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Mixing Family with Business: Bloomers Intimates

Mixing Family with Business: Bloomers Intimates

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Mixing Family with Business: Bloomers Intimates

Bloomers Intimates - StartUp 101 Interview
Credit: Bloomers Intimates

A commonly touted piece of advice for people starting their own business is not to mix family or friends with work. There’s always the exception that proves the rule, though.

Such is the case with Shaula Yemini and Noa Arias, the mother-daughter pair that founded Bloomers Intimates in 2021.

“It was a little difficult at the beginning because I had 300 employees and was the one telling people what to do. Over 30 years you accumulate a lot of experience, and I was sure I knew so much more than Noa in business, and she assumed that she knew much more than me in digital marketing. It took a little bit of conflict, and a little bit of understanding of how to separate family dynamics from the business partnership. That’s really the challenge,” Yemini said.

“In the family, I’m her mother, and I don’t know anything. In the business dynamic, I’m her partner, and I have a lot of experience in certain areas. It was several months of rough going, but I think we’ve reached a point of mutual respect. And we decided that she’s the decider, which I have to admit wasn’t the easiest thing for me to accept.”

Bloomers Intimates makes lingerie for “women of all shapes, ages, and sizes.”

The duo founded the business after identifying a gap in the market – namely that all the lingerie they could find was targeted to younger women who were “willing to sacrifice comfort for style.”

“We realized there was an underserved market for women whose bodies have changed after gaining a few extra pounds or a few years or after having a baby, and we decided to address it ourselves,” Arias said. “Our focus on this demographic allows us to identify and solve important problems others ignore.”

Bloomers Intimates Lace
Credit: Bloomers Intimates

Yemini holds a doctorate in computer science and is the founder and former CEO of SMARTS, a software and tech company. Arias had 15 years of experience in marketing, specializing in beauty brands.

Their mutual experiences gave them a solid foundation to start the business, but even then, there was a sharp learning curve – sourcing fabrics, finding designers, getting into showrooms – Yemini said there was a lot of learning what they didn’t know.

“I knew how to build an enterprise software company, she’d been in marketing but never manufacturing… There was a lot to learn. A lot. On the other hand, we had a pretty good idea of what we were trying to achieve,” Yemini said. “You have no idea what you’re getting into. We had no idea how to get good lace, and it was COVID, so we couldn’t get into showrooms. We had to learn about manufacturing materials, like threads. That was a whole lesson, there’s some threads we don’t have in the U.S., and we had to learn how to use the different types – elastics, cotton, lace. We were learning everything from zero.”

Over the course of a year they got the business up and running, funded entirely by Yemini, who sold her software company for $260 million.

One of the biggest leaps came in expanding their team to include two more employees, who helped with designs, which opened doors to showrooms and helped build the brand.

Yemini said having a team to call on is a key to success. The idea of the surefooted, all-knowing entrepreneur is a myth. Everyone brings something to the table, and a smart leader knows how to learn.

“It makes all the difference. They teach you. You think you’re the boss, but they know 100 times more than you, so you listen. You have to be humble, you have to recognize what you know and what you don’t know,” Yemini said.

Even with a solid team and room to grow, there’s always a little chaos. Things don’t go as planned, and unexpected setbacks arise.

For Bloomers Intimates, it was when their first product shipment got lost in the mail.

Ten crates of panties that were being shipped to the US from their manufacturer disappeared, and the only information available on the UPS website showed that labels had been printed but nothing else, and all of Yemini and Arias’s phone calls didn’t yield any information.

After two weeks in the dark, Arias was surprised to find the crates being unloaded from a truck onto her lawn.

Yemini said it’s moments like these that make entrepreneurialism such a challenge – some days you want to conquer the world, and some days it’s hard to feel like you’re on the right track.

“I would say 90% of the time is good days, and 10% of the time things don’t work. Something gets stuck in transit or gets lost,” Yemini said. “When you’re a new company, and you’re looking for early adopters, it can be hard. I know I’ve kind of inoculated myself against it from my time in software, If Noa’s down, which is very, very rare I just tell her that’s how it is.”

Bloomers Intimates Underwear
Credit: Bloomers Intimates

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Arias added that it helps to keep a record of your successes, to show how far you’ve come, and to lift you up on the harder days. She said a friend suggested keeping a “brag book” to store great reviews, compliments, and accomplishments.

She said it’s important to focus on fixable problems—to identify the root of the issue, find a way to recover, and then forge ahead.

“If you’ve identified a market with a real pain point that you can solve and make money at, you are more than likely to succeed,” Arias said.

It helps when there’s little competition in that market.

The lingerie market, already dominated by name brands like Victoria’s Secret, is full of start-ups. Bloomers Intimates advantage is that they’re not competing for the youth market – teen and early 20s buyers.

“We’re targeting an older demographic. The body changes over the years, and our messaging tries to make it clear that this is about feeling and looking sexy when you’re older. Looking pretty makes you feel confident and helps you face the day,” Yemini said. “Everything we design – it can’t just be pretty on an 18-year-old model. It has to look attractive on a 65-year-old woman as well. That’s what sets us apart.”

Their other advantage is that the duo are united by more than just their business. They’ve had to navigate their relationship and set boundaries for their work and personal lives, but it adds a depth that wouldn’t have existed otherwise.

“You would never call your business partner at 10 pm because you’re really perplexed about some (personal) issue, but you can call your mother. There are advantages and disadvantages, but if you’re smart about how you go about it, 95% of the time, it’s a wonderful partnership, and 5% of the time, you want to pull your hair out.”

Starting a business, no matter who you are, is a huge challenge. Doing it with a friend or family member, where there’s a history and relationship outside of the business, can be next to impossible. But if you can navigate that challenge, it may help you grow that much more, both personally and professionally.

Your Turn

Shaula and Noa’s journey highlights the importance of identifying and serving an underserved market. If you’re still refining your business idea, consider what gaps exist in your industry and how you can fill them. What’s a problem you’re passionate about solving through your business? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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Mixing Family with Business: Bloomers Intimates

Mixing Family with Business: Bloomers Intimates

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