Many times, your experiences motivate you. For Nancy Trangmar and Meghan Marsden, Co-Founders of Veil Intimates, the big point was when they were trying to buy a beautiful, supportive bra but couldn’t find any that fit well. One discussion after another and one search after another for high-end but comfortable intimate apparel led them to create Veil Intimates. Veil Intimates is an apparel technology company where they’ve designed and patented technology that will revolutionize the women’s apparel industry. The heart of their product is the process and the design. Their approach is to change the marketplace, and they ultimately hope to work with existing brands not only in the traditional foundation arena, but also active wear to change the support structure for women.
Thank you for having us.
This is an inaugural where I have two guests at one time. You guys are going to be fascinated by what these two have embarked on. If you would, tell us a little bit about your business and who you serve.
Veil Intimates, we are an apparel technology company. We’ve design and patent revolutionary technology that is going to change women’s apparel. Meghan and I were shopping and trying to find a supportive bra that didn’t use an underwire for support and we were dumbfounded when we couldn’t find it existing in the market already. So, it motivated us to search out for possibilities, and here we are today.
You were motivated. I’m thinking of the quantity of times that you’ve been shopping for undergarments, a bra, whatever and this one was the tipping point. Tell me a little bit about when you had been disappointed and you left wherever you were and the conversation you guys had going on that spurred you to action? It’s amazing how many times you can experience something and it not motivate you but for some reason this was the tipping point. For us, we were at a really amazing boutique located in Cherry Creek in Denver that’s known for the most beautiful, high-end apparel and intimates. It was their sidewalk sale, so we’re buying really nice things at a discount. But even then we went to Starbucks, we we’re talking about it and this is the best fitting piece of apparel place that you could buy this piece of apparel in Colorado. We’re sitting and looking at each other, how can we spend that much money and still be this dissatisfied?
Maybe it just means that we need to look into the market and how our bras are made. Is there a way to do it better? Why does it have to be this way, and just started investigating, and that’s really what it was. There wasn’t one particular thing that really pushed us over the edge besides being together and both feeling the same way, and then having the conversation with other women. It was a continued echo of mentality that I guess this is just as good as it’s going to get and accepting this piece of apparel that you have to wear everyday is just not going to be comfortable. It is what it is. That wasn’t good enough for us.
I think about it in the morning, getting ready to go and do whatever you’re going to do and you go, “I have to put that device on again.” You already have some degree of rancor with that garment. You were explaining the history, the background from here. This is old technology as it exists today, the technology that you’re trying to interrupt, whalebones, corsets and the wire was brought on board when?
It was patented in the ‘30s.
The only innovation was making it to a plastic as opposed to the wire. Now, when it pokes you it doesn’t poke quite as stabbing as it used to.
Well isn’t that nice!
I’m thinking about the genesis of you guys, that you’d left the shopping, you’ve gone to Starbucks. You have a history in business. Both of you guys have been entrepreneurs. What is some of your background?
This is Meghan. I worked in management consulting for a number of years predominantly in healthcare and finance. I started my first business when I was 26 in real estate flipping houses and getting into the real estate market. From there, I was bitten by the entrepreneurial bug and I started multiple companies in various industries, no two alike. And looking at everything as a problem-solving challenge and really enjoying being a servant leader and building up teams, and also, just creating a really great customer service experience for some for my businesses.
This business became part of my heart when we started down the path and could really see the consumers’ drive and need for it. Seeing women light up when you talk about changing something they hate so much really became a driving force for me, as I continued to move forward with Veil. Nancy and I have known each other for quite some time, both working as a client-relationship, and also as business partners, being employed by a corporation together and working alongside each other, and then ultimately friends.
I think about you coming out and you’ve got this thought, so then you started doing some research. Maybe what would be helpful is to describe, if you can, the underlying process that you’ve patented. What’s this all about?
Part of our process that we patented essentially, what happens today when a bra is made, a bra cup is made specifically of two pieces of foam that are fused together. From there, a channel is put on and this underwire is slipped into that channel to create the support structure. So regardless of size, underwires really change in support by a few centimeters, and that’s about it. What we decided to do was create 3D print, create the support system with various shapes and thicknesses throughout, and then integrate that into the cups. So, what that means is pressing that piece of support structure between two pieces of foam that then form the cup. What we found is by having support through the whole cup, it changed the stress and strain that a woman experienced and felt on her body. That’s when we knew we had something. It’s the process and the design.
You showed me an example of a cup. It looks like a piece of foam, shaped. You held it up to a light and for lack of a better term, it looks like a rather large spider web between the two foam pieces. We were talking about in construction if you’re an A cup or D cup, basically the support system really doesn’t change. It’s like having a two-ton crane and a four-ton crane built the same way. You go, that’s kind of stupid, frankly. For you guys, you have a particular approach to the marketplace. You are not trying to come out with your own brand per se. What’s your approach to the marketplace?
So our approach to the market place is to change the marketplace. Our strategy is to license our technology. We have patents that we’ve received and patents that are pending that create an aggregate IP company. Ultimately our hopes are to work with existing brands, not only in the traditional foundation arena but also active wear, swimwear, and evening wear to change the support structure for women. Ideally we’d be working with large brands like Spanx and Chantelle, Victoria’s Secret who already have a large share of the market. Our goal isn’t to build this big brand for ourselves, but to truly change the underlying process and strategy of how women are supported in their apparel.
IP, Intellectual Property Company. You license your technology and then they bring it on board with what they’re doing.
Then the questions for folks thinking about process. You have all this testing phase and design phase and so on. Then at some point, you arrive at a design. What did you guys do to make sure your design….what steps did you take to protect the effort and intellect that went into your process?
Part of what we worked on and thought through and what we were mindful of is in our initial investigation phases, being somewhat quite about what we were doing until we had a grasp of what was happening, and then reaching out to a law firm and started to have renderings and draw up what we were thinking, and then iteration after iteration…I think the reason Nancy and I were laughing is because part of our process was a bit of like first grade artwork. We had printed, like you said, that spider web out and we were trying to figure out how to press it in the cup successfully. It was so much so to the point we were at our manufacturer in LA and we had scissors and we were cutting out different shapes. It was completely nonscientific. It was just a trial and error prototype. We grew up into being scientific, utilizing engineering software that’s used similarly in aerospace and automotive today, but our initial prototyping was a really first grade artwork. Where we had scissors in this large manufacturing plant that presses bras, cutting out different shapes in our spider web 3D printed form. That was our initial learnings if you will, and how we got to prototype. We reversed into putting what we thought would work into engineering simulation, and happily found that what we had come up with just our minds and our gut validated in engineering simulation.
You are end users, and so you look at that and you go, “At some point, you go, I’ve been around this thing for a while, then you looked at the ones you’ve had and deconstructed the ones that you already had. Not surprising, you had an already intimate relationship with the existing technology.
Did you have a 3D printer at your house or are you outsourcing 3D printing?
We cold called 3D printing companies. We start to here in Denver. We had no idea. The first gentleman I got on the phone, Justin, we still work with him directly today. I had a conversation with him about would they be able to help us and could they print garments? He said, “We should probably have a meeting. I’ve got to warn you, my entire engineering staff are men. It’s a little bit foreign to them, but if you would come down with your business partner, we would like to talk further and see if we can help you.” That meeting was really interesting. They did not truly understand the concept until we showed them a bra, which yes, that bra….I left the meeting, came back and presented it to them. Yes, that happened
They needed a visual aid. They truly had no idea what we were talking about and it truly made a difference in the conversation, but in hindsight we laugh about it a lot. In that meeting, it had to be, in order for them to understand what we were talking about. We came back, we talked through it and they said, “Give us a little bit of time, a few weeks, and let us try and figure this out. We might be in touch with some questions.” They came back to us with what we had asked them for and we adjusted some of the thicknesses. We adjusted the shape a little bit, but it was our first prototype. We took that to our pad manufacturer and then, like Meghan said, it was art class with scissors on the manufacturing floor, making design changes based on our intuition.
I think about aerospace if you said design a nose cone for a space shuttle, they be all over a nose cone on a space shuttle. Other than size, it’s not really much different; it’s a conical event. So for you guys, you are thinking about the various designs whether it’s a full -coverage and whether it’s the part-coverage and all the choices. Will the support system that you guys design, will it fit various different styles or is it going to be pretty much specific?
It’ll fit varying styles. Our goal is to work with brands in their flagship shapes and styles that they like for their line that already exist and integrate that support system into their existing styles and patterns. It’s allowing for variance depending on the shape and style. So, not changing the aesthetic of a brand, but really integrating that support structure into the existing style.
From experience, we have understood that it's a real challenge to find something that works.
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You have had multiple discussions with manufacturers, as I understand it. What are the things that you’re typically hearing from the manufacturers?
They are dumbstruck. They are shocked that we have been able to get this far on our own and are very interested in where we’re going. Hopefully one of those, within the next few months, will be an exclusive deal. But, ideally we would like this to be available to all women.
How we met and how you got on the podcast is a previous guest that had breast cancer and was talking about the challenges in the asymmetry issues and others with support garments. You are going to be involved in that world too?
Our heart really lies with a woman who has experienced mastectomy, reconstruction or augmentation. From experience, have understood that it’s a real challenge to find something that works. Most women who experienced the surgery can’t wear underwires at all. They’re seeking something beautiful after an emotional experience and aren’t finding it. Part of our third-horizon strategy is to really to create customized prosthetic, out of a really lightweight product that we’re working on currently with the few higher-ed institutions, and also the integration of sensor technology.
There are amazing higher-ed institutions that are working on sensor technology, not only for reactive-care but proactive-care, predominantly in breast cancer. Infrared technology that would be integrated into your apparel that you didn’t even know was there, that would help track and understand if there is growth or cell production that would not be healthy cells, as well as heart-disease tracking. There is a wonderful organization out of MIT that’s doing a heart disease tracking, which is the number one killer for women.
The experience of a heart attack with women is much, much different than in men.
Really working to build innovation in that too. Not only have application for comfort and aesthetics, but have a true application around things that are close to our hearts and that we care about, and the medical community in being really proactive to that, and building a line that works for women who experienced those surgeries that satisfies their need and still makes them feel beautiful, after everything they had gone through emotionally. That’s really our heart…is in that.
Wasn’t there a discussion about some of the professional emergency folks that you guys had mentioned that you were interacting with fire departments and so on?
There’s already technology that is monitoring health information for firefighters, EMT, and military applications. The biggest challenge is those applications are typically for the male community, so they’re integrated into something that would be a base layer. The problem with base layers and sensors is that there’s a bra in the way for women. If those sensors aren’t integrated into the apparel that’s closest to them, the sensor technology doesn’t work. If a female firefighter is wearing a sports bra with a sensor technology in her base layer, it’s not going to read correctly because there’s a piece of apparel between her and that technology. Our hope is to work with those communities to really deliver something special for the women who serve us in that way. It would be very exciting to work with that community.
You guys had a recent event that has to do with FIT, Fashion Institute of Technology. Tell us a little bit about what’s going with them and you guys?
I have to give Nancy kudos, because part of the reason we’ve been so successful is because of a lack of fear in contacting people we have no connection to, but realizing that we have a value proposition that’s very interesting. Nancy called FIT almost a year ago and said to them, “Hi. I’m Nancy from Veil Intimates. You’ve probably never heard of me, but I really like to talk to you and we we’d like to talk about a research partnership.” We got fifteen minutes of time. So we flew out to New York for fifteen minutes of time to meet with FIT.
This amazing woman, whom now we are very close with and adore, was going to give us fifteen minutes of her time. The next thing we know, an hour and fifteen minutes later, we’ve gotten their attention. FIT is very interested in innovation. They’re very focused on growing in that space. There is a lot of innovation to occur in apparel still. They are leading the way. Through a number of months to see how we develop relationship, research and development, came to the conclusion that we could.
Currently, are working with FIT and some professors to not only assess the fit and comfort of our piece of apparel and how it would be integrated easily to manufacturing processes, but a comfort study. Having multiple people try a piece of apparel, give us feedback and make adjustments. From that, we’ll be working with, we’ll have a tech pack to essentially to go into the marketplace, work with existing brands to say, “This is what we found from our study from a hundred people wearing our product. This is the feedback they gave. This is how we changed it and redid the comfort study, and we are just at the beginning of that. It’s been a really fun process, truly not knowing or ever creating a partnership with higher-ed. It was our first time, both of us in an entrepreneurial setting to do that, and it’s been really lovely. They’ve been very good to us, and we’re very excited to be working with them.
So I need to know, if you knew you had fifteen minutes, what were you going to lead with?
I don’t think we thought that far ahead!
I think we felt that if we could get in the door, we’d have more than fifteen minutes. Because, we knew the product that we were presenting to them and what we were asking them to do will revolutionize women’s apparel in four categories that has had no innovation in decades.
That is amazing.
FIT is the Harvard of fashion. Where some of the other big names are more the couture and the editorial designing, but FIT is on the forefront of what’s happening in fashion and they were very attentive to our conversation. They have actually given us some of our best referrals for networking. One of our advisors is directly from a referral that this woman gave us, and she’s been invaluable to us.
We’re very thankful.
When you went in, did she have the same resonance with the underwire problem that you guys brought up?
Yes, of course!
The funny thing is she started in school in intimate apparel and foundations and realized how hard it is, and she changed her direction of her major. She understands whole-heartedly what we’re trying to do and how this will affect women’s apparel.
Part of that is because; oddly the cup manufacturer and the underwire manufacturer aren’t the same people. The underwire doesn’t necessarily always match the cup. Designs have to be adjusted according to the manufacturing availability of products. It was just very interesting. It’s been a steep learning curve, but we’ve learned a lot and Joanne has been lovely to help us get there.
I’m thinking of you guys…You were on the plane to New York. This is a pretty big deal. Before you guys go into the meeting, what did you say to each other before you went in?
For Nancy and I, thankfully, part of our business background and where we worked together is in business development. Where we feel most comfortable in is in a sales pitch business setting. For us, that was the moment, to seize the moment and to do what we needed to do. A lot of our career prepared us for moments like those, where you’re making an ask or beginning to build relationship. Those aren’t areas where we have challenge, that’s where we thrive and so for us it was getting the meeting. Once we had that meeting, we felt pretty confident we would move from there, and then it’s step-by-step.
Think about getting out of comfort zones. For you, was there a point where you really got out of your comfort zone to pursue this idea?
We’re still outside.
I’d probably say as we’re talking engineering. My background and Nancy’s background is not engineering. To validate our product, we felt it necessary to have scientific validation to create an avatar essentially in ANSYS, which is a software tool that’s used in aerospace. Audi and Lockheed all are using this type of program. Working with an engineer and understanding the language of an engineer into layman’s. We knew what pain meant, we just didn’t know it was called stress and strain. We knew what movement looks like because of personal experience, not because Athena, our avatar told us.
The best part was that all of our intuition, all of our gut and all of our wisdom from personal experience was translated into that avatar and then was validated. It was a really beautiful thing, but talking on the phone with engineers, and interviewing engineers to talk about female anatomy movement and integrating an apparel piece into it, that was outside of my comfort zone, and especially knowing that there’s mathematical calculations of movements, stress and strain, and all of the things that’s engineer’s terminology, and that they speak very regularly and easily was not any scope of my business knowledge or acumen at all. The biggest piece of stepping outside, would be that.
That’s a way in your past, because we were talking at length about many different things. It’s not a challenge for you guys to talk about it now. When I think about the engineer speak, that goes on, and they don’t speak intimate either. If you said I need to take and hold a specific load that’s in a cylindrical event, they’d be all over that with no problem and no hesitancy.
That was exactly what we experienced. But, interviewing the engineers to get to that point was maybe outside of our comfort level a little bit.
What did your families think of this enterprise?
My grandmother actually had her own corset business in a high rise office downtown, so it’s interesting that I’m getting into this industry. There was no true direction, but my family loves it and they are encouraging, and hope that we succeed because they want to know when they can have their own bras with Veil Intimates technology.
Are you guys driving your technology now?
We are not currently “driving” our technology. We are having our pieces of apparel made in the next few weeks, but we have worn them before.
What was the process that you’ve taken to test drive your new equipment? What did you do as an after action or a thought process to go, “This is what I’ve noticed. This is what is missing.” What did you guys do? What was that like?
I think a lot of our initial testing for us test-driving our product was an active wear setting. Not traditional foundations but an active wear, and seeing if it could do what we though it could do in those settings. Where we experienced failure, and what our hopes were is that we could wash and dry our product. Currently in the market, almost every garment, specifically traditional foundations can’t be washed and dried. It’s hand washed or it’s washed and air-dried. We really wanted to be able to wash and dry our product. That was a big piece for us. It took us mapping out and working with chemical engineers on the raw material availability that can withstand multiple heat cycles.
That was part of what we’ve made changes for. I think that our intuition and gut on the actual support system itself tended to be correct-pretty much out-of-the-gate. There were nominal changes that occurred over the course of the time that were particularly driven through the scientific software. Our heart really led to wanting to wash and dry, and that was probably where our biggest overcoming of challenge was occurring. There was a bit of us that wanted to use as eco-friendly products as possible, so trying to navigate what was available in the marketplace for products, raw materials that would be sourced and sustainable.
If folks didn’t know any better, hearing about this is really in a sense engineering, other than the fact that it’s intimates, product design, bringing it to test market, testing it and see the stress failures and all that. That’s exactly what you guys are doing.
The amazing thing in the market, although active wear companies do have engineers on their teams because they’re looking at different gaits, different levels of stress a woman may experience depending on the how fast she’s running or if she’s jumping, etc. The foundations industry doesn’t have engineers on staff. This piece of apparel, which is an engineering feat, basically like a suspension bridge, there are no engineers to be found in those companies. It is very aesthetically focused with a historical mapping and pattern making and fit of traditional intimates. We’re here to say, this is an engineering feat and there needs to be some thought around it in that way.
Well that’s where the underwire came from. Howard Hughes, he was an engineer. Aeronautics. And you kind of go…, “Did they all die after Howard” I don’t know. You think about it and it just strikes you as incongruous.
We’re in a time now more than ever where we want it all. Previously, it was like you had to pick either comfort or support. We are bridging the gap between those two, where you can have something really comfortable that’s still aesthetically very beautiful and you don’t have to choose between the two. That the innovation is thoughtful based on the women who wear it instead of the traditional mentality.
What’s coming up in the near future for you? What’s the next benchmark or hurdle for you?
We are in the midst of our partnership with FIT and are working to build that tech pack, and get through our comfort study. From there, we would be licensing our product to apparel brands. In active wear, foundations, swimwear and evening wear. We have someone that we’re working with that has lots of experience in licensing product in the fashion space. We’ll begin the dialogue and really selecting our first partner that really makes sense. That their brand aligns with our vision. That their hope is for innovation, for comfort for women without the loss of aesthetic beauty. It will be really a selection process of who the first partner will be and what that looks like.
Nothing to it!
That means this isn’t easily replicable without the knowledge that we have. On top of that, it allows us to say, “What did we learned from this moment, how can we be better and really challenge ourselves to problem solve?” A lot of times when obstacles happen people, that’s when they get deterred, or stop or take time to reflect. For us, we take time reflect and move forward, It actually becomes a boost in the arm instead of the reverse. If more people embrace the obstacle, knowing that no matter what, if it’s a service, product or whatever, if they see the obstacles, that means they’re seeing them before anyone else in the marketplace, which means they’re creating value and have an understanding or deeper knowledge of their product or service.
You get issue and obstacle right…It’s arrived at your doorstep today. With that obstacle, do you have a routine to address it? Do you go have a meeting, go for a walk? What do you do to try to take and go reflect on the obstacles and start trying to problem solve?
Either have caffeine or a beverage!
An adult beverage of your choice!
It depends on the obstacle truly, and what industry or area it’s in. If it’s an obstacle in business, for example, we’ve had an obstacle in business this week and it was okay, we’re relying on that person to solve for that problem. We’re going to solve that problem and we’re going to send them the solution. We’re going to help lead them to the water instead of relying on others. If it’s something like a prototype failure or an issue with the scientific modeling, we start thinking about it. We start mind mapping out about why that’s happening. It’s just depending on the obstacle, but nothing that caffeine or wine can’t help.
I’m thinking about prototyping. Visually, let’s say that the support structure looks like chicken wire, for lack of a better term, and then it mutates to where it looks like a spider web. For you on your patent iteration, what’s the process for you to make sure that if you’re innovating and solving, you go from design A to design C that you could protect both?
That’s the difference between design patent and utility patents. We have a patent pending for utility. The utility is the process that helps us create our product. The design is the actual product itself, where we would file multiple patents depending on the design change. A lot of our design work comes from biomimicry, looking at the world and nature and how the world has created strength in different things, like a spider web or cells working together, where that’s how they’re connected and what that looks like, and really assessing the biomimicry using that same thought process in our problem solving.
Where did biomimicry come into your vocabulary?
I believe we were actually in Silicon Valley meeting with our 3D printing company that we work with Carbon 3D. A lot of their chemical engineers think and use the terminology biomimicry, and it’s becoming very popular in building products and assessing strength. It’s something that’s been around a long time, but for us as baby entrepreneurs and not engineers, it came into play talking to chemical engineers. Then really assessing and looking at nature and how do we mimic the strength in nature that’s already been created and has worked for thousands of years to build strength. Spider webs are strong for a reason. How do we use those elements to mimic strength without building thickness? That was the biggest piece.
It’s part of the journey. You think about the texture of what you know as you go down this road of exploration. You go, “I’ve got more threads in the texture.” Over the past three years, what belief or protocol have you just established in your company that has the most impact you and your company’s success?
To follow up, that is the most important thing! Whether it’s a business card from a networking event that you recently at or an offer from a friend to introduce you to their friends that might be able to influence your business. The biggest part is don’t just ask for the advice, follow up on the advice. Once you’ve taken that information and done something with it, circle back around to the person who gave you that advice and give them an update on how that information impacted your business. Then ask for more advice or to be introduced to people within their network.
That has been so powerful for us and we’ve been blessed with the people and the organizations that have been willing to help us because we value their time, their expertise and their network. Another thing that Meghan and I are very adamant about is sending handwritten thank you notes. Don’t underestimate the value of a handwritten thank you note. In today’s society of electronic communications, that is so powerful and it’s amazing because it’s greatly underutilized but it’s profoundly appreciated.
I just finished a bunch of thank you cards. It’s excruciating. I can appreciate it, and understand it. I was thinking about what you just said were somebody offers a piece of advice, you do something with the advice or guidance. You circle back around where did it come from and how did you learn from it?
A lot of it has been because we’re very adamant about follow up. When we have followed up with the people that have given us advice, information, recommendations, leads and introductions, they’re always surprised that we’ve come back to thank them. They say so often that they will offer help or advice and never hear what happened with that information or from that individual again. That’s sad because once you prove that you are good at following up and taking advice, they’re more willing to help you. People that we have reached out to have become mentors to us, have become business advisors to us. A lot of them have given us what don’t do. “Don’t make the same mistakes I made. Here’s what I did. Avoid it at all costs. I’ve already created the wheel, don’t do it again.” It’s just been really powerful to see how endeared we’ve become to them, because we value their information. We didn’t just take it and never show up again or never follow back up. That is the biggest thing for me is follow-up.
I would tell you that’s an incredibly scarce skill. You are the first ones that I’ve actually heard that articulated from. In the podcast, anybody listening. What did we call this, five star tips.
That’s a powerful one!
What advice that you would offer to a new CEO that’s assuming the role of CEO for the first time?
For me, it’s to pick up the phone and make the phone call. Don’t be insecure about who’s on the other end of the phone. Meghan pointed out earlier the best advice I think we’ve gotten to date was go for the best of the best, and ask for their help. More often than not, they’re willing to give their help, and it’s been so profoundly impactful for our business.
In concert with that is once you’re given advice, assess the advice, but don’t live and die by the advice. What we’ve found too is a lot of people have advice and its great advice, but you ultimately have to press forward. As an entrepreneur or CEO, it’s your job to move the needle. No one cares more about your success more than you. You may have amazing people around you just like we do, who have great intentions, but some of them conflict. So at the end of the day, it’s your responsibility to decide what’s best for you and your company and do it, and not wait for someone else to help you move the needle because they’ve offered advice or are going to give an introduction and it’s not happening. It’s your job as the entrepreneur to propel yourself forward, which it seems so fundamental, but I think is a differentiator. There is phenomenal advice to receive and to be thankful for, but you also have to think if it’s the best advice for you and go from there.
No one cares more about your success than you.
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Making sure that there’s a fine line between being polite and waiting for someone to introduce you that they have the relationship with and making that happen on your own. If you’re not getting where you need to be or to the right connection, take the reins in your own hands and make that introduction, whether that’s a person who you aspired to model your own career after or someone who has created a company and has been successful and you would like their tips. The biggest thing is we’ve had situations where we’ve politely waited and realized in hindsight that we should have just gone after, picked up the phone, made the call ourselves. We’d be further down the road than we currently are. We’ve recovered from those things, but it was a learning experience to not necessarily wait for someone, if you’re not getting where you need to be.
It’s tough to be dependent.
What’s the most common misconceptions of you guys and your role as CEO and or owner?
The most common misconception as CEO or owner, or misconception of anyone, my thought is in leadership is that a title means what you’re supposed to be doing. Nancy and I originally had titles and we got rid of titles because we collaborate so well together as business partners, it almost seemed silly. Typically titles put you in roles of what you’re supposed to do, but we both have really special skill sets that work and intertwined together. The misconception is that your title says this and this is the lane you stay in, where you should really focus is on your natural talents and giftings. Maybe you’re really good at finance, but you shouldn’t be the CFO. It’s really not allowing the title to put you in your lane. working together, if you have a business partner or you have advisors to collaborate, and really lean into your natural giftings and strengths and not rely on anyone to put you in that spot. We are in a position in our company where we’re doing everything. Maybe that’s the nature of our company and where we’re at, but truly we work collaboratively together, and so it really works. I would just say a title doesn’t necessarily equate to your giftings and skills, and the role you should be playing within a company.
In a start-up especially, you wear all the hats. You don’t get to just put one hat on it and own that hat. You need to pick up wherever there’s a need, slack, deficit, etc.
You can see why it didn’t get done in the mirror in the morning.
That’s exactly right!
You have complete control of the staff!
Looking back over the past few years, what would or should you have said no to and why?
Something we did say yes to, but we wasted a little bit of time on, there are two things. The first is trust your gut on when you should keep your idea private and when it can go public. A lot of our time, we spent vetting, working through and understanding which was very valuable time. We spent time assessing opportunities to prototype overseas and notoriously they’ve been known for taking ideas. Thankfully, we pulled back and decided not to do that because of a gut reaction. We had the opportunity to do that prototyping and it just felt like it wasn’t meant to happen. Really doing gut checks on if you are creating a product or service that could easily be taken or used by someone else before you’re ready to show it.
Then also, trust yourself when you’re ready to talk about it because there were moments in time where we were like, “Do we talk to this person? Do we not talk to this person?” We had already patented our idea but it was more of a fear that someone was going to figure it out before us. Trust your gut and ultimately don’t be afraid to talk about it when you’re ready. Trust yourself to know that.
Then don’t let advisors dictate your pace. Because we didn’t know a lot, because we were in “100A” apparel making. We weren’t even in the “101 class”. We leaned heavily into advisors on the front side of our investigation and some to the point where we allowed it to delay our activity and now looking back at it, fully take responsibility for not pushing our product further and faster.
The timing all worked out in the end, but there were moments in time that people either who had experienced something that would create fear in a business, to be protective or challenge vendors or challenged advisors, was instilled in us for a brief moment in time and it kind of paralyzed us. This is the point where we say, “Do we talk about our product? Do not talk about it? When are we ready?” If we had kept the mentality of “we don’t talk about it until it’s 100% ready,” we still wouldn’t be talking about it. We wouldn’t be on your podcast right now. It’s really accepting advice but continue to propel yourself forward, and don’t let others perpetuate fear into you, knowing that if you know in your gut you have something, keep rolling forward.
They all think that can’t be done because it wasn’t done before.
For you guys, on the day-to-day operation of the company, what’s your personal habit or self-talk dialogue that keeps you focused and going?
For me it is the reaction we get when we have the conversation with women about never having to wear an underwire again. Once they’re done ranting and raving about how much they hate their underwire, without skipping a beat, they want to know where they can buy a bra with Veil Intimates technology in it. Truly for me, that’s motivating in itself. Meghan and I were at a meeting with our engineer sitting in a restaurant here in Denver and a woman kept walking by that worked in the restaurant and she finally said, “I’ve got to ask? What are you guys doing?” We told her what we were doing and showed her and she’s like, “Stop it. Is this available now? When can I get? I want this.” That really is all the motivation I need.
It would be similar for me. It’s not just women in the marketplace, but women in the industry, who know the industry very well and see what we’re doing. When we see their faces, to the point where maybe initially they didn’t want to take the meeting us, like we said, when we get the meeting, we know what to do, so that’s not a problem. Then we get the meeting, we show them our product to see us win them over with the product and understand where our innovation and heart of it lies and what we’re trying to do, they’re immediately bought-in. When you continue to get affirmation from women, not only as consumers, but women in the industry that this something that needs to occur and that we have found a solution for it. They’re ready and anxious to get their own sample.
When you’re in a conversation for the first time, what’s the tipping point for that person? What do you think it is?
You can literally say, “We just want to get rid of the underwire, and they’re immediately sold.” This replaces the underwire but creates the same level of support. Oh and by the way, if you love lace, you could still have lace. It doesn’t mean it has to be beige and sad, it can be lacy and beautiful. That’s the reality. It’s just I want to get rid of the underwire and it’s like, “Yes, we all know we hate it.” That’s really it.
Is there a quote that you find meaningful that you’re use that keeps you going?
There’s a quote that I like, “Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement.” Optimism, our naïve optimism at first, and now true optimism through validation, is what’s pushing us and propelling us forward to achieve. A lot of people can be naysayers, but when you know in your gut and you’re optimistic, it will lead you to the water ultimately. And so I think we’ve, just really focused on that. At the beginning, frankly it was a naïve optimism and hopefulness, and lack of understanding in the industry, but anyone who’s tackling a new industry that they haven’t lived in, in their life would say that it’s going to take some amount optimism to get through that. I think for me and for us, we’ve really taken an optimistic point of view on creating change.
I keep hearing you guys talk about the pain point. You find the pain point, find the solution, and, you’d have a really nice business model. I had no idea that the pain point is this widespread. Half the population is men.
The pain point is very literal. It is a pain point on a woman’s body. You can see it in the mapping of the engineering simulation and a woman could point and show you where she experiences pain from the underwire, which is pretty phenomenal.
When I think about stress testing and you can see that kind of stuff and if it’s an engineering drawing, you’d go it’s right there.
Not only that, there’s that pain point but then there’s the pain point when you have your favorite bra that you wear most of the time, you delicately hand wash it, you covet it, and then the underwire pokes out of the channel. It no longer works. Literally, there are women who have cried over having their bra breakdown to the point where they need a new bra, and that was no longer available. Then they have to go on this process of finding something that fits. You walk in this store and you’re measured and they’ll tell you you’re this size. You go in this store and they don’t have that size, but they’ll measure you and tell you, you are this size.
Oh, you have the available size.
Yes, they have the available size!
How funny that bra is $20 more or $50 more, or whatever. But there’s the pain point of wearing it and it being physically uncomfortable, and then there’s the pain point of the bra finally giving up and being threadbare and you need a new bra.
I can’t really empathize, but my daughter and my wife would probably just go, “Yeah, what she said.” If a colleague was asked what you’re best at, what would they say and how do you utilize this strength on a daily basis?
Nancy and I talked about this before, because I think sometimes you know what you’re good at and sometimes it’s good to get perspective. We had a conversation before this podcast and I said I would answer for both of us.
Which will only lead into my skill set.
I make the phone calls. She makes the presentations!
The funny thing is Nancy and I worked together in corporate America for a while and we took the Clifton Strengths Finder, which if you don’t know, it’s a Gallup Organization, and they tell you your strengths, there are like 30 something themes. Nancy’s most dominant theme is woo.
Woo basically means that you love the challenge of winning people over and you’re really good at getting to know people very quickly, and that couldn’t be more true for Nancy. Nancy really enjoys getting to know people, understanding who they are, and interacting, being social and that lends to her picking up the phone, getting to know people, finding our advisor team, really quickly. It has dramatically impacted our business because of that skill set. For us, we wouldn’t have the amazing attorneys we do if she wasn’t woo, because she met an advisor at a networking event that put us with this firm, which builds out a lot of our IP, successfully.
There’s little things like that that snowball into aspects of your business. When I asked Nancy what I was good at, because I always want to be self-aware and not that my Strengths Finders didn’t tell me this, but I like to win. For me, a problem is just a different challenge that I need to win. The way I look at it is, everyone hates the underwire. How are we going to successfully overcome that challenge? And perseverance. I will persevere and I will win at solving the challenge and I won’t stop until it happens, come hell or high water. I am very competitive and will push until it needs to be done. Having those two personality sets in a business really work because there’s someone who’s really good at connecting with people on a personal level and myself, I enjoy problem solving and finding the solutions and creating a winning team.
So, on that? Maybe two years ago, Meghan and I were driving along and we were having a conversation on our way to a manufacturer. It was just one of those days. From it came the conversation of one plus one equals one great one, because sometimes we’re great on our own, but sometimes we need the other one, and we make a great team. Truly, we’ve known each other for ten years. This relationship is truly how we function all the time. We travel well together, we work well together, we respect each other’s advice and we respect each other’s strengths. For some people, it’s hard to see us and understand, but we don’t have fights. We don’t have altercations. It’s a very appreciative relationship of what the other one brings to the table.
Very strong trust.
We say that here like it is common. It is so incredibly rare to find that type of synergy, and you’ve seen where many times in the past where you’ll be with somebody else in a business environment and you go, “No, I don’t think so.” Rare to find. Part of the key for you guys.
It took us about two years to finally worry about having an operating agreement.
And mostly because our attorney demanded it.
If you think about that and you go, “It could be that everything just go swimmingly for you guys forever, but if one of you gets run over in the crosswalk.
When you think about that, it makes common sense to do those kind of things.
We’re not saying don’t have an operating agreement. We are saying have one, but we are saying we are really blessed and lucky in our relationship that we do complement each other. The one plus one really is because some days I’m operating at 25% and she needs to operate at 75%. You’re not always going to operate 100% everyday. The great news is that we have each other to work in this business together. If you’re lucky enough to have a relationship like ours, you’re really, really blessed.
When you think about that and you go, “The joys of good friends.”
Very much so.
Getting to do business together is even better.
Conquer the planet!
At least the underwire!
The steel companies are going to go out of business!
Guys, and I use the word, term guys all the time.
I think about what you are attempting to do and the success you’ve had to date. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate you being on the podcast. This is just awesome. Thanks so much for your time and candor.
Thank you for having us.
We are blessed and we appreciate being here. We appreciate Diane introducing us here.
Oh yes, a hat tip to Diane Simard.
Nancy brings more than 25 years of experience in new business development and business-to-business relationship management from media, beauty, and recruiting industries. Nancy’s strengths are in contract negotiation, account management, relationship development, needs analysis, and strategic planning. She leads the strategic partnerships with Veil’s higher education and private sector research and development partnerships.
Meghan is a serial entrepreneur with extensive experience in management, business-to-business sales, operations, and M&A activities. Meghan will leverage her key strengths in new business development, contract negotiation, supply chain and process improvement, as well as, patent process management and innovation. She leads the strategic partnerships with licensing and legal advisors. She serves as the internal leader of the organization.
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