After Kate Rech had her first child, she learned firsthand about nursing bras. She pumped throughout the day while working, but found them very inconvenient. She brought a separate pumping bra with her to work so could pump wherever she was – work, yoga, or elsewhere. This not only meant that she had to over pack for a normal day, but also she would need to change clothes whenever she needed to pump. Overall, it was a very inconvenient process.
As a work around, she cut holes in sports bras and added pads as makeshift cushioning suitable for postpartum mothers. This ensured she was comfortable throughout the day and eliminated her need to change bras during pumping times.
After she had her second child, this scenario was still the norm. There wasn’t a nursing bra on the market that was functional, fashionable, yet comfortable. So, she and her husband, Bryce Rech, started to do some market research, and they found numerous other mothers experienced this same inconvenience.
From a design stand point, nursing bras are unflattering and incredibly bland. To soon-to-be-dads, these garments can be easily confused with Halloween masks or underwear for the elderly. So for a woman who doesn’t look like her normal self during and post-pregnancy, these bras suffice, but they don’t inspire confidence. Women purchase and use them out of necessity and lack of options, not out of desire.
With this, the Rech’s started Ollie Gray.
They quickly designed a prototype, which helped them partner with a designer who previously worked with Lululemon. From there the team created a professionally designed prototype and manufacturing schematics and secured a connection with a manufacturer for production. “We did focus groups around the clock – fine tuning everything,” Bryce Rech mentions – which led to the first iteration of the Anywhere Bra.
“A great product was our first goal”, he says. The mission was to create a versatile pumping and nursing bra that women can comfortably wear anywhere – to work, yoga, shopping, or even to bed. Hence the name. “You can wear this no matter what you’re doing.” Not only is it comfortable, but women shouldn’t have to think about it throughout the day – if you need to pump, go pump. Don’t worry about changing. They are also fashionable, so when you put it on, it should make you feel good and should inspire confidence.
“Our second goal was [to] brand it in a way that did not come across as a startup from the beginning.” Brand and marketing is key to an apparel company’s success, so they created a professional look and feel from Ollie Gray’s start. So when they decided to take pre-orders through a Kickstarter campaign, they diligently positioned the Ollie Gray brand, packaging, and messaging in an inviting way.
Rech adds – “the response from Kickstarter was so great that it forced us to build-out a preorder website.” The website was planned to launch a few months later, but since market demanded it earlier, they delivered.
For Ollie Gray, the customer is king – or queen as maternity and post-maternity women are their target audience. So when a customer has an issue with the Anywhere Bra, the Rech’s engage the customer to understand the root of the problem. They want to have full transparency between the client and themselves. Is the product wearing or uncomfortable in certain areas? Did the mother simply order the wrong size? Many times in the latter case, the Ollie Gray team will consult the customer on the correct size and will exchange the bra for free.
The feedback from customers is driving product design changes which Ollie Gray is set to launch the second generation of the Anywhere Bra by late-fall this year. “All of version 2.0 came from all the great feedback that we’d get from customers – which is so important to us.”
This feedback is critical. So much so, that the Ollie Gray team wants to harness customers’ feedback to create products other than nursing bras that fill maternity product voids.
From this experience, Bryce Rech’s advice to entrepreneurs reiterates this – it’s incredibly important to listen to what your customer is telling you. He also is adamant about asking for help, and to do so through networking. “You’ve got to network and you can’t be afraid to just make the call.”
You can learn more and check out the available products on Ollie Gray’s website.