21 Apr #StandTall: Kristy Chong, founder of Modibodi
There’s underwear, and then there’s Modibodi, the smartest and most functional underwear we’ve ever seen… obvs because the business was designed and created by a woman! Here, mum of two and founder of Modibodi, Kristy Chong shares with us how she got the idea, the plans to expand to the USA, and her experience on Shark Tank.
Name: Kristy Lee Chong
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Modibodi is essentially comfortable but highly functional underwear. How did you get the idea?
Modibodi came about from my own personal experience. I was living in Seattle, and I had two children and was doing lots of travelling and running. On one of those runs I realised that my underwear was failing to protect me from the common “taboo” of what is commonly known as Light Bladder Leakage (LBL) and from sweat and odour. I began to question whether underwear was as good as it could be and why, with all the advances in technology, our underwear had not evolved. After speaking with friends and family about their own issues, I soon realised that I was not alone and that women either put up with failing underwear, or turned to irritating, unattractive, inconvenient and eco-damaging disposable options to stay dry and fresh. I knew instantly it was time for a change and that I wanted to create a beautiful and functional clothing brand that would allow women to feel attractive, confident and dignified at all times.
This experience lead me to design, develop and scientifically prove our flagship patent-pending Modifier Technology™ absorbent underpants (which are great protection for sweat, odour, bladder leaks and menstrual flow) and transform this into the Modibodi collection, which now includes tops, singlets and moisture wicking underpants.
How did you go from idea to the first sample in your hands?
The initial Modibodi Modifier Technology™ design involved consulting up to 100 textile engineers and fibre companies in the USA and Australia, conducting close to 1,000 scientific tests (overseen by my husband James Chong who also happens to be a world class researcher in cardiac therapy) and working with leading Australian lingerie designers and manufacturers to develop the designs. It took over 18 months to perfect the technology and the designs behind the brand. We created over 30 prototypes before launching our flagship Modibodi Modifier Technology™absorbent underpants which can be used to protect from sweat, odour, light bladder leaks, menstrual flow or just worn for everyday freshness.
What were the biggest lessons you learnt during that launch phase?
To test marketing channels on a small scale first, and do it yourself, prior to handing over large sums of money to an agency. By testing you can see what is going to get you the best wins early on and focus on that area first.
Outsource areas such as customer service and admin as soon as you can. This will allow you to work on the business growth and more important aspects of the business and develop the brand.
Before Modibodi you worked in PR. What are some things you learnt from the industry about successful PR campaigns? Did you carry any of this across to Modibodi?
Prior to establishing Modibodi, I had over 13 years experience in senior management Public Relations roles for multinational organisations including McDonald’s Australia, sanofi-aventis and Edelman PR. My past roles definitely provided me with the tools, business acumen and skills to launch a business and brand.
What have been some of the challenges ‘selling’ Modibodi?
Far too long women’s health and issues surrounding women’s health such as menstruation, discharge and urinary incontinence have been seen as a taboo. It’s a joke that in 2017, these natural occurrences are still not seen on TV or spoken about in the general media. We are challenged every day in getting our brand’s message of empowering everyone to be body confident and know there is support out there. Traditional media such as TV and print shy away from talking about ‘taboo’ topics, that’s why we need to own our own messages and do this through our blog and social media channels.
Online bloggers and content creators are instrumental in helping us reach our audience and educating them that Modibodi is a solution for EVERYONE. As there is nothing on the market like Modibodi, we spend a lot of time educating and engaging with our audience.
You also pitched to Shark Tank and the segment was filmed but didn’t make it to air. You must be great at pitching – what are your best tips?
Shark Tank was interesting, I’m confident and passionate when I speak about Modibodi, and I know my stuff so possibly there was not enough drama in it. But in the end the judges felt that I could do it on my own, so that was great advice.
Tips when pitching:
- Know your numbers – gross margins, cost per unit, cost per acquisition.
- Be confident about your product, your brand, what you are pitching and ultimately in yourself.
- If you get a no, don’t be disheartened, rejection is all part of the entrepreneur journey, it can make you more determined to succeed.
What are common questions investors ask that you need to know how to answer?
Investors want to know the story and why you are the right person to lead your business but they want to know this story in numbers, so know your numbers. Also know your milestones, how is your business going to reach those projections, map it out and build your financial model around the business plan
You have plans to expand to USA which is really exciting. How did you know it was the right time to expand and how are you tackling this?
Having sold over 50,000 pairs of performance underwear since inception, I felt it was time to explore the US market. We already sell direct to the US via our online store. We have just secured Amazon as our first USA retailer.
Can you tell us about a time that you almost gave up? How did you get through it?
Yes I have had a few moments in which I have wanted to give up, especially after a major setback with production, but mainly it is when I have felt the demands of being a mum to three young children and managing a start-up get on top of me. As the business grows I am learning to manage the stress better, and have learn’t to ask for help when I need it as well.
What are you most excited about for the future?
I’m excited about the expansion of the Modibodi brand on an international scale and expanding our product range to include even more sassy, intelligent, innovative solutions for women – stay tuned!
There are so many interviews with you out there – what’s something not many people know about you?
I was instrumental in creating the healthy food standards for fast food dining in Australia through my role as Corporate Communications Manager at McDonalds Australia.
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