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"!"
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...
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 designand 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?
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%.
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.
I have no words for how I feel amidst the outpouring of support from friends, family, colleagues, vendors, customers and even complete strangers after the airing of our Dragons' Den segment. Just WOW.
I'm still digesting it all.
I was actually quite surprised at how many people were outright angry; they thought I got ripped-off; they thought the Fenis got too much air time and I got too little. (Sorry Ryan and Elizabeth!)
I am flattered by your passionate support for me and my business. Thank you.
I'm not going to lie - I was disappointed that the segment that aired was as short as it was and as a result, not reflective of what happened in The Den. A segment like mine is referred to as an "Also" as in Also in The Den. Interestingly, they find it harder to edit the shorter segments than the full-length ones. Watch it again and note how much of the audio is voice-over courtesy of Diane Buckner - hence they can make up whatever story suits them. But hey, that's the chance you take when you appear on a show like this, and I'm OK with it. OVER 1.5 MILLION people saw my product and very clearly what its function is. And the orders are rolling in. Onwards and upwards I say!
I did have a short chat with my segment producer Molly, who, when I asked what I could have done differently, was nice enough to ask Mike (the fellow who edited my piece) for some feedback. Here is what they had to say...
"I asked my colleague Mike for some feedback for you - he edited your piece. He said it was good, at least you made the cut, about 50% of products taped don't get to air. And 1.5 million viewers saw it! I can only say it's hard to sustain a LONG piece, usually pieces that make it to about 8 minutes were likely in the den for at least 45 minutes. With yours they didn't hate the product, they liked you, but they simply didn't see it as an investable business. It's almost the toughest kind of pitch in the den, cause it's a cool product, people like it, but over the course of your presentation there was no over-arching lesson to be learned by the viewer (meaning a lesson in business because you were either ill-prepared or over valued or what have you). It seems unless you really get a vibrant or heated discussion going, it's hard to sustain the arch of a full piece."
This made total sense to me. And I actually watch the show now from a new perspective ----> the lesson.
I will also add that although I still cannot share any specifics about what happened in The Den outside of what aired on TV, I will tell you that ALL of the Dragons were very kind to me. There was (obviously) a lot of "boob innuendo" flying around the set throughout the 30 plus minutes I was out there, but it was all in good fun. They had a problem with my valuation (as they do with most pitchers); they asked questions and I answered them; they decided not to invest... However, everything happens for a reason <---- I TRULY believe this.
Thank you CBC for the opportunity to present to five amazing entrepreneurs. And thank you Molly and Sam and all the fantastic people at the CBC for guiding me through the process.
Oh! and I was going to call this post "Snugabell Travels the Road to the Dragons' Den Final Chapter", but somehow I don't think that is suitable...
Because I'd do it again in a heartbeat...
Oh and one last thing. See the pic above of Pandora La Glamme and Kevin O'Leary? Kevin actually pulled her back onto the set after we walked-off to have this picture taken. And here is what went down:
KO: "What do you do?"
PLG: "I'm a burlesque performer."
KO: "No really, what do you do?"
Nuff said, here's the pitch:
We'd love to hear your thoughts on the pitch, the model, the product, the Dragons - anything that comes to mind at all. We're all ears (and boobs)! You know the routine - leave your comments below. :-)
The following is the email that I received, unedited...
Dear PumpEase folks
I just came across your advertisement for your pump. As a childbirth Educator, breastfeeding advocate and educator, and mother of four breastfed children, I find the picture extraordinarily harmful to breastfeeding women.
Postpartum women are sensitive the enormous changes that their bodies go through. As I am sure you can appreciate, growing a baby for nine months is a huge endeavor. After birth, the body must not only recover from birth, but make the slow and subtle changes back to its pre-pregnancy state.
This picture of a woman, who is presumably postpartum since she has the hands free pump attached to her, definitely does not have the body of a woman who has just given birth. The corset and size of the woman's waist are completely misleading( is she a size 3?) further promoting the media stereotype that resume their pre-pregnant bodies immediately after birth.
The picture also gives the false sense that the woman who is pumping would never have to support those flanges and bottles attached to the bra. The weight of those bottles and eventual milk will weigh down on her breasts and nipples and cause her discomfort and/or pain. For women with large sized breasts this would not be a possibility. She would need to support the weight of her breasts with her hands for comfort.
Not only does this picture not represent what the postpartum women is going to look like, but in all honesty, it's pretty cheesy. Your ad did get my attention, but I would not recomment your product in my classes.
And my response...
Good day Xxxx,
I apologize for the late reply - our assistant got married and went on her honeymoon for two weeks, and as a result we got quite behind.
I appreciate you taking the time to share your thoughts and feedback on PumpEase Organic, especially since it's a product that is extremely helpful to breastfeeding moms whom you support.
The colleague who lent us the corset that you see in the image, who is a leading corsetiere in North America, works with many new moms to help them return to their pre-pregnancy figure. She has had women come in as soon as one week after giving birth. In Victorian times, postpartum women were wrapped in a soft cotton corset with ties down the front to help the new mother get her figure back. Corsetry supports the back, slims the waist and improves the posture.
In fact, postpartum belly-binding/compression has been in practice therapeutically for thousands of years and is still evident today. Women are routinely told, by both hospitals and birthing professionals such as yourself to purchase a “compression garment” and to wear it “as tight as you can stand it” immediately postpartum to help return the uterus to its pre-pregnancy size, decrease bloating caused by water retention and support the legs & back. There is information on Belly Bandit’s site about the safety of this practice including how it can support Caesarian Section incisions. Therefore I’m not sure why you feel the need to fault moms for doing something to boost their own confidence, if that's their choice. It's like criticizing a mom for covering up when she nurses in public; I say that whatever helps moms' confidence, goes.
We do not feel that we are giving the wrong message to new moms at all with this image. We feel we’re doing something positive for body image by not using a stick-thin model (as evidenced by our model Talysia’s upper arms and wider hips). Talysia is, in fact, an average size 12, with a waist measurement of 29-½”, not a "size 3" as you stated in your email. She is also a mother. Having said that, women come in all shapes and sizes and their bodies react differently to pregnancy, even from one baby to another.
Further, we are not suggesting that women don a corset after birth any more than we are suggesting that women dress-up as a pin-up girl or as Holly Golightly as seen in our other marketing images. In fact, moms LOVE our images, with most finding them very empowering.
I should also correct you in your statement: "The picture also gives the false sense that the woman who is pumping would never have to support those flanges and bottles attached to the bra. The weight of those bottles and eventual milk will weigh down on her breasts and nipples and cause her discomfort and/or pain. For women with large sized breasts this would not be a possibility. She would need to support the weight of her breasts with her hands for comfort.”
I have many testimonials on my site attesting to the fact that PumpEase works wonderfully for larger breasted women AND supports full 6-8 ounce bottles. And again, I can attest to this personally as I pumped 10 oz of milk with no problems whatsoever. I was a D when nursing and do NOT have “perky” boobs by any means. I was also using the Petite version of our product (as this was during our prototype stage). We now have a wider version of PumpEase which provides even more support.
We designed PumpEase solely to help moms extend their nursing relationship with their babies. Our customers include moms pumping for their toddlers and preschoolers as well - not just newborn babies. If you look around our site, I’m sure you’ll agree.
If you’re ever in Vancouver, you should visit Lace Embrace and try a corset on. You will find that they are very comfortable, easy to wear and wonderful for your waistline and posture. I know, as I’ve worn one myself on several occasions.
Wendy Armbruster Bell
After I received this email, I contacted Melanie to help me with my research. We had previously discussed my interviewing her about maternity and nursing corsets both because I love the History of Costume (one of my favourite subjects in school) and because I find it very interesting to hear about the nursing apparel from other eras and thought some of you may too.
So without further adieu...
And if you'd like to learn more about historical costume you need to attend one of Ivan Sayers' lectures. Ivan Sayers is a fashion historian who specializes in the study of women’s, men’s and children’s fashions from 1650 to the present. Sayers has one of the largest and most comprehensive collections of historic clothing in private hands in Canada. He is the founder of the Original Costume Museum Society in Vancouver.
So what do you think about corsetry? Corsetry while pregnant? Corsetry while nursing? Do you find this as fascinating as I do? And what was your first reaction to our marketing image? Did you think it was inappropriate? Empowering? Silly? Leave your comments below - I'd love to hear all about it! And if you're ever in Vancouver, be sure to visit Lace Embrace and try a corset on. Remember my warning however - they are totallyaddictive!
Hi everyone! Please check-out our latest video entitled, "How to Use a PumpEase hands-free pumping bra". Any idea what it's about? OK, just kidding...
I worked with the wonderful Cathrin Witt on this project. I was responsible for taping it and tried my best to follow Cathrin's guidelines for shot angles and such, however I'm no professional in this arena so you can blame the "not so great" lighting on me. Cathrin was in charge of editing - adding music, stills and titles - and making it look all pretty and professional!
The cool thing is, Cathrin (or Cathy as I knew her as in high school) and I reconnected on Facebook a couple of years ago, yet did not meet face-to-face or even speak over the phone to get this video produced. She lives in Bellevue, WA - about two hours south of me AND in a different country!
So just think... if the next time that Cathrin and I venture down the video production road, we actually work together in-person, we could potentially have Oscar material on our hands! Should we clear off our mantles Cathrin?
Anywho, take a gander at the video and let us know what you think. You like? No like? Tell us all about it below!
Tags: 'how to pump', 'hands-free pump', 'nursing bra', 'easy expression'
Lately I've been thinking that we've been home from taping our Dragons' Den pitch for over six weeks now and about the fact that I haven't had the time to get to this blog post (and honestly feeling pretty guilty about it). We got home very late the day after taping (a Saturday) and then had to go get the girls the following morning. And then it was straight into a new week in which we presented to a panel at Small Business BC for The Successful You Small Business Awards - Business Growth Category and then BANG! Rebekah got marrried and went on her honeymoon for two weeks and I'm still not caught-up! Finally, throw in an order to our distributor for almost 1700 pieces just to keep things hopping!
Then I thought... "Hey, I'm actually doing you guys a favour!", because now you'll have six weeks LESS to wait until Season 6 of Dragons' Den starts on September 22nd and we all start biting our nails to find out if we made it to air.
So really, that was a good thing right? I said RIGHT? Ahem...
Without further adieu, here's the lowdown on our whirlwind trip to Toronto, Ontario and the fabulousness that was standing in front of Jim Treliving, Kevin O'Leary, Arlene Dickinson, Robert Herjavec and W. Brett Wilson to pitch "our little business". Although I cannot tell you anything about what happened after I stepped onto that set, I will tell you that we had a blast and would do it all again in a heartbeat!
Now all the moms out there will know that "getting out of town" when you have (two) small children, whether you take them or not, is no small feat in itself. Not only did I have to pack for myself, but I had to pack for the business AND for both the girls (in separate suitcases no less as one was going to my sister's in Vancouver and one was staying with my Mom so she could still go to school). And I HATE packing. I tell ya, I was cursing Mike's name under my breath when he was all done in 10 minutes!
Our flight was at 7 am, so we ventured to be at the airport and parked by 5:30/6:00 am. I didn't get to bed until 3 am. (I was packing, remember?) Do the math people. At least I was nice and tired that evening to help me adjust to Toronto time.
We flew WestJet for the first time and were pleasantly surprised by the friendly staff, the easy check-in and the fact that after booking the window and aisle seats on both legs of our trip, that we ended up with the middle seat empty (which was, of course, our plan, he, he, he). But really folks, ANYTHING is better than Air Canada, right?! We are planning to fly WestJet again when we travel to Vegas in October for the ABC Kids Expo.
So we arrive in Toronto, on time, collect our bags and jump on their amazing transit system, affectionately known as the TTC, which after paying only $3.00, dropped us off in the shopping mall below our hotel - how cool is that?! Speaking of our hotel, we splurged and stayed at the Fairmont Royal York, one of the old CP hotels, and it was grand to say the least (we didn't splurge THAT much, the Dragons' Den had a corporate rate there). Look up and to the lower right for a couple of pictures of this fabulous old world hotel. We get up to our room, I texted Pandora La Glamme, our fabulous model, to make sure we were still on schedule for taping the next day and then we relaxed for a bit while I went online to find a nice vegetarian restaurant to check out for dinner.
After weighing online reviews against the distance from our hotel, we decided on Sadie's Diner, which was still quite the hike (but I needed it) and it turned out to be an EXCELLENT choice.
Sadie's made THE best vegetarian hamburger that I have EVER had and then our waiter offered to make me a fresh batch of his homemade lemonade (YUM!). Mike ordered samosas and a wrap and was very pleased (and stuffed) as well. If you're ever in Toronto, even if you're not vegetarian (because you know I'm a flexitarian), check it out! It had a great 50's diner feel, awesome staff, great food and even better prices! AND they had a "breastfeeding welcome here" sticker on their door! It was fun explaining my business to the tattied and pierced (male) waiter when the subject of the nature of our trip came up. He was all over it though!
Next on the agenda was COFFEE!!! I had spied a Starbucks on our walk down so we headed towards it and got caught in a horrendous downpour. Even with an umbrella (thank GAWD I grabbed it), we were still soaked by the time we got inside. So we hung there for a while, then caught a bus back downtown and hit a liquor store so we could have some drinks back in the room.
We hung out, had a drink and I rehearsed my pitch with Mike a few times before turning in. Then I was up again at 6 am (that's 3 am my time) to get ready and rehearse some more before Pandora La Glamme showed up. (No rest for the wicked huh? For me, it was all about being prepared).
It was so great to finally meet Pandora (Suzy) after only speaking on the phone and via email for over a month. Well, she was just as fabulous in person (maybe more? is that possible?) as she was long distance and I was psyched for the pitch. She got ready, I practiced the pitch some more, we practiced together and then it was time to head to the CBC Studios about a five minute walk away. BUT, Pandora was having pastie problems. She had hand-made beautiful, red, glittery, heart-shaped pasties to wear during the pitch, but they weren't dry enough and thus weren't staying "in-place". What to do.... what to do... yikes!
We arrived at CBC just before our noon call time and after checking-in (and being told we were third on), were given a multi-page NDA to sign (and attempt to decipher). We waited in the lobby for about 40 minutes for someone to come get us. While waiting, a bunch of other pitchers arrived and it was fun trying to figure out what their businesses were by what they were wearing, and what props they were carrying.
Finally a runner - Bryan - came and got us and took us upstairs via a large freight elevator. First on the agenda was a prop check. We were instructed to lay out everything that we were taking on-set onto the table. Then we waited for executive producer Tracie Tighe, senior producer Lisa Gabriele and our segment producer Molly Duignan to come by to check the props and hear about our pitch. We had already discussed our pitch with Molly at length weeks ago over the phone, but this was the other producers' first taste of it.
Bathroom break! Pandora checked her pasties again and we realized that we couldn't use them at all. We let Bryan know and he called for the costume department. (Sorry, we don't have any pics of the problematic pasties.)
Next was a tour of the set. Along with the four other pitches in the afternoon segment of taping that day, we walked through the big doors (the ones that you see people LEAVING the set through on the show) onto the set and met Kevin, the floor director, who told us where to walk onto and off the set, where our "mark" was when we stood in front of the Dragons, what not to do (mention the date or time of year as who knows when your segment will air) and a bunch of other "TV stuff". This was our first glimpse of the set and especially the chairs that would every so shortly be filled with actual Dragons. The whole thing was VERY surreal. At this time we got an update and were told we were second on.
Bathroom break again (just in case) as we were getting mic'ed next! We were supposed to go to the lounge/holding area next, but there was no time...
Next was hair and make-up along with a chat with Sandra Rayner - the CBC business consultant - about our numbers and our "ask". After being told previously that my numbers were "good", I was encouraged to raise the stake that I was offering for the amount of cash that I asking for. I was a little thrown-off by this so late in the game, but dealt with it all the same...
Then a lovely lady from the costume department showed up with some new (albeit oh so generic) pasties for Pandora and she went to the bathroom to take care of her booby business! (Sorry, no pics of this either guys!)
Then we were on! eep! I was pumped up with adrenaline more so than nervous. Another lovely lady walked Pandora and I out of hair and make-up and down the hall to a sign that said "ON THE AIR". We walked onto the backside of the set where a bunch of sound techs had me start my pitch to check my mic. It was a dud - and apparently the first one in something like 14 days of taping! So then they had to re-mic me... (Hey, I didn't mind all those male hands down my top for a second time!)
Then it was time for "the walk". If you've ever watched the show, the pitchers walk across a breezeway with backlit windows and then down a flight of not-so-easy-to-navigate stairs onto the set. Well, to get up to that breezeway, we had to walk UP the stairs behind the set. I admit my knees were a little wobbly as I walked up the steps and then down the other side - I didn't exactly wear flat footwear... <-- fashion victim!
Aaaaaand that is where the story ends (for now) my friends.
Before I go however, I must give a huge shout out to ALL of the people that we met during our short, but memorable afternoon at the CBC - Dragons' Den studios. Not only was everyone we met friendly, down-to-earth and super helpful, but they genuinely wanted you to do well! And for that, I thank you!
After dropping off our gear at the hotel, Suzy, Mike and I headed DIRECTLY for a cute little Irish pub downtown and had a much-deserved drink and late lunch. It was good to finally take a breath and relax, even if just for a moment.
To top-off the day, Mike took me to the top of the CN Tower for dinner as an early birthday present. We had a wonderful time - good conversation, great wine, fantastic food and we had an excellent view of the sunset. Then we spent Saturday cruising Toronto's famous shopping districts - Yonge Street, Queen Street and Yorkville among others - and I picked-up a few things.
So if you have questions about anything that you just read or saw in the pictures, please leave a comment below and I will try my best to answer them. And please also keep your fingers and toes crossed that the next Dragons' Den blog post comes sooner than later...