After the birth of her second child, Kristy Chong was doing a lot of running and travelling and came to the realisation that her underwear was failing to protect her from sweat and occasional bladder weakness.
She started to think about all the times as a woman, underwear fails us.
She spent the next 18 months developing the patented Modifier Technology™ and another six months of prototype testing, before launching the Modibodi brand.
Read her interview with Mamamia.
What is Modibodi?
Modibodi is underwear and swimwear for everybody. Our flagship absorbent, leak-proof underpants are great protection for sweat, odour, bladder leaks and menstrual flow. Since launching the leak-proof range, we have also introduced an award winning nursing singlet, moisture wicking underpants and now a leak-proof swimwear range.
We are on a mission to empower women by designing solutions that are fashionable, functional and provide a sustainable alternative to disposable hygiene. We ultimately believe that making positive change in the world should be as easy as changing your underwear.
Kristy Chong. Image: Supplied.
What were you doing before you went into business for yourself?
I worked for 13 years in senior management public relations roles for multinational organisations including McDonald's Australia, Sanofi-Aventis and Edelman PR.
What made you want to start your own business?
For me, I had many product ideas and was always interested in business, but the strong desire to start my own business didn't begin until my first child was born. Honestly, I thought a business may provide me with more flexibility to raise my family, and it does, but you probably end up working more.
How did you come up with the name?
Modibodi stands for modified clothing for the modern body.
Describe the staff/ownership structure of Modibodi.
I am the sole founder. I started out as a sole trader and about two years in I created the Modibodi company. We are still quite small but each of my staff is amazing at what they do and I am so lucky. We only recently moved out of my home-based office, which was certainly long overdue.
Did you require investment to start your business?
We used personal finance to start the business and put around $20,000 in. I didn't pay myself a salary for the first two years after launching. Instead, I reinvested the profits back into marketing and stock and even hired someone else before paying myself. After we had market fit, I then sought a small amount of funds from an angel investor to help ramp up the marketing.
What kind of advice did you get before you started and from who?
After I had the idea for my business, the first thing I did was borrow a book from the library called something like "how to start your own fashion business."
In the product development stage, I spoke to over 100 people from textile companies, research institutes and science and engineering experts. As for starting the business, I did most of this on my own. I read some blogs and spoke to a family friend. I pretty much winged it. Although I wouldn't recommend doing that.
What's the single best piece of advice you got?
You are like a rubber band. You will definitely feel stretched, but you won't break. You will bounce back.
What's the one bit of advice you would give yourself if you were starting again?
Get comfortable with being uncomfortable.
Scroll through to see some of Modibodi's underwear and swimwear designs. (Post continues after gallery.)
What's the smartest thing you've done since starting Modibodi?
Create a detailed financial model that incorporates variable inputs based on average order, repeat customer, cost per acquisition and cost of goods etc.
Are there any pieces of technology or software, apps or systems that have made it easier to do what you do?
Trello for project management, as well as the simple yet effective Google Drive and Google Tasks.
What do you do when you're feeling like you're in a hole emotionally (or financially)?
Often I am sythensising a major setback whilst my three-year-old is screaming for his toy that has fallen on the car floor on the way home from childcare. I use exercise, deep breathing, a glass of wine and at the moment Stranger Things to distract and de-stress.
How many hours a day do you work on your business? Has this changed?
Anywhere from eight to 12 hours. I have three young children so I have to leave work by 5pm to pick them up from after school care and childcare. I also don't go into the office on Fridays, which allows me time to catch up and plan the week ahead.
What's the biggest misconception you had about starting Modibodi?
It's so much more stressful than I'd ever imagined. I didn't realise that with a start up you have no real control of the results and often feel in a state of uncertainty. The adrenaline is always running high.
Tell us about your proudest moment.
I am truly proud that I have created a product that empowers women by giving them more comfort and confidence every day, and our customers tell us that.
We have sold over 100,000 garments to date and this year we will quadruple our 2016 revenue. We are now starting to retail our garments, and have Amazon as our official USA retailer.
Listen: Dr Ginni shares the biggest misconceptions women have about their bodies. (Post continues after audio.)
What does your personal life look like?
Apart from the occasional run or a game of netball, there isn't much me time these days. I am definitely more of a home body during the week, and who doesn't love Netflix. But on weekends we love hosting friends at our house, or going on family bike rides and adventures. My biggest indulgences are travel, chocolate and good wine.
What can you recommend to women who might want to get their own hustle going?
Firstly, think big and act big.
Secondly, push the boundaries. You may get knocked back once, twice or twenty times. But get back up and try again!
Do you have a mentor?
Yes, I have an advisor and he continues to be a great source of help to me. My husband is also a great support and mentor. I have also gained great knowledge and business assistance from networks like Springboard and Heads Over Heel.
Since we're in the #LadyStartUp spirit, which Lady Start Ups do you recommend?
- StartUp Expert
- Data Creative