Too often in our society, people picture men in their heads when they hear words like, “boss”, “entrepreneur”, or “CEO”. Being a small business owner has put me in touch with so many successful female business owners and entrepreneurs that when I hear these words, I often picture a woman or I just don’t assume anything at all. Women are obviously just as capable as men when it comes to the business world and it is high time that women business owners and entrepreneurs are more visible in the media in our society. This is where the idea for Women in Business was born. Women in Business is a bi-monthly feature that highlights female entrepreneurs and business owners. Not only is it a fantastic opportunity to learn more about small businesses in various fields, but it is a great shopping guide for supporting small businesses.
An Interview with Sophia Rose
Tell us a little bit about Sophia Rose Intimates. How long have you been in business? Where did you get the idea to start Sophia Rose Intimates?
Sophia Rose Intimates is an intimates brand for breast cancer survivors. We were inspired and motivated to start Sophia Rose Intimates when our mom was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2012 and underwent a bilateral mastectomy. After her surgery, she could not find any mastectomy bras that she found attractive and comfortable. When we started looking into the various options in the market, we saw just how much it was dominated by plain, beige, utilitarian and old-fashioned mastectomy bras.
The realization of this gap in the mastectomy lingerie market lead us to combine our passion for design and entrepreneurship to return fun, femininity and color (!) to intimates shopping for breast cancer survivors. Above all, we needed to be 100% certain that the Sophia Rose mastectomy bra was beautiful and elegant without compromising on comfort, fit or quality.
We were so excited to launch our brand on January 5 this year. Our debut collection is available online in two colors, deep violet and bright peony, and consists of a wireless pocketed mastectomy bra, a panty and a thong.
What is the design process like for Sophia Rose Intimates?
For our first collection, we started by focusing on the wants and needs of our customer – the breast cancer survivor – and worked backwards from there. We did market research and found that women who had undergone a unilateral or bilateral mastectomy, lumpectomy or reconstruction wanted but had trouble finding beautiful, colorful, comfortable and supportive bras. We then addressed those wants and needs by creating the Sophia bra, which was designed for beauty, engineered for support and optimized for comfort.
With all things in design, there were multiple rounds of changes and corrections to get it just right. It took three years of working with industry experts, which included sourcing countless materials, scheduling numerous fittings, and many revisions with the lingerie pattern maker before we reached the final approved design.
This long design process has given us the confidence to stand behind our product as one that breast cancer survivors want and need. Added bonus – it can also be enjoyed by women who simply enjoy the comfort of a wireless bra!
What has surprised you the most about being a small business owner?
The number of different roles we have had to take on as a small business owner. We’ve been so lucky that there are two of us, so there is someone else to share the responsibilities with. Over the last three years, we’ve been (and continue to be) the graphic designer, product designer, accountant, operations manager, public relations liaison, copy creator, sales person… the list goes on!
What are three apps or programs that you use daily as a business owner?
Microsoft Outlook – emails, emails, emails! It’s the main medium that we use to communicate with others and run our business.
Adobe Photoshop – to design the various graphics we use on our social media accounts, emails and website.
Shopify – the platform behind our online store. We’re constantly trying to improve our website and the user experience.
What are some of the challenges you experience while running your business? How do you overcome those challenges?
We tried to do everything ourselves when we first started developing our products and setting up the business. There were points where we felt that we were not making progress because there was just too much work to be done and not enough time to get it done. The real turning point came when we finally recognized that it was time to ask for help (e.g. coding websites, pattern making). Over the past three years, we’ve realized that if you don’t ask for help, it could end up affecting the quality of your product and business.
What advice would you give to someone who is looking to become an entrepreneur?
Your environment is so important. Surround yourself with those who believe in your business idea / product as much as you do, their enthusiasm will be uplifting. Surround yourself with advisors and mentors with whom you can share your ideas and who will guide you to becoming a better business person. Surround yourself with other aspiring entrepreneurs so that you can all mutually benefit from each other’s experiences. Surround yourself with friends and family who you can share the ups and downs of starting and running a business (there will be many!). We would not have been able to launch Sophia Rose Intimates had it not been for our supportive environment.
What goals do you have for your business over the next five years?
Our main goals over the next five years are to expand the size range of our bras (currently available only in 34 – 38 bands with B – D cups) and to expand our product offering (more bra styles and colors and swimwear!)
How do you define success?
Personally, that would be being able to make a living while working on something that you are passionate about! For Sophia Rose Intimates, that would be being loved by breast cancer survivors everywhere for providing a fun shopping experience, supportive community and contributing to their femininity.