E20: Katie Deming MD, Founder of MakeMerry sensitive skin bra brand
“Sometimes we are positioned to see a need that no one else is seeing” – these are the words of oncologist Katie Deming MD who turned her hand at fashion entrepreneurship in order to solve an unmet need of her clients for sensitive skin bras.
After years of advising her patients to not wear a bra after radiation treatment for breast cancer, she started coming up with her own sensitive skin bra hacks to help them feel comfortable post-treatment and still feel and look well.
But there is only so long you can jump from hack to hack until you reach the point where you think you can find a long-er term fix. This is what prompted Katie to design and manufacture her own sensitive skin bra.
Listen to this riveting conversation and discover:
- How Katie discovered a gap in the market for sensitive skin bras and found herself in the perfect place to launch her own product range?
“Breast cancer bras are a big industry”
“The whole process of (cancer) sensitive skin bra shopping made me sick” as all the products were made of synthetic, non-breathable fabrics, designed for compression when cancer patients need lighter support.
- What were the first steps she took to get started?
Katie spent years helping her clients make their own sensitive skin bras or adapt bras they have to be suitable to the post-radiation treatment needs of their body.
“Fighting cancer is “high-tech” specialty, where machines cost millions of dollars, but y patients couldn’t find a bra suited to them and the radiation phase of treatment.”
One of the first things Katie did to kick start her business was to hire her own small team of professionals: a technical designer, pattern cutter, seamstress, and fit model. Listen to this episode on who you should work with if you want to find success.
- The unusual route to market she took and how that worked out for her;
Katie licensed her brand to another sensitive skin bra brand but was clever to ensure that her name was recognized and on the level of her products. that ensured that once the licensing deal ended, she had a brand and product recognized as her own.
“Your brand is everything!” No matter how great your product is and even if patented, anything can be copied and there is little to no recourse for small brands. Building a solid recognizable brand is what ensures long-term business success.
- Lessons she learned about the fashion industry and business so far;
” In medicine, we rely on the truth and facts. In fashion, fake claims is the norm and it is all about who tells the best story, not who as the best product.”
The biggest challenge when taking over her sensitive skin bra company after the licensing deal was her supply chain.
“Running out of stock is a good problem to have until you have a product that is time-sensitive”
- How she runs her brand while continuing to be a full-time practicing oncologist consultant;
There is a certain segment of men and women that are ignored by the fashion and medical industry. In fashion, everything is made for beautiful and healthy people. In medicine – it is accepted that if something is functional, it is ok for it to be hideous. There seems to be a disconnect between these two worlds.
“It is important to have things that are functional but it is also important for things to be aesthetically pleasing as well.”
“Healing is not about just actual treatment, but also about how you feel. If you can create clothing that meets the functional needs but also makes someone feel beautiful, sexy, and confident that would help their medical condition as well.”
- Her manufacturing ups and downs and lessons she’s learned so far.
“If you don’t have problems, you don’t have manufacturing!” No matter how small or large, how financially stable and secure a business is – manufacturing is a delicate balancing act where anything at any point can go wrong. Employing commercial thinking and remaining firm but practical is the only way to keep going forward.
“My customer is someone who understands the value of good design, high-quality products and that we are creating a product that’s going to last them and not be thrown away right after their treatment.”
Shop Katie’s brand MakeMerry
Connect with Katie on Instagram
Business Tools & Resources:
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