Founder of a bespoke fashion company
2 – 5
NY, United States
Today my female entrepreneur is amazing Lori Kaplan – a Founder of a bespoke fashion company, Bra*Tenders, Inc.
Lori Kaplan is a Psychologist by degree but her creative spirit led her to start her own intimate apparel business and become a bra expert. Bra*Tenders, that she started in 2000, fits not only regular folks but also performers in the entertainment industry – Broadway, film, dance, opera and television.
As she states on Bra*Tenders website her mission is to empower women to look and feel beautiful and confident, and to love, accept and embrace their unique beauty.
In this post, she shares on her entrepreneurial journey and how she started. Read below and be inspired as her responses are straight to the point.
PLEASE TELL US ABOUT YOURSELF AND THE BUSINESS YOU STARTED?
Hi, my name is Lori and I’m the owner of Bra Tenders, Inc, a service business that sells products – bra fittings and styling, as well as supplying theatrical regalia to Broadway, film and television.
Before starting Bra Tenders, I worked at S&S Hosiery, a small retail store proximate to the theatre district, and selling mostly schlock.
Several conversations with wardrobe supervisors on Broadway led me to change the nature of the S&S business model from selling cheap closeout and irregular goods to providing Broadway and their touring productions with their tights, g-strings, and other beneath the scenes items.
While working at S&S, I returned to school, at age 30, and over 10 years of nights and weekends, I completed my BA in Psychology and MS in Organizational Psychology.
THE JOURNEY SO FAR
HOW DID YOU COME UP WITH YOUR BUSINESS IDEA?
I saw a void in the market for theatrical wear and heard the cash register jingle with opportunity. I discovered that I was a creative, out of the box thinker who solved wardrobe conundrums.
I once suggested a pair of fat bust pads to an actor who was looking for a more tailored solution to his clunky knee pads. It worked!
PLEASE DESCRIBE THE PROCESS OF LAUNCHING YOUR BUSINESS.
After taking S&S through 3 expansions over 20 years, I felt stymied and wanted to do my own thing. Once again, I swooped in to fill the needs of my customers once S&S couldn’t, for a multitude of reasons.
It was time for me to move on. I’d been visioning what my own business would look like, and even came up with the name Bra Tenders, 5 years before I started the company.
I made a lot of phone calls, there were no cell phones yet, or they were not prevalent yet in the mid-’90s.
I knocked on a lot of doors and visited a lot of wardrobe rooms. I gave away a lot of samples and I did whatever it took for my customers to know I’d bend over backward to get them what they needed.
WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR BIGGEST ACHIEVEMENT AND YOUR BIGGEST CHALLENGE ALONG THE WAY?
Biggest challenge: The biggest challenge was starting a business with my then-husband, who became my partner, and really didn’t have any skills particular to the intimate apparel business.
My contacts, knowledge, expertise is what sold Bra Tenders. We divorced in 2016, and I went into heavy debt to keep my business and get rid of him.
Biggest Achievement: Bra*Tenders just celebrated its 20 years.
HOW DO YOU PROMOTE YOUR BUSINESS?
Word of mouth is our biggest source of referrals, but we do IG, FB, email blasts, stay in touch with wedding ateliers who refer, and we treat our customers’ ears with “I can” level of care.
WHAT IS YOUR VISION FOR THE FUTURE OF THE BUSINESS?
We are planning on setting up an e-commerce store in the near future.
RECOMMENDATIONS & FINAL THOUGHTS
WHAT ARE YOUR FAVOURITE BUSINESS BOOKS, PODCASTS OR BLOGS?
- 7 habits of highly successful people by Stephen Covey
- Anything by Brene Brown, because business is all about relationships
- From Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap and Others Don’t by Jim Collins
- The Company we Keep by Robert and Dayna Baer
WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO OTHER WOMEN WHO WANT TO START THEIR OWN BUSINESS?
It’s not all fun and games.
Welcome to the Biz Ladies interview series!
If you’re new to these series, I interview women entrepreneurs on how they started their business, what was the idea behind it, how they got where they are, the struggles, the reality and more.
By sharing their stories, we want to inspire other women to get started.
If you are interested to share your own story on the Biz Ladies LET ME KNOW!