This interview series features inspiring female entrepreneurs who have launched and run successful businesses. Through our peers’ experiences, we can learn practical lessons and insights to empower us on our entrepreneurial paths. Crucially, storytelling de-risks entrepreneurship so we believe it is an essential pillar in closing the opportunity gap for female founders.

 

 

 

Tell us about your business, how did you come up with the idea?

BP3 Underwear is discreet, absorbent, washable knickers for bladder leaks and periods. The business came about after my own experience of incontinence whilst playing hockey and running. Having had two children, a hysterectomy and starting the menopause my bladder wasn’t as strong as it used to be but I still wanted to be able to keep fit.  I didn’t like the traditional sanitary products that were on the market, they were bulky and uncomfortable plus they take over 500 years to decompose and the few washable knickers that were on the market were so old fashioned. I started to design what I would like to wear and started looking into fabrics and manufacturers.

 

What was the moment that everything changed for you? Describe that moment when you decided to fully commit to your idea and the first few steps you took to make it possible.

When I made a pair at home and wore them to hockey and they worked an absolute treat. My team-mates suggested that this was actually a very good idea, so I decided to look into manufacturing my design. Not having any experience in this field whatsoever (I had been a stay at home mum for the past 18 years) was very stressful but I knew once I had put my order in for 4000 pairs of knickers that I was committed to this long term. I think I actually felt very relaxed once I had ordered as I really believed in what I was doing.

 

 

What were the initial challenges you came up against and how did you overcome them?

I was just starting the menopause when I decided to start this project so was struggling with anxiety and a lack of confidence, so coupled with no knowledge of this market I had a lot of self doubt. I had to keep putting the project to one side until I felt I was able to deal with all the issues with design, samples, fabrics and manufacturing.  My husband was also made redundant from his job and I started a part time job in London. Finding the time or even actually wanting to find the time to invest was very difficult. My husband was so encouraging as was my new manager at work who really forced me to go for it as she loved my idea. I found that some days I felt really confident and got lots done, other days I was so anxious I just wanted to stop everything!

 

What was the first win that made you feel you were onto something? 

At the beginning lots of lovely friends bought from my website but it really felt like a big win when complete strangers started to buy from me.  Then I was introduced to Gervase from Health and Her who loved the knickers so much she placed a block order. She said she had seen lots of incontinence knickers but these were the best so far.  I was so chuffed! I have had such lovely feedback from people that it spurs me on to keep going.

 

 

Did you take the investment route for your business or are you self-funded? Can you share some insights on your decision and the process?

I am completely self-funded at the moment. All the money I have made from my receptionist job has paid for the business so far. 

I think I am very lucky to be able to do it this way. I am happy to grow the company organically at the moment, I am in my comfort zone and am able to control everything I do which is very important to me.

 

What has been your best investment?

My lovely Coni who writes all my posts and helps with my website and all other literature.

I met her on a Natwest She Means Business Instagram course and we just hit it off.  She gives me the confidence to keep going and I don’t want to let her down!

 

Have you made any mistakes or faux pas? If so, can you share with us?

I put myself under so much pressure to meet a deadline for a large order that I had packaging produced that just wasn’t good enough. That was a bit of a blow and tears were shed as I wasted quite a bit of my money. But I learned valuable lessons that day, the main one being don’t be afraid to ask questions and don’t be afraid to say if something isn’t right for you.

 

What’s your experience of being a woman in the start-up ecosystem and what in your mind needs to change?

I think it is so encouraging to see so many women in business and I have met some amazing ladies on my journey.  Every woman I have met has been really supportive and keen to share their experiences. I think now is a great time to be starting a  business as a woman as there is so much help out there.

The only two people who have said to me that my business is not a good idea have been men. If anything their attitude has made me want to succeed even more.

 

What’s been the greatest lesson you’ve learned since starting your own business?

That I am more capable than I think. When I start to doubt myself and I think I can’t cope with everything, I just remind myself that I have given birth to 2 babies and raised 28 children!  Going through the menopause has been such a confusing time for me. At the beginning I really struggled with anxiety, low self esteem and depression but I actually feel so much stronger and confident now.

I feel like the menopause is my superpower!

 

Have you had any role models or mentors along the way?

There are so many women that I admire, that are running amazing businesses whilst also bringing up a family, I think these particular women are my role models. Lucy Werner, Sarah Akwiscombe, Edwina Humby, Michelle Feeney are to name a few.

 

With the future in mind, where would you like to be/where do you see yourself in the next five years?

Hopefully running a successful underwear business. I’d like to introduce more styles and colours and a line for men as well.  I’d also love to be supporting women in their businesses.

 

Can you tell us one of your goals for 2020?

A big goal for me is to introduce new colours although to be stocked in Boots or John Lewis is the ultimate goal!

 

What can our readers do to support your business?

Buy my knickers, leave reviews, spread the word, follow my social media!

 

What books, podcasts or resources would you recommend?

Hype Yourself  – Lucy Wern – By far the best investment so far.

NBBS Podcasts – I have found it so inspiring to hear other women talk about their business journey.

How to own the Room Podcasts

 

What advice would you give anyone about to start a business?

Research everything. Be brave and go for it. Surround yourself with amazing, supportive women. Go to networking events, do courses. Believe in yourself.

If I, a 48 year old menopausal woman with barely any exam results and too many children can do it – you certainly can.

Leah williams

Leah williams

About your author

 

Leah Williams is the Blog Editor for Found & Flourish, working with Founder Lara Sheldrake to ensure every piece of published content is empowering, inspiring and well presented, just like the women we work with.

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