place securely, while not feeling restrictive. There were no parts of the support that scratched, poked, pulled or pinched the skin. I wore the support both alone and over my nursing bra. The product was just as effective either way."

"I received the "Tuxedo" style which is black with white trim. It is very appealing and classy looking. For others that enjoy more colour, there are other prints available which are just as fashionable."

I could include more, but don't want to bore you.

And here is some of the constructive criticism...

"There were a lot of latches on the front of the bra to close it. Too many for my liking."

"I didn't really care about the style and colour because no one sees it but me."

"Taking the equipment out and apart was a little challenging and sometimes my milk would leak onto the bra as I was taking the equipment off."

"I found it took extra time to set up to pump rather then just pumping like I normally do, it took me some time to get comfortable."

"I think the product is over priced. I think that $30-ish would be fair. I think that the competitors are over-priced as well."

At this point, I'd like to thank all the product evaluators for their thorough and honest opinions.  As I've said many times before, we LOVE feedback because that is one of the many ways that we can make things better for YOU, our customer!  And isn't that what it's all about?

So keep your eyes peeled for further announcements about PumpEase as this marketing campaign unfolds.  If you have any feedback about PumpEase, please leave it in the comments below.  Bring it on!

And for the record, I have STILL yet to hear from iParenting Media. I guess they're not calling me back huh?

February 23rd, 2009 • Comments: 0 • by Wendy • Customer ServiceInside SnugabellResources

Why You Should Wash Before You Wear

I know some people that wouldn't dream of wearing a newly purchased garment before washing it first and yet others that couldn't possibly wait that long and don the new piece immediately.  When prompted, the "have to wash it" crowd explain that they feel the garment is dirty until they wash it themselves.  I can understand that.  But there is another equally important reason to wash your garments before wearing them...

Have you ever had a piece of clothing "fall apart" the first time you washed it or even before you washed it?  An open seam; a hem that has let go; a loose button?  Yes?  Chances are you wore it without washing it first.  When you wash a garment, the threads that make up the stitching swell and their fibers "lock" together.  This makes the stitching more resilient to wear and tear and less likely to "slip" undone and open that seam or let that hem down.

So if having to mend brand new purchases annoys you as it does me, then wash before you wear!bar tacks on your PumpEase!

This goes for your PumpEase™ too!  Your hands-free pumping support has bar tacks at opposite ends of the horn openings to reinforce the area of your PumpEase™ that will sustain the most wear and tear (from insertion and removal of your breast pump horns).  We want this stitching to be locked into place to give you the best performance possible from your purchase, therefore...
please wash your PumpEase™ before you "Pump Without the Frump!™"

So tell us what side of the fence you're on - the "wash before you wear" crowd or the "I can't wait" crowd!

January 16th, 2009 • Comments: 0 • by Wendy • Customer Service

Little Black Dots on your PumpEaseā„¢

If you ever find little black dots on your PumpEase™, don't fret!  These little black dots would be found near the horn openings - they are not dirt and they are not holes!  "Well then... what are they?" you ask.

During production, our manufacturer uses a felt pen to mark the location of the horn openings.  Normally drillholes (small holes in the fabric) are used for this type of marking in the factory, however we have opted for the felt pen to preserve the integrity of the fabric in light of the fact that the horn openings are one of the most important areas of our product.  This felt pen washes out in an instant!  If you touch it with water, it will "bleed" immediately and change to a purple color.  Dabbing it with (I use cold) water a few times, front and back, and then tamping with a paper towel removes the dot in its entirety.  Or you can just let your washing machine do all the work for you.

Just thought you'd like to know!  I will try to post some pictures of the infamous black dots soon!

March 15th, 2008 • Comments: 0 • by Wendy • Customer Service

Great Customer Service - Part I

I’m a real stickler when it comes to customer service.  Sadly, more often than not, I am frustrated and shocked by the customer service (or perhaps I should say the lack thereof) that I receive these days.  However, I’d like to share a few delightful stories that have restored my belief that yes Wendy, there is a Santa, I mean, great customer service out there after all!

The first one that comes to mind is a lighting company by the name of Kichler.  The previous owner of our house had some lamp posts built, but had not gotten around to installing the carriage post lights and so they were included in the sale (in their boxes).  When we had our electrician install them, we were dismayed to find one of the finials missing.  I contacted my local Kichler retailer, however, they informed me that we couldn’t buy “just the finial”, but would have to buy the whole light ($200).  After mulling over this for a while, I decided to email the parent company.  The fellow I corresponded with told me that he would check if he could send me a finial.  He told me exactly when he would get back to me and that’s exactly when I heard from him.  He then told me that he unfortunately could not send me just the finial and in the same breath offered to send me an entire light FREE OF CHARGE - he even covered the shipping!  Of course I was ecstatic…. I would have been happy to get it wholesale!  I wasn’t even the original purchaser of the lighting (and he knew that).  But I tell you….I sure will buy Kichler lighting in the future!

Just telling you this story has exuded in me the same excited feeling that I had on that day and that was over 2 years ago!  This just goes to show that providing exceptional customer service is worth every cent of your money and every minute of your time.

Here at Snugabell Mom & Baby Gear we strive to provide the same exceptional customer service to each and every customer - the kind that takes your breath away and makes you say, “Wow!”

Stay tuned for another great customer service story….