As many know, we at Bra in a Box are new to the world of entrepreneurship; especially in consumer goods and the beauty/ wellness space. We have literally started this business from our living rooms and while we are so driven and passionate about our mission for our company, at times I have felt like a fish out of water. Having the opportunity to attend Indie Beauty Expo NYC 2019 was HUGE for us and our company. We had such a wonderful experience in so many different ways. Here are a few of the experiences we had that made a profound impact on us as women and business owners.
We entered feeling like amateurs – but left feeling like professionals!
Walking into IBE truly felt like we were in a movie. The glitz! The glamour! The huge sets! I have never been to any type of trade show, much less been an exhibitor at one. We felt super legit getting our exhibitor tags and IBE wonderfully had staff on hand that helped unload our car and wheel all our booth supplies to our designated spot.
Once our booth supplies were unloaded into the middle of our 9’ x 9’ space the anxiety started seeping in. No joke- all our crap in a pile, in the middle of the floor, looked like my teenage sister’s disaster-of-a-room. We had random boxes, overflowing Thirty-One bags http://www.mythirtyone.com and due to our disorganization, barely any floor space to assemble our larger pieces. We were smack dab in the middle of two (very professional looking) CBD edibles companies, Winged CBD for women http://www.wingedcbd.com and BLNCD http://www.blncdnaturals.com . They both had beautiful, professionally built sets for their booths. I could almost feel their sideways glances towards our messy pile between the two of them, probably thinking, “Who ARE these crazy ladies!?”
It took WAY longer than we expected, but once assembled, our booth was fabulous, and just as we envisioned it. I think our neighbors were also a bit relieved. We were so nervous for the show to start – we would be meeting press outlets, industry professionals and most importantly retail BUYERS. Amid my anxiety about having discussions with these industry professionals, and representing us well, my mother reminded me of a very important point. She said, “Phoebe, you are a nurse in North Philly! You have discussions with patients about their poop, about their dying loved ones, about calling the police because you’ve found drugs in their room. You can talk to these fancy people no problem!” I realized she was RIGHT. While I still consider myself introverted, my nursing career has forced me to become comfortable talking to people about all sorts of uncomfortable topics while staying cool, calm and collected. I could SO do this . . . and I did.
We met so many amazing women at this expo. Some came to us already thrilled about our product because they were lovers of silicone nipple covers; and some came open to learning about something new. We really had fun talking about women’s breasts and nipples! I know that sounds nuts. As women would approach our booth we would just put it out there – we’re talking about breasts and nipple covers, and it was a great icebreaker. Once we made that connection it opened our conversations to wonderful things we never expected. One woman who worked for a press outlet brought up that it was so wonderful we, as women, are having these discussions about our bodies and our comfort.
We met many mother/ daughter duos that led to funny discussions about ageing and what it does to our bodies. We met several dark complected women that were so thrilled we had a dark tone Nipco. One woman we talked with was an exhibitor at IBE with another company and came over because other women had told her about us. She was so excited and said, “I have been talking about this issue for YEARS!” She was referring to the fact that she can never find nipple covers that match her dark skin. She said she’s been wearing nipple covers that would match our skin (and we are pasty) because there was nothing she could find for her skin. This conversation really confirmed our mission from the beginning to offer our product in skin tones for all women. This also gave us a push to introduce a medium skin tone nipple cover (which will be available in October)!
By far the most touching moment we had was with a woman who came up to us as we were closing up shop after the first day. We gave her our spiel about the product and she completely opened up to us. She was a breast cancer survivor. She had a lumpectomy on one breast and radiation on both. As I’ve mentioned, I am a nurse. I am not an oncology nurse, but I have taken care of many patients with breast cancer. What she went on to tell us I had never even considered. She explained that with a lumpectomy a large portion of breast tissue is removed, essentially disfiguring the breast. Radiation also changes the breast tissue and can lead to disfigurement. Even after having some reconstructive surgeries she explained that from all this trauma to her breasts, her nipples point in different directions and she is extremely self conscious about it. She still wants to wear tops or dresses she could go braless with at times, but feels she never can because her mismatched nipples are exposed. She loved our Nipcos and was so happy to have found something that could help ease that one problem in her life.
We spoke with her for a while and gave her Nipcos to take home. She then told us she is part of a breast cancer survivor support group so we gave her extras to take back to them. At one point she got very emotional talking about her support group and said, “We keep losing people, we just lost a friend last week.” She started crying and we all embraced in the middle of our booth!
This experience with this woman really touched our souls and reaffirmed to us that we are doing something bigger than tube tops and backless dresses. We are opening the lines of communication between women to discuss our vulnerabilities and talk openly about our womanly experiences, whether it be hot flashes, playing it cool while pulling up our bra straps or dealing with nipples pointing in different directions. THIS is why we are doing what we’re doing and we hope to continue on this path of uniting women and creating products that serve a purpose in their lives.
After all was said and done we left the Indie Beauty Expo feeling accomplished and with full hearts. We made connections with wonderful women and business-wise are in the works of signing contracts with several retailers (yay!). I learned through this experience that being ourselves was our biggest advantage. Believing in our product, our mission and allowing ourselves to be transparent with every person we spoke with ultimately led to the amazing connections we have made and that we hope to grow in the upcoming years.