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}

August 26th, 2010 • Comments: 0 • by Wendy • Customer ServiceInside SnugabellPumping

We've Discontinued PumpEase Petite - What Does That Mean For Smaller Chested Moms?

PumpEase Petite is discontinuedWe've had a few moms email us fretting that we're discontinuing PumpEase Petite so we thought we'd better talk about the reasons behind this decision and the fact that there is no need to worry. (Not even a little bit!)

So here's the scoop - both PumpEase Petite and PumpEase are the same size around your body - the ONLY difference is the width of the bra up and down your body. The four sizes:  S, M, L and XL fit moms from 32AA to 48H. The Petites were recommended for smaller cup sizes as they usually need less coverage and less support but the same size in the PumpEase will work the same or even better!

In fact, PumpEase Petite WAS the original PumpEase. I was at least a D cup when I was nursing and I only used the 3" wide bra. (Actually I used our first prototype for both my girls and it didn't even have a proper fastening at the front - only pins! AND it was ugly! But that's another blog post). So as I was saying, I was at least a D cup and I do NOT have "perky" boobs by ANY means (I know, TMI, but it had to be said) and the narrow bra worked absolutely fine for me, so I figured it was all Moms needed.  PumpEase isn't meant to support your breasts (even though it might a bit), it was designed to support the pump flanges.

And then, in the very early days of the biz, we started getting feedback that we should make the band wider. So we decided to introduce a second style and rename the original Petite. Hindsight tells me we should have just run with the wider one, but we had already paid for the packaging to be designed, had ordered our 3" hook & eye (like 3600 of them) and manufactured our first round of production, blah, blah, blah.  It wasn't a ton of money in today's world, but back then, I broke out into a cold sweat just thinking about it!

And then I fell in love with PumpEase! It had more fabric to show-off our fabulous prints, the packaging had more real estate so we could gush about all the amazing features and according to my wonderful manufacturer, it was easier to sew! So we decided to start phasing PumpEase Petite out last year and are now actively clearing out the last of the Petites at 50% off! The good news is, if you are an official member of the Itty Bitty Titty Club (sorry, couldn't resist), you can take advantage of these fantastic savings because if PumpEase Petite supported the flanges on my Droopy Double D's, it will work just fine for you! ;-)

By the way, my Droopy Double D's are now Droopy C's but they look fabulous because I get professionally fit for my bras and thus are one of only a small percentage of women that are wearing the correct bra size. It really does make a HUGE difference! You owe it to your girls ladies! But I digress...

Another super important reason we want to discontinue PumpEase Petite is to reduce our SKU's to make room for new product development. We have a few ideas up our sleeve and want to be able to offer them ALL to you! We can't dish about anything yet, but watch for something completely different this fall!

So are you feeling better about PumpEase Petite going the way of the Dodo Bird? Leave your comments below - we always love to hear from you!

April 29th, 2010 • Comments: 0 • by Wendy • Customer ServiceGeneralInside Snugabell

The Snugabell Promise of Quality, Integrity, Accountability and umm... Socks?

I don't understand why companies do it.  They have a great product, build a great brand following and then they change something.  From the consumer's standpoint, it is usually a change for the worse; for the manufacturer, however, it almost always means higher profits.  All that work of building their reputation and brand and they throw it all out the window.  I.don't.get.it.

Old Navy triple rolls socksTake for example Old Navy infant and toddler socks.  You know the ones I'm talking about?  The triple-roll socks that have rubberized writing on the soles stating the size (so handy when you have two little ones that are close in age).  The ones that were/are $1.75/pair or six pairs for $10.00 (it's been a while since I've bought them, so I may be a bit off on the price).  Well a few years back when my now five year old was a baby, we bought them by the bucket-full.  Every colour under the sun and two each of the neutrals.  And then my younger daughter wore them and then I passed them on to my sister and her daughter wore them.  And they are STILL in good condition!  I think I've thrown out maybe two or three pairs after 5-1/2 years and three kids!

They were all cotton with a bit of spandex.  They faded a bit over time and even shrunk a teensy bit (such is the nature of cotton), but they LASTED and LASTED and LASTED.  I recommended them to everyone I met that had kids.

Then I bought a couple of new pairs for the girls last fall as we were having family pictures done and we were all wearing black.  I needed new inky black socks.

So I went to our local mall and bought two pairs - one for each of my daughters.  They felt a bit silkier than before but looked the same.  I noticed that they were now made with 81% cotton/17% polyester/2% spandex.  Hmmm...

Six months later, I threw both pairs in the garbage because they had LARGE gaping holes on the balls of the feet - not even on the heel.  I was choked!  SIX MONTHS!  I guess they added the polyester to prevent the fading or the minimal shrinking or perhaps because polyester is cheaper?  Or maybe because they didn't have enough repeat customers due to the fact that their old socks lasted too long...  ???

I will never buy them again.  Ever.

I'm on a roll with the socks, so I will continue.  I bought a couple of pairs of Calvin Klein ladies' black dress socks for myself eons ago (honestly, they're older than my kids).  They are just now starting to wear thin, no holes yet, just wearing thin.  Did I mention that I've had these socks for years?  I think it is going on ten years.  Seriously.

Calvin Klein ladies' dress socksSo seeing that they were starting to wear thin, I decided to go the The Bay (where I had bought them) and buy more.  Of course, they didn't have exactly the same ones ten years later, but I bought what I thought were comparable socks.  Two pairs each of two different styles - footies and anklets.  Calvin Klein.  After two months, they had holes in them.  All eight of the socks had holes in them.  And not on the heel or where the balls of your feet sit either.  The holes were in random spots around the ankle where the knitting machine did the full-fashioning (shaping) to make the sock "bend" to go around your ankle.  Random holes on my new socks.  My background in the apparel industry tells me they are simply poor quality and/or they no longer do product testing and/or they have lowered their quality control standards.  A lot.

Every time I'm folding laundry and start pairing-up the socks and see the HOLES, I get annoyed.  AND then I see my 10 year old socks in the pile that are still in one piece!

What the heck is with the crappy socks???

Needless to say, I am choked.  Again.  And I need some answers!  Where oh where can I buy decent socks?  I just spent a good 10 minutes searching online for "cotton socks" and nothing really comes up!?!  Update:  I think I found the answer to my dreams (literally):  Sock Dreams!  Check them out!

But WHY do companies do this?  As a business owner, I understand the desire to increase your bottom line, but are you not shooting yourself in the foot (pun most definitely intended) if your product becomes sub-standard and you lose customers?

I.just.don't.get.it.

high quality PumpEase I remember about a year ago, we received a bad batch of production from our factory.  It was either 600 pieces and we sent back 400 or 800 pieces and we sent back 600.  Yes it cost us twice as much in quality control to check every PumpEase two times.  Yes it delayed our orders.  Yes it was frustrating!!!  However there was no question in my mind that they all get sent back to the factory.  I couldn't even fathom sending out a sub-standard product and "hoping for the best".  No way.  Not even an option.

In my mind, my product, my company and my reputation are all very intricately woven together.  If my company starts producing shoddy goods, that reflects on me personally.  It's just not going to happen.  I give you my word.  And I am super-duper proud of the high quality that is reflected in our products.  :-)

So, tell us... have you ever experienced a particular brand's quality decreasing over time?  What did you do about it - just accept it or switch brands?  Do you expect, as I do, consistency in quality when you are loyal to a particular brand?  Please leave your thoughts below.

 

Tags: 'quality control', socks, 'sock holes', 'calvin klein'

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!

I 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!

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.

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